Connected devices are more reliable, but automation means complication

After two years of tinkering with complicated, ugly, frustrating and often pointless gadgets, I have experienced a connected-home system that actually works.

Pairing Philips Hue’s new hub with Apple’s Homekit software means I can turn off all my lights by simply speaking into my iPhone: “Hey Siri, turn off everything.” Off they all go, as if I had flipped a switch. This may seem a trivial feat but, believe me, this is huge progress. No fiddling around with poorly-designed apps, no anxious waiting to see if the lights do turn off, no forgotten passwords locking me out of my own network.

From smart to confused Unfortunately, this being the “smart” home, things can quickly get silly. When I tried to add another Homekit-compatible device to the system — an iHome plug socket to control a lamp with a traditional filament bulb — an all-too-familiar confusion soon set in.

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Because the Philips Hue app works only with Philips Hue bulbs, I had to download an app to control the entire Homekit system. But then the other Homekit-friendly apps — I tried Elgato Eve, iDevices Connected and iHome Control — did not always recognise the Hue lights.

When one did (iDevices was best), the “scenes” or “rooms” I had grouped the Hue lights into for simpler control (bedroom, living room, etc) did not show up. Bad enough, but if I tried to create another room called “bedroom” or “living room”, it failed because — I realised eventually — in Siri’s memory, somewhere, those phrases had already been allocated for the sole use of the Hue bulbs.Read more