As part of its worldwide developer conference, Apple announced that it is finally opening its digital Siri assistant to work with third-party smart home devices. The news came as part of a series of new features for the smart home, including a new ability to watch TV with friends and a way to use an Apple HomePod mini as part of a home theater speaker setup. The Apple Watch and Home app also get updates that enable more convenient smart home features.
Third-party Siri integration means you can use your assistant to control non-Apple devices, like a smart thermostat. You can already talk to Alexa through EcoBee, for example, and it’s the same case Apple showed up during a main video.
Apple has publicly confirmed its commitment to Matter smart home standard, which will allow smart home devices from competing companies to play nicely together.
But there was no announcement of a homeOS, a smart home operating system rumored to be on deck for WWDC. Instead, Apple introduced small but useful updates for the home.
If you miss watching TV with friends and family, Apple introduced SharePlay, which lets you and a friend or two share the same power. Everyone in the watch session is synchronized through FaceTime. When you watch more often with others, the Apple TV app will be in a row where you can see what others are interested in, hoping to inspire future watches. If you’re all in the same room together, you can use the For All of You feature to let Apple TV collect series and movies based on everyone’s overlapping interests.
If you have an Apple TV 4K and one HomePod mini, you will be able to use the latter as a background speaker in your living room. The HomePod mini will also receive lossless audio support for Apple Music later this year, as well as speech recognition to differentiate between different people in your household.
Apple Watch users will be able to use their smartwatches as security controllers for smart homes. The watch can record HomeKit-compatible live security camera footage with a voice command. If you have a package waiting for you at the door, your watch will notify you. Both iPhone and Apple Watch can also be programmed to work with compatible smart locks. And if you need to broadcast a message at home, you can use the Apple Watch to dictate an audio message to the connected HomePod speakers.
Of all the smart home announcements Apple has made today, the biggest is that Siri is now available on third-party products. Apple users have hoped for years that the company would open Siri for use on third-party accessories. HomeKit is capable, but it is still a limited ecosystem. With Siri able to control non-Apple home devices and support for the Matter smart home standard, we expect to see more HomeKit devices come through the pipeline towards the end of the year.
Update: 6/7/2021, 16:57: Ecobee announced the smart thermostat will be among the first devices to support it Siri. New and existing owners of the smart thermostat will be able to activate Siri and activate that with a simple “Hello Siri” command.