HomeKit Automation #003: Create a status light for smart locks & sensors
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In our third entry to our HomeKit automation series, we explore a simple way to create a door lock status light. While the status light could represent many things, I use it as a way to be sure all my doors are closed and locked.
If you prefer to watch, rather than read, check our tutorial in video form.
Now let’s go ahead and move on and look at this week’s challenge and tutorial.
I came up with this after a frequent question from my girlfriend. “Did you lock the door?” is something I would hear on a nightly basis. I would assure her I did, or on other occasions, I would ask Siri to confirm this for me. Both of these are totally adequate solutions, but I was looking for a way to appease her worry without having to be the one to answer.
I found an elegant solution, that works reliably, and lets me know that all my doors/windows are closed, and that the door is locked.
So let’s go jump in and take a look how.
How to create a smart lock status light
The general solution here is to use a nightlight as the status monitor, with a few well-crafted automation rules.
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To follow along at home, you need the Home app, a HomeKit lock, and (preferably) an iDevices accessory.
Note: You don’t need an iDevices accessory necessarily, but they all come with a small “nightlight” on their accessories that can be controlled via HomeKit. If you don’t have an iDevices outlet or wall switch, you really could use any HomeKit light in its place.
Once you’ve got your HomeKit lock and a light to use for the status, we can get to the automation.
1) Open the Home app and choose the Automation tab.
2) Tap the + button in the top right-hand corner.
3) Choose “An Accessory is Controlled” as the type of new automation.
4) The first step is to choose the accessory that will trigger the status light. In our situation, that means we want to choose our door lock.
5) The second step is to choose what the action is. We will need to set this up twice, once for locking, and once for unlocking. In the first round, we will choose Locks, any Time, with People turned off.
6) Now find your light that we will control, in my case my iDevices nightlight.
7) The last step before saving the automation is to choose the brightness and color of the light. For me, I want it to turn red and be at 10% whenever the door locks. Then tap Done.
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8) Repeat these steps as above, but instead of Locks choose Unlocks, and instead of red make the color green or whichever color you’d like to use for unlocked.
You’re now all set up! In my setup, whenever the Dining Room Front Door (which happens to be my front door) locks, the nightlight in my bedroom changes to red at 10 percent brightness. If it unlocks, it goes to green at 10 percent brightness.
Here is what that automation looks like, but be aware, the summary screen doesn’t show you the color of the nightlight.
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This is a fairly basic example of a status light, and if you wanted to get even more complicated, you could use a series of conditional statements to make it immensely more inclusive.
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As an example, if you have HomeKit sensors on your windows, you could have them change the status light to green when they are opened, and turn to red, when they close with a conditional based on the door also being locked.
You would then have to update your door automation to only turn red if the windows are also closed.
You can see how this can easily become complicated, but still effective.
Creating a status light is something that was born out of a need in our home. People like feeling secure, and til now, there is not much in the form of HomeKit security systems. You are more or less relegated to setting up your own system yourself.
Hopefully, in the future, you could take the “security system” further by making a speaker play an audio track to let you know if a door or window is opened after a certain time, assuming that speaker supported AirPlay 2.
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Did you give this HomeKit tip a try?
Let me know how it went, or any modifications you made, down in the comments!
Feature Request: How HomeKit could improve with CarPlay
CarPlay isn’t expected to gain any major features this year according to recent reporting, but that doesn’t mean we can’t dream. One simple change I would love to see in some future update is support for HomeKit alerts through CarPlay. Going a step further, a dedicated Home app for CarPlay with a few key features could be very beneficial.
CarPlay prevents most alerts from reaching your car so you don’t get distracted by a new email or tweet while driving, but that filter can sometimes catch useful alerts too.
For example, if you create an automation in HomeKit to automatically open your garage door or unlock your front door when you arrive home, the Home app requires confirming through an alert. Requiring confirmation on your iPhone prevents you from accidentally opening your garage or unlocking your front door when you’re near your house but not going inside, but that alert does not come through CarPlay.
Apple doesn’t actually have to make a Home app for CarPlay for alerts to come through either. Clock alarms and alerts from Reminders and Calendar are examples of apps that can send alerts through CarPlay without offering CarPlay versions of their iPhone apps.
For example, my wife’s work appointment for a somehow mandatory staff meeting on our shared calendar came through CarPlay while I was driving this morning:
The current alternative to interacting with the iPhone is to use Siri each time you arrive home which is certainly convenient but not as efficient or proactive. Having an actionable alert that you tap to confirm would be way easier.
Here’s how the system looks now:
And here’s how it could look (ignore my poor Pixelmator skills):
Battery icon appears when using Wireless CarPlay
Going a step further, CarPlay could benefit from a dedicated Home app that launches to reveal favorited scenes (groups of smart accessory actions) like “I’m Home” and “I’m Leaving” so commonly used commands are a tap away.
HomeKit control through CarPlay is easily accessible through Siri today, but adding an on-screen interface optimized like the other CarPlay apps could prove very useful for drivers.
Additional apps like Waze would also be welcome, but supporting a third-party map sounds a lot less likely than one of Apple’s own apps joining the scene.
For more on CarPlay:
- Best CarPlay apps for iPhone
- WhatsApp adds CarPlay app for messaging whilst driving
- Starting with 2019 Avalon, Toyota finally bringing CarPlay to select vehicles
- Review: Alpine iLX-107 delivers the future of driving with Wireless CarPlay for under $1000