WWDC21 And The Updates to Apple Homekit

It’s that time of year where Apple announces a slew of updates and improvements to everything in its ecosystem, with HomeKit also part of that list. Whilst some of the things we’d hoped to see haven’t yet materialised, there were some welcome surprises, however;

What many would consider the biggest update in iOS 15 is the announcement of iCloud+, which will push access to HomeKit Secure Video (HSV) to more users essentially. At present, the minimum iCloud account to get just one camera working with HSV is the 200GB plan, so the free and 50GB plans available don’t support HSV, with the top-tier 2TB plan allowing up to 5 cameras with HSV. With iCloud+, everything has been shifted over in favour of the user, with a50GB plan now getting access to 1 HSV camera, the 200GB plan offering 5 HSV cameras, and the 2TB plan offering UNLIMITED HSV cameras! Pretty neat, and at no extra cost to the user, as the pricing remains the same for each tier.

HomeKit Video Doorbells will also get an upgrade, with parcel detection, being added to the list of smart detection types, which currently includes people, pet, and vehicle detection. Parcel detection is something many non-HomeKit video doorbells have had for a while, so it’s good to see Apple finally catching up in this respect.

HomeKit has improved via Apple TV also, so now you also get the option to see multiple feeds on one screen, as well as gaining the ability to control nearby accessories directly from the live feed from your cameras, which was something added to HomeKit in iOS14.

Apple will finally also opened up Siri functionality to select third party manufacturers and their devices. This will enable devices like the Ecobee 4 Thermostat to listen and respond using Siri, although this will still require a HomePod or HomePod Mini in the home, as Siri within these devices is merely a relay, with Siri technology not fully built into these devices. This is something that Amazon’s Alexa has been way ahead on, so this is a step up for wider access to Siri.

Support for smart locks has taken a step forward, with the possibility to add a ‘key’ for your door to your Apple Wallet. This is also a feature rolling out to select Hyatt Hotels worldwide. Although the U1 chip isn’t specifically mentioned in relation to this functionality for smart locks, the same basic update for the digital car keys will make use of the U1 chip, so it’s fair to assume this could be the case with locks, considering the iPhone 11 and later includes the U1 chip. A variety of manufacturers have signed onto this initiative, including Schlage and Aqara.

The supposed unifying protocol – known as Matter – also got a brief mention, stating that both HomeKit and Matter certified devices would appear in the Home app, although little more was elaborated on this subject.

As iOS15 gets refined, with the help of beta testers and developers, expect more news and updates on iOS15 as it relates to HomeKit.