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Sunday, April 14, 2024

SwitchBot just announced the SwitchBot Lock Pro smart retrofit door lock

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SwitchBot just announced a new smart retrofit door lock with Matter support for US UK and EU door locks.
While this is not the first smart retrofit door-lock from SwitchBot, the new Lock Pro is an upgraded model from the previous SwitchBot Lock.


The new lock will cost 119 USD (139 GBP/139 EUR). You can also choose a bundle with the SwitchBot Hub Mini with Matter. Or the bundle with the additional keypad and Hub Mini.
If you opt for the latest bundle with the keypad, you can also unlock the door using pin codes, NFC tags, and fingerprint unlock. If you want Apple HomeKey support sadly the Lock Pro does not support HomeKey.

Pricing:

  • SwitchBot Lock Pro – $119.99 (£139.99 GBP/€139.99)
  • SwitchBot Lock Pro + Hub Mini with Matter $149.99 (£139.99/€159.99)
  • SwitchBot Lock Pro + Hub Mini with Matter + KeyPad – $199.99 (£139.99/€239.99)

Thanks to Matter, the lock will support all the major smart home platforms, such as Apple Home, Google Home, Alexa, and Smart Things. SwitchBot also, for the first time, shows HomeAssistnat support on their product page, which is nice to see. 


The Lock Pro works over Bluetooth. If you purchase the standalone Lock Pro, you must have an existing SwitchBot Hub Mini or the Hub 2. The Hub will add Wi-Fi support to the lock so you can lock and unlock your door while you are away. 
If you already own the Hub 2 with Matter then the Lock Pro will also support Matter.

Quick Key allows you to lock and unlcok your door with a single button press. Credit: SwitchBot

The Lock Pro offers multiple mounting plates and adaptors right in the box and, this time uses screws to mount over your existing door lock rather than 3M tape. 
The Lock Pro will support most US and European door locks such as the Euro Profile, UK Oval or the Swiss Round Cylinder.
You can check the compatibility with US deadbolt locks here for UK and EU locks click here. The installation instructions are here for US and here for UK and EU.

The Lock Pro will also feature a Quick Key lock and unlock. This will allow you to lock and unlock your door from the inside with a single press of a button on the lock itself. 

Four AA batteries can provide power for up to 9 months, or you can opt for the rechargeable dual power pack, which can last up to 12 months on batteries. The rechargeable dual power pack will be sold separately. Thanks to the magnetic battery cover, the batteries are also easily replaceable. 

Other features include: 

  • Auto Lock
  • Real-time notifications
  • Support for up to 100 fingerprints 
  • One time passcodes

Currently, the Lock Pro is on a prelaunch offer, which allows you to get it with a discount for $89.99 (£99.99/€99.99). The discount is available for all three bundles.
You can check the new SwitchBot Lock Pro here.

Software update for the HomePod and HomePod mini – version 17.4

Today Apple released a new software update for the HomePod and HomePod mini. The update comes out few days after the iOS software update v17.4

This update enables Siri to learn your preferred media service, so you no longer need to include the name of the media app in your request.
This update also includes the usual performance and stability improvements.

iPhone showing a screen with the HomePod and HomePod mini update - version 17.4

The update comes in at 2.58 GB in size.
The update will be installed automatically unless you have auto-updates turned off. You can also request the update manually from the Home app.

Nanoleaf Skylight Panels: Elevating lighting beyond traditional ceiling lights

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Nanoleaf started the New Year with exciting news by unveiling their new product. The Nanoleaf Skylight ceiling lights. The new Skylight ceiling panels are a replacement for your traditional ceiling lights or light fixtures and from the promotional imaged it looks fantastic.

The new Skylights will offer a modular flush-mounted design. The Skylight panels will also offer defused multipoint lighting, which should help to reduce shadowing, bringing nice and even light to your room. 

Nanoleaf will also introduce new scenes for the Skylight panels. Nanoleaf says that they took inspiration from the real sky. The new scenes are Sun Shower, Gentle Rain, and Shooting Stars.
The panels will most likely offer a per panel customisation so you can really find the perfect light based on your mood. 

The Skylight ceiling lights require a hardwired installation; each kit has one main control panel. Only the main panel will need to be hardwired. The other panels are connected to the controller using power and communication wires.
Each Skylight panel is 300 x 300 x 55 mm in size and provides 1400 lumens of brightness. The panels should offer more than adequate lighting to any room with this level of brightness.
The panels will offer a temperature range of 2700K – 6500K and 16M+ colors. 

As with any Nanoleaf product, it will support Screen Mirror, Music Sync, and Sync+ features. 

The Skylight panels will be compatible with Apple Home, Amazon Alexa, Google Home, SmartThings, IFTTT, and Razer Chroma. There is no word on Thread or Matter support, so as of writing this article, it is Wi-Fi-only lights. 

Price and availability

The Skylight panels will be available in four starter kits: 3 Pack, 6 Pack, 9 Pack, and 12 Pack, and are available for preorder from Nanoleaf with a 10% discount. 

  • The 3 Pack is available for 249,99 USD (249,99 EUR) 
  • The 4 Pack is available for 299,99 USD
  • The 6 Pack is available for 413,96 USD (464,99 EUR) from 459.96 USD (489,96 EUR)
  • The 9 Pack is available for 599,99 USD (656,99 EUR) from 669.93 USD (729,93 EUR)
  • The 12 Pack is available for 747,91 USD (823,99 EUR) from 879.90USD (969,90 EUR)

Each expansion panel will cost 69,99 USD (79,99 EUR) for one panel, and you can connect up to 99 panels to each main control panel. The panels will start shipping end of January 2024.

