iBeacon and HomeKit

I recently purchased some Estimote Proximity Beacons with the intention of improving my HomeKit experience. HomeKit natively supports using iBeacons to control bulbs which is what set me off on this mission. This is a story of what I found out.

The Dream

You approach your front door and the porch light springs to life to help you get your key in the door. You swing the door open and the lights in the entrance hall illuminate and adjust to a soft orange glow. As you close the door behind you the porch light extinguishes itself having served it's purpose. You go about your evening, wandering in and out of rooms and halls with each room lighting up as you enter and going out again as you leave. It's a dream come true.

The Reality

You approach your front door and trip over the front step because you can't see anything in the dark. Just as you've located the keyhole the light comes on and you roll your eyes. You swing open the front door and one of the hallway lights has come on but not the other, you have no idea why. You step inside and random lights around your house start lighting up and extinguishing again at random. You weren't planning a disco this evening but you figure you can get with it if that's what the house wants. You put on some Carly Rae Jepsen and go about your evening moving room to room. You enter the bedroom and the hallway light comes on. You take your phone out of your pocket and every light in the house turns on. You put the future in the bin and go on Amazon to mass purchase candles.

The Initial How

I had a feeling from the get-go that the reality wasn't going to be smooth sailing. Barely anyone was talking about it on Twitter and I had to do some digging to find an app in the store that actually supported iBeacon events. Kontrol is that app and to be honest, it's not great. It was confusing to use, often got stuck and doesn't throw error messages which led to me watching the console of my phone for errors when using it. Fab.

I placed an iBeacon in each room (as far away from other rooms as I could) and configured them to turn the lights on when I entered the region.

The walls of my flat are quite thin however I thought I could get away with it if the beacons were configured correctly. I was wrong. With the beacons on the lowest emitter setting, entering a room often yielded no result or I had to stand really close to the iBeacon to get it to work with my phone in my jeans pocket. If I took my phone out the lights would come on. Not ideal as I don't want to walk around with my phone in my hand all the time.

Trying again

I tried again but turned up the power of the beacons so that when I entered the room I could get the beacon to trigger without getting my phone out, and it worked. Great. I pulled my phone out of my pocket to check the sensor strength and as I did so the hallway light came on. DAMMIT.

Result

The truth is there is no configuration here that works. I've now taken all of the beacons down except the one on the front door. The hallway light (sometimes) turns on as I get home which is nice but I'd rather do that with a window/door sensor (but no HomeKit compatible ones are on sale in the UK yet). I'm going to stick another one in the office at work to turn off my timers (time tracking) when I leave the office too.

Bonus note about HomeKit

Even if this had worked, I don't live alone and that's a problem. HomeKit is designed to be used by a single person. Despite having given my significant other access to our lights: he can't modify them, he can't create scenes to do location based stuff and he can't add new accessories. There's no setting for this, there can only be one admin. I hope iOS 10 brings some much needed improvements to HomeKit because even as a fan, I'm struggling here.