My First Apple HomeKit Experiments

I've been intending, on and off for the last year or so, to start experimenting with some smart home accessories—things like lights, heating controllers, and power sockets that can be controlled from the iPhone, or can respond to changes in the environment or your location. For one reason or another though I've held off, mostly because the systems just didn't seem ready for prime time and because of the expense in setting up things that then would probably make everyone else in the house hate my guts. 

With the impending launch of iOS 10 though, and the included Home app to act as a friendly front-end to the existing HomeKit architecture, I thought I'd dip a toe in the water, and lighting seemed like a good place to start.

Philips seem to have been fairly committed to their Hue lighting system—it's been updated to support HomeKit, and a wider range of bulbs has brought down the cost of entry—so I spent a week on eBay looking for deals. I eventually found a brand new set of white-ambience bulbs, a second-generation controller, and a dimmer switch for about a third of what it might have cost me in the shops, and snapped it up.

I was expecting to find it to be hard to set up and unreliable, but I've been really pleasantly surprised. From what I read Philips still leads the market in terms of ease-of-use, and I've had few major problems: One dimmer switch dropped off the network and was only fixed by removing the battery, and a bulb stubbornly refused to be recognised until I entered its serial number into the app. Other than that, it's been pretty good.

I'm still not sure that I'd recommend them for most people: My beta iOS 10 Home app doesn't appear to play with the regular tvOS for example, and there are still pain points in getting the Hue app itself to respond to fluctuating network conditions. I still can't see an easy way of setting the lights to do what I want them to do in my absence.  

Nevertheless it's fair to say I'm hooked on the concept. I've now got five individual Hue lamps in my house , controlled by two seperate dimmers (one for downstairs, and one for my bedroom). I love being able to change the colour temperature of most of them (I've not yet splashed out on actual colour-change bulbs at twice the price), and turning them off from my iPhone lock screen is hugely satisfying. Even Siri works when I can remember what I called the lights. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens as the Home app develops, and more devices support HomeKit.