At their Worldwide Developer Conference in June, Apple announced plans for a program to let accessory manufacturers add Siri to their products. As Yah Cason, Senior Apple HomeKit Engineer, said in the keynote launching the feature:
“We believe Siri is most powerful when it’s available throughout your house”
I agree. In order for Siri to become a go-to home assistant, it needs to be able to hear you from almost anywhere in your home. You can add that to any room for $99 with a HomePod mini, but enabling users to get this functionality in one of their existing smart home purchases makes it easier to reach the end goal.
This week ecobee launched their official support for this in their latest software update for the ecobee SmartThermostat with voice control. Apple mentioned Ecobee thermostats as an example product for this program back in the WWDC keynote, so the feature is no surprise at this point. But as the details of this launch show, Apple isn’t giving us a true instance of Siri in these devices. Ecobee clarifies this in their press release:
An Apple HomePod mini and an iPhone with iOS 15 or later are required to enable Siri on SmartThermostat.
So you still need to have a HomePod mini somewhere on the home network, along with an iPhone to get this to work properly. If you have an iPad and buy a smart thermostat, no chance you can use Siri. Of course, this is by design from Apple as they tout the limitation as a privacy win. Yah Cason again in the WWDC keynote:
“We’ve designed it so that your Siri requests flow to your HomePod without going through any third party service - providing the privacy you expect from Apple.”
I challenge this idea. I think that having Siri in an accessory go straight to Apple’s servers would be possible, still keeping privacy intact. Of course, as local requests to Siri grow in capability, this wouldn’t work, but I think it’s a more flexible trade off. Putting Siri in more places is a good move, but this first step isn’t far enough. Why can’t my Sonos speaker that works with AirPlay 2 and Amazon Alexa also be used as a Siri speaker? And why should I have to buy a HomePod mini to get this to work? If Siri is going to be your go to voice assistant, the limited form factors that Apple provides makes it more difficult than it should be to have Siri in your whole home.
Apple’s alternate approach to this is to have wearable Siri. With each member of the home using an Apple Watch or AirPods, you have Siri wherever you are. This is good, but I would bet that there are many Apple powered homes where more people use a light switch than have access to wearable Siri.
Dedicated Siri voice assistants give anyone in the home the power to shout into the air for controls. We’ve printed Siri commands for babysitters of our children to use when putting our children to bed. This means they can shout to the air and control the room just how our children want, without having access to our HomeKit home or being part of our immediate, iCloud family.
Nanoleaf held a press event this week where they unveiled Lines, a new addition to their growing family of wall lighting decor products. Instead of panels in geometric shapes, these are line segments that you connect with a series of apex points that are secured to your wall with adhesive. Each line is elevated above the wall and emits a color halo around the line segment. When grouped together this can create very cool patterns that I think look distinctive from Nanoleaf’s Shapes. While Nanoleaf Shapes don’t look bad on your wall when they are off, I get the impression that these will look even better in the off position. Both look great lit up.
These Nanoleaf Lines will serve as a Thread border router on your network, which will strengthen your home’s Thread network and is slated to support Matter next year.
Nanoleaf Lines are available for preorder now and ship next month. They follow a similar pricing to shapes with a starter kit selling for $199.99 and expansions for $69.99.
I’m very excited about Nanoleaf Lines and I will hopefully be getting a set to review on my YouTube channel soon.
This week I talk about my experience with the Onvis Kameleon K1 LED light strips. These have some cool animations like a moving rainbow pattern.
Around the web
I listen to almost every episode of Nilay Patel’s Decoder podcast, but this one is particularly relevant if you read Apple Home Weekly. Nilay talks with Dave Limp, Amazon’s Senior VP of Devices and Services (Alexa, eero, Ring, Blink and more). I found it interesting that Amazon has about ten thousand people working on Alexa. While I prefer to automate my home with Apple HomeKit, Amazon is definitely a leader in this space. Hearing one of their executives talk about Amazon’s approach and strategy to the smart home is always informative.
How Amazon runs Alexa, with Dave Limp
Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/how-amazon-runs-alexa-with-dave-limp/id1011668648?i=1000538322119
Apple’s “Unleashed” Event
We are days away from Apple’s “Unleashed” event where they will probably unveil their next generation of MacBook Pros and maybe more. I find it interesting that Apple’s page for the event seems to not mention “unleashed” at this point. It was definitely a term ripe for pundit jokes this week 😄 .
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