WWDC 2016 is nearly over, with just one more day to go. But through the week, we’ve learned a bit more about what’s new with HomeKit in iOS 10 and tvOS 2. There was so much packed into the keynote presentation, that they couldn’t dive into all of the details at that time.
Here’s a few points on HomeKit that we’ve learned this week, beyond the basics shared at the keynote:
Apple TV as a “Home Hub”
The Apple TV (3rd and 4th generation) can now function not just a a remote access gateway for HomeKit devices, but it will also function as a “Home Hub”. This means that the triggers/events and timers that you setup on your iOS device will be able to run locally. This means that even if your iOS device is away from your home and doesn’t have a data connection, your automations will still run. Previously, in iOS 9.x, your automations would still execute on your iOS device, but they would only truly affect your devices at home if your iOS device was connected to the Internet. iOS / HomeKit would not “catch up” and re-run automations that didn’t complete if there was no connectivity when they were scheduled or triggered.
iPad also becomes a hub
Any iPad compatible with iOS 10 can also act as a “Home Hub” like an Apple TV, as long as it is on your home’s Wi-Fi network and plugged into power. As many people’s iPads tend to live at home, this might be a good option for those who have an iPad but not an Apple TV. Of course, the moment that you unplug the iPad, you lose “Hub” functionality until it is plugged in again.
Creating a stronger network
If you have several Apple TVs and/or iPads, they will function together and “extend” the HomeKit network, making it more robust. Each “remote access” device will choose the an efficient path so that it can communicate with its closest HomeKit accessories.
No HomeKit on Mac via Siri, yet
Apple confirmed to us that while Siri is coming to the Mac with macOS Sierra, she won't be able to command your smarter home devices via HomeKit. "Not at this time" is what we were told.
Similar devices can act as one
HomeKit can intelligently group services together from different nearby devices, assuming they’re all setup in the same “room” by the user. Devices such as doorbells, smart locks, and cameras from different manufacturers can have their various services / actions displayed together. This makes the “front door” demo that Apple showed during its keynote possible, even when using multiple HomeKit accessories that each only perform a single function.
Gluing it all together with Triggers
In iOS 10, new triggers will be available for sunset and sunrise, adding to specific time “triggers” and location and “value” triggers. This was mentioned in the very-brief HomeKit segment of the WWDC segment but basically glossed-over. Sunset and sunrise are better than setting specific times, as the length of a day changes throughout the year. Why Apple didn’t introduce these in iOS 9 seems completely baffling to us.
And, while this is not specifically an iOS 10 feature, it’s still pretty new as of iOS 9.3. Bluetooth Smart (v4.0) devices that are battery-operated are now supported for triggering scenes, but device makers have only recently updated their apps to take advantage of this. While weather sensors are supported in general in HomeKit, temperature and humidity cannot be used as “value” triggers according to Apple.
Triggers, or making scenes “execute”, are the magic of home automation that truly brings everything together. Now that Apple has fixed a few issues with its HomeKit Triggers, this should go along way toward making HomeKit able to truly make home automation happen.
HomeKit will probably never be as powerful as some of the more robust home automation solutions out there, which allow for custom variables, scripting and many different plugins to different vendors. But for most users who just want to have some fun with home automation or impress their friends, HomeKit in iOS 10, and the growing array of available HomeKit “accessories”, should make for a “smarter home” that’s fairly sophisticated but simple to manage.