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Posts tagged with "HomeKit"

Updated Eve Energy Smart Plug and Energy Meter Released with Thread Support

Eve Systems has announced the availability of an update to its Eve Energy Smart Plug and Power Meter, which now supports HomeKit over Thread. Thread is the technology that began appearing in HomeKit devices late last year with the introduction of the HomePod mini. It’s a mesh networking system that allows devices to communicate with each other in your home without first communicating with a central hub or over the Internet. Thread-enabled devices also tend to be more responsive and use less power than devices that only use Bluetooth or rely on WiFi connections.

Because the new Eve Energy is a smart plug, it has a continuous source of power that allows it to act as a Thread router like the HomePod mini. That’s significant because the more edge routers you add to a Thread system, the more robust the mesh network becomes. However, there have been few devices other than the HomePod mini that could act in that capacity.

Eve Energy's Thread radio acts as a border router for connecting other Thread devices in your home.

Eve Energy’s Thread radio acts as a border router for connecting other Thread devices in your home.

As a HomeKit device, the new Eve Energy plug can be controlled by Apple’s Home app or the Eve for HomeKit app. The device also reports the energy used by whatever it powers, giving users a way to assess the power consumption of their appliances and any power-hungry electronics.

I haven’t had a chance to try the new Eve Energy yet, but I hope to in the coming weeks. I’ve owned a couple of earlier-generation Eve Energy smart plugs, and both have worked better than other smart plugs I’ve tried in the past.

With the announcements over the past several months, it’s clear that Eve Systems is committed to building Thread into their products, which I’m glad to see. Thread support is still relatively rare to find in HomeKit devices, but the pace seems to be picking up. I’m eager to see how a larger, mixed Thread network of devices performs compared to older Bluetooth and WiFi-based ones.

The Eve Energy Smart Plug and Power Meter is available directly from Eve Systems today for $39.99 and will also be available from Apple and Amazon soon.


Quinn Nelson’s Approach to Home Automation

I’ve experimented with a lot of HomeKit devices over the past few years, and I often think about how I would set my home up if I were starting from scratch. That is exactly what Quinn Nelson of Snazzy Labs has done with his new home:

Nelson’s video shows off some fantastic HomeKit devices, but more important than the gear is his approach to home automation. There are a lot of important lessons in this video. However, the two that resonated with me the most based on my experience are the benefits of sticking with one platform to reduce complexity and the importance of having manual options for smart devices. More often than not, I’ve regretted it when I’ve lost sight of those two principles.

Like Nelson, I’m a big fan of the Lutron Caséta line of HomeKit lighting products. We installed a light switch in our living room about two years ago, and I haven’t had a single issue with it ever. Now I just need to try to resist the urge to see what it would cost to replace my bedroom shades with the fancy Lutron Serena shades Nelson also showed off.

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HomePaper: A Handy Utility for Creating Beautiful Home App Wallpapers

Aaron Pearce, the developer behind some of my favorite HomeKit apps like HomeRun, HomeCam, and HomePass, has a new utility that is out today for the iPhone and iPad called HomePaper that solves a very specific problem: boring Home app wallpapers. The room and home settings of Apple’s Home app let you assign a photo or one of nine colorful backgrounds as wallpapers. The trouble is that photos of a room in your home are often too distracting to serve as wallpapers, and Apple’s other choices are too limited and similar to each other. That’s where HomePaper comes in.

The Home App's wallpaper choices are limited.

The Home App’s wallpaper choices are limited.

Pearce’s app combines the best of both kinds of default Apple wallpapers by taking a photo, desaturating it, and overlaying a colorful gradient. You could do something similar in a photo editor, but HomePaper automates the process with a simple app that lets you experiment with different looks, arriving at one you like quickly and easily, the hallmark of a great utility. The result is an image that helps visually differentiate homes and rooms from each other like a standard photo would but with an additional burst of color and style.

HomePaper provides many pre-built gradients as well as the ability to create your own.

HomePaper provides many pre-built gradients as well as the ability to create your own.

HomePaper makes creating great-looking wallpapers effortless with a huge set of pre-built gradients that you can pair with an image in your photo library or by taking a picture with your iPhone or iPad’s camera. You can also pick the two colors for the gradient yourself using the iOS system color picker. When you’ve chosen or created a gradient you like, tap the download button in the bottom left corner of the screen to save it to your iCloud Photo Library, where it’s available to add to the Home app.

