Logistics of Phillips Hue + HomeKit Control

Discussion in 'HomeKit, HomePod, CarPlay, Home & Auto Technology' started by jnick, Oct 30, 2015.

  1. jnick macrumors regular

    Jan 22, 2008
    Hi All,

    I apologize up-front as this is going to be a bit long winded.

    I've been into HA for about a year now, primarily using SmartThings and Z-Wave/ZigBee. I'm totally invested in the Apple EcoSystem, so being I was buying Hue Lights, I figured I'd give HomeKit a whirl. It took me a bit to understand how to configure your HomeKit Rooms/Zones, etc since you have to use Third Party apps and cannot do it via the Hue App or a Native Apple App.

    With that said, my setup will be primarily using the SmartThings Hub v2 (I know it doesn't support homekit). However, being my Hue Hub does have HomeKit, I'd like to integrate that as well.

    I successfully have two rooms setup - Living Room and Dining Room. The Dining Room has a few bulbs in a fixture assigned to it and the Living Room has a single lamp. All seems to be working fine thus far. I tell Siri to turn on/off my Dining Room lights and magically, they listen!

    However, since I'be been researching, tinkering and installing HA systems for about a year for Friends and Family, I know a few "Gotchas":

    The lights should be controlled via a Smart Connected Light Switch rather than controlling the individual bulbs for On/Off functionality. At some point, someone will use the light switch (guests, etc) while passing by. Therefore a Smart Light Switch ensures I never lose remote control over the lighting.

    However, what does pose a problem (I think) is how Siri + Homekit is performing the action. If I were to buy the Phillips Hue Dimmer Switch, when I tell Siri to "Turn on/off the Dining Room Lights," I would want and expect it to turn the Dimmer switch "On/Off", thus turning the lights on - NOT turning each light on individually.

    The question is, does this happen natively? Or do you have to set the action to control the switch and not the individual bulbs?

    Finally, how does Siri handle mixed control status updates? I.E. - I tell Siri to turn the lights on, but then turn them off from the Hue Dimmer Switch. Does HomeKit still think they are on or does it sync status updates between manual and remote control?

    TL;DR - How do I get HomeKit to turn on the Light switch for a room versus the individual bulbs? Is this auto-magic when it sees a light switch is applied to a room or do you need to create a custom action?

    Thank you!
  2. zinned macrumors regular

    Apr 30, 2015
    No problem. In you example your HomeKit app will display their status as "off".

    I use the app "Home" to set up my devices, rooms, zones, scenes and triggers. I figured out that when you set up a "Room" you shouldn't set it up as one thinks, as in setting up "Kitchen", "Livingroom", "Bedroom" etc, but instead think of them as small areas.

    Example: I set up a "Room" called "Bedroom window". To this room I added a light thats called "Facing the bedroom windows" since that's what it does and that's where it is. I also set up another "Room" called "Dining table", to which I added another light called "Above the dining table". To summarize, I set up "Rooms" by the areas where they are. Not the actual rooms.

    Following this when setting up "Zones", here I add them by the room they are in. I got "Livingroom", "Bedroom" and a third zone called "The whole apartment". To these three zones (that are the actual rooms) I add the corresponding "Room", like I add the "Room" called "Bedroom window" to the zone "Bedroom".

    I feel that doing it this way you will get the best results.
  3. arijaycomet macrumors member


    May 23, 2014
    Cleveland, Ohio - USA
    jnick- did you ever figure this out? If not, I can help... and actually, I'll do that right now. As a user of BOTH Philips Hue HomeKit plus a series of other smart home items, most of which are HomeKit, I've become quite well versed. I have over 40 devices in my home which are HomeKit compatible, thanks to over 20 Lutron Caseta switches, an Ecobee3 thermostat, and much more.

    Okay.... so let's start with zinned's reply above, and modify it slightly. You should setup rooms in actual physicality of how they exist. For example, I have a living room, a dining room, and a kitchen. In my dining room is a single chandelier. In my living room is one switch that controls 3 ceiling cans over my fireplace, a floor lamp which is powered by a plug-in dimmer, and a wall sconce at the other far end of the room. And in my kitchen there are two switches, one for the eating area, and one over the counters/fridge area.

    When I setup my Lutron Caseta I named these accordingly, such as "Living Room Sconce" or "Living Room Cans" or "Kitchen Dining" or "Kitchen Main" ... and so each light has its own name. Be careful here in that the dining room lights, don't call them by the room name or that will trip you up later. So in that case I called it "Dining Chandelier" ... not just "Dining Room" ... because I need to reserve that name for the actual ROOM ... and Siri won't allow two items with the same name, even if the two items are different "types" of items (i.e. a light vs a room name). So just be careful....

