Smart Home

Put Apple HomeKit Devices to Good Use With Automation

Brent Dirks 20-03-2017

Jumping into smart home technology can be fun and exciting. But it can be hard to know how to reach your full potential with all of the different devices available!


If you have more than one device compatible with Apple’s HomeKit protocol, automation in the iOS 10 Home app is a perfect way to tie everything together. We’ll discuss exactly how automation works, the different types of automation you can create, and how to set up a Home Hub.

As the number of devices compatible with Apple HomeKit protocol continues to grow, more smart home What Is A Smart Home? We recently launched a Smart Home category at MakeUseOf, but what is a smart home? Read More fans can finally take advantage of one of the greatest advantages of the protocol: automation.

Accessible through the Home app built into iOS Getting the Most Out of Apple HomeKit and the iOS 10 Home App In this article, you’ll learn about the growing list of HomeKit-related products and how to control them. You’ll also see how to spot a compatible product in the marketplace. Read More , automation can integrate compatible devices and open up a number of great opportunities to truly put some smarts into your smart home.

We’ll walk you through the complete process on how to set up automation, how to tie in different smart home devices, and even how to activate different scenes.

Setting Up a Home Hub

First things first, you’ll need to have Home Hub in operation full-time for any automation to work or to control HomeKit devices away from home.


You can use an iPad with iOS 10 or later or any fourth-generation Apple TV with tvOS 10 or later. Either device will need power and a Wi-Fi connection at all times to operate.


On the iPad, head to Settings > iCloud. Enter your Apple ID information and confirm that both iCloud Keychain and Home are on.

After that, head back to Settings > Home and then turn on Use this iPad as a Home Hub.


To use an Apple TV, you’ll first need to enable two-factor authentication for the Apple ID. While it does require you to jump through a few hoops, it’s an important security precaution any Apple user should strongly consider adding to their account to keep personal information safe.

Once that’s complete, go to Settings > Accounts on the Apple TV and make sure you’re signed into the same account as the Apple ID. The Apple TV will then automatically configure itself as a Home Hub. To double-check, go to Settings > Accounts > iCloud on the streaming device.

While using an iPad might be more convenient for some users, having an Apple TV act as a hub Apple TV 2015 Review With competition from Google's Chromecast and Amazon’s FireTV reaching fever pitch, can Cupertino still hold its own in the battle for the space under your TV? Read More is definitely the way to go. The device always has power and is always in the same location in your home.

And in my experience, the Apple TV also is more reliable for controlling HomeKit devices, especially anything that relies solely on a Bluetooth connection.


Now lets look at the four different types of automation you can create with HomeKit accessories.

1. Run an Automation When My Location Changes

All of the automation customization is available through the Home app. After opening up the app, select Automation in the bottom right hand corner. Now the fun begins.

After you hit Create new Automation, there are four different categories to choose from. The first covers when you leave or arrive home. It’s also known as geofencing because it is dependent on an iPhone’s location.

The next screen allows you to select where the location automation needs to occur (which is likely your home). Below that you can select from either “When I Arrive” or “When I Leave.”


Location Automation HomeKit

For either choice, you can drag the slider to select a specific location for the automation to occur. For example, I could have a specific “When I Arrive” automation occur anywhere from when I’m 328 feet away from home or halfway across town.

Along with being able to select some devices for this automation, you can also automatically trigger a specific scene, which is a big help.

An easy way to use this feature is to have all HomeKit lights turn off when you leave and back on during arrival. If you have more compatible products, you can accomplish more complex tasks. Some of those include automatically locking and unlocking doors (with something like the August Smart Lock) and adjusting your thermostat (like the Ecobee3.)

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If you’re having problems getting this to work or can’t create automations at all, you may need to adjust a few settings on either your iOS device or Apple TV. On an iPhone or iPad, head to Settings > Privacy and make sure that Location Services are turned on. Then scroll down, select Home and make sure that While Using the App is selected in the Allow Location Access menu.

