How to use a Friends of Hue switch with HomeKit

In this blog post, we will explain how you can use wireless, battery free smart switches from Philips Hue’s “Friends of Hue Program” as an ultra flexible Homekit switch. This will allow you and your family to control any homekit scene or devices like smart speakers, lights, locks or sprinklers at a simple push of a button. 

Intro 

There are several ways to control your homekit devices and scenes like using the Apple Home app or Voice. Many people however prefer a simple physical switch. You don’t need to worry that siri understands you correctly or that you have to be careful not to be too loud when your partner is laying next to you in bed, sleeping. You also don’t need to pull out your phone and do several steps, just to turn on your lights or the need to carry your phone anywhere you go in the home. Especially for non-technical people or for people who live with a partner, kids or have friends coming over, a simple wireless switch is a great addition to your homekit setup. One thing is for sure, your partner will love you for it. 

There are a few Homekit compatible switches on the market but they usually have 2 major problems in common. The first problem is around powering the device. They either require high voltage wiring which a normal user should never do or require batteries which die over time and are not very eco-friendly. The second problem is around usage and design. Most of the controls are not build in a standard switch form factor which means that the switches won’t fit into your existing interior or fit into existing switch frames. 

This is where the Friends of Hue Program by Philips Hue comes in. You’re probably familiar with Philips Hue already. Philips Hue are the most popular smart home lights on the market and there are many great accessories available. One of those accessories are the so called “Friends of Hue” switches which exist in the design of many famous light switch makers and fit into standard frame systems. 


The special thing about these switches is that they don’t require a battery and never need to be charged. By pressing on one of the buttons, you generate enough energy to send a wireless signal to the Philips Hue Bridge. The Philips Hue Bridge then picks up the wireless signal and forwards it to the Philips Hue lights. You can use the switches to turn lights on and off, adjust the brightness or set an entire scene. From a single switch, you can control up to 2 separate groups which can be specific lights, rooms, zones or your entire home. 

That sounds great but how does this relate to HomeKit? Well, you can use a “Friends of Hue switch” to control all homekit compatible devices. You can freely configure all 4 buttons to either trigger an entire Homekit Scene (e.g. leaving the house) or control Homekit devices or groups of devices. For example, you could setup your switch to play a specific Apple Music Playlist on your HomePod or Sonos speakers, turn on and off your Tado Air Conditioning, Open your smart door lock or start your garden sprinkler. 

How to setup a switch with Homekit

In order to do this, you will need a few things first:

Now we can get started to set this up. 


1. Pair the switch with the Philips Hue Bridge

We need to start by pairing the switch with the Philips Hue system. To do this, open the Philips Hue App, go to settings > Accessory Setup > Add Accessory > Friends fo hue Switch > now chose “Senic Friends of Hue Switch if you’re using our switch. 

Now you need to follow the instructions in the app which will first ask you to press the bottom left button for 10 seconds and then the bottom left and top right button for one second. This ensures that Philips Hue is adding the right switch to it’s system. 

Once you’ve done this, you will be asked to choose a room that you want to control. Instead of doing that, press on the button on the bottom of the screen that reads “Configure in other app”.

Once you’ve pushed the button, you will automatically move back to the overview screen and you can now see that the switch has been paired. It will have a generic name like “Friends of Hue Switch” and it will say that the switch is not configured yet. That’s not a problem because we will do that in the Homekit App.



1. Configure the switch in the Homekit “Home App”

To configure the switch as a homekit switch, we now switch to the Apple Home app. The switch should have been added to the ‘default’ room in your Home app and have a generic name like “Friends of Hue Switch”. If you have several switches it might be hard to know which one is which. Just press one of the buttons on the switch and the appropriate switch icon in the app will wiggle for a second. We recommend that you click on the switch in the app and first change the room the switch is in and give it a more specific name. We always recommend to start with the place and then what it is like “Bedroom - Switch”

Now we can configure the switch. Once you click on the switch in the app you will be prompted with the option to configure four buttons. 

One Dot = Top Left

Two Dots = Bottom Left

Three Dots = Top Right

Four Dots = Bottom Right

You can configure each of those buttons to your preference. We’ll go through 2 examples but we encourage you to just play around with it. You can revert and change everything at all times and can’t break anything.  

In the first example, we want to trigger a homekit scene which turns all devices off when we leave the home and the push of a button. 

  1. Click on one of the four buttons in the app that you want to configure.
  2. Under Scenes, click on the “Leave Home” Scene > click next > then done
  3. To test this scene, make sure that some of your homekit devices are turned on. Now simply click on the button on your switch and things should turn off. 


In the second example,  we’ll go a bit more into advanced options and want to control specific devices. We want a Sonos speaker to play a ‘good morning’ playlist from Apple Music and we want the lights in the kitchen to turn on. 

  1. Click on one of the four buttons in the app that you want to configure.
  2. Scroll down to the devices that you want to control, select them and click next.
  3. Adjust audio settings: To adjust the settings of your sonos speaker, click on Audio below the settings. Here you chose the option “play audio” and then click on “Choose Audio”. We now search for a ‘good morning’ playlist on Apple Music. You can also save an album or radio station instead. At this point, only Apple Music is available through Apple Homekit. Once you’re done, you can go back. 
  4. Adjust lighting settings: To adjust the behavior of your light, do a long click on each light. Now chose the brightness and color of the lights. 
  5. Now click on done and the button is setup. You can press a button on your switch to test this. 

So there you have it. The friends of Hue switches are a great way to easily control your homekit devices for the entire family. You can start with one switch and extend your system with more switches over time.


If you consider buying a switch, we’d kindly ask you to consider your switch for a couple of reasons:


Thanks for reading. If you liked this article, please signup to our newsletter. You will receive a free Homekit Cheat Sheet and more tips and tricks around smart home. 


Your Team Senic. 


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Further Reading

Part 2/8: Time, People and Money - Exactly Why ‘Hardware is Hard’

Part 6/8: Pushing the ‘Big Red Button’ to Manufacture