A Haunted House of Home Automation

Featured Technology

It’s all fun and games until Metallica is blaring through the HomePod in your bedroom for no apparent reason at 2am…

Photo by Jackson Simmer on Unsplash

A few weeks ago, not long after I went to bed and as I was drifting off to sleep I noticed one of the lights that leads into our master bathroom just turned on. I was mostly asleep so I didn’t really think much of it. A few minutes later I heard sound coming from our living room. Not unusual as my son sometimes stays up later than we do. So I crack open the bedroom door and yell out into the living room to please turn down the TV a little. I was about to just go right back to bed but something told me there was just something off about this. So I walked out into the living room and my son wasn’t there. But there was Christmas music playing out of the HomePod in the kitchen/living room area. So I tapped the top of the HomePod to turn off the playing music. I then went upstairs to check on my son. He was still up, but he wasn’t doing anything that would have caused the HomePod to start playing music. So I went back to the bedroom and was going to go back to bed, and as I walked in the HomePod mini in our bedroom starting playing Metallica. Then the lamp on my chest of drawers turned on and then it turned back off. Ok, this is seriously messed up.

By now I was fully awake and slightly freaked out. So I went out into the living room and decided to pull the plug on all of my home automation hubs (my AppleTV and my two HomePods) just in case somebody had somehow hacked into our home automation. But as I got to thinking about it, it is pretty hard to break into the security of HomeKit home automation. Maybe one device through one manufacturer but not all of them. It took longer than I would like to admit but the answer finally clicked in my brain. My daughter. My oldest daughter works a night shift job and it is a physical job unloading trucks. So I text her at work and sure enough she said the Control Center screen was active on her iPhone when she got my text asking whether it might have been her iPhone phone causing all of our home automation chaos.

So this is what can happen, and I suspect many of you have had something like this happen to you. As you start building up a bit of heat and sweat it is possible for your body to activate the touch sensitive screen of your iPhone through your clothes. This happens to me with the Music app controls (even when you put the iPhone into your pocket with the screen locked because the music controls can come up on the lock screen). The Home app home automation controls don’t show up on the Lock Screen but they do show up in Control Center (the controls that you access by swiping down from the top of your iPhone screen). In my daughter’s case she was putting the iPhone back in her back pants pocket unlocked and because she was working up a bit of sweat the Home Screen was being activated by her movements and it brought up Control Center and started randomly activating home automation devices in our house in the middle of the night (she was butt dialing our home automation devices).

So how can you prevent something like from happening to you? This is actually a very easy fix, at least in the case of my daughter. She really doesn’t use the Home app controls in control center on her iPhone (at least not intentionally, as we found out). So we simply went into Settings on her iPhone and went into Control Center and toggled the “Show Home Control” toggle to “Off.” This takes all of the Home app controls out of Control Center on her iPhone.

These screenshots show you how to go into Settings and Turn Off the “Show Home Controls” in your Control Center on your iPhone. Notice my toggle is green so my Home Controls show up, but if you toggle that off then they won’t. (Images by Skip Owens)

So the next time my daughter accidentally activates Control Center in the middle of the night it might activate some other controls within her Control Center, but it won’t start randomly activating home automation devices within our house. And as much as I like Metallica, I definitely do NOT appreciate it playing out of the HomePod in my bedroom at 2am when I am trying to sleep…

Hush, little baby, don’t say a word
And never mind that noise you heard
It’s just the beasts under your bed
In your closet, in your head

– “Enter Sandman” by Metallica

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