HomePaper is by far the simplest of Pearce’s apps, but it’s no less useful. I had settled on a single generic Apple-provided background that was the same for all my rooms because the choices didn’t inspire me to mix them up, and there was too much friction involved in creating my own. With HomePaper, though, I spent a few minutes snapping photos around my house and then applying gradients, achieving results that look great with minimal effort. The Home app looks nicer now when I open it, but it’s also easier to tell one room from another at a glance, which makes HomePaper a wonderful addition to my HomeKit apps.

HomePaper is free to download, allowing you to make one wallpaper. A $0.99 In-App Purchase unlocks the creation of unlimited wallpapers.


Eve Systems Announces That Its New Eve Energy Smart Plug and Eve Weather HomeKit Devices Will Support Thread

Source: Eve Systems.

Source: Eve Systems.

Ever since I got a glimpse of what Thread could mean to home automation by pairing a Nanoleaf A19 bulb with a HomePod mini, I’ve been excited about the technology’s future. We’re still in the early days of adoption by device manufacturers. However, today, Eve Systems announced a significant expansion of its Thread-compatible lineup of HomeKit products, giving the technology a substantial boost.

Eve had already added Thread to its window and door sensors and EU-compatible smart plugs. Today, however, the company said that US and UK-compatible versions of its Eve Energy smart plugs would be coming soon and that it will also release a weather sensor called Eve Weather. Eve is also updating its existing $99.95 Eve Aqua outdoor sprinkler controller to add Thread via a firmware update.

Thread, which I covered in-depth as part of my HomePod mini review is a wireless communication protocol that has the advantage of extended range, longer battery life, and security. Devices that implement it don’t require a separate hub either because devices like the HomePod mini act as a border router coordinating communications among devices and the Internet.

Source: Eve Systems.

Source: Eve Systems.

The new Eve Energy smart plug will be available in the US on April 6th and the UK on May 4th according to The Verge and will cost $39.95 in the US. In addition to working with Apple’s HomeKit technology, Eve Energy benefits from having a constant power source, which allows it to act as a border router like the HomePod mini, further extending the reach of Thread devices throughout your home.

Eve Weather, which has an IPX3 water resistance rating, tracks the outdoor temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure. The device will cost $69.95 and be available in the US and Canada beginning on March 26th.

I’m glad to see more Thread-enabled products hitting the market. The promise of Thread has been difficult to test with so few devices available, but with the products announced by Eve Systems today and Nanoleaf’s existing lighting products, I expect that we’ll soon have a better idea of whether the promise lives up to the hype.


Logitech Circle View Doorbell Offers Superior Camera Hardware with the Benefits of HomeKit Secure Video

For nearly a year, I had a Logitech Circle View camera perched above the front door of my house, which allowed me to keep an eye out for visitors and deliveries. The wide-angle lens was able to capture my front stoop as well as my yard, providing an excellent perspective on what was happening outside.

That setup worked extremely well. In fact, my two Circle View cameras are so reliable that I had begun thinking about replacing a second outdoor camera from Canary that I was using in the back yard. That’s why when Logitech got in touch to see if I wanted to try its new Circle View Doorbell, I jumped at the chance. I figured that if it worked out, I could migrate the Circle View to the back yard. I was also intrigued by some unique features of Logitech’s doorbell and eager to see how well they worked in practice. I haven’t been disappointed.

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Power-User HomeKit App Home+ 5 Adds Automation Folders, Backups, and a Fresh Design

With the release of Home+ 5 by Matthias Hochgatterer, there are more reasons for HomeKit power-users to try the app than ever before. One of the app’s strengths has always been creating automations based on device attributes that aren’t available in Apple’s Home app. That’s why I was already using Home+. However, now, the app has added a new design, folders to organize automations, Smart Groups for accessories, a Favorites view, and backups, which make the app more compelling than ever.

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CES Rundown: Highlights of This Year’s Most Intriguing (and Bizarre) Announcements

My coverage of CES has always been virtual. This year the show itself is virtual too, which left me wondering whether there would be much to cover. Although there are fewer vendors participating than in the past, the event continues to provide a steady stream of news about new products planned for the coming months.

Some of what is announced each year will never see the light of day, and other gadgets will never look as good as they did in the hands of expert marketers. Still, CES always provides a useful snapshot of tech industry hardware trends, a handful of unexpected gems, like last year’s Eve Cam that I reviewed over the summer and Samsung’s T7 external SSD, which ended up powering my Big Sur beta testing, plus a healthy dose of the truly strange.

