The next two Saturdays are Christmas Day and New Years Day. I will not be sending Apple Home Weekly on either day. Stay tuned next year for CES coverage on my YouTube channel and here on Apple Home Weekly. I have a number of YouTube #Shorts videos in the works that I'll start posting next Wednesday to end the year on YouTube. I hope you all have a great rest of your holidays and end of 2021. But now let's take a second to look back on what 2021 has meant in smart home tech.
2021 In Review
With the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, more people started to get into smart home tech as they were spending more time at home, and potentially had money they weren't spending in other common areas. I saw an increase in views for videos I would consider introductory, and anecdotally saw an increase in comments that seemed to show people getting into smart home tech for the first time. 2020 also saw the release of the HomePod mini, which was a clear endorsement from Apple of the importance of home technology and a new entry point for many people getting into Apple smart home tech.
2021 saw more growth, but I view it as more of a transitional year. With the HomePod mini adding Thread in November of 2020, it seemed likely this new technology was going to be important in future Apple smart homes, but there were only a small handful of products that actually supported Thread. While 2021 saw the introduction of more Thread capable smart home products, it was also clear that Thread was part of something much bigger, Matter. In May the Connectivity Standards Alliance (formerly the Zigbee Alliance) re-branded the Connected Home Over IP (CHOIP) standard to "Matter". Thread is one of the wireless technologies companies can use to be part of the Matter standard. By bringing compatibility across products from different ecosystems, Matter stands to be a major step to broadening the appeal of smart home tech.
This sets up 2022 to potentially be much bigger than 2020 or 2021. If Matter's spec is cleared for launch and products actually ship, people will find it easier to get into smart home tech because they simply have to look for products that work with Matter to get something they can use with their setup.
The global chip shortage definitely slowed or delayed the release of products this year, which makes it that much more impressive to simply release any HomeKit compatible products this year. As I did product reviews on my YouTube channel, many new releases were already sold out from the initial company announcement before I posted my review. But of all the products I looked at in 2021, which was my favorite?
My Favorite Product of 2021
Nanoleaf Lines are the company's best wall decoration lighting yet. They were more difficult to install than the Nanoleaf Shapes, but they look so nice on the wall, even when they are off. I also love that, like Shapes, Lines work as a Thread border router, connecting other Thread devices you might have to the internet. While I don't see it as part of my HomeKit Thread network just yet, that will surely change with Matter in 2022.
I love the different animations you can create with Lines, although I often just set them as a solid color from inside the Apple Home app. Nanoleaf Lines are not cheap, but they make a great addition to any room in your home. I think this could work particularly well where you have dim lighting scenes like a living room, bedroom, or den. I use them as a backdrop for my YouTube videos, and wall decoration in my office. They are shining purple as part of my work time scene while I write this.
This week I didn't post my normal Wednesday video since I participated in a live stream with LinkedIn Learning on Thursday. If you were able to tune in live, THANK YOU! There are always little things I wish I said here or there, but overall it was a blast doing this with LinkedIn and your support was greatly appreciated. If you want to watch the recording, you can do so at the link below.
Around the web
Ikea lights no longer require a steering device
This is a nice development that makes Tradfri lights easier to use and install because there is less that you have to buy to get a working system. Someone asked in the live stream on Thursday about affordable options for smart home tech, and I wish I had also mentioned Ikea. Their Tradfri system looks like a great option, and it works with Apple HomeKit. I haven't explored it much myself, but I hope to change that in 2022.
Schlage FCC filing reveals potential HomeKey support
First reported by HomeKit Authority, this is a great summary by HomeKit News. As best I can tell Schlage is exhibiting at CES so we might be hearing about this new lock very soon. This article also highlights the NFC+ standard that uses Enhanced Contactless Polling in HomeKey. Difficulty getting or inegrating with the NXP chips used for this could be a reason why we've only seen Aqara make HomeKey compatible locks. I don't think Aqara's current HomeKey lock will work on North American doors either.