The latent sensor could theoretically let the speaker control the smart thermostats to adjust the temperature of each room.
HomePod mini comes with a secret temperature and humidity sensor that could be used in the future to add new functionality to the smart speaker powered by Siri.
An inactive sensor waiting to be activated
The tiny component, which measures only 1.5 x 1.5 millimeters, is located on the bottom edge of the wrapped housing of the speaker, next to the power cord.
IFixit repair experts have confirmed the location of the sensor. TechInsights, a company that analyzes components inside electronic components, identified the sensor as a Texas Instruments component, labeled “HDC2010 Digital Humidity and Temperature Sensor.” This leaves no doubt as to the purpose of the sensor.
However, what is puzzling is that the sensor has not yet been used.
Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman, who has stellar experience with Apple leaks, notes that the company has never disclosed the component. Also, the HomePod mini does not currently have user-oriented features that would take advantage of the sensor.
The company discussed internally the use of the sensor to determine the temperature and humidity of a room, so that thermostats connected to the Internet can adjust different parts of a house according to current conditions, depending on people familiar with the situation. The hardware may also allow the HomePod mini to automatically trigger other actions, such as turning the fan on or off, depending on the temperature.
He pointed out that the sensor is not there to help protect the internal overheating, as it is located relatively far from the main internal components of the speaker.
No matter how you look at it, the presence of this latent technology indicates that Apple may intend to add new features to the device with future software updates.
Apple offers for smart homes
Gurman continues to speculate that this could be part of the company’s new strategy to strengthen its credibility in the smart home space.
Apple did not have a serious offer on the smart home market until 2018 with the original HomePod. This device was recently discontinued after poor sales. Some decision makers within the company worry that it may be too late for Apple to make a strong entry into the industry, especially as it focuses on other new categories, such as virtual and augmented reality headsets and autonomous electric cars. Others believe that the company can take its time and customers will still be interested.
Gurman suspects this may have something to do with Siri still lagging behind Alexa Amazon and Google Assistant. “Whatever the reason, no unifying strategy has emerged so far,” said one of the people familiar with the situation, “the article reads.
Currently, Apple HomeKit software for the connected home works with fewer smart home accessories than similar offers from Amazon and Google. In addition, the company does not create its own smart devices for the home, apart from HomePod speakers and Apple TV streaming cassettes, both of which are double as HomeKit hubs.
Apple discontinued the larger $ 299 HomePod speaker to focus on the much more affordable $ 99 HomePod mini. Curiously, the Bloomberg report mentions as a side note that Apple “has also developed new speakers with screens and cameras,” but apparently these devices are not imminent.
Apple devices for the future
This isn’t the first time Apple has used latent technologies waiting to be activated with future software updates as a means of securing its devices.
A good example is the Apple U1 chip, found in the iPhone 11/12, Apple Watch Series 6 and HomePod mini, which uses Ultra-Wideband technology for space awareness. Apple is currently using the chip to power AirDrop’s directional functionality in iOS, along with an improved Handoff experience between the HomePod mini and the iPhone, but not much.
And when the company refreshed the iPod in 2008, it equipped the music player with a Bluetooth chip. However, Bluetooth connectivity software support will not be implemented on your device until a proper update arrives next year.
The original Siri-powered smart speaker is dead. We’ll look at the reasons and the future of Apple’s ambitions for smart homes.
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