To double-check on the Apple TV, select Settings > General > Privacy and confirm that Location Services is turned on. Also, select Location Services and make sure that HomeKit is set to Always.

2. Run an Automation at Specific Times of Day

This automation is easy to understand — just think of it as a modern take on the old-school appliance timer.

Time Automation HomeKit

After selecting it in the Automation tab, there are three different choices on when to set the trigger: at sunrise, sunset, or a specific time of day. Thanks to location services, your iOS device will always know the exact sunrise and sunset at the selected house.

Below that, you can choose what days to repeat the automation. This allows you to run the automation every day of the week, weekdays, weekends, specific days, or never.

On the next screen, you can choose exactly what to automate. That could either be a certain scene or accessory.

Especially with the sunrise and sunset options, this automation is tailor-made for controlling all types of HomeKit lights, like the popular Philips Hue line Philips Hue Works With HomeKit: How To Make The Most Of It Philips has finally gotten round to integrating HomeKit into their Hue lighting platform, and it's amazing. Here's what you need to know. Read More , while at home or away. Raising or lowering the heat/air conditioning at your home is another great way to use this automation.

3. Run an Automation When Controlling an Accessory

Instead of the very automatic control of the first two automations, this selection requires interaction with one accessory to start the process.

Accessory Automation HomeKit

If you don’t like the idea of tying automation to location, this can be a great substitute. When leaving for work, locking your door Forget Keys: 5 Smart Locks You Can Unlock With Your Phone Here are 5 different locks that you can unlock with your phone. Read More can turn off lights and turn up a thermostat. And when you return, unlocking the door can do the opposite. Interacting with a chosen accessory can also be used to trigger a specific scene.

To customize this option, select it from the Automation section. First, you’ll select the accessory that starts the automation sequence (usually a lock or light). It can only be one accessory. On the next screen, you can choose whether the automation begins when you lock or unlock or door or turn a light on or off. Finally, you’ll be able to select what scenes or devices to interact with.

4. Run an Automation Using Sensor Cues

HomeKit sensors (like a motion detector or the First Alert Onelink Smoke + Carbon Monoxide Detector) get the short shaft in the three other automations because they are always on. But with this section, homeowners can put them to good work.

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If you just have a few accessories, like lights, this automation may not apply. But as you continue to add HomeKit devices to your home, this automation is full of interesting possibilities.

At my house, if smoke or carbon monoxide is ever detected after sunset, my front and back door will automatically unlock, all the lights will flip on to the maximum brightness, and my heat or AC system will turn off.

Sensory Automation HomeKit

While I hope to never put that use in real life, any extra added help to exit your home in a possible life-threatening emergency is always a good thing.

Another obvious choice for this automation is to turn on lights when sensors detect motion. That can give you extra peace of mind when crossing your home in the dark, or to startle potential burglars.

After selecting “A Sensor Detects Something” from the New Automation menu, the app will present a list of different sensors in your home. Select only one and then you can chose which scenes and/or other accessories automate.

Turn Off or Delete an Automation

Deleting HomeKit Automation

Turning off or deleting an automation is a quick and easy process. Select the specific automation in the Home app and either turn it off or delete. A left swipe will also bring up a quick delete button.

Final Thoughts

Even though setting up automation triggers can take a bit of work, it’s definitely worth the extra effort.

While smart home devices bring technology to daily life, automation can tie everything together and make HomeKit Smart Home Smackdown: Amazon Alexa vs. Apple HomeKit In this article, you’ll learn more about Amazon Alexa and how Apple Siri integrates with HomeKit. See a comparison between both products and decide for yourself which one is better. Read More  even more useful.

What automations have you created in the Home app using different HomeKit devices? Tell us about your experiences in the comments.

Image Credit: youngryand via

Related topics: Apple HomeKit, Home Automation, Smart Sensor.

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