HomeKit: How Apple’s automation system works for your bar.

With the 2015 WWDC keynote behind us and more information about HomeKit which was announced at the WWDC 2014 conference now in the public arena, lets take a look at how we can use the HomeKit system to control aspects of your bar’s climate and ambience in a simple way to enhance your guests’ experiences.

What is HomeKit?

HomeKit is a framework of software built by Apple which allows different products such as lighting, air conditioning, audio, visual and more to communicate with iOS devices. It connects devices from various manufactures through a single interface and also allows control through Apple’s Siri voice control system.

What Equipment Do I Need?

homekit devicesThat completely depends on what you’re looking for HomeKit to do for you. At the minimum, you’ll need a fairly recent iOS device, iPhone 5, 5s, 6, 6+, iPad Air, Air 2, iPad Mini 2, Mini 3. In theory any device with Siri should be able to control HomeKit devices, though you’ll need to be running the latest version of iOS, which will be iOS 9 by the time it’s fully rolled out.

You’ll also need something for your device to control. More and more home automation items are being added to the HomeKit protocol as we speak.

If you want to stream video and audio in your bar, I’d also suggest getting hold of a Mac Mini or another Mac to store apple-tv-mac-minithe media on. While you can use a Windows PC with iTunes or even stream from Apple’s severs for any music you own in iTunes using iTunes Match, the local Mac will be far more reliable and not rely on your internet connection. I would also recommend hard wiring via Ethernet anything you can (Apple TVs, connected speakers, your router and server Mac) so that you’re not relying on WiFi that can sometimes be interfered with by other signals.

HomeKit in Smaller bars

Homekit-barWhen you’re running a smaller bar, you may well not have a DJ taking care of the music. With an iPad behind the bar (or an iPhone or iPod touch) your bartender can wirelessly control the music in the bar and change the mood. It’s easy enough to have multiple playlists set up for different music styles, tempo etc for different levels of business or nights of the week, so all the bartender would need to do is select from this list and it will play throughout the bar.

With some basic connected lighting, you can easily move between pre-set ‘scenes’ perhaps as the night goes on reducing the ambient lighting to give a more intimate feel.

Of course, this has always been possible to do, but it’s taken professional installation in the past, whereas HomeKit is designed for consumers to use at home, so you don’t need complex setups.

HomeKit in Nightclubs

Existing Apple technologies like AirPlay for video (to Apple TV for example) are a great way to switch between different Homekit-Nightclubpromotional videos on your networked screens throughout the club, for example basing your promoted discounts on the crowd you have in the bar. Have a high percentage of women in the bar tonight? Maybe it would be better to steer away from the ‘Buckets of Beer’ promo that was on the screens and push cocktails or RTDs.

Pair it with an app like Intelligent Tally Counter in the iTunes store which allows your door staff to keep not only a count of the numbers in the club (important for capacity management) but also the male/female split so you can market to them more efficiently.

Having a DJ in the nightclub will of course reduce the need for the AirPlay support for audio streaming, but if your DJs don’t start at the same time as the doors open, you can use AirPlay to keep you music under control until they arrive.

HomeKit in VIP rooms

homekit-vip-nightclubThis is where HomeKit gets pretty cool…

If you have one or more VIP rooms in your bar, lounge or nightclub, you can now give your guests the option to play whatever music they want, change the lighting colour and level in their suite and more. You can mount an iPad either in a table or wall mount and allow your guests to control all of this easily, and restrict other features of the iPad if you like (to avoid them messing with settings) using the Guided Access feature locking the iPad to a single app.

I know I’d be loving this in a club with some bottle service – perhaps you could even allow your guests to order from the iPad too!

Homekit in Restaurantshomekit-restaurant

For those running restaurants, the mood creation and zones in HomeKit make it simple to have different lighting levels throughout the building at different times of day. In a casual dining restaurant with birthday songs in the vein of TGI Fridays, you could include Birthday sequences that change the lighting to focus on the celebrator while playing a birthday song over the speakers.

iPads can easily be implemented to manage table bookings and keep everything organised front of house and there are even Point of Sale systems which use iPads as registers and iPod Touches for the servers to process and send orders, so you can keep everything consistent. The possibilities are endless. Your servers could even take images of celebrations on their electronic order pad device and upload it straight to your social media accounts!

Security with HomeKit

homekit-smart-lockPerhaps a less obvious use of HomeKit is that it can be used to control locks. While I don’t recommend securing your entire premises with HomeKit locks, simply as I haven’t used these personally (though it could work…), it’s a great system for example to secure your cellar.

You can allow only certain staff access which can be restricted by time to the bottle store for example, you can remotely open these doors or alternatively allow the locks to be opened by the NFC chip in authorised iPhones or Apple Watches. You’ll also have a record of who entered and when, so if you loose any stock you’re able to track who’s been in there. Check out August Smart Locks to find out more.

The Future

More HomeKit devices and applications will be added in future and even more automation will be possible as time goes by. What would you do with this automation in your business?