Apple’s smart home features touch every part of its hardware and software lineup.
And at WWDC21, Apple announced a host of new features to make your smart home even smarter. Here are five great upcoming smart home features arriving with software updates this fall.
1. Use Home Keys to Unlock Your Front Door
Unlocking your front door is going to be even easier with the Home Keys feature arriving with iOS 15 and watchOS 8. Using ultra wide-band technology, you’ll be able to unlock a compatible smart lock with just a simple tap on the screen of your iPhone or Apple Watch when you are nearby.
Apple was light on details about compatible smart locks and whether you’ll need a new model to use the feature.
But the company did announce that a wide variety of manufacturers, including big names like Schlage, are on board with the technology. And along with smart door locks for homes, the technology is also making its way to other places like hotels and office buildings.
So along with your front door, it will also be as easy to unlock a hotel room or the door to work.
Smart locks are a great way to introduce new technology to your home. And the Home Keys feature, for anyone with an iPhone or Apple Watch, can make your front door even more safe and secure. You can finally leave the house key at home.
2. A Better Home App on Apple Watch
The Home app on Apple Watch has never been a great way to control HomeKit-compatible devices. A number of third-party options have filled the void to add additional features. But Apple has introduced a revamped Home app with watchOS 8 that takes a big step up in making it easier to interact with lights, cameras, locks, and more.
After opening the revamped app, it’s obvious Apple wanted to bring a layout similar to the Home app on iPhone and iPad, but on the smaller screen of the watch.
At the top of the app is access to the Intercom button to send a message to other Apple devices, including HomePods, in the same household. Much like a similar feature on the Amazon Echo line of devices, it’s a great way to tell the kids that dinner is ready without having to scream at the top of your lungs.
Right below is a highlight section that shows a recap of different smart home devices like lights on, temperature readings, motion sensors, and more. After a section of most-used devices, you can access feeds from video cameras, favorite devices, and then each custom room of your home.
Overall, the revamped app is a great addition up and will bring better smart home control to Apple Watch users.
3. Support for the Matter Smart Home Standard
Matter has an opportunity to change smart home technology for the better. The interoperability standard has a simple purpose—to make a single standard that all smart home products can use.
Instead of having to worry about whether a certain smart home product, like a door lock, works with HomeKit, consumers can purchase a Matter-enabled product and know it will be compatible with their other smart home technology. The standard is also open source and currently has support from Apple, Amazon, Google, and Samsung.
And starting with iOS 15, Apple is fully supporting Matter-enabled products right along with HomeKit devices. While it may take some time for Matter to take hold, it has a great opportunity to change the industry for the better. The standard should make it easier for consumers to add technology to their homes without having to worry about compatibility issues.
With Apple offering its support to the protocol, Matter’s future looks bright for fans of HomeKit and other competing smart home systems.
4. Siri in Third-Party Smart Home Devices
Siri isn’t just for your Apple devices anymore. Starting later this year, Siri will be available to interact with on third-party HomeKit devices. Apple didn’t provide any information about what devices to expect. But during the WWDC keynote, it showed off a Siri-enabled Ecobee smart thermostat.
There is one big downside, though. Because of privacy concerns, you’ll need a HomePod or HomePod mini in your household to take advantage of the feature. All of Siri’s requests will be funneled through Apple’s smart speaker and not through any third-party servers.
It will be interesting to see how that caveat affects the number of smart home products taking advantage of the feature. But if you already own any HomePod speaker, Siri support in other devices should be a welcome addition and should be able to grow the ecosystem to better take on Amazon Alexa.
5. More Uses of HomeKit-Enabled Cameras
Anyone with a HomeKit-enabled camera will also be able to take advantage of more features thanks to Apple’s upcoming software updates.
On the Apple TV, starting with tvOS 15, you will be able to view a video from a camera and interact with other devices at the same time. For example, you can take a look at what’s happening outside and also switch on the lights on a single screen. You can also change the view and see multiple live camera feeds simultaneously.
With watchOS 8, anyone with a HomeKit-enabled doorbell will be able to see and speak to the person at the front door from their watch in real-time. Previously, you needed an iPhone to do that.
And cameras compatible with HomeKit Secure Video will be able to take advantage of package detection technology to be alerted when you have a delivery. The technology already uses intelligence from local Apple TV or HomePod to inform you when people, animals, or vehicles are detected.
Making an Apple-Centric Smart Home Even Better
While there’s no true standout in the newly announced features, Apple is showing that it continues to make its smart home features even better and easier to use.
And the smart home improvements were far from the only new features announced at WWDC with new software announcements for all of Apple’s product line.
Here’s what we learnt about iOS 15, watchOS 8, macOS Monterey, and everything else Apple announced at WWDC this year.
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