Inside Tim Cook's Apple HomeKit-equipped smart home

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2020
Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook gave a rare glimpse into his personal life this week, when he spelled out how he uses HomeKit-connected smart accessories in his own home. AppleInsider offers a guide to how you, too, can live like a millionaire tech CEO.




During his company's quarterly earnings conference call on Tuesday, Cook revealed to analysts and the media that he has integrated HomeKit products, and the iOS 10 Home app, into his home routine.

"This level of home automation was unimaginable just a few years ago, and it's here today with iOS and HomeKit," he said.

While Cook didn't single out any accessories or products in detailing his routine, Apple's secure authentication for HomeKit gives the company strict control over approved accessories, providing consumers with a relatively small set of options. As of the end of 2016, there were about 100 HomeKit-compatible products available.

As such, we can likely narrow down the HomeKit accessories Cook is using in his own home. Here are our recommendations on how you can get a HomeKit experience on par with the head of Apple.

"Now when I say good morning to Siri, my house lights come on and my coffee starts brewing."

For HomeKit lighting, there are two best-in-class options based in two different product categories: bulbs and switches.




For bulbs, the most popular option is Philips Hue, which comes in a starter pack with three bulbs and a HomeKit-enabled hub for $199.99.

And for switches, the Lutron Caseta Wireless in-wall dimmer kit is HomeKit compatible and rock-solid. Like Philips Hue, it also requires a hub to be connected to a home router for HomeKit support -- the hub is included in the $190 bundle.




Brewing coffee with HomeKit is an interesting mention for Cook: There is no coffee maker on the market with integrated HomeKit support. In fact, there isn't even support for such an accessory in Apple's own HomeKit protocols.

Unless Cook was revealing some top-secret Apple "iCoffee" machine, it's most likely the Auburn graduate is getting his morning caffeine fix via a smart plug. There are plenty of HomeKit smart plug options on the market -- AppleInsider has reviewed both the Elgato Eve Energy and iHome iPS5 SmartPlug and found both to be adequate options.

The key with a smart plug accessory is it needs an exceptionally "dumb" appliance to be connected. That is to say, smart plugs are only useful with appliances that automatically turn on and operate when connected to power. If the connected device requires any sort of manual input, HomeKit and Siri integration are essentially useless.

So Cook must be pairing his smart plug with a coffee machine that automatically brews when turned on. For this, we'll need to find a coffee machine with a single, manual on-off switch. The switch would need to be left on for HomeKit controls to operate (and, of course, you'd have to prepare the pot by hand the night before).




Two potentially simple coffee brewing options available are the Proctor-Silex 12 Cup Coffeemaker, or the Mr. Coffee CG13 12-Cup Switch Coffeemaker.

"When I go to the living room to relax in the evening, I use Siri to adjust the lighting and turn on the fireplace."

We've already tackled the lighting, but the fireplace mention makes for another nonstandard implementation of HomeKit.

Cook didn't detail what kind of automated fireplace he has, but there are plenty of electric fireplace options available in all kinds of price ranges. Given that Cook is estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, perhaps he owns the 100-inch Modern Flames CLX Series, priced at $3,149.

Of course, Cook did also see a $1.5 million pay cut last year, so perhaps the Alabama native is looking to pinch pennies where he can. For the more budget conscious, the Touchstone 80001 Onyx Wall Mounted Electric Fireplace is well reviewed and affordable at $280.




For a wall-mounted electric fireplace, it's probably best to skip the aforementioned smart switches and wire the unit directly into your home electricity. That way, you can turn it on and off via a standard wall switch.

While we mentioned Lutron dimming switches before, those aren't a good candidate here, because an electric fireplace cannot be used with a bulb dimmer. Lutron does, however, offer a standard on-off switch with no dimming capabilities. As before, you'll need a Lutron bridge to connect to Apple HomeKit.




Another option is the Elgato Eve Light Switch, which is a Bluetooth Low Energy accessory to control any accessory powered by a wall switch. Unlike the Lutron option, it does not require a hub, though you'll need a newer Apple TV to control it via Bluetooth away from home.

"And when I leave the house, a simple tap on my iPhone turns the lights off, adjusts the thermostat down, and locks the doors."

We'll start with the hardware here, as Cook revealed he has a HomeKit connected thermostat and door locks.




