Apple's HomeKit partners get ready for iOS 13 with new smart home tricks

Commentary: Several smart home companies announced HomeKit compatibility and some intriguing Siri updates. Every little bit helps.

Molly Price Former Editor
4 min read
Apple HomePod


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HomeKit isn't the  smart home platform with the widest range out there. Even the biggest Apple fans have to admit you'll have many more options when it comes to choosing products if you go with Google or Amazon. Still, Apple knows it has dedicated fans out there who are in it for the long haul and who've bought into the HomeKit experience.

While HomeKit isn't often the topic of conversation in Apple keynotes, we did get a few announcements earlier this year at its World Wide Developer Conference keynote address. The biggest news was the reveal of the new features coming to Apple's iPhone and iPad operating system software, iOS 13, when it debuts later this fall. Today, Apple's HomeKit device partners are announcing products that will be adopting some of those features. 

It's a good sign to see the HomeKit ecosystem expand its capabilities in the smart home. Apple has partnered with familiar enough brands that can do some really interesting things. While Nanoleaf is admittedly a niche smart lighting product, an update that will turn its Nanoleaf Canvas lighted tiles into customizable smart home buttons will add even more novelty and perhaps some real practicality to the product. 

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Imagine pressing one of the tiles to turn all the lights off in your home, or to open all the shades. Using the tiles as a tactile smart home command center is not only unique, it offers multiuser convenience that's similar to voice commands, but doesn't have the awkwardness of having to pause your human conversation to shout out an instruction. 

Then there are the updates that bring good-old fashioned convenience. Neato robot vacuums announced compatibility with Siri Shortcuts, that will go live this fall. You'll be able to use your voice to start, stop or pause cleaning as well as return the vacuum to its charging base or ask it to clean a specific area. Shortcuts are also coming to the Smarter Coffee Machine, allowing for simple commands like, "Hey Siri, make a small pot of coffee."

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Adding compatibility with more products makes Siri a more powerful assistant, something it's been lagging behind in for years now. Siri Shortcuts are one way Apple is making Siri more conversational. While it takes some effort on your part (you'll need to set it up and record your shortcut phrase), it pays off in the long run with a voice assistant that feels more intuitive. 

Apple's emphasis on privacy came across strong during its WWDC keynote presentation. Secure Video was the headliner on the smart home side, with Apple outlining aggressive data-storage policies to help ensure you stay in control of any recorded video clips. Another element of Secure Video is that it will standardize 10 days of free cloud video storage from any HomeKit-compatible video camera or video doorbell. One thing we still aren't sure of is whether Secure Video will come to existing HomeKit cameras, some of which offer paid subscriptions to store your video clips remotely. 

Logitech will be the first company to adopt Secure Video. It will be added to the existing Logitech Circle 2 home security camera later this year. 

Secure Video puts an interesting kink in security camera companies' economics. When revenue is based on not just the MSRP of a camera, but also the monthly subscription for a cloud storage service, Secure Video's 10 free days of cloud storage seems like a profit killer. 


I reached out to Logitech about the choice to integrate Apple's Secure Video into its product line and what that means for product pricing and the company's existing 14-day, $4-per-month video subscription. They told me there aren't any plans to change pricing, availability or storage for Circle Safe subscriptions.

Of course, a handful of product announcements came along with these HomeKit updates. Lifx announced a new HomeKit-compatible, $45 candle bulb with Polychrome technology that allows it to emit multiple colors at once for better customization.

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They're also working on a $70, meter-long light strip called the Z TV Light Strip, designed to go behind your TV, with what the company calls "uniquely addressable LEDs" that will be able to animate and display multiple colors at once. We've seen similar products from Dreamscreen and Philips that sync with the colors playing on your TV, but the Lifx Z TV strip won't do that. You'll set colors and animations from the Lifx app. Both Lifx products will be available in October. The light strip will be sold only at Best Buy

In a new feature coming Thursday, Moen is adding HomeKit compatibility to its U by Moen Smart Shower system. You'll be able to start your shower, control the temperature and navigate presets with Siri commands and add it to HomeKit scenes. 

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While thousands of smart home products work with Google and Alexa, a large portion of those still lack HomeKit compatibility. Some for competitive reasons, like Google Nest products, others simply because Apple's Siri voice assistant hasn't been good enough to be a priority for manufacturers. 

I'm all for expanding options for the HomeKit smart home. It's the least Apple can do to stay competitive with Google and Alexa. If it's going to keep in the conversation, consumers need more choices for their Siri-centered homes. These announcements are a step in the right direction, and this is what Apple has to do if it wants to keep a foot in the smart home space.