My HomeKit Favourites (Part One)…

I have now a fairly extensive “smart home” built up with a bunch of HomeKit devices over the years, some have been great, some have been terrible. Here’s some hard-earned wisdom and a few of my favourite things;

  • you have to start with a reliable and properly set up WiFi network. I’ve set up a separate 2.4GHz network for devices that prefer or only work with that. I used to have 2 AirPort Extremes and an AirPort Time Capsule with a wired backbone connecting them. I pulled everything out and replaced them with a UniFi Dream Machine Pro and 4x Ubiquiti NanoHD access points about 2.5 years ago, which kinda took things from “better than average” to “over the top and I love it”.

  • setting static IPs for my lights, garage door opener, etc, improved reliability as well.

  • I set up Homebridge (initially on its own Raspberry Pi, now on my Mac mini server) to expose a few devices that don’t have native HomeKit support, e.g. my weather station and my UniFi security cameras. This has been very handy in terms of having devices all in the one spot, and also means they can be used as input for HomeKit automations.

  • I had about eight or so “smart” Wi-Fi power plugs that would stop working just often enough to be useless. A few were in a rather hard to reach spot, and the nature of the failure was that when you would apply power, they would default to off and no longer be visible/controllable. To switch them back on, you would have to press a button on the side of the unit, but then to go through resetting them there was a long-winded procedure with holding that button down and cycling power. Multiply that out by the number of units, and you can see why I eventually scrapped them.

  • I have had an electrician set up 6x Shelly 1 v3 - These are about the size of 2 Oreos, go behind the light switches in the wall, and allow for control of whatever the light switch is for. I re-flashed them with a HomeKit compatible firmware that someone created, which means they seamlessly work with everything else. One really neat thing is, it resolves the issue of having a smart light globe becoming “dumb” when a standard light switch removes power by virtue of it being set to off. Instead, the Shelly 1 has the option of being configured as what they call a “stateless toggle switch”, which, put a little simpler, means if the light is on, flicking the switch will tell the light to turn off, but not by removing power. This means that even if the light switch is “off”, the light is actually still powered but not illuminated, and so you can turn the lights on with a voice command or an automation. It’s the simple things in life ;)

There will be more I have to add to this, which will have to be a post for another week!

Currently listening: Talking Heads - “Making Flippy Floppy”

Jonathan Wrigley @workswellforme