The new Skylight panels look fantastic. The only downside is the price. 249,99 USD for three light panels is steep. On the other hand, these lights should replace your ceiling lights or existing light fixtures. And if you compare them to the price of some existing regular light fixtures, the price makes more sense.
If you don’t go too crazy and connect 50 panels, you can keep the price within a reasonable limit. 

I can’t wait to test these out and try them out myself, and I would like to know your thoughts on these lights. 

You can click here (affiliate link) if you want to check the Nanoleaf Skylight Panels. If you live in the US, Nanoleaf also offers an additional 10% off with a discount code available at their website.

 

Eve’s exiting trio of products for 2024: Eve Energy Outlet, Eve Light Switch, Eve Blinds Collection

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The Eve, who recently started shipping their Eve Play audio streaming interface for AirPlay, announced three new products to end 2023.
Eve Energy Outlet, Eve Light Switch, and Eve Blinds Collection. Exiting trio of products to come in 2024. They will all feature Matter and Thread to expand Eve’s collection.

Eve Energy Outlet 

Eve Energy outlet will offer a simple way to integrate smart home capabilities into your wall outlets. While Eve already offers smart plugs, a traditional smart plug is designed to provide flexibility. The wall outlet will seamlessly integrate into your home, and you can replace any existing single or multi-gang installations. The Energy Outlet will be offered in white, so it should blend into your home like any other wall outlet. 

You can control your devices via Siri voice control. You can also set up scenes and automations just like you would do with a smart plug. HomeKit and Samsung SmartThings users will also have access to the already excellent energy monitoring. Eve has been offering this feature with their smart plugs for years now. 

Eve Light Switch

The light switch is designed to replace your existing light switches in your home without a need to replace any of your existing light bulbs. This will make your smart home more straightforward to manage. You can use Siri voice commands to turn your lights on or off, set schedules and scenes. Or control your lights while you are away from home. The Eve light switch can replace any of your existing single pole switches, or you can replace one of the 3-way switches with the Eve light switch. 

The light switch will feature Matter over Thread, so it can integrate seamlessly into your smart home regardless of which ecosystem you are currently using. The switch will also act as a Thread router so you can expand your Thread network and improve the stability of your Thread mesh network at home.  

The Eve Light Switch has been available in the EU for some time, but the US version looks much sleeker. 

Eve Blinds Collection

Until now, the Eve MotionBlinds has been available as a standalone upgrade for your existing blinds for those looking to upgrade their blinds. The new Eve Blinds Collection will be a curated collection of Eve-made-to-measure blinds. They will feature Eve MotionBlinds technology and Eve’s adapting Shading function. Using the Eve app, you can set up the blinds to open and close based on the sun’s position. 

The blinds will be made from high-quality material and will be available in semi-transparent and blackout options with insulating properties to help save energy.  

Availability

Eve Energy will be available from the Eve store and Amazon in the US and Canada for 49.95 USD beginning February 6th, 2024. The Eve Light Switch will be available in the 2nd quarter of 2024 for USD 49.95. The Eve Blinds collection will be available exclusively from the Eve Store in the US and Germany starting February 1st.

Hopefully, Eve will launch the EU and UK versions of the wall outlet too. It would be an excellent addition for smart home users in the EU and UK. And bring over the design of the light switch, too.  

As with any Eve product, no account registration or cloud requirements are needed, and all devices run locally.   

I believe this is the perfect announcement to end 2023 for Eve; let’s see what other products Eve will surprise us with in 2024.
Are you exited for the Eve energy outlet, Eve light switch and Eve blinds collection? Leave a comment below. 

Check out the Eve Door and Window sensor here. Also check the Eve smart plug here. Or the Eve Amazon store here. (Affil. Links)

Amazon Prime Big Deal Days – Fall 2023

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Every year, Amazon has a special Prime Big Deal Days for Amazon Prime subscribers. The Prime Deal Days last for two days only. Now it’s a great time to pick up some smart home products and save a buck, too.
At HomeTech, I have compiled a list of Smart Home products you may be interested in. The product list includes various brands and products ranging from lighting to security. I have also included some robotic vacuums and some Wi-Fi routers if you are just starting out with smart home and you are looking for a decent Wi-Fi router.

Amazon Devices

Amazon product bundles can be picked up with up to 70% discount.