    From there I have a room called "Dining Room" that contains just the chandelier. I made another room called "Kitchen" which contains BOTH of the kitchen wall switches in that room. And finally, I have a room called "Living Room" which has the can light switch, the sconce light switch, AND the plug-in iHome module, all HomeKit, included in that room. From there I created a zone called "Main Floor" -- and with simply saying "Hey Siri, turn off the main floor" i can turn off ALL three rooms easily. This is good for when I go upstairs to the bedroom floor, and want to make sure all the lights downstairs are off. (our house is a tri-level, so I actually have another zone for that area called "lower level" which is a zone containing the rooms Laundry Room, Family Room, and Garage).

    Although the prior reply is correct that you can certainly group zones however you want, think about how you might want to control them. The purpose of zones really has less to do with the physical space, as Zinned was saying, and more with how you'll control them. So if you wanted to make a zone called "bedrooms" you could, and a zone called "living areas" -- that could work, too. That way when you want to have a party, where people predominately would be in your "living areas" -- you could say "hey siri, set the lights in the living areas to 50%" --- or better yet, "set the lights in the living areas to blue" -- and your lights, switches, or in the last example there, colored Hue bulbs, would work as you desire. So again, rooms should be small spaces, zones should be larger groupings, but think of ALL of these to be grouped in ways that you would control them, in a micro or macro setting.

    Sidebar: you can ALWAYS tell Siri "turn off ALL the lights" or "set ALL the lights to 75%" -- so keep that in mind for global control.

    Now back to your more specific question with a far more specific answer. When you're dealing with lighting, be it Philips Hue, or Lutron Caseta, it doesn't really matter which one you're playing with, the bottom line is that HomeKit is only part of the picture. How you control things with their native app has very little to next-to-no bearing on how it behaves in HomeKit. There is a central HomeKit database, that works across apps, and some of those native apps let you adjust things, but not all of them are created equal. So in the Philips Hue, if you change the name of the bulb, you have to go into settings and tell it to push that change to the HomeKit database, for example. And neither Hue nor Lutron really get deep into setting up HomeKit, which is better done with the Elgato Eve app.

    Sidebar: if you have HomeKit, download the Eve app for free as it does a great job giving you a much better native HomeKit experience even if you don't use their hardware it is free and works awesome. The $15 Home app people talk about is really only worth the cost of admission if you plan to do Triggers, which the Eve app will soon support for free. Check out my full review of the Home app here: http://arijaycomet.com/2015/10/11/h...e-event-triggers-with-apple-homekit-in-ios-9/

    Okay sorry, so I still have not answered your question. But again my point was this: the fact that the Hue Switch controls certain bulbs has nothing to do with HomeKit. As a matter of fact, HomeKit can NOT control that switch--- as that is not a device supported by HomeKit. So you basically have to set it up "twice" -- you could create a scene -- but based on your description that won't be needed here. In your case, you just set the HomeKit room "Dining Room" to contain all four bulbs. So that you can just say "turn off the dining room lights" and Siri will shut ALL the bulbs off. It has the same effect as the switch, which is programmed to know it is turning off the same lights. So again, in the Hue app you program the switch, but in HomeKit you're programming rooms/zones/scenes. Does that make sense?

    I could keep babbling but I think this might already answer your question... if not, let me know... ciao!
  4. jnick thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 22, 2008
    Zinned and arijaycomet,

    Thank you so much for your detailed replies! I really appreciate it! After setting the Hue Dimmer switch up, I realized how it works and that it has no bearing on HomeKit. It's more-so an extension device to use when your phone isn't around. cool!

    However, my question/problem goes much deeper than this (now that I understand how the Hue Dimmer works).

    Smartthings is my main smart home platform. This is mainly because at this time, HomeKit doesn't support the rest of the smart home features. For example, I can't control my locks (yet), motion detectors, garage doors, etc with Home Kit. It's primarily thermostats, outlets and switches at this point.

    With that said, my dining room light switch is a standard switch right now. I need to put in a "smart switch" so I can control it manually if need be. The problem I have with the Hue dimmer is I cannot figure out how I would install it in the switch gang box. It doesn't have a standard screw plate to do this. Sure, I could possibly just used two-faced tape but should I ever want to remove it, now I have to repair the wall.

    Ideally, a Z-Wave light switch would be perfect. I could control it with smartthings, setup a Raspberry Pi2 as a HomeKit bridge and gain siri control. I was set on this solution to the point of my new Pi is being delivered tomorrow! However, I then remembered that the Hue bulbs apparently don't play well on dimmer switches. Therefore, I'd have to put a standard switch on the wall and lose dimming function unless I use my phone. That's less than ideal.

