Hands-on

Control devices from your smartphone

If you are using an iPhone or iPad, Apple's HomeKit is probably the easiest way to create your own smart home.

HomeKit is Apple's smart home platform. It lets you connect and control smart home devices via the Home app for iOS. You can also use Apple's voice assistant Siri to activate these devices.

The best thing about HomeKit is its easy set-up, compared with the competition. And unlike other smart home platforms that usually require a central hub to work, a hub is not a requirement for HomeKit.

Once you get a HomeKit-enabled device or accessory (these have the Apple HomeKit logo on them), start the Home app.

Tap on Add Accessory, scan the HomeKit set-up code - found on the device or its manual - using your iPhone's camera and the device will be paired immediately.

The Home app will also recognise HomeKit devices that have been set up using third-party apps like the D-Link Omna app.

It will bring together all these smart home devices you have - even if they are in different rooms - into one page for easy management.

The Home app provides a status report of your smart home devices along with the important updates, such as room temperature, when a door has been unlocked or when a motion sensor has been triggered.

You can even view a connected Internet camera from the app.

The Home app also allows you to set Scenes and Automations.

A Scene is a group of actions that you can set, such as switching on or off a combination of lights and appliances in the house.

You can activate Scenes in a number of ways, including using a Siri voice command and through an Automation setting.

The latter is a condition that triggers action. For instance, you can set the lights in your living room to automatically switch on at 8pm every night or when you reach home.

If you want to remotely access and control HomeKit devices, you need to set up a hub for HomeKit. Otherwise, you can control them only when you are in the same Wi-Fi network.

To do so, you need to have either an iPad with the latest iOS version, a HomePod or an Apple TV (fourth-generation or 4K with the latest tvOS version) to serve as a HomeKit hub. And you can have multiple hubs.

I use my HomePod as my HomeKit hub in my study and my Apple TV 4K in my living room as these devices are not going to run out of battery.

HomeKit-enabled devices have passed Apple's stringent requirements for both security and functionality.

But this advantage is also its downside: Because of Apple's stringent requirements, you will find that there are very few HomeKit products in the market, especially in Singapore.

On the Apple Singapore's HomeKit page, there are only 19 products available.

These include the D-Link Omna 180 Cam HD Camera, Philips Hue lighting and Elgato Eve Energy power plug. There are no smart locks or door ring cameras.

In addition, HomeKit is currently supported only by iOS. But it will be available in the upcoming macOS 10.14 Mojave, so you can control your HomeKit devices on your Mac then.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2018, with the headline 'Control devices from your smartphone'. Print Edition | Subscribe