Apple Announces iOS18 with Apple Home Updates

At WWDC24, Apple announced plans for its latest iteration of not only iOS, operating systems for Apple TV, iPad, and more. With iOS18, Apple Home users were given a few meaningful updates too.

Possibly the most requested feature is energy monitoring, which is something you tend to find only with apps for the smart plugs and lights you have. Eve is one example where their plugs have energy monitoring features that are only visible within their own app. With iOS18, you can monitor energy usage directly within the Home app. There are two caveats at play here, however; First of all, although it’s fair to assume this is measuring usage from you smart devices in Apple Home, like outlets, lighting etc, it’s not entirely clear how it works. The other more sobering point is that this is only for users in the US at present, and is confined to consumers using Pacific Gas & Electricity.

Another feature that is probably going to welcomed with open arms is something that expands on the Guest Access feature that comes with some smart locks. This feature is currently designed to allow Apple Home users to generate a passcode for their smart lock that they can then send to someone else, allowing them access to that home via the smart lock. This will be enhanced in iOS18 with access to more devices, like garage doors, and security systems, whilst still keeping full Apple Home access confined to users the administrator chooses to give it to – typically other members of the family living in the same home. This would be of use for AirBnB type properties that would typically not only include a smart lock, but a security system too.

The third feature is possibly something we won’t be seeing for a while, which is strangely something that already exists in a slightly different format anyway; namely auto unlock. This new feature, dubbed Express Mode, utilises the UWB chip (Ultra Wide Band) chip found in the iPhone 11 and later (as well as some Apple Watches) to detect another UWB chip in a smart lock, and automatically unlock your door when you’re within range – typically 1.9m or 6ft. UWB is already found in Apple’s own AirTags, and so it would rely on smart lock companies to adopt this type of chip in order for such a feature to work. At present, many smart locks going back a few years already deploy this type of functionality, but instead relying on the Bluetooth signal from a user’s phone to achieve the same result. Whether recently released locks from Aqara for example (U50, U200, U300), have the UWB chip sitting dormant inside is not known, but many of these manufacturers would almost certainly been made aware of Apple’s plans for this in advance. We shall see who’s first to make this a reality.

Finally to a hot topic for Apple Home – Robot vacuums; Matter has offered support for this category since Matter 1.2 (we’re now on 1.3), and as Apple Home supports Matter devices, you’d expect this to be a hand-in-glove scenario. However, it would seem with iOS17, whilst you can add a Matter compatible robotic to Apple Home, you’re confined to on/off. With iOS18, Apple promises the following;

The Home app now supports the core functionality of robot vacuum cleaners, such as power control, cleaning mode, vacuum, mop, and charge status. They can also participate in automations and scenes, and respond to Siri requests. So you can add them to your cleaning routines — or tell Siri to do some spot cleaning in the living room.

This all sounds promising, although bear in mind this still won’t include mapping any time soon. Still, in a year where most speculation didn’t expect much for Apple Home, these are some promising updates we’re looking forward to.

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