Home automation sounds fantastic, but in practice it has some struggles. With the advent of HomeKit, there's a good chance Apple can bring home automation to the masses, with a one-two punch of iOS 8 and Apple TV.
Apple TV + HomeKit = Crazy Delicious
Right now the setup process for individual items is pretty straightforward, but if you want anything to work together you need a central way for those separate devices to communicate.That home automation "hub" needs to be easy to set up and use, and right now it's not the greatest experience in either category.
Last year when we moved into our new house, we found a few opportunities for home automation, and discovered very quickly the need for a "hub" of some sort to manage all of the communication. We did some research and found the Vera we could hook all sorts of things to for monitoring and automating purposes.
Vera is a box about the size of an Apple TV that communicates with outlets/switches, security systems, and climate control (among other things) and allows you to create "scenes." For example, I built scenes where my porch light and backyard lights come on when the sun goes down, but the backyard lights turn off after a couple of hours while the porch light stays on until sunrise. And Vera has a network connection so it can check the time for sunrise and sunset each day instead of relying on a sensor outside.
As soon as we started setting things up we ran into hurdles really quickly. Documentation is sparse and written by non-English speakers, so usually it takes thorough forum searching to find any sort of solution. Sorting out errors is a dark art that is equal parts luck and search-fu. It works pretty well if you can get set up, but that setup can be a long painful process of trial and error. We finally got most of it working, but it certainly wasn't an experience I would recommend to others, particularly those who don't think troubleshooting is a fabulous way to spend an evening.
Since then, I've watched the home automation/Internet of Things movement with interest. I wanted something better, and since the bar was set so low I figured it wouldn't take long. So hearing about HomeKit during the WWDC keynote this year was music to my ears. For a second. Then I realized all this software and hardware that utilizes HomeKit will still need a central hub; my iPhone might be where the command starts but not where it's processed.
Image made with help from Shutterstock.
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