  • Amazon Echo Dot (5th Gen.) with TP-link Kasa Smart Plug; click here to buy
  • Amazon Echo Pop with TP-link Kasa Smart Plug; click here to buy
  • Amazon Echo Dot (5th Gen.) with Philips Hue Color bulb; click here to buy
  • Ring video doorbell + Ring battery camera; click here to buy

Nanoleaf

  • Nanoleaf Shapes Mini Triangles Smarter Kit (9 pack) – 20% off; click here to buy
  • Nanoleaf 4D – TV Sync Camera and Smart Addressable Gradient Lightstrip Kit 20% off; click here to buy
  • Nanoleaf lines Starter kit (9 lines) – 20% off; click here to buy
  • Nanoleaf Elements Wood Look Hexagons (Smarter Kit (7 Panels) – 24% off; click here to buy
  • Nanoleaf Essentials WiFi Bluetooth & Thread Smart LED Lightstrip – 20% off; click here to buy

Eve

  • Eve Energy (Matter) – 20% off with coupon; click here to buy
  • Eve Door & Window sensor – 25% off with coupon; click here to buy
  • Eve Outdoor Cam White edition – 15% off with coupon; click here to buy
  • Eve Aqua – Smart Water Controller – 20% off with coupon; click here to buy

VOCOlinc

  • VOCOlinc Smart Cool Mist Humidifier 23% off; click here to buy
  • VOCOlinc RGBIC Neon Rope Lights10ft 20% off; click here to buy

SwitchBot

  • SwitchBot Hub 2 – 34% off; click here to buy
  • SwitchBot Blind Tilt Motorized Blinds – 20% off; click here to buy
  • SwitchBot Curtain 3 – 20% off, click here to buy
  • SwitchBot Bot – 21% off; click here to buy

Lutron

  • Lutron Caseta Dimmer switch – 49% off; click here to buy

Philips Hue

  • Philips Hue 60W A19 White and Color Ambiance bulbs (3 pack) – 44% off; click here to buy
  • Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Smart BulbStarter Kit – 25% off, click here to buy

Aqara

  • Aqara Video Doorbell G4 (Chime Included) Plus Aqara Smart Hub M2 – 3% off, click here to buy

Airversa

  • Airversa HomeKit Air Purifier – 20% off; click here to buy

Level Home

  • Level Lock+ Smart Lock with Apple Home Key – 19% off; click here to buy

Robotic Vacuums

  • Roomba j7+ ; click here to buy
  • ECOVACS DEEBOT X2 Omni Robot Vacuum and Mop; click here to buy

Wi-Fi routers

  • eero mesh WiFi system (3pack) – 41% off; click here to buy
  • TP-Link AX6600 Deco Tri-Band WiFi 6 Mesh System – 36% off; click here to buy
  • ASUS ZenWiFi AX6600 Tri-Band Mesh WiFi 6 System – 16% off; click here to buy

Hope you were able to find some products that you have been looking for or that have caught your interest. All links are Amazon affiliate links.

 

New SwitchBot Curtain 3 just announced

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SwitchBot just announced the all new SwitchBot Curtain 3. The company behind retrofit smart home products such as the SwitchBot Bot, SwitchBot Lock, or the SwitchBot Curtain, just announced a new 3rd generation of their smart curtain bots, the and improved SwitchBot Curtain 3.

SwitchBot Curtain 2 issues

The SwitchBot Curtain 2 was already a good product but wasn’t perfect. Many users complained about the noise of the Curtain 2. The noise wasn’t terrible but it was definitely noticeable.
Then there was the load the bot can handle. It was rated for curtains of up to 8kg in weight. It was not enough for many users as they had curtains heavier than that.
Also, users were not happy with the battery life of the previous gen. The Curtain 2 is rated for up to 8 months of battery life, and in my review testing, the battery life was excellent. Still, I can also understand that if you have heavy curtains, the battery life will be much shorter than that.

Everything new with the SwitchBot Curtain 3

SwitchBot improved on all three issues of previous Curtain 2 and then improved some more.

The first improvement will be the installation process. SwitchBot improved the buttons that connect the hooks to the main body, making it even easier to install. Improvements to an already easy installation are always welcome.

Next is the improvements made in the noise department. The new SwitchBot Curtain 3 will feature QuietDrive™ technology, and the noise level will be within 25dB when activated. This is a vast improvement in noise levels compared to Curtain 2, which had a noise level of just below 50 dB. The curtains will also move at a constant 5mm/s speed for a nice and smooth opening and closing experience.

SwitchBot also upgraded the motor, which can now push curtains of up to 16kg in weight. This is twice as much as the Curtain 2, so users with heavy curtains should now have a much better experience.

The battery life will also receive an upgrade thanks to the new solar panels for the Curtain 3. The previous gen also had optional solar panels available. But they required a light level of 6 or more to work effectively.
The new Curtain 3 solar panels support low-light charging, which means they will require less sunlight to generate power. They will also work on cloudy and rainy days.
The new solar panel will store energy generated from low light within the solar panel itself until it reaches a sufficient amount to provide a charge for the Curtain 3.

Compatibility & Features

The new SwitchBot Curtain 3 will come in the Rod and U-Rail track versions. You can check the compatibility here.
It will also support Matter, thanks to the SwitchBot Hub 2. The new Curtain 3 will also support all the features from the previous Curtain 2, such as the Touch&Go, Light Sensing, or time and temperature-based automations.

I am very excited about the new SwitchBot Curtain 3 as I use the Curtain 2 myself, and I can’t wait to try this new and upgraded version.

The price will be 89.99 USD which is 10 USD less than the previous version for a single pack.
You can sign up for a notification directly from SwitchBot here. You can check out other SwitchBot products here.

 

SwitchBot Curtain Rod 2 In-depth review: Make your curtains smart

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When it comes to smart homes, many people think of smart lights, door locks, thermostats or security cameras. But what about automating your curtains?
Automating my curtains was the last thing in the house that would have come to my mind. Who would have taught that you need smart curtains in your home? Well, SwitchBot did.
When they reached out to me and asked if I wanted to try their SwitchBot Curtain, of course, I had to try it.
The SwitchBot Curtain can turn almost any old curtains into smart automated curtains.

