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Smart Home

Wemo the first in new wave of easier-to-use HomeKit devices

After a software update, the Wemo Mini smart switch will become the first device to connect with HomeKit via software protocols, no MFi chip (or Wemo Bridge) necessary.

The Wemo Mini is now the first gadget to connect with HomeKit via software protocols -- no special chipset or additional gateway device necessary.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

That Wemo Bridge you bought the other year to connect your Wemo Mini smart switch with Apple HomeKit? Yeah, you won't be needing that any longer.

Starting July 19, the Wemo Mini will make use of Apple HomeKit's long-promised software protocols to connect directly with the iOS-based smart home platform, and with Siri. Just update your switch's software in the Wemo app, and you'll be all set. Wemo's team expects that the update will finish rolling out to all customers by next week.

At $35 each, the Wemo Mini lets users control things like lamps, coffee makers and desk fans from their phone, or automate them to turn on and off automatically. With HomeKit compatibility, Wemo users can also control things from Apple's Home app, or by using Siri voice commands on their iOS device of choice. Wemo, which is owned by Belkin, claims to have sold over a million Wemo Minis since the product first debuted in early 2017.

The team at Wemo also tells us that the Mini is the first HomeKit device to connect with the platform using Apple's software protocol instead of the MFi chipset that was initially required at HomeKit's launch. "No other non-chipped product has the ability to do the HomeKit authentication via a software update as of yet," a company spokesperson tells CNET.

The need for that chipset caused headaches at the time for the makers of smart home devices who had already released gadgets without it. Some, like August and Ecobee, ultimately rereleased "HomeKit-enabled" versions of their products -- much to the chagrin of customers who had already bought in. Other device makers simply chose to skip HomeKit in favor of other platforms that were easier to integrate with.

In that sense, the ability to connect with HomeKit via software instead of hardware represents a fairly significant step forward for the platform, and one that could make it easier for other existing devices to jump on board. That'd be a win for Apple, which has thus far struggled to keep up with Amazon and Google in terms of the quantity of devices that work with its smart home platform. Apple did not immediately return a request for comment.

For now, the Mini is the only Wemo gadget that'll take advantage of HomeKit's new software protocols, so you'll want to keep that Wemo Bridge around if you use any other Wemo gadgets in your home. That said, Wemo's team tells us that they're looking into updating the Wemo Dimmer's software in the same fashion later this year, so stay tuned.