For years, I had a traditional security system in my home that cost hundreds of dollars each year for the monitoring service that went with it. I ditched that system about two years ago in hopes of finding a cheaper, smarter solution, but I’ve had mixed success.
The products I’ve tried in the past have been plagued by unreliable hardware and limited functionality. That’s why I was interested in trying abode’s HomeKit-compatible iota Security Kit when they offered to send me a test unit. After several weeks with the kit, which is available in the US and Canada, I’ve been impressed with both the reliability and flexibility of the hardware.
The iOS app doesn’t match the quality of abode’s hardware, but the issues with the app are mitigated by a solid web app and HomeKit compatibility that provide alternative ways to control the system. I’d certainly prefer a better iOS app. Still, even as is, the combination of abode’s hardware and the services offer a flexibility that other systems I’ve tried just can’t match.
Amazon’s Eero routers are the first out of the gate with HomeKit support, which promises to provide greater security to your Internet-connected HomeKit devices.
The update, which appeared today via an update to Eero’s iOS app, walks users through the setup process of adding their Eero gateway to the Home app. Along the way, the Eero app explains that enabling HomeKit support allows Eero to firewall off each HomeKit device, so they only communicate with approved devices and services.
Setting up security for HomeKit devices.
Users can set the level of security for each of their HomeKit devices from inside the Eero app’s setup process by choosing ‘More Options’ from HomeKit Accessory Security screen. Alternatively, security settings can be modified from Apple’s Home app. The three security levels available include:
Restrict to Home, which only allows connections to your home hub, which the setting warns may block firmware updates or other services.
Automatic, which allows connections to manufacturer-approved services and devices
No Restriction, which allows connections to any service or device
Adding your Eero router to an existing HomeKit room and viewing its settings in the Home app.
I don’t currently use an Eero router as my main WiFi router, but I have a spare one, so I gave the setup process a try. The instructions for setting up HomeKit support were clear and easy to follow as you’d expect given Eero’s reputation for simplifying home networking. I wasn’t able to find the Eero router in the Home app initially, but as a reader pointed out, it’s near the bottom of the Home app’s settings that appear when you tap the house icon from the Home tab. I hope more router makers add this to their products soon. The promise of being able to limit access to more sensitive HomeKit devices like cameras and alarm systems is certainly an enticing one.
HomeCam by Aaron Pearce, which consolidates all of your HomeKit-compatible cameras into a simple, streamlined UI, has been updated to version 2.0 across the many platforms it supports. I’ve been a fan of the app since it debuted, and this update is an excellent refinement of the app’s original concept.
The value of HomeCam lies in its elegant UI that focuses first and foremost on your HomeKit video cameras. Apple’s Home app displays feeds from HomeKit cameras in one of two places. You can add them as favorite devices, so they show up at the bottom of the Home tab. Otherwise, though, your cameras only show up in the rooms to which they are assigned where they compete for space and attention with other accessories and scenes and aren’t live until tapped. I’ve been testing HomeCam with two Logitech Circle 2 cameras and an abode iota security kit camera, and the app’s design and availability on a wide variety of devices adds a level of flexibility to monitoring multiple cameras that isn’t possible with Apple’s system app.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.