To control your home's temperature via HomeKit, the most common option is the Ecobee3 second-generation model. It's available for about $250, though a less fully featured Ecobee3 Lite version is priced at $170.

An alternative is the Honeywell Lyric T5 Wi-Fi Thermostat, which is more affordable at around $120.

As for door locks, there are three main options to choose from, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. The $215 Schlage Sense and $230 Kwikset Premis both boast numeric keypad entry, while the $230 August Smart Lock integrates with many existing door locks, allowing for simpler installation.




As for the "simple tap" on Cook's iPhone, he's referring to creating a "Scene" with the Home app in iOS 10. We'll discuss that with Cook's final quote.

"When I return to my house in the evening, as I near my home, the house prepares itself for my arrival automatically by using a simple geofence.

With the Home app in iOS 10, scenes can be as simple as a user needs, or they can be wildly complex (with varying degrees of reliability).

A scene can be something as easy as Cook's "Hey Siri, good morning" greeting, which simply turns on the lights and a smart plug to brew coffee. To accomplish that, open the Home app in iOS 10, tap the plus button in the top right, and simply choose "Add Scene." From there, you can create a custom scene name and choose which accessories are powered on or off.




This is likely how Cook accomplishes locking his doors and turning off his lights with a "simple tap." The Apple CEO probably just has a scene for leaving his house, which can be accessed via the Home app, and also through Control Center.

Swipe up from the bottom of the screen for Control Center, and swipe left twice to access HomeKit accessories. Users can choose between favorite accessories or custom scenes by tapping the button in the top right corner of Control Center's HomeKit pane.




Geofencing with the iOS 10 Home app is a little more complex: You'll need to delve into the app's Automation tab to accomplish this. Scroll to the bottom and choose "Create new Automation," and then choose "My Location Changes."

From here, you can set up a custom-sized geofence for an address or your current location. Scenes can be triggered automatically when arriving or leaving the geofenced area. This is how Cook uses HomeKit to prepare his house for his arrival.

HomeKit automation can also occur automatically at a time of day, and it includes support for the shifting times of sunrise and sunset. Accessories can also be connected to one another for triggers, allowing lights to turn on once a door is opened or a motion detector is triggered.
patchythepirate
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 38
    The Lutron in-wall switch is limited to 5A resistive loads (600W) and so could not be used with most fireplace/heater units. It's also a violation of the National Electrical Code to use a wired-in switch that's not capable of carrying full circuit load, or a wired-in dimmer to control outlets of any kind. That said, the Lutron hardware works superbly in our house.

    I'd not be surprised if Tim Cook's home is filled with a mix of commercially available HomeKit gear as well as pre-production and full custom solutions. My garage doors are bridged to HomeKit via a Raspberry Pi and I'm in the process of bringing up other custom HomeKit solution that way.

    I think this will be the year that HomeKit starts to shine as Apple responds to Alexa to prevent Alexa from responding to me.
    edited February 2017 watto_cobraSoliDan Andersen
  • Reply 2 of 38
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 2,614member
    Pretty impressive what you can do in a house with a few million at your disposal.
    lmagoojbishop1039boxcatcher
  • Reply 3 of 38
    eightzero said:
    Pretty impressive what you can do in a house with a few million at your disposal.
    Exactly. I would do the same if I had his financial flexibility.
    caliwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 38
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,666member
    The coffee thing implies that TC either drinks horrible filter coffee, or his home kit device sets off an alarm to the maid who then fires up the espresso machine and has a steaming hot cup of espresso or latte ready for when Tim stumbles into the kitchen.

    Smart home devices are fairly difficult to implement for families where all sorts of people come and go at all sorts of hours. I can see how it can be cool for singles or couples who lead relatively structured lives.
    ibill
  • Reply 5 of 38
    Well that was a fun piece... although speculative in a few areas.

    But seriously... the western world is already going to seed, health-wise, with the current 'ease-of-everything' at society's disposal... and now we're being offered apps to switch on our lights, make coffee, 'light' a faux fire, unlock doors, and God knows what else! Many people already hardly get off their asses... and now apps plus gadgets are being created daily to make our lives even easier by the minute!

    We're doomed... unless we get out and exercise our bodies - by doing normal things - as they adapted, through evolutiuon, to be used.
    GeorgeBMacfrantisek
  • Reply 6 of 38
    boltsfan17boltsfan17 Posts: 2,255member
    Well that was a fun piece... although speculative in a few areas.

