In an update that has been utilised sparingly by some smart home companies in the past (Nanoleaf, Onvis, and LiFX, for example), Aqara has pushed a new version of their Home app that now allows for Scenes created there to be exposed as Scenes in Apple Home. This may not at first seem like a big deal, but what it allows is a multitude of functions previously only available via the Aqara app, to now be exposed to Apple Home, which in turn allows these custom scenes to be used in automations.
In the example above, I created a scene using multiple colours as part of the Aqara Ceiling Light T1, recently released in China. I was then able to save it, then go back in to find additional options, which previously only included ‘Add to Siri’. With the update, I’m now able to select ‘Add to Apple Home’. From there I need to choose a hub, and lastly, I can confirm it’s added to Apple Home.
The hubs you have need to be on firmware 4.0.4 in order for this functionality to work, with the original M1 and G2H hubs excluded, which comes as no surprise.
That newly created scene (‘Rainbow CL’) can now be accessed directly in the Apple Home app, so it can be used in other Scenes and Automations. If you go into the details for the Scene itself, however, the device being controlled doesn’t show up, like is the case for a Scene created natively in the Home app. This means creating a scene in this way could end up involving guesswork if you have a lot of them without a naming convention.
Onvis was able to do this with their own app which allowed multicoloured scenes for their Kameleon light strip to be exposed to HomeKit. The difference here is that Aqara has a much wider variety of devices than Onvis, Nanoleaf and LiFX, so the potential for more useful scenes beyond just multicolour lighting is amazing.
Here are just a few examples of what could be useful and not as easily achievable in HomeKit;
- The Aqara Camera Hub G3 has tons of useful features, but there are many that are exclusive to Aqara Home. With the update, you can create scenes in Aqara Home and use them in automations within Apple Home, like turning privacy protection on and off, record a video clip, play an assigned or custom ringtone, or even enable/disable tracking and motion detection.
- The Aqara Smart Magic Switch S1E can be set to turn the screen on or off, and even set a custom brightness level.
- The Aqara Pet Feeder C1 is not HomeKit compatible, but you could trigger scenes created in Aqara Home, and you could control some of the features with a smart button. However, the smart button would have to be an Aqara one. Now, you can trigger the pet feeder using any smart button within Apple Home.
Possibly the most useful application for this in my opinion is the ability to turn Aqara lighting products on and off with a single button. Within the Aqara app, you can program an Aqara wireless button or switch to trigger an Aqara lighting device (or indeed other devices) on if they’re off, and off if they’re on. This update now means you can turn an Aqara light on/off with any HomeKit-compatible wireless button. This can be achieved in Apple Home too, but it requires the button automation to be converted to a Shortcut. Even with this option, the response times can be quite slow compared to a button triggering solely on or off. So now, I can use the single press of, say, a Hue dimmer switch, to turn an Aqara smart light strip on or off, and quicker than with Shortcuts too.
These are just three simple examples of what’s possible with this new update, but one that could take some of the stress out of having to use Siri Shortcuts to achieve some of the same functions, and that alone is priceless for me!