At the time of writing, I have used the Switchbot Curtain Rod 2 for the past five months. So how did it hold up? Is it any good? More importantly, do you need smart curtains?
To answer the last question, when I first installed the SwitchBot Curtain and showed it to my wife, her first words were – When will you order more for the rest of the rooms?

Pros

  • Easy to install
  • Inexpensive
  • Voice assistant support
  • Support for HomeKit (via Hub 2)
  • Convenient to have

Cons

  • A bit noisy

Disclaimer: This review was produced thanks to a review sample provided by SwitchBot. This does not influence the outcome of this review, and SwitchBot had no input on this review. All opinions expressed are my own and based on my experience using the SwitchBot Bot. You can check the Ethics Statement here.

What’s in the box

  • SwitchBot Curtain with a hook pair
  • USB type C charging cable 
  • Beads fixers
  • 4 Clips 
  • Extendable Rod helper

In the box, you will get everything to get you started with almost any curtain you may have. SwitchBot have a great help page on their website where you can check the compatibility of your curtains. Click here to check the SwitchBot help page.

Design

SwitchBot offers their SwitchBot Curtain for any curtain rail you may have in your home: Rod, U Rail, I Rail.
The SwitchBot Curtain comes in two colors. White and Black so you can choose a color that best matches your needs.
The body is plastic with an Anti-UV coating and houses a rechargeable battery. The front side of the Curtain Bot only has the SwitchBot logo. You will find the USB-C charging port, reset button, and indicator light with a light sensor on the backside. The top of the body houses the motorized wheel.
The hooks for the Rod 2 are made from metal and are easily extendable. They can fit curtain rods with a diameter of 15 to 40mm. On the top of the hooks, you will find the Curtain tracks with a set of wheels: one in front and one in the back. All the wheels have a rubber coating for better traction.
The Beads Fixer and Clip accessories are made of transparent and white plastic.

Depending on your type of curtains, the SwitchBot Curtain can be almost invisible once installed. On other types of curtains, such as the Tap Top or Ring Top, the Curtain Bot will be visible but, after a few days, will become unnoticeable as you will get used to it.

Installation

The installation was super easy. The SwitchBot app has a very good built-in user guide, so the entire installation took only a few minutes.

To turn on the Curtain bot, press and hold the button for two seconds until the indicator light starts to flash. You will likely have a new firmware update available, so you must update the firmware next. The update took less than a minute.
In the next step, you will need to choose which mode you will be using: “Open from a side” or “Open from the middle” After that, you will be asked to name your Curtain Bot and place it in a room.
Next, you must select the track type: U Rail, Rod, or I Rail. Since I have the Rod 2, I will select that at the next step. You will also need to choose the type of curtain you will use.
After this, you will get a complete installation guide based on the selected rail track and curtain type.

Once you have installed the Curtain Bot on your curtain rail, the last step that you need to complete is the calibration. The Curtain Bot needs to learn the length of your track.
There are two modes available for calibration: Automatic and Manual. In the Automatic mode, the Bot will start to go left and right on your rail track and find the start and end points automatically.
In manual mode, you will need to define the start and end points manually by positioning your Bot at the start and end of your track using the app.

After the calibration process is complete and you have a Hub nearby, it will be detected automatically, and you can choose to link your Curtain Bot to the Hub to enable voice control.
Once the full set-up is completed, you can ask your favourite voice assistant to open and close your curtains.

Features

The SwitchBot Curtain offers plenty of automation features to fit your needs. You can also pair it with additional SwitchBot accessories to bring the most out of it. Mind you, for most things, you will want to and need to.

Additional accessories: 

  • SwitchBot Hub mini
  • SwitchBot Hub 2
  • SwitchBot Meter / Meter Plus
  • SwitchBot Remote
  • SwitchBot Solar Panel for Curtain

The SwitchBot Curtain works over Bluetooth and connects to your phone directly. This is not very convenient. You need to pull out your phone and find the SwitchBot app whenever you want to open or close the curtains. It’s way faster and easier to walk up to them and open or close them yourself and eliminates the entire purpose of the Curtain Bot.

However, you can unlock the SwitchBot Curtain’s potential when you pair it with the SwitchBot Hub Mini or the Hub 2.
You can enable cloud access and voice assistant support when paired with a hub. Now it becomes much easier to control your curtains as you can ask your favorite assistant to open and close them for you.

SwitchBot Hub Mini required for voice assistant support

If you are a HomeKit user, I suggest the Hub 2 over the Hub Mini. If you use HomeKit and you pair the Curtain Bot with the Hub mini, you can only use Siri voice commands via the Shortcuts app. If you pair it with the Hub 2, you can use Siri natively, as the Hub 2 supports Matter, and the curtains will appear in the Apple Home App.
If you use Alexa or Google Home, you will be just fine with the cheaper Hub mini.

Once you experience automated curtains it is very difficult to go back.

 

You can also pair the SwitchBot Curtain with the SwitchBot Remote. A simple two-button remote control that you can place anywhere in your home. It comes with a wall mount so you can mount it on your wall. You can use one button to open and the other to close the curtains. If you don’t need voice assistant support, consider the remote as an alternative. The remote connects to the Curtain via a direct Bluetooth connection for reliable local control. I would highly recommend the remote if you will be buying the Curtain Bot.

