Philips Hue has some awesome lights and devices for decorating your home with light and providing home automation. The original Philips Bridge enabled me to control lights via an iPhone app and a few third party iOS apps let me sync to music and movies. It was cool. Then Philips released Bridge 2.0, a HomeKit enabled device that added Siri voice control from iOS devices and the Apple Watch. I already had Insteon and Lutron HomeKit enabled bridges and products and went rushing around to buy the new bridge.
It sure was great to push a button on my Apple Watch and let Siri turn on some lights, especially from my car as I was pulling up to my front door. I’ve set up some scenes, defined by color and lights, so when I tell Siri to turn on TV time, I get red and blue Hue Bloom lighting turned on.
I’ve got a daylight and blue light scene for my kitchen. (And I can even tell Siri to set the Kitchen to Pink if that is my current mood).
And I’ve got a bunch of color scheme scenes for the stairway going from the first floor to the second floor.
Siri can dim individual lights by percent and more. It’s pretty handy. And of course Siri turns on my individual Insteon powered and Lutron powered devices, scenes, rooms, zones and more. Between my iPhone and my Apple Watch, I can use Siri to control everything. (Note: Amazon’s Alexa voice control can turn my Insteon powered lights and some of my Hue devices, excluding Lightstrips for some reason, on and off.)
Except when it all stops working with Siri. https://discussions.apple.com/thread/7275389 and Reddit and elsewhere all have posts from unhappy users.
While bridges from other vendors seem to work without glitches, Hue’s Bridge 2.0 suffers from some kind of bug where there are several conditions that will cause Siri and HomeKit to stop working (only for the Hue devices, the other devices continue to work fine). Resetting HomeKit in certain situations will also not fix the issue as the Hue App reports “Another user already paired the HomeKit enabled bridge. Please ask the user to share his / her home kit settings in order for you to start using Siri voice control“. There’s nothing you can do to fix this. Reset your bridge and it may work for a while, but one to four hours later, bang, stops working. Rinse and repeat. In fact, simply resetting HomeKit may trigger this issue. It’s a mess.
The scenarios that cause this may be related to owning more than one iOS device configured with the SAME iCloud ID.https://discussions.apple.com/message/29148317#29148317 And whether or not having bridges from multiple vendors is part of the recipe for failure is also unknown. I’ve heard of related issues with folks sharing their Home as well https://discussions.apple.com/message/29148317#29148317. Apparently the user you share with has to delete a “Primary Home” and then possibly can control a Shared Home. I haven’t tried myself.
I probably called support 8 times. I kept asking for a replacement bridge. I was turned down multiple times. I was told a fix was coming. Sometimes I was told it was Philips App fix and other times I was told it was a HomeKit/iOS fix. Escalation said that engineering could not reproduce the issues. After a few more calls a week ago, Philips agreed to replace my bridge.
I changed my two other iOS devices to a different iCloud ID and reset HomeKit on those devices. I left the iPhone as it was. I set up the new bridge (had to use the serial number/mac addresses of all my lights) and for a while the Hue App saw both the old and new bridge even though the old bridge was offline and reset. But Siri/HomeKit functionality returned and is still working 5 days later.
Apple’s HomeKit powered hubs and devices are very new and the platform is fragile, but definitely is a promise of things to come. Early adopters are struggling with device control and finding precious little documentation to assist them. I’ve had mostly good experiences, but I like over the bleeding edge technology and I like rolling up my sleeves to see what makes things tick or stop ticking. I want this platform to work. And I’ve been digging in.
Apple recently published a list of Siri HomeKit commands at https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204893. When looking at their list (below), I found myself scratching my head. Look at the number of times the word LIGHTS appear in the sample commands. I have 8 lights controlled by HomeKit compatible accessories, but many of the commands that use the word LIGHTS just are not working. Commands like “Turn on the Living Room Lights” or “Turn on the Downstairs Lights” resulted in failure.
I did some thinking and realized that my downstairs lights are connected to Insteon On/Off switches and NOT to Dimmers. And I began to suspect that this made a difference, since On/Off switches could be connected to non lamp devices like Table Fans, etc.
As it turns out, my hunch was correct. Omitting the word “Lights” from the Siri commands made a huge difference. I have Rooms and Zones, and have been struggling for a few days to understand why Siri commands weren’t working. I now have the answer. Here’s a video that demo’s what works and what doesn’t work.
Let me know your experiences with HomeKit on Twitter @barbbowman
Watch the video on YouTube.
The Internet of Things isn’t arriving fast enough for me, but I’ve managed to jumpstart my Connected Home’s entrance into this brave new world thanks to Apple’s iOS HomeKit.
What I have now using HomeKit is a preview of things to come, and I’m hoping that iOS9 brings some improvements and refinement, as has been rumored by many who more actively follow the iOS ecosystem. And I’m happy to play with what I have today, a somewhat fragile but working system that lets me control HomeKit enabled devices from multiple vendors both from my iPhone 6 and by voice command using Siri over my home network.
Most of the top tier Home Automation and Control vendors like Insteon and Lutron, who already had bridges and addressable devices in the marketplace, are introducing HomeKit enabled bridges or have introduced them. Existing dimmer switches and on/off switches should work with the new bridges, but battery powered devices like motion sensors most likely will not work. There may be support for motion sensors in iOS9, but it’s not known if existing sensors will need to be replaced by a new HomeKit enabled sensor.
HomeKit can control devices, scenes that control multiple devices, rooms, and zones, depending on the iOS app. You need to add/discover a particular vendor’s HomeKit enabled bridge and you’ll need to add devices from a particular vendor using that vendor’s app. Once devices are enabled, you can use any vendor’s app to configure scenes, rooms, and zones, provided that the app supports this.
There are only a few apps in the iTunes Store that work with HomeKit devices. Lutron’s App is sandboxed and only controls Lutron devices. It does recognize Rooms created by other apps. It can create Scenes, but only using Lutron devices as HomeKit devices from other Vendors don’t appear in their app.
Insteon’s HomeKit enabled Insteon+ App has full HomeKit integration and no restriction on using other vendor HomeKit devices in scenes. I can include Lutron dimmers in scenes I create in the Insteon+ app.
While I don’t have any Elgato devices, I actually like the Elgato Eve app best because it is easier for me to read. The Elgato Eve app also lets me add/edit scenes and rooms.
I’ve got Hey Siri enabled on my iPhone 6. And I’ve got a charging cradle in my Bedroom where my iPhone spends the night. Siri integration with HomeKit is not perfect, but it’s pretty cool to tell Siri to run on a light or a scene, as shown in my video.
To control devices over cellular or while away from home, a 3rd generation Apple TV with firmware 7+ is required. I found that I had to move my Apple TV from Ethernet to Wireless for this to work. I also had to sign out and in to iCloud a few times. HomeKit works remotely using iCloud integration. Siri commands over cellular didn’t work, but using the actual Apps on my iPhone worked fine (with a short delay).
All in all, this is great fun for an over the bleeding edge geek.