    So at this point, while I have two possible solutions, I'm not sold on anything yet. If the Hue switch was more standard to mount, I'd be happy. If Lutron Caseta/Pico switches worked with Smartthings, even better!!

    Again, thank you both for your input. I understand the hue Dimmer much better, However, I'm still on the hunt for the perfect switch that will work well with hue, HomeKit AND Smartthings.
  5. arijaycomet macrumors member


    May 23, 2014
    Cleveland, Ohio - USA
    You could always "hard wire" the hue bulb (just twist the two wires together in the box)-- then cover the box with a blank cover. Then use the adhesive option with the Hue switch to "cover" it with theirs. But I don't think it would look great-- as you alluded to already. I've not played around with the Hue switch I have since my wife wanted it in the laundry room and just used the magnet option on the side of the dryer. But I though it had a wall mount option. You could get a tamper-switch (locking style) so its permanently on but not switchable by people and then mount the Hue switch next to it, which people could use. Something like this in the box: http://amzn.to/1Y0ZzCv

    Either way, good luck whatever you do! I'm not a fan of smart bulbs, because all they offer is color changing. You can get a dimmable experience with a switch, better for visitors who won't be able to chance color anyhow even if there WERE a switch there... so why bother? Granted bulbs are cheaper than switches, but when you have a room with 4 bulbs, the switch is cheaper overall. And the Lutron stuff works so great with home kit. Actually more reliable than the Hue stuff, if you ask me. I'd say ditch the bulbs, get the Lutron HomeKit hub and a bunch of in-wall switches, and forget about the color changing- its hokey anyhow LOL
  6. jnick thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 22, 2008
    I honestly would love to use Lutron! However, Lutron does not play nice (or at all!) with Smartthings. Lighting is only 10%, if that, of my home automation. Smartthings is a great HA platform (imo), but once you add in Phillips Hue, it gets a little complicated due to it being a smart bulb. Personally, I HATE smart bulbs. I'd rather always control a switch, which controls a light or group of lights. However, we've had many uses so far with the color aspect of the bulbs so it's hard to go back lol.

    On another note, the Hue Dimmer Switch does have a wall mount option. However, I have no idea as to why Phillips didn't standardize their plate so it can mount to a box. Instead, the anchor holes are on the left and right side.

    So it's a toss up - I either use a Z-Wave Toggle switch and control it with HomeKit using the HomeBridge, however this means I lose dimming function at the switch. Or, like you said, I hard wire the lights on, cover the hole and mount the Hue Dimmer Switch to the wall. This give me On/Off/Dim functionality at the switch but doesn't look as...transparent.
  7. arijaycomet macrumors member


    May 23, 2014
    Cleveland, Ohio - USA
    I'm curious what other items you have that are within SmartThings? For my blog we are in the middle of a HUGE post that will compare Wink, SmartThings, and then ultimately HomeKit. To "bridge the gap" between devices what we did is included the Amazon Echo. Although it too has many limitations when compared to Siri, it still provides a 90% answer to the voice control. Sure it lacks remote voice control but even with Siri, that is flaky, and costs $150+ more for an Apple TV, that many users won't want to get.

    In my opinion, if you are married to the SmartThings hub, you should pretty much just give up on HomeKit altogether. Why? First off, we're talking about Samsung there, versus Apple. That means that down the road there is likely to be something from one of the two segments that won't play at all with the other, so you'll have to choose sides even more. Secondly, and worse yet, that is already the case right now as you look at certain devices and how HomeKit works. A great example is Insteon, a device/hub like SmartThings, and Apple has greatly limited what type of products they are allowed to bridge to at the moment. That may change, but who knows....

    We're lucky right now that devices like the Hue hub can be on HomeKit while simultaneously being linked to a Wink or SmartThings hub. But that may change down the road, as Apple adds more layers of security for the "user safety" they want. If that happens, and I suspect it will, you'd lose your coveted HomeKit control of your Hue bulbs, anyhow. So I guess, in closing, I'd suggest that if you plan to keep your SmartThings hub at all, you favor that when making your decisions (i.e.: go with the z-wave switch and be done/happy)-- and then, just enjoy what limited HomeKit/Apple control you still have, for now, as that may be fleeting.

    PS: In my blog testing we've found the SmartThings hub was the best for security and triggers/etc. Wink has a better UX, but a more flaky ecosystem, but still more user friendly and capable for "most" simple or new users. And HomeKit is really just all about voice control and not much else right now. Ciao!
  8. jnick thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 22, 2008

    Thanks for the reply!

    Ahh, the one thing about me is I don't give up easily :).

    So, SmartThings - Since I've just begun, I don't physically have much in hand yet, but here are the items to-do and on my amazon wish list ready to be purchased. I'm just spreading it out over a few months as it's not cheap!