    But seriously... the western world is already going to seed, health-wise, with the current 'ease-of-everything' at society's disposal... and now we're being offered apps to switch on our lights, make coffee, 'light' a faux fire, unlock doors, and God knows what else! Many people already hardly get off their asses... and now apps plus gadgets are being created daily to make our lives even easier by the minute!

    We're doomed... unless we get out and exercise our bodies - by doing normal things - as they adapted, through evolutiuon, to be used.
    All we need now is a HomeKit enabled robot that can cook for you. 
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 7 of 38
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,316member
    True, these "smart plugs" are useless for everything except the dumbest appliances, like lights, that keep their on/off state. Isn't it possible for everything else (ie. coffee makers, ovens, etc) to implement homekit chips directly, or is that not possible? The most useful potential uses of homekit are not possible yet. 
  • Reply 8 of 38
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,316member
    eightzero said:
    Pretty impressive what you can do in a house with a few million at your disposal.
    MOST of what Cook mentioned (lights, locks, thermometers, etc) don't require a few million, or even a few thousand. 
    watto_cobraDan Andersen
  • Reply 9 of 38
    calicali Posts: 3,494member
    Anyone think Apple will begin to offer their own HomeKit devices? Seems like the way to go.

    Tim Cook did invest in a water saving mist showerhead. 

    https://pursuitist.com/tim-cook-invests-in-nebia-a-water-saving-shower-head-startup/
  • Reply 10 of 38
    mtbnutmtbnut Posts: 198member
    Every Apple executive strikes me as the type of person that would have a $10,000 espresso machine handmade in Italy, not a $50 Mr. Coffee crap coffeemaker.
    fastasleep
  • Reply 11 of 38
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,799member
    paxman said:
    The coffee thing implies that TC either drinks horrible filter coffee, or his home kit device sets off an alarm to the maid who then fires up the espresso machine and has a steaming hot cup of espresso or latte ready for when Tim stumbles into the kitchen.
    Strictly my opinion, but espresso and latte are both horrible ways to prepare coffee and maids are not usually trained as baristas.


  • Reply 12 of 38
    hypoluxa said:
    eightzero said:
    Pretty impressive what you can do in a house with a few million at your disposal.
    Exactly. I would do the same if I had his financial flexibility.
    I think you'd also use that financial flexibility to take your house to a future you expect to deliver to your customers. Tim Cook knows he's got the resources to live as few of his customers can, but it's in his best interest to bring us along for the ride. He wasn't showcasing his home, he was showcasing our future.
    watto_cobraDan Andersen
  • Reply 13 of 38
    I'm about ready to chuck Phillips Hue out the window. The lights constantly become unreachable/unresponsive...total piece of junk.
  • Reply 14 of 38
    Well that was a fun piece... although speculative in a few areas.

    But seriously... the western world is already going to seed, health-wise, with the current 'ease-of-everything' at society's disposal... and now we're being offered apps to switch on our lights, make coffee, 'light' a faux fire, unlock doors, and God knows what else! Many people already hardly get off their asses... and now apps plus gadgets are being created daily to make our lives even easier by the minute!

    We're doomed... unless we get out and exercise our bodies - by doing normal things - as they adapted, through evolutiuon, to be used.
    All we need now is a HomeKit enabled robot that can cook for you. 
    Or a robot that will exercise for you.
    slprescottcaliGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 15 of 38
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 2,614member
    slurpy said:
    eightzero said:
    Pretty impressive what you can do in a house with a few million at your disposal.
    MOST of what Cook mentioned (lights, locks, thermometers, etc) don't require a few million, or even a few thousand. 
    And of course, when you have a few million, why would you need any of this? Leave the lights on, temperature set, and really...you think Tim's house needs a lock? Pretty sure he has a fairly sophisticated security system. Betcha he has a security detail and a house staff.

