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Posts tagged with "HomeKit"

CES: A Tour of the Most Interesting (and Strange) Tech Announcements

CES has been going strong all week with announcements of new gadgets: home automation gear, TVs, computers, and lots more. Many mobile phone makers and some big industry players sit out CES, but there is still plenty of news from companies big and small with new products and technologies to show off.

A lot of what gets hyped at CES is prototypes and concept devices that will never ship or will get delayed. Still, every year I find that CES is fascinating to study for the industry trends it reveals and the handful of gadgets I discover that I’d like to try.

After combing through hundreds of headlines and press releases, I’ve compiled a roundup of some of this week’s most compelling announcements. Feel free to skip around to the categories that you find most interesting using the table of contents below.

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Apple, Google, Amazon, and the Zigbee Alliance Announce Project Connected Home Over IP

In a press release today, Apple announced that it is part of a new working group with Google, Amazon, and the Zigbee Alliance called Project Connected Home over IP. According to Apple’s press release:

The goal of the Connected Home over IP project is to simplify development for manufacturers and increase compatibility for consumers. The project is built around a shared belief that smart home devices should be secure, reliable, and seamless to use. By building upon Internet Protocol (IP), the project aims to enable communication across smart home devices, mobile apps, and cloud services and to define a specific set of IP-based networking technologies for device certification.

Apple says smart home device makers IKEA, Legrand, NXP Semiconductors, Resideo, Samsung SmartThings, Schneider Electric, Signify (formerly Philips Lighting), Silicon Labs, Somfy, and Wulian will also contribute to the project. The group wants to make it easier for manufacturers of smart home devices to integrate with Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google’s Assistant and will take an open source approach to the development of the joint protocol.

This is fantastic news. To date, many smart home devices have adopted support for some, but not all, smart assistants. It has also become all too common for companies to announce support for certain assistants was coming to their products only to delay or abandon it altogether. With a unified approach across the three major companies with smart assistants, support will hopefully be more consistent in the future.


Automating a Dyson Fan with HomeKit and Push Notifications

A few weeks ago, following a long research process, my girlfriend and I finally decided to buy a Dyson fan for our apartment – specifically, the Pure Hot + Cool model. We’ve been keeping an eye on this product for a while as a potential solution to purify air as well as heat our (small) apartment; unlike other Dyson fans, this one combines cooling and heating modes in a single compact, good-looking product that we’ve placed on top of an IKEA BESTÅ cabinet in our hallway. So far, we’re liking it a lot.

Whenever I buy a new appliance these days, one of my priorities is to ensure that it can become part of our HomeKit setup, either via native HomeKit support, custom integration via homebridge, or, if all else fails, a smart plug. As far as native HomeKit fans are concerned, I couldn’t find anything here in Italy that combined cooling and heating functions in a single product. Modern Dyson fans do not come with official HomeKit support either, but they can communicate over Wi-Fi using a proprietary service called Dyson Link. This service can be controlled via an iPhone app (which comes with a virtual remote and stats collected by the fan’s built-in sensors) or Amazon’s Alexa assistant. As I was researching the Pure Hot + Cool, I discovered a homebridge plugin that, with minimal configuration, allows you to add a Dyson fan along with its sensors and different modes to your Home setup as a series of accessories and sensors. And since I’m already using homebridge to bring HomeKit compatibility to various devices around the house (including two TVs), adding a new one wasn’t a hard decision at all.

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HomeRun Adds Thousands of Icons for Customizing Your Watch HomeKit Triggers

Browsing custom icons in HomeRun's iPhone companion.

Browsing custom icons in HomeRun’s iPhone companion.

Customization options have never hurt an app, and in many cases they make apps far more functional and endearing. Today HomeRun, the Apple Watch app for running HomeKit scenes, has expanded its customization options immensely by adding over 4,400 new icons that can be used for configuring the app’s grid of HomeKit scenes, and also for adorning your watch face via HomeRun’s complications.

HomeRun debuted last November as the best option for running HomeKit scenes from your Apple Watch. Unlike Apple’s own Home app, which only displays two scene triggers on-screen at once, with HomeRun you can fit up to 12 on-screen with a 44mm Watch, plus create complications for those scenes that run on a user-set schedule, so the right scene complication is always present at the right time.

HomeRun's scene grid (left) and custom complication (right).

HomeRun’s scene grid (left) and custom complication (right).

Previous releases enabled customizing HomeRun’s scene grid, which makes up the app’s main UI, by choosing from different colors and glyphs for each of your HomeKit scenes. The number of options was fine before, but now it’s much more than fine. Developer Aaron Pearce has added thousands of new icons by including the full set of Apple’s SF Symbols, the full set of Simpaticons, plus emoji options. The over 4,400 icons can be browsed inside HomeRun’s companion iPhone app, where a search option has thankfully been included.

