Tech Newsletter #5: Do Your Homekit Devices Randomly Stop Working?

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Last Updated: Feb 17, 2021

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I don’t like complaining about stuff that isn’t working. After all, my job as a blogger is to find solutions to difficult problems and then share those solutions with you.

But there’s one area of technology that I’ve had trouble with for years: home automation devices (and HomeKit in particular). 

I have approximately 50 HomeKit-enabled devices on my network, including light switches, light bulbs, a garage door opener, power outlets, thermostats and more. 

Lately, some of those devices randomly stop working until their power is switched off and on — which usually means going downstairs to reset the breaker.

Unfortunately, HomeKit doesn’t give you any indication as to why a device is unresponsive, such as because the device can’t connect to Wi-Fi (or has a weak signal), because it didn’t get an IP address (i.e., a DHCP timeout) or because of some other reason (i.e., a HomeKit-related security handshake failed).

Through trial and error, I’ve been able to pin down some of the issues I’ve experienced as DHCP timeouts that were likely caused by a bug in UniFi’s DHCP server software. But there are many other cases where I’m completely in the dark as to why a device has suddenly stopped responding.

I admit that my networking landscape is probably more complex than the environments Apple and HomeKit device manufacturers test for — especially since I’ve isolated all my IoT devices in a dedicated virtual LAN (VLAN) that doesn’t have access to my office VLAN (that my Macs are on) for security reasons. 

However, considering that 98% of my HomeKit devices work 98% of the time, I don’t think the issues are caused by my firewall rules. If they were, the devices wouldn’t work at all.

Based on everything I’ve read, the problem might be related to my access points and their ability to switch Wi-Fi channels every so often (and when they detect interference). That “channel hopping” is apparently a problem for many smart home devices. 

(I tried to configure static channels on all of my access points, but that led to a poor Wi-Fi experience due to — you guessed it — interference).

The reason why I’m telling you all this is because I’d love to hear about your experience with smart home devices, regardless of the brand or technology you use. Just leave a comment below!

EMF Protection Devices

On a related note, I’m currently testing EMF protection devices. As the name implies, these gadgets are supposed to reduce or eliminate the potentially harmful effects of electromagnetic fields and electromagnetic radiation.

I haven’t fully dug into the science behind EMFs and their impact on human health yet, and I don’t even know if there’s enough research out there to conclude whether or not EMF exposure is a problem. But I just ordered an EMF meter to find out whether the devices I’m testing change the strength of those fields.

I got to thinking about EMFs because I realized that I’m increasing my exposure with every electronic device I add to my home — especially those that are Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth enabled, as well as those that have a cellular radio.

So stay tuned for an in-depth review of the EMF protection devices* I’m currently trying out.

My Nomadplug Finally Arrived…

Last but not least: after two years of waiting, I finally received what I consider the best universal travel adapter on the market. 

I’m talking about the Nomadplug, which was launched on Indiegogo and still in development when I published my roundup of the best travel adapters.

Check out my brief video on Instagram to learn more about why I like the Nomadplug. 

Now I just need to start traveling again so I can actually use it.

That’s it for February! If you have a product or service you’d like me to test or review, let me know in the comments section below.

2 thoughts on “Tech Newsletter #5: Do Your Homekit Devices Randomly Stop Working?”

  1. Hi Michael,

    Thank you for the great blog. Found this when I ran into Bluetooth issues with my Mac mini and apple magic keyboard.

    For your IoT devices dropping off Unifi, have a look at the below community post from UI. The solution worked great for a friend with around 100 IoT devices (all HomeKit) that kept dropping off his network. We used the solution posted by MichelBovin at the bottom of the comments.

    https://community.ui.com/questions/UNIFI-IOT-disconnects/6a40138a-2b2a-4285-94a9-ed0aa9e83df7

    Regards,
    Bradley

    Reply
    • Thanks for the link! I tried setting the 2GHs network to a dedicated channel but ran into a lot of interference. I’ll try again though and see how it works.

      Reply

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