Image showing the SwitchBot remote with the wall mount that is Paired to the SwitchBot Curtain
SwitchBot remote with wall mount holder

You can use the built-in light sensor to set up automations based on the amount of light that comes through your windows. You get a chart that shows you the light level, and based on that, you can set up on which days you want the curtains to open and close or how far they should open and close. You can also check the light level your SwitchBot curtain receives before you opt-in for the optional solar panels. Light level six is a minimum requirement for the solar panels to work.

Screenshot showing the light sensing data from the SwitchBot app that was collected by the SwitchBot Curtain
Light Sensing can be used for automation, or check the light level for the optional solar panel

You can automate your curtains based on the temperature when paired with the SwitchBot Meter or the Meter Plus. If it gets too hot, the curtains can close automatically. When the temperature drops, they can open. You can also restrict the time the automation is active to avoid opening and closing your curtains at night.

You can also set up simple automation that opens and closes the curtains at a specific time of the day. So you can set it as your morning routine. Keep in mind that if you will be using it in the bedroom and you are a light sleeper, the sound of the curtains opening might wake you up.

Another feature is the Touch&Go which still provides a manual way of opening and closing the curtains. Pull slightly on the curtains, and the motor will activate opening or closing your curtains. You have a split curtain? No problem. The Touch&Go feature will open both sides automatically.

Performance

Let’s move on to performance. There are two modes for the SwitchBot Curtain: Performance mode and Silent mode. By default, the Curtain Bot will be in performance mode, but if you prefer, you can easily switch to silent mode in the app.
In the performance mode, the curtains will open at the maximum speed. In silent mode, the curtains will open and close more slowly with reduced noise. But there is little difference between the two modes, and it will be almost unnoticeable.
In my testing, I found that the performance mode is acceptable regarding noise levels; however, the noise may bother some people.
If you don’t care about the speed your curtains will open or close, you can use the silent mode. I found both methods to be perfectly fine. Again there will be little difference between the two modes.

I will use my living room curtains as an example to give you an idea of the two modes. I have double-sided curtains meaning that they are split in the middle. The total rod length is three meters, so each Curtain Bot has to cover 1.5 meters (4 ft.)
In performance mode, it takes 16 seconds for the curtains to open and close, and I measured a noise level of 47 dB. It took 17 seconds in silent mode, and the noise level was 43 dB.
As you can see from the measured noise level, it’s nothing too crazy. To give you a perspective a whisper is around 30 dB, and a typical conversation is approximately 60 dB.
However, the whining noise of the motor can make it unpleasant for some people.

Battery life is also great. SwitchBot claims eight months of battery life on a full charge.
When I installed the SwitchBot Curtain, it had an 87% battery. After five months, there is 27% battery left. So the battery life should be on par with what SwitchBot is claiming. Not to metion I used it much more frequently during my testing before settling into a daily routine, and most of my testing was in performance mode, which I use daily.
You can add optional solar panels to your SwitchBot Curtain, keeping the battery topped up. For the solar panels to work and provide optimal charging, you must have at least a light level of 6 and above. You can check this in the app; however, I suggest buying the Curtain bots first and after a few days once you have enough light data you pick up the solar panels afterward.

Conclusion

The SwitchBot Curtain is great. It’s easy to use and install, but how much does it cost?
Well, the SwitchBot Curtain costs 85 EUR (99 USD). You will need two Curtain bots if you have a split curtain like me.
Then there are the other accessories to consider, like the Hub, that you will need if you want voice assistant control. The Hub mini cost 35 EUR (39.00 USD), and the Hub 2 is 79.99 EUR (69.99 USD). Then there are the solar panels which are 25 EUR (19 USD).
You can see that the cost starts to add up. On the other hand, the Hubs will give you additional benefits.
Either Hub has a built-in IR blaster so you can control your Air Condition or any old IR devices you have.
If you use Google Home or Alexa, you can start to control them by voice.

To answer the question from the beginning: Do you really need smart curtains? The answer is No. But once you automate your curtains, it is very difficult to go back.
And the SwitchBot solution remains much cheaper even if you factor in the additional accessories than a professional install solution, as you don’t need to replace something you already have and have new tracks and rails fitted.
Will I be ordering more? Yes, I will definitely order more for the rest of my rooms.

SwitchBot also runs frequent deals, so you can get discounts if you buy more than one unit or go for combo deals. Plus, you don’t have to equip your entire house at once.
SwitchBot also offers a 30-day return period, so you can always get one and see for yourself.

SwitchBot Curtain Review Rod 2
Final Thoughts
The SwitchBot Curtain is fantastic if you are looking to automate your curtains. They are inexpensive compared to a professional solution and easy to install.
Pros
Convenient to have
Easy to install
Inexpensive
Lot of automation options
Voice assistant support (requires Hub)
Cons
A bit niosy
95

Full Specs

Dimensions 84x76x143 mm (3.3×3.0x5.6 in.)
Weight 285g
Color White/Black
Material ABS plastic with Anti-UV coating
Power Battery powered
Battery life approx. 8 months
Battery type Built-in rechargeable Lithium ion
Mode Performance/Silent
Connectivity Bluetooth 5.0/Long Range
Range 80m/262ft. with a direct line of sight
Compatibility Android 5.0+ / iOS 11+ / watchOS 2.2+
Voice assistants Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Siri Shortcuts
Third-party services IFTTT, Smart Things, Home Assistant
Price 85 EUR, 99 USD, 85 GBP, 1299.99 CAD

 

This review was produced after five months of using the SwitchBot Curtain provided by SwitchBot. The opinions in this article are my own, and SwitchBot had no editorial input in writing this review. They are reading it for the first time right alongside you. You can check out the HomeTech Ethics Statement here.