    Installation and maintenance of this @internetofshit is not trivial. And their rate of failure is much higher. To some extent, having additional features in a newly constructed house makes sense: you gotta buy a lock to put on the door anyway, so pick one that has desirable functions. But retrofitting is expensive, and while doable by a do it yourselfer with the inclination, isn't for most people. I do see a business opportunity for installers.
  • Reply 16 of 38
    bsimpsen said:
    The Lutron in-wall switch is limited to 5A resistive loads (600W) and so could not be used with most fireplace/heater units. It's also a violation of the National Electrical Code to use a wired-in switch that's not capable of carrying full circuit load, or a wired-in dimmer to control outlets of any kind. That said, the Lutron hardware works superbly in our house.
    Have you found any HomeKit compatible switches that work with electric fireplaces? We have a "fake" fireplace (I call it fake, but there is actual fire, it's just supplied by propane rather than wood) that I would like to put a HomeKit switch on so that I can set up scenes with it. I think our switch is low-voltage and starting the igniter and the fan is controlled and powered separately (it's a Heat&Glo, if that helps) but I'm not sure. 
  • Reply 17 of 38
    I've been doing home automation for about a decade.  HomeKit is wonderful in that it unbinds you from one particular hardware ecosystem -- love this.  As for capability, however, HomeKit still needs a lot of work. 

    More than anything, I find the lack of conditional triggers / the lack of complex triggering very frustrating.  Granted, presenting too many logic conditions to the average end-user wouldn't be wise, BUT Apple really needs an "Advanced" option for those of us who want to do more than simply turn the lights on at sunset.

    Aside (in case there are any Product Managers out there):  I'm also waiting for some company to create a proper occupancy sensor that uses more than simple IR motion detection to declare whether a room is/isn't occupied -- just because I'm not actively waving my arms around every 30 seconds doesn't mean I've left the room...
    edited February 2017 Dan Andersen
  • Reply 18 of 38
    bsimpsen said:
    The Lutron in-wall switch is limited to 5A resistive loads (600W) and so could not be used with most fireplace/heater units. It's also a violation of the National Electrical Code to use a wired-in switch that's not capable of carrying full circuit load, or a wired-in dimmer to control outlets of any kind. That said, the Lutron hardware works superbly in our house.
    Have you found any HomeKit compatible switches that work with electric fireplaces? We have a "fake" fireplace (I call it fake, but there is actual fire, it's just supplied by propane rather than wood) that I would like to put a HomeKit switch on so that I can set up scenes with it. I think our switch is low-voltage and starting the igniter and the fan is controlled and powered separately (it's a Heat&Glo, if that helps) but I'm not sure. 
    I've not seen any commercial low voltage switchgear that's HomeKit compatible. And the solution also depends on whether the control circuit is hard-wired, or plugged into an outlet. If the latter, it may be possible to plug the fireplace into an on/off switch module. Lutron's plug-in dimmer can be configured to only do on/off. Dimming an electronic device (like your fireplace controller) could produce unpredictable/damaging/dangerous results. If the fireplace is controlled by a classic hardwired 24VAC thermostat, it may be possible to control the transformer from an in-wall switch module. Those can handle small inductive loads (up to 3A, I think).

    These sorts of edge cases will hopefully be addressed as home automation catches on. I ran into a problem with switching my yard lights via the Lutron in-wall switches as my outdoor lamp posts have outlets at the bottom for things like hedge trimmers and holiday lights. Code does not allow the use of the 5A Lutron switch on that 15A circuit. The solution was to have the switch control a 40 amp contactor mounted in a box in the basement.

    Where there's a will, there's a way.

  • Reply 19 of 38
    robbyxrobbyx Posts: 479member
    Well that was a fun piece... although speculative in a few areas.

    But seriously... the western world is already going to seed, health-wise, with the current 'ease-of-everything' at society's disposal... and now we're being offered apps to switch on our lights, make coffee, 'light' a faux fire, unlock doors, and God knows what else! Many people already hardly get off their asses... and now apps plus gadgets are being created daily to make our lives even easier by the minute!

    We're doomed... unless we get out and exercise our bodies - by doing normal things - as they adapted, through evolutiuon, to be used.
    All we need now is a HomeKit enabled robot that can cook for you. 
    Maybe this one will be HomeKit ready...

    http://factor-tech.com/robotics/17437-robot-chef-that-can-cook-any-of-2000-meals-at-tap-of-a-button-to-go-on-sale-in-2017/
  • Reply 20 of 38
    paxman said:
    ...or his home kit device sets off an alarm to the maid who then fires up the espresso machine and has a steaming hot cup of espresso or latte ready for when Tim stumbles into the kitchen....
    That was my first though too, :lol: I highly doubt someone with his wealth doesn't have resident "staff" 
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