Hands on: Controlling your smart home with HomeKit on macOS Mojave

Posted:
in macOS edited June 5
After being on iOS for years, HomeKit and the Home app have made their way to the Mac. In macOS Mojave, you can finally control your smart home right from your Mac.

Home app in macOS Mojave


HomeKit is Apple's smart home platform, enabling accessories from many different manufacturers are all able to work together to run your home. It encompasses everything from light bulbs, to sprinkler systems, to locks. Before macOS Mojave, HomeKit was only available on iOS, tvOS, and watchOS, making the Mac Apple's lone standout that couldn't control your home. Mojave brings not only the app, but Siri support for the feature as well.





When launching the Home app for the first time, Home asks you to enable it within iCloud settings. Then it runs through a brief setup where it downloads all your accessories, scenes, and automation. Larger homes this may take a couple minutes for all the accessories, but for most, it will be quick.

System preferences in macOS Mojave


After the app launches, it will be instantly familiar to anyone who has used the Home app on iOS. There is a reason for that; Apple directly ported their iOS app to the Mac. Using a new development framework that will be available to devs next year, Apple ported not just Home, but News, Stocks, and Voice Memos as well to the Mac.

Since the Mac has a large screen, it is most similar to the iPad version of the Home app. Along the top are three sections: Home, Rooms, and Automation. Home gives you a birdseye view of everything going on, including your favorite scenes and accessories. Rooms are all the individual rooms in your home and can be swiped between. Automation is a list of all current automation rules and triggers that have been configured.

In the top right-hand corner is + icon to add either a new Scene or a new Automation. You can't add new accessories on the Mac, a task still relegated to iPhones and iPads.

To control an accessory, it can just be clicked to toggle between two states, or when you right-click, Quick Controls can be opened which has more options for certain accessories like brightness, temperature ranges, and colors.

Siri HomeKit commands in macOS Mojave


Aside from manually controlling everything in the Home app, Siri now supports HomeKit commands as well. Anything you could ask her to do to your smart home on iOS or watchOS, she can now do on the desktop.

There are certainly limitations, however. Mac is only capable of handling one home at a time, where mobile you can jump between. There are also no settings available for viewing your Home Hub or making changes to your HomePod. So far at least, notifications haven't worked for us either.

When creating a new automation, macOS prevents you from choosing any location-based trigger, which seems like an odd omission. Clearly, the Mac doesn't have persistent location awareness like an iPhone does, but that shouldn't stop those rules from being created.

Home app in macOS Mojave


The most surprising omission, however, was the lack of AirPlay 2 functionality. AirPlay 2, which launched with iOS 11.4, tvOS 11.4, and HomePod 11.4, made a number of significant improvements over the original version of the protocol. It never made it to the Mac, assumedly because it relied on HomeKit. Now that HomeKit has come to the Mac, we steadfastly expected AirPlay 2 to arrive alongside. So far, that doesn't seem to be the case.

Other than those few limitations, Home and HomeKit performed exactly as we expected them to, and is exceptionally handy for users. There is no word yet on whether or not third-party HomeKit apps will make their way to Mac. They may have to wait until 2019 when Apple allows iOS apps to be officially ported over to the platform.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 11
    dave marshdave marsh Posts: 292member
    The Home app doesn’t exist on the Apple TV.  It does serve as a home hub if you don’t have an HomePod, however.  It would be nice to have the Home app on tvOS.
    libertyforallDavidAlGregorywatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 11
    bill42bill42 Posts: 117member
    Strange. When I say "Set the Tahoe house to 72" I don't feel anything happening...
  • Reply 3 of 11
    racerhomie3racerhomie3 Posts: 525member
    bill42 said:
    Strange. When I say "Set the Tahoe house to 72" I don't feel anything happening...
    It’s a beta. Please for crying out loud ,stop complaining!!!
  • Reply 4 of 11
    ivanhivanh Posts: 154member
    When I say, “I’m leaving in 5 minutes.” How can I be reminded to bring my medicines, passport...?”
  • Reply 5 of 11
    sirozhasirozha Posts: 326member
    Can someone explain to me where HomeKit lives? Before it was possible to control HomeKit devices from outside of one’s Home network (via the Apple TV or iPad hub), HomeKit devices could be controlled from the iPhone over the local Wi-Fi or via Bluetooth.  But the same HomeKit settIngs (rooms, scenes, etc.) were available from multiple iPhones (or iPads) on the same iCloud account.

    So, where do these settings live? In iCloud? If so, what happens if the Internet is cut off? Can the iPhone control the HomeKit devices via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth using the Home app while the Internet connection is down or is the Internet connection a requirement so that the iPhone (or iPad) can get the HomeKit settings from iCloud? 

    I do realize that Internet is required for controlling devices from outside the house, but is it required for controlling devices from inside the house? 

    I’ve been using HomeKit since it was released, but I don’t completely understand where the central place that stores all the settings is. 
    edited June 5 TomEwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 11
    I have been hoping Apple would put HomeKit on Mac OS for some time and this looks like a band aid or half hearted attempt. I would rather see Home by Matthias Hochgatterer on the Mac- it is simply better than Apple's and used the name first.