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

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Two Months with the HomePod mini: More Than Meets the Eye

As a smaller, affordable smart speaker tightly integrated with Apple services, the HomePod mini is a compelling product for many people. The mini is little enough to work just about anywhere in most homes. At $99, the device’s price tag also fits more budgets and makes multiple HomePod minis a far more realistic option than multiple original HomePods ever were. Of course, the mini comes with tradeoffs compared to its larger, more expensive sibling, which I’ll get into, but for many people, it’s a terrific alternative.

As compelling as the HomePod mini is as a speaker, though, its potential as a smart device reaches beyond the original HomePod in ways that have far greater implications for Apple’s place in customers’ homes. Part of the story is the mini’s ability to serve as a border router for Thread-compatible smart devices, forming a low-power, mesh network that can operate independently of your Wi-Fi setup. The other part of the story is the way the mini extends Siri throughout your home. Apple’s smart assistant still has room to improve. However, the promise of a ubiquitous audio interface to Apple services, apps, HomeKit devices, and the Internet is more compelling than ever as Siri-enabled devices proliferate.

For the past couple of months, I’ve been testing a pair of HomePod minis that Apple sent me. That pair joined my original HomePods and another pair of minis that I added to the setup to get a sense of what having a whole-home audio system with Siri always within earshot would be like. The result is a more flexible system that outshines its individual parts and should improve over time as the HomeKit device market evolves.

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Scenecuts Adds Effortless Access to HomeKit Scenes in Your Mac’s Menu Bar

Scenecuts is a new utility app for controlling HomeKit devices from your Mac’s menu bar. The free, open source app, by Seattle developer Nick Hayward can control HomeKit scenes from the menu bar app’s drop-down menu, customizable per-scene menu bar icons, or the keyboard. It’s a terrific trio of options that makes controlling your smart devices immediate by freeing them from the confines of the Home app.

In its default configuration, Scenecuts adds its icon to your menu bar, and clicking on it reveals a drop-down menu of all the HomeKit scenes you’ve created in Apple’s Home app for controlling your smart devices. However, the app’s real power lies in its preferences, where you can edit Scenecuts’ drop-down menu, add individual scenes to your menu bar, and assign them to global keyboard shortcuts.

Scenecuts' preferences.

Scenecuts’ preferences.

The HomeKit scenes you want to control with a particular Mac may vary. For instance, you may only care about the lights in the room where your desktop Mac sits, but want to control any of the lights in your home with a laptop that you carry with you. Scenecuts recognizes this by providing checkboxes next to every scene in its preferences. By default, all of your scenes are available in Scenecuts’ drop-down menu, but each of them can be turned off by unchecking its checkbox, which is a nice way to tidy up a long list of scenes. I turned off a bunch of scenes to make it easier to quickly locate the ones I use most often.

Scenes turned into individual menu bar items with SF Symbols icons.

Scenes turned into individual menu bar items with SF Symbols icons.

Another series of checkboxes, which are unchecked by default, controls whether scenes are shown as individual menu bar items. The feature is a lot like the ability to drag items out of Control Center to the menu bar. You can also add an icon for any of the scenes you add to the menu bar using Apple’s SF Symbols. I immediately added separate menu bar items for the space heater in my office and the settings for my overhead lights that I use for product photography because those are two scenes I find myself wanting to trigger from my desk regularly. The use of SF Symbols is an excellent way to pick something that is meaningful and memorable for triggering scenes.

The third way to use Scenecuts to trigger scenes is by using global keyboard shortcuts. Keyboard shortcuts are optional but extremely handy when you’re working with the keyboard instead of a trackpad or mouse. I appreciate, too, that Scenecuts displays the keyboard shortcuts you’ve assigned in its drop-down menu. The visibility provides a little reminder that has helped me memorize the shortcuts faster than I might otherwise have.

I’ve leveled my fair share of criticisms against the Home app, especially on the iPhone, but it’s grown on me when using my Mac. There’s more screen real estate than on the iPhone, which means its tile UI is less of an issue. Still, for quickly toggling my space heater or switching off a set of lights, opening a full-blown Mac app is overkill. By surfacing individual scenes in the menu bar, Scenecuts is the perfect complement to Apple’s Home app.

Scenecuts also highlights the anemic state of Control Center on the Mac. As I explained in my Big Sur review, I like the concept of Control Center on the Mac a lot, but it’s disappointing that so much of the functionality found in iOS is unavailable. Until Apple expands Control Center to incorporate scene support, Scenecuts is an excellent solution.

You can download Scenecuts for free from the Mac App Store.