Apple Guide Podcast
Homekit Everything! (A Guide to Setting Up Homebridge)
Last week we took a look at what HomeKit is and why it's so great, especially if you're are heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem. Unfortunately, as great as HomeKit is, most smart devices don't support Apple's smart home ecosystem. So, today, we will look at how to make any Alexa or Google Home smart device a HomeKit device.
I want to start by saying this is not a simple fix. There is no switch to be flipped nor a little adapter you need to buy. Instead, we will need to create a server. Now, this may sound overwhelming, but I promise I will make this as simple as possible.
So here's a quick overview before diving into the details. To get this to work, we will need the help of a free open-source app called Homebridge. Homebridge is a smart home server that runs on practically any computer. Here's how it works. You download the software on your computer, open it up, log in to the admin account, and start adding skills, just like you would with Alexa or Google Home. Then, scan the barcode on the homepage, and viola, your devices are now HomeKit devices. But, don't worry, they have detailed directions for how-to install Homebridge on every supported platform.
With that quick summary out of the way, let's get started.
As I said before, you can install Homebridge on practically any computer. The only thing it needs is some form of internet connection. However, it needs to be a computer that is always on and connected to your home network because if it disconnects, you will lose HomeKit access to your devices. For this reason, I've opted to purchase a new computer for this project.
This is the Raspberry Pi Zero Wireless, a $10 computer smaller than a credit card. The Zero Wireless comes equipped with Bluetooth and WiFi and enough punch to host this server. Along with the Pi, you're going to need a power supply, in this case, a micro USB charger. And for storage, you will need a micro SD card. You can purchase all three of these separately or all together in a bundle if it's easier. As for me, I already have plenty of micro USB cables lying around so, I skipped that step. For storage, I picked up this PNY 32GB micro SD card. However, any micro SD card will do.
With all the supplies round up, it's time to get busy.
So, to get started, go to the Homebridge website. Then, scroll to the directions at the bottom of the page. If you're using your own computer, choose your platform from the list, like macOS or Windows 10. As for me, I'm going to click "Getting Started" under the "Download Homebridge Raspberry Pi Image" button. This will take us to the directions on how to configure the Pi. Now I'm just going to follow the directions, and see if we can get this working. If you run into any issues during setup, check out the links below for assistance. Homebridge has a very supportive community that can help you get back on track.
Step one is to download Homebridge for Raspberry Pi. This download is a disk file with Homebridge preinstalled and configured. While it's downloading, we can pop over and download Etcher. We will use this software to burn the Homebridge disk file to the SD card.
With both Etcher and Homebridge download, you are cleared to insert the micro SD card into your computer and open the Etcher app. Now follow the steps in Etcher by choosing "Flash from file" and navigating to the Homebridge file, and choosing your SD card as the target drive. Then, flash.
Once Etcher is finished flashing the SD card, you're ready to drop it into your Raspberry Pi. Give it some power using a micro USB cable and USB power adapter.