Like a lot of new technologies from Apple these days, HomeKit isn’t perfect but the parts that work well are really useful. Apple’s home automation framework connects smart accessories from various companies all under the control of Siri and HomeKit apps like Home or Hesperus. But HomeKit is relatively young still and there’s plenty of low hanging fruit in terms of ways the framework could improve with iOS 10 and beyond. Here are a few ideas I hope we see with HomeKit this year:
More Triggers: Siri is great for giving commands in the moment, but automation is really about scheduling repetitive actions and letting the technology do the work. HomeKit lets you automatically engage scenes, or groups of set actions, using triggers, or certain conditions like time of day.
Using the Home app and three Philips Hue white bulbs, my outside lights turn on at 7:30 PM and turn off at midnight. I have a scene called Porch On which turns on the front, side, and back porch lights, and another scene called Porch Off which turns them off. Porch On occurs daily at 7:30 PM while Porch Off repeats daily at midnight. Optionally, telling Siri Porch On or Porch Off or calling out individual bulbs will toggle them on and off anytime.
The problem with using time of day as this trigger, though, is that the time of sunset changes dramatically in South Mississippi based on the season. When I first set up the trigger, I used 5:30 PM as the Porch On time, but sunset has since moved back two hours. Ideally, using sunset and sunrise as the trigger would be best, but that’s not a HomeKit supported trigger just yet.
More Siri: As it stands now, even though HomeKit uses Siri for voice control, Siri can’t always control your HomeKit setup. Asking Siri from CarPlay to turn off your lights confuses it and results in a message saying Siri can’t control your car, which is an understandable point of confusion, but Siri on Apple TV is the glaring omission for HomeKit.
Ask Siri on Apple TV to dim the lights and the on-screen text reads “Sorry I can’t help you with that here.” Why not? Creating a Movie Night scene is probably one of the more popular use cases for HomeKit. Lower ecobee’s temperature, set Hue lights to 20% brightness, maybe even go blue, lock the front door, and enjoy your movie. You can easily create that scene in HomeKit now, but can’t use the Siri Remote on Apple TV to set it. Instead, you’ll need to use your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Apple Watch. It’s great that the other devices all talk HomeKit, especially Apple Watch, but Apple TV has some learning to do here.
Speaking of other devices, 9to5Mac reported earlier this year that the Mac is set to gain Siri with OS X 10.12 (MacOS 10.12?). Hopefully that means the Mac learns how to HomeKit, too, which could create an Amazon Echo-like setup in my home office; if Siri ships on Mac without HomeKit like Apple TV, that’ll be even more perplexing.
More Accessories: More triggers and more Siri (I think) should be relatively easy, but my last request is a bit more complex. HomeKit works with a decent variety of accessories now (smart plugs, thermostats, locks, shades, lights, sensors, etc.), but HomeKit improving will obviously require more accessories in the future. The home security space is an interesting one with Nest Cam-type solutions, but Siri/HomeKit integration isn’t there yet.
That’s just one example of where HomeKit could expand. More importantly, I’d love to see some of Apple’s own hardware start to speak the same language as HomeKit. For example, “Siri, turn on my Apple TV” currently offers up an apology that it can’t do that, but launching the Remote app or interacting with the Siri Remote turns on my Apple TV 4 and connected Sony TV in my bedroom (my LG TV in my living room doesn’t support powering on and off that way unfortunately).
For TV sets that can be powered on and off when connected to Apple TV, HomeKit and Apple TV integration would be great here. Apple TV already acts as a remote point of communication in some instances so the foundation is there.
Apple even has a command listed on its Siri site that describes turning on a TV with Siri through HomeKit, but I haven’t been able to recreate this scenario myself. For starters, Apple TV doesn’t talk to Siri from the iPhone. I had one bright idea, too, that didn’t pan out so well: connecting my TV to an iHome Smart Plug. Then Siri could turn the TV off, but turning it back on still required the TV remote or power button on the set, so the process actually added an extra step. (An actual Apple TV set would come in handy here.)
HomeKit was very slow to get off the ground after it was introduced a couple of years ago, but over the last year we’ve seen the market of accessories available greatly expand, including August Home’s Smart Lock earlier today. With WWDC just over a month away at this point, I’m personally hoping we see HomeKit learn some new tricks and make some new friends with iOS 10, MacOS 10.12, and future versions of watchOS and tvOS. Have your own ideas for HomeKit (aside from just more, more more)? Let us know in the comments, and catch up on our other Feature Requests here.