Affiliate links:
If you want to check out SwitchBot Curtain and other SwitchBot products, click here.
If you want to purchase the SwitchBot Curtain directly from SwitchBot, click here.
Amazon links: Amazon.com

Xiaomi App Update Ver. 8.7.203

Today Xiaomi released a new app update version 8.7.203

This update only brings bug updates. No new features have been released.
Have to wait till the next update to see if Xiaomi will bring any exiting updates to the app.

iPhone Showing the Xiaomi app update available in the Apple App Store.

For more smart home news follow HomeTech on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Mastodon.

 

SwitchBot App update Ver. 7.4

SwitchBot have released a new update for their SwitchBot app. The new update version 7.4  includes a new feature for the Hub 2, updates for the Meter and Meter Plus. Also new notification improvements to for the SwitchBot cameras and new an improved experience for the Curtains calibration process for users who were having issues with the SwitchBot Curtain.

iPhone Showing the SwitchBot app update available in the Apple App Store.

The Hub 2 now supports chart display and alert condition settings for the absolute humidity dew point and VPD (Vapour-pressure deficit).

If you own the Meter or the Meter Plus you will now have a calendar feature including charts.
And if you own the SwitchBot cameras there should be an improvment in the alerts and notification system.

I will be testing all these features in the new app update. The new alerts for the cameras might be a welcome improvement.

For more smart home news follow HomeTech on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Mastodon.

Eve app update with Matter support is here

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Today Eve has released a new app update with official Matter support. While Eve already offered support for Matter from December 2022, it was only available if you had signed up through Eve’s website. You also had to use the Eve app downloaded via the Test Flight app. That means it was not available to all users.

Now, the 6.0 update to the Eve app brings full support for Matter-enabled devices.

What is Matter?

If you haven’t been following the smart home tech news for a while, you may wonder what Matter is. Matter is a new smart home communication standard to solve compatibility issues across different smart home ecosystems. It is backed up by the biggest tech giants such as Google, Amazon, Apple, and Samsung.
If you are a HomeKit user, you must look for products with the “Works with HomeKit” logo. The same is true for Google and Alexa. Also, if you use Google or Alexa, some products will not work with these platforms as they are HomeKit-only products, such as Eve products.
More and more smart home companies are either updating their existing products or releasing new products with Matter support.
In the future, you should be able to walk into the shop and pick the product you want without having the need to check the compatibility with the ecosystem you are using.

Eve Matter-supported devices

After you update the app to version 6.0, you can upgrade all your eligible Eve Devices to Matter.

    • Eve Door & Window (3rd generation)
    • Eve Energy (Australia 2nd generation)
    • Eve Energy (Europe, 4th generation)
    • Eve Energy (U.K., 3rd generation)
    • Eve Energy (U.S. & Canada, 4th generation)
    • Eve Motion (3rd generation)

You can find the full list on Eve’s website, which you can visit here.

Screenshot showing Eve app with Matter available Matter upgrade

Should you upgrade?

If you exclusively use HomeKit, there is no need to upgrade to Matter as there are no benefits for you after the upgrade. If you, however, use other platforms too, or you want to use them in the future, such as Google or Alexa, and you want to use those platforms with Eve devices, then yes, you should upgrade to Matter.
I will be testing all the Matter functionality, including upgrading and adding the devices to other platforms, and will report back with my findings.

The new HomeKit architecture upgrade is back

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Apple released a new iOS 16.4 update yesterday. With the latest iOS update, Apple also released an update for the HomePod and HomePod mini. The update has nothing significant to offer by itself, just the usual general bug fixes. But there is one exciting update, the re-introduction of the upgraded HomeKit architecture.

Screenshot showing the new Apple HomeKit architecture update being available in the Apple Home App

History

The new architecture upgrade was introduced with the iOS 16.2 update in December 2022; however, it wasn’t without issues. After the upgrade, many users complained that their HomeKit devices were not working as they were supposed to.
Many users were stuck with broken, unresponsive devices in the Home app. Users also could not invite other family members to join the home.
After many user complaints, Apple pulled the option to upgrade to the new architecture.

I did not manage to upgrade to the new architecture the first time, so I can not report on my own experience with it. This time round it’s upgrade time.

HomeKit architecture is back

With the new iOS 16.4, the HomeKit architecture update is yet again available to smart home users. Apple reportedly fixed the issues causing the problems and is confident that users will not experience the same problems as before this time.

First Update, then Upgrade

Ready to upgrade to the new architecture? If you want to upgrade the HomeKit architecture for your home, you will need to update to the latest iOS 16.4
Make sure all your home home home hubs have been updated as well.
As well as updating your home hubs, you must update all the devices you will use to access the Home app.

