Apple’s HomeKit lags behind Alexa and Google Home, but gains some new features that should help it get a little closer to those other smart platforms at home. At WWDC 2021, Apple previewed several new features for its network, including the ability to detect packets and view security camera streams on Apple TV.
There aren’t a lot of security cameras that fully integrate with HomeKit – Logitech’s Circle View video ringtone, security camera and EufyCam 2 Pro are among the few – but with the upgrade to HomeKit, these cameras will be able to detect when someone leaves a package your door.
It is a feature found on the best video ringtones, such as Nest Hello, and has proven to be very useful as deliveries have increased in the last year. Having this as part of HomeKit means that other video ringer manufacturers won’t have to worry about building this native into their own devices.
When someone knocks on your door, you can also watch a live stream from your video ringtone or HomeKit compatible camera on your Apple TV. This feature isn’t new – you can already do something similar to Ring cameras on Fire TVs and Nest cameras on Chromecast devices – but it’s good to see Apple coming up with the best streaming devices.
However, with HomeKit, you’ll be able to view a stream from multiple cameras at once, and you can also control smart devices at home next to that camera. So if something triggers one of your rooms, you can turn on the outside lights.
HomePod mini as soundbar
In May, Apple announced that its discontinued HomePod could be used as a speaker for the Apple TV; at WWDC, Apple said that the $ 99 HomePod mini will win this feature as well. Based on the presentation, it looks like you’ll be able to pair two HomePod minis for stereo sound, which would make sense, given that this feature already works for audio.
Siri is getting smarter in the house
Another improvement makes the HomePod mini more of a universal remote control; an update will allow you to ask Siri through the smart player to play a movie or show, and the Apple Assistant will display it on the screen if you have an Apple TV. Again, this is something that Alexa and Google Assistant can already do, but it’s good to see that Apple is reaching parity here. What is not yet clear is whether Siri will be able to send commands to the TV and the soundbar to activate it, as the best universal remote controls can do.
Siri is also extended to smart home devices from third parties. During WWDC, a presenter spoke to Siri through an Ecobee SmartThermostat (we’re not sure of the exact model, but we assume it’s the latest version) to control smart devices at home. The Ecobee thermostat has built-in Alexa for a long time, so this is nothing new, but Siri’s permission on third-party devices is a new approach for Apple. We are interested to see what other smart home devices will incorporate the assistant.
HomeKit on Apple Watch
Finally, Apple suggested that the Apple Watch will become a more functional part of the HomeKit, allowing you to use the smartwatch to activate Intercom mode, better control accessories, and receive image notifications when someone is at the front door. The Ring and Arlo cameras already offer similar notifications, but only show still images, while the WWDC presentation displayed what looked like a live view, with the ability to respond from the wrist.
And you’ll also be able to use your Apple Watch or iPhone to unlock a HomeKit-compatible smart lock with a feature called HomeKeys.
Apple has not given an exact date when all these features will be available – “this fall” said Tim Cook during the presentation – but a public beta will be available in July.