I love that these new options work not only inside HomeRun’s grid, but also for configured complications. The sole exception is emoji, since they don’t fit watchOS’ design standards for complications. That slight drawback aside, this is a fantastic release for HomeRun that ensures I have no reason to ever look elsewhere for HomeKit scene control on the Apple Watch.

HomeRun 1.3 is available now on the App Store.


Apple Updates the HomePod with Multi-Voice Support and Ambient Sounds, Plus iPhone Handoff, Shortcuts, and HomeKit Functionality

On Monday, Apple released audioOS 13.2 for the HomePod and before the end of the day US-time pulled it when users started reporting that it was bricking their HomePods. In addition to bricking some HomePods, other users, myself included, had trouble setting up multi-voice support. I also heard from others who had trouble getting the update to install in the first instance. Today, shortly after Apple’s earnings call concluded, the company released audioOS 13.2.1, which includes the same features and presumably fixes the issues users experienced.

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Hands-On with HomePod’s New Music Features for HomeKit, Shortcuts, and Handoff

New HomePod features.

New HomePod features.

Following the announcement of AirPods Pro earlier today, Apple also released iOS, iPadOS, audioOS, and tvOS 13.2. Among various features (which we’ve detailed in a separate story here), one of the key improvements in this suite of software updates is extended flexibility of the HomePod’s music playback abilities.

In fact, by updating to the latest version of Apple’s software, you’ll gain a variety of new audio-related functionalities for HomePod, ranging from the ability to wave an iPhone atop the speaker to hand off audio to brand new integrations with the Shortcuts app as well as HomeKit scenes and automations. In this post, I’m going to go over all the different ways you can control audio playback on Apple’s Siri-integrated speaker, explain new shortcuts that can be built with these features, and share some first impressions based on my initial tests with today’s changes. We’re going to cover HomePod’s other new functionalities such as multi-user support and ambient sounds later this week. Let’s dive in.

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Apple Releases iOS and iPadOS 13.2 with New Features, AirPods Pro Support, and HomePod Updates

Apple has released iOS and iPadOS 13.2, which is necessary to operate the AirPods Pro that will be in stores on Wednesday, October 30th, and adds several new features to iPhones, iPads, and the HomePod.

One of the most-anticipated features is Deep Fusion, which harnesses the power of the A13 Bionic Neural Engine to generate photos that combine elements of several exposures to bring out additional detail and textures in low light settings. The feature works with the iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max, comparing multiple shots pixel-by-pixel to assemble a composite image that is better than any single image captured by the technology. To see examples of Deep Fusion in action, check out Federico’s recent photo tour of Rome. The Camera app has also gained the ability to change the video resolution from the app’s UI for the first time on the iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max.

As has become something of a tradition each fall, Apple has paired today’s update with new emoji. Revealed in the iOS and iPadOS 13.2 beta, there are over 70 new emoji including people in wheelchairs, skin tone support for people holding hands, a sloth, a waffle, a yawning face, a skunk, garlic, a yo-yo, and a flamingo.

In addition to support for the new AirPods Pro, iOS and iPadOS 13.2 include the Announce Messages feature which enables Siri to announce new messages via a user’s AirPods as they arrive. HomeKit gains support for Secure Video and HomeKit routers too. Secure Video is designed for secure storage of video taken by home security cameras and includes support for detection of people, animals, and vehicles. Apps can also be deleted from an iPhone or iPad’s Home screen via a quick action for the first time.

Apple’s Shortcuts app received a few updates as part of iOS and iPadOS 13.2 too. The app now works with the Apple Watch, which will provide users with greater flexibility to run their shortcuts. Also, there is a new Feed URL property for podcasts and a Handoff playback action, which I can’t wait to try. Undo allows for reverting parameter changes too.

Apple has also added new Siri privacy settings that allow users to decide whether to allow Apple to store Siri and dictation audio. Siri and dictation histories can be deleted from Settings too.

Originally announced at WWDC, Apple has updated the HomePod with several new features. With multi-voice support, the HomePod can recognize the voices of different members of a household, allowing them to each receive an individualized experience. Another big HomePod feature is Handoff support for music, podcasts, and phone calls, which allows you to tap your iPhone on your HomePod to continue the audio on it instead of your phone. HomeKit scenes add support for music, and the HomePod can now play Ambient Sounds, which include things like the sound of a rain storm. Finally, users can set sleep timers for music or Ambient Sounds with their HomePods too.



Hey Siri, Open the Garage

Last weekend, I dove into my first HomeKit project in a while, installing two Insignia Wi-Fi Garage Door Controllers. That’s quite a mouthful, so I’m just going to call it the Insignia Controller.

I sat on this project for months before getting started. I love playing with new gadgets and setting up automations using HomeKit, but the reality is that I live in a home with other people who aren’t as enthusiastic about my HomeKit projects. Not all of my projects have turned out well either, which has left me cautious.

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