If you have more than one Apple device linked to your iCloud account with access to your home, you will get a warning during the upgrade process. The warning will show all the devices that haven’t been updated yet.
This warning will only show the devices linked to your iCloud account. It will not include your family members’ devices, so make sure you update those devices before you proceed with the upgrade.

If you choose not to update some of your devices, you will not be able to control your home from those devices.

Screenshot showing the new HomeKit architecture upgrade Set-up screen
Warning before upgrade that you may loose control of your home on some devices that do not run the latest iOS 16.4

Upgrade time

Once you have updated all the devices, open the Home app, tap the three dots in the top right corner, and select Home Settings.
Scroll down and select Software Update, and you will see the HomeKit architecture update.

iPhone showing a screenshot with the new HomeKit architecture update option being available.
New HomeKit Architecture upgrade available in the Home app after updating the HomePod or HomePod mini software to 16.4

Tap on it and follow the on-screen instruction. After a few minutes or so, you should see the ” Home Upgrade Complete” screen. The time it will take will depend on how many devices you have. Once done, you can tap “Done” and the upgrade is completed.

Screenshots showing the HomeKit architecture upgrade process
The upgrade involves only 3 easy steps

At this point, you should wait a few minutes and give time for the home app to refresh. I got a few “No Response” messages on some of my devices for a few seconds. But after the messages disappeared, everything was working fine.

Post upgrade

After the upgrade, I found that the devices respond slightly faster than before. But it is not something you will notice unless you are really looking for it. Also, the Home app seems to load much quicker, and the device status updates faster when you open the app. So so far, the update has been working fine.

Possible issues

There are some reports that some of the matter-enabled devices may not work as intended. If that is the case, just reset the device and re-add it to your home.
At this moment I do not have any matter-enabled devices in my home yet, or at least they have not been added, so I did not have any issues for now.

I will test the new HomeKit architecture for a few days and report any issues. I will also add some Matter-enabled devices and see if there are any issues specifically with Matter-enabled devices.
After a few days I will report any problems I find.

SwitchBot Bot review: Tiny button-pressing robot that can turn any dumb switch into a smart one.

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SwitchBot made its name with this tiny little button-pressing robot that almost instantly can turn any light switches or buttons into connected smart switches. The SwitchBot Bot is a small battery-powered device with a small retractable arm that will push switches and buttons for you. I’ve been testing the SwitchBot Bot for over three weeks, and it works without issues. So let’s take a closer look at the SwitchBot Bot review: Tiny button-pressing robot that can turn any dumb switch into a smart one.
 

Pros

  • Easy to install
  • Turns almost any switch or button into a smart switch
  • Cheaper than dedicated light switches
  • Supported by Home Assistant

Cons

  • Not the most attractive solution
  • Hub is required for voice assistants

Disclaimer: This review was produced thanks to a review sample provided by SwitchBot. This does not influence the outcome of this review, and SwitchBot had no input on this review. All opinions expressed are my own and based on my experience using the SwitchBot Bot. You can check the Ethics Statement here

Why do you need a smart robot that can push buttons and switches for you? Well, you don’t. Nowadays, you can buy a smart version of pretty much any home appliance or accessory, from bulbs, plugs, light switches, fans, and so on. But not everyone has the knowledge or the know-how on how to replace electrical switches. And also, not everybody has the budget to replace every wall switch in their house, which can be pricey. Or you may be living in a rental apartment, and it is not worth going through the trouble of replacing wall switches. Well, that is where the SwitchBot Bot can make your dumb devices smart.

What’s in the box

In the box, you will find the Bot with a preinstalled adhesive pad, a spare adhesive pad, two sticky pads with a hook for light switches when using the Bot in switch mode, preinstalled CR2 3V battery, and a user guide.

SwitchBot Bot box Content
Box Content

Design

The Bot comes in two colors. White and Black. The design of the SwitchBot Bot is simple—a small plastic rectangle with a retractable arm in the top middle. The body of the Bot is made out of nice quality mat plastic. On the bottom, you will find a preinstalled sticky pad that sticks the Bot on a flat surface in front of a button or a switch you want to control. You will find a notch to remove the battery cover on the right side.

The battery cover is easy to remove and requires no tools. Once the battery cover is removed, you can swap the battery very easily. On the front cover, you will also find the SwitchBot logo.
At the end of the retractable arm, you will find an integrated cutout which is used with the included add-on sticky pads with a hook when used in switch mode.
Overall the Bot feels very well put together, sturdy, and dense. It feels much more expensive than it is.

Installation

The installation process is straightforward and can be completed in seconds. You will need to download the SwitchBot app first. The app is available for both Android and iOS devices. After you have downloaded the app, pull the battery pull tab to activate the Bot, and in just a few moments, it will automatically appear in the app under the “Bots nearby tab.” Tap the Bot tile inside the app, and it will start working immediately.

SwitchBot Bot app showing the detected Bot nearby
Bot detected by the SwitchBot app

You can start using your Bot or go through the installation guide and add the Bot to a room by pressing the plus + icon in the top right corner. You will go through a guide with the steps on how to mount the Bot to your switches. A video guide is also available during the process if you prefer a video guide.
Find a suitable place for it and mount it to your light switch, coffee machine, or any other button or switch that you need to push remotely, and the setup and installation are complete. If you will go down this route and add the Bot via the “add new device option” rather than have the Bot in the “Bots nearby” tab, you should probably add the rooms to your home first, as you will not be able to create rooms during the process so you will have to go back, create the room(s) and then go through the guide again.