    I currently have:
    • Hue Bulbs
    • Schlage Deadbolt Lock
      • It sends me notifications everytime the lock is unlocked/locked
      • I have a SmartApp that if I unlock the front door between Sunset and Sunrise, it automatically turns my living room light on so we can see when we get in
      • It automatically locks in 30 seconds (lock feature, not ST)
    • A GE Z-wave and Add-on switch for our entry fixture (just came today!)
    • iPhones act as presence sensors via a geofence to send alerts when I or the wife gets home
    What I plan to expand to:

    • Two GoControl garage door openers so I can control and monitor the garage doors (including notifications).
      • I will also set these up to turn on specific lights when opened, if between sunrise and sunset.
    • Motion/temperature sensors to automatically handle lighting actions
    • Ecobee Thermostats
    • HD Camera for a security/monitoring system (not sure which model yet)
    • Recessed door contact sensor
      • I will turn off the 30-second auto-lock and then have SmartThings control the auto-locking. It will be set to auto-lock 1-2 minutes after the door is closed.
    • Energy monitoring Z-Wave outlets for specific locations so I can monitor the energy usage and control the outlet
    • Smoke/Co2 Detectors. Again, monitoring and control.
    That should keep me busy for quite a while :). I also plan to integrate this with Logitech Harmony at some point as well.

    Now, on to SmartThing/HomeKit... While it is a Samsung product, it was acquired by them a year ago. In my talks with SmartThings, they still operate as they did before and function as their own companyu. They just have Samsung's backing financially as well as with Samsung's push in the IoT (ie: washer/dryer integration coming soon!). They have stated on numerous occasions that they haven't written off homekit. However, as you stated, I'm not holding my breath.

    Right now, there is in fact a HomeKit bridge that you can use that will pull Z-Wave items from SmartThings and allow you Siri Control. The beauty is, it also acts as a HomeKit hub, so you get Internet control without an Apple TV! Could this be blocked/stopped, possibly. But for now, it serves as a great challenge!

    As for the Echo; I totally plan to get one. The issue is, I don't have one now :p. While the Echo does work well (I set it up for a relative with SmartThings), it doesn't allow voice control when you're away from home. siri, on the other hand, does.

    So, until such a time where I can get a motion sensor, or the garages configured the way I want, with the Home Bridge, I can simply perform a "Hey Siri, Turn the living room light on" as I'm pulling into my drive way, or at a stop light.

    Again, most of this is more-so a challenge to see if I can do it. However, if I have HomeKit, I want to be able to leverage it for the family as an option. Of course, this gives me a headache and great pain but hey, such is life :)

    I have been thinking about doing a vlog on SmartThings, the IoT and Home Automation since not much is out there. Since you already have a blog going, should you want to collaborate on anything or need another user to test SmartThings or check out configurations, etc, don't hesitate to contact me!
  9. arijaycomet macrumors member


    May 23, 2014
    Cleveland, Ohio - USA
    Can you tell me more about this bridge? I'm unaware of any sort of bridge that exists right now that is "officially" HomeKit compatible, that is also Z-wave compatible. The closest match I have found is the Insteon hub, but it is not z-wave. And their hub only allows light controls, nothing else. I'm very curious about this hub you are talking about, so more details and/or link would be great!
  10. jnick thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 22, 2008
    I never said "official" ;)

    How familiar are you with Raspberry Pi? There is a package for it and a coinciding SmartApp for SmartThings that enables the Pi to act as a Home Kit Bridge/hub. It can see the devices you have in SmartThings and then act as a bridge between it and Home Kit. On the home kit side, it just see's the Pi as a Home Kit device. I just got the Pi in a few days ago and a Z-Wave switch today. Unfortunately, I'm working all weekend but I'm hoping to get some time in! I can PM you a link to the ST thread discussing it. It has come a long way (from what I'm reading/seeing) since they started.

    However, this is why I added that it could possibly get blocked/stopped. We shall see!
  11. arijaycomet macrumors member


    May 23, 2014
    Cleveland, Ohio - USA
    Ahh okay yes I am already well aware of that "hack" ... but again I don't think that is realistic for the average consumer. I don't dabble in this, as my free time is very limited. I have a few friends running some home-brew options, and I think those are great for a more advanced used. I really think there is something to be said for what you can do there, and I appreciate the efforts the folks are doing with the Pi and that setup.

    However, my personal desires, and my blog, tend to focus primarily on over-the-counter solutions. I find that, in my talking to friends, family, etc-- the number of people who posses the time, knowledge, or desire to perform the level of customization you are talking about accounts for a very small cross section of the general population. Not saying it isn't cool, and actually I really love it-- i just personally tend to focus more on the "average joe" I guess. :)

    Thanks for the info!

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