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/home-smart-home-automation/id995994352?ign-mpt=uo%3D8

    A question: will this allow a Mac to be used as the hub for HomeKit the way an iPad or Apple TV can be currently?
  • Reply 7 of 11
    k2kwk2kw Posts: 1,246member
    This is the main reason why I will probably upgrade to Mojave.   Glad Apple did this.   I'm sure that it is a lot of work to keep advancing all the different operating system that Apple has (tvOS, macOS, iOS, watchOS) and keep improving how they work together.   Hopefully this save Apple a little time but just maintain one app in the future.
  • Reply 8 of 11
    welshdogwelshdog Posts: 1,566member
    Wonder if this change will allow automation apps like Indigo to finally get hooks into Homekit?
    edited June 6
  • Reply 9 of 11
    sirozha said:
    Can someone explain to me where HomeKit lives? Before it was possible to control HomeKit devices from outside of one’s Home network (via the Apple TV or iPad hub), HomeKit devices could be controlled from the iPhone over the local Wi-Fi or via Bluetooth.  But the same HomeKit settIngs (rooms, scenes, etc.) were available from multiple iPhones (or iPads) on the same iCloud account.

    So, where do these settings live? In iCloud? If so, what happens if the Internet is cut off? Can the iPhone control the HomeKit devices via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth using the Home app while the Internet connection is down or is the Internet connection a requirement so that the iPhone (or iPad) can get the HomeKit settings from iCloud? 

    I do realize that Internet is required for controlling devices from outside the house, but is it required for controlling devices from inside the house? 

    I’ve been using HomeKit since it was released, but I don’t completely understand where the central place that stores all the settings is. 
    My guess: your settings are stored in iCloud. When your Internet is off, you just temporarily loose the ability to synchronize your configuration changes until it comes back, same for Apple Photos and iCloud services like that. While Internet is off, you can still control your HomeKit devices on the local network: such devices are detected using Bonjour (network broadcasts) the same way your iPhone detects your Apple TV or other Airplay targets, printers and all ; no Internet involved. EDIT: Of course, with no Internet you also loose Siri, so you cannot control your HomeKit appliances using voice in this case.
    edited June 6 watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 11
    galfridusgalfridus Posts: 16member
    sirozha said:
    Can someone explain to me where HomeKit lives? Before it was possible to control HomeKit devices from outside of one’s Home network (via the Apple TV or iPad hub), HomeKit devices could be controlled from the iPhone over the local Wi-Fi or via Bluetooth.  But the same HomeKit settIngs (rooms, scenes, etc.) were available from multiple iPhones (or iPads) on the same iCloud account.

    So, where do these settings live? In iCloud? If so, what happens if the Internet is cut off? Can the iPhone control the HomeKit devices via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth using the Home app while the Internet connection is down or is the Internet connection a requirement so that the iPhone (or iPad) can get the HomeKit settings from iCloud? 

    I do realize that Internet is required for controlling devices from outside the house, but is it required for controlling devices from inside the house? 

    I’ve been using HomeKit since it was released, but I don’t completely understand where the central place that stores all the settings is. 
    The settings sync to iCloud but live on each iOS (and now macOS) on your account and those who share the home with you. You have to have a home hub (iPad that stays at home all the time, Apple TV, or HomePod) for it to work outside of your local network. And, yes, your iPhone/iPad/Apple Watch can control everything if you are on your local network and your ISP connection is down.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 11
    dewmedewme Posts: 1,328member
    sirozha said:
    Can someone explain to me where HomeKit lives? Before it was possible to control HomeKit devices from outside of one’s Home network (via the Apple TV or iPad hub), HomeKit devices could be controlled from the iPhone over the local Wi-Fi or via Bluetooth.  But the same HomeKit settIngs (rooms, scenes, etc.) were available from multiple iPhones (or iPads) on the same iCloud account.

    So, where do these settings live? In iCloud? If so, what happens if the Internet is cut off? Can the iPhone control the HomeKit devices via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth using the Home app while the Internet connection is down or is the Internet connection a requirement so that the iPhone (or iPad) can get the HomeKit settings from iCloud? 

    I do realize that Internet is required for controlling devices from outside the house, but is it required for controlling devices from inside the house? 

    I’ve been using HomeKit since it was released, but I don’t completely understand where the central place that stores all the settings is. 
    This is actually a very good question and one that it took me a while to come to terms with because I've spent many years closely involved with control systems that always had the notion of a central, supervisory controller and single, master database or control system image. HomeKit bears no resemblance to an industrial DCS or SCADA system, it is simply an ad hoc, loosely couple collection of devices that can be associated with higher level organizational models, e.g., rooms, for the sake of convenience and usability. There is no overriding requirement to maintain a consistent overall system state or for referential integrity between operating devices. Each device's configuration is independent and self contained. The last user to modify a device or set of device settings overrides all previous edits in the same way that files you store in iCloud can be modified from different locations and different devices.

    HomeKit is simple and it serves relatively simple needs. I think Apple, or perhaps a HomeKit Consortium if one ever comes into being, could add some elements of a real control system to HomeKit but they'd have to be careful not to introduce complexity that is out of scope for the market HomeKit serves. I'd like to see a few simple things like triggers/actions between devices and wall clock time based triggers/events that can be applied across groups of devices. But even these features would require the definition of a messaging/communication system that allows for peer-peer connectivity between HomeKit devices. There are many many examples that Apple could draw upon for doing device connectivity in both the industrial and building automation domains, but I don't think Apple really wants to turn the complexity knob too far and risk reducing accessibility of HomeKit to device vendors who are already in Apple's consumer oriented ecosystem. I do think Apple could achieve some very useful but still simple "system like" automations in their configuration tool by having some level of common functions that multiple device level configuration workflows can use in a cooperative manner.  
    edited June 6 watto_cobra
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