The world of science fiction long foretold of a future where we could speak to our computers. Today, this often takes the form of voice assistants in our homes and in our phones. In this post I explore a little about using Apple's 'Siri' voice assistant to control Philips Hue smart lighting.
In my previous article 'Controlling Philips Hue with Apple Home" , I explored a little about how you can control your Philips Hue lighting with the 'Home' app built into iOS on iPhones and iPads. The Home app is part of the HomeKit mechanism for controlling smart home devices and accessories. This same system is what also enables the use of Apple's 'Siri' voice assistant to control smart home devices too.
Using Siri to control Philips Hue is fairly straightforward, but you first have to have everything setup right. By scanning the code on the underside of the Hue bridge during the original setup process, I was able to 'pair' the HomeKit functionality of iOS with the HomeKit chip in the Hue bridge.
From that point forward, any changes I made inside the Hue app were easy to sync over to the HomeKit system - for the most part. When you do add lights, or rename them, you'll have to either manually update HomeKit via the Home app, or use a 'settings sync' feature inside the native Hue app. It's not the most intuitive of processes, but it works.
With everything setup, you can activate Siri and say things like 'Turn the living room lights on', 'Turn the living room table lamp on', or even 'Set the living room table lamp to 50%'. So, lights are easy to turn on or off, whole house, entire room, or individual lights. It's best to make sure all your lights have intuitive names that are easy to remember.
What about scenes? As you'll remember from the article on the Home app, Scenes not defined in the Home app don't work. So, I can say 'Activate the Cosy scene', and this worked, since I'd set that scene up. However, on attempting to say 'Activate the Savannah Sunset Scene' -a built in Hue scene- I got a message saying Siri 'didn't know that one'.
The problem is that whilst the settings sync function between Hue and HomeKit works well, Scenes are one thing that doesn't get synchronised. So, you'd have to setup all your scenes manually to make this work. I doubt this is a problem over on the Hue side, since virtually everything else has been thought of.
All in all, whether your using Siri or the Home app, the system works, but the problem is always that the functionality in HomeKit is limited compared to the native app. I just can't see myself using Apple's system full time. Doing the odd command to turn lights on or off, maybe. It's also useful that you can bring up the control centre from the lock screen and turn lights on or off quickly.
Of course, the true power of systems like this emerges when you want to control lots of different smart home devices from a single command, so it will be interesting to revisit this topic once we have our smart home developed a bit more.
For now though, I suspect Siri will be serving only light duties for us. I plan to also compare this to Cortana, and dedicated voice assistants like Echo or Google Home (depending on what we choose). Stay tuned, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!