This aside, the installation process was super easy, and the bot shows up instantly once you open the app. Then it is just a matter of sticking it to a switch.

 

Performance

I was surprised by how powerful this little robot can be for a battery-powered device. It can press most buttons and switches without any issues whatsoever. It can, however, struggle with switches that require more power to be pressed.
I have a few switches at home that the Bot struggled with, like the switch for the water boiler switch; however, those switches require much more force to be pressed. The Bot will also struggle or not be able to press switches that are smaller or have unusual shapes.
Make sure that your switches and buttons are compatible with SwitchBot before purchasing. Where it excelled was everything else. Any compatible switches were no problem. I tested it on a coffee maker, which was also working very well. I could even turn on my desktop PC remotely using the Bot.

The Bot is powered by one 3V CR2 battery. The battery life should last up to 600 days, so you shouldn’t need frequent battery swaps. The battery life will depend on how often you use it, of course.
The sticky pad on the Bot is impressive too. Once you stick it to a surface, you will need quite a bit of power to remove it again, so make sure the place it exactly where you want it.

The bot uses Bluetooth for connectivity. Either it connects directly to your phone or the Hub if you are using one. I’m using the Bot connected to the Hub mini and never had any connection issues. It is very stable, and the Bot was always responding to all the requests made.

Features

The SwitchBot Bot has two available modes. One mode is the “press mode,” where the Bot presses a button once.
You can also configure the Bot to press and hold the button down for a few seconds—neat detail for controls that require a press-and-hold action. The maximum number of seconds available for the hold feature is 60 seconds.

The second mode is the “switch mode.” In this mode, you can configure the Bot to perform an On/Off function using the included sticky pad with a hook. When you switch to this mode in the app, the arm used to press switches will be exposed and won’t fully retract.
Then, when you use the On function, the arm presses the switch, and when you use the OFF function, the arm will pull the switch back up using the sticky pad. You can also use schedules inside the SwitchBot app and other SwitchBot products to trigger automations; however, you can only use simple automations.

 

Not so good

The Bot is a Bluetooth device only. By default, the Bot will be limited by the Bluetooth range on your phone. If you want to use Alexa or Google Assistant and be able to control it while you are away from home or use voice control, you must use the Hub mini or the new Hub 2 announced earlier this year. So the cost of the Hub is something to consider. The other thing is that once the Bot is installed, some buttons might be hard to press if you still want to use them manually.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the SwitchBot Bot is an excellent little device that can make your life easier while adding convenience. It’s definitely not for everyone and, depending on the use case, not the prettiest. But in cases where you can’t go smart or for hard-to-reach switches or buttons, it is a very good solution. The installation process is simple, and the app is easy to use, making it a great choice for anyone looking to upgrade their home’s switches and buttons or use it in other smart home projects.

If you want to check out SwitchBot and SwitchBot products, you can do it here.

SwitchBot Bot
SwitchBOt Bot Review
Final Thoughts
The SwitchBot Bot is a great little smart home device that can push your switches and buttons for you, but for cases where you can not use a dedicated smart switch.
Pros
Easy to install
Turns almost any switch or button into a smart switch
Cheaper than dedicated light switches
Supported by Home Assistant
Cons
Not the most attractive solution
Hub is required for voice assistants
75

Very Good

 

Full Specs

Dimensions 43x37x42 mm
Weight 42g
Color White/Black
Power Battery powered
Battery life 600 days
Battery type CR2 3V
Mode Press/Switch
Connectivity Bluetooth 4.2/Bluetooth mesh support
Range 80m/260ft. with a direct line of sight
Voice assistants Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Siri Shortcuts
Third-party services IFTTT, Smart Things, Home Assistant
Price 29.99 EUR, 29.99 USD, 29.99 GBP, 39.99 CAD

SwitchBot’s new Hub 2 now with Matter support

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SwitchBot made its name by making tiny smart home products, more notably the SwitchBot Bot, the button-pressing robot. Since then, it has expanded its product line with an entire ecosystem of products. Now SwitchBot brings a new Hub 2 with Matter support.

Matter is the new communication standard for smart home products that enable cross-platform compatibility regardless of which smart home ecosystem you have. SwitchBot is also joining to support Matter for its products as more brands start to support this new standard.


SwitchBot announced the new Hub 2 at CES 2023 to bring Matter support to its product line. The SwitchBot Curtain will be the first product to receive Matter in late February when the Hub 2 officially launches.
The new Hub 2 will be a Wi-Fi hub with mesh Bluetooth support for SwitchBot products. It will also retain the IR functionality from the Hub Mini, enabling support for all kinds of IR devices.

4 in 1 Hub

The Hub 2 is a bit unique compared to other hubs from other brands. Instead of a simple black or white square or rounded box that you just want to hide somewhere, SwitchBot added extra functionality to the Hub 2.
One of the biggest and most prominent features is an LED screen. The display will show the current temperature and humidity levels from the built-in temperature and humidity sensors. The LED screen can also change brightness automatically, as a built-in light sensor is also available. It’s a nice feature to have, so you are not blinded by the screen at night.

“The Hub 2 might be a hub you actually don’t want to hide.”

The Hub 2 also features two scene buttons on the front. You can program the buttons in the SwitchBot app, allowing you to control up to two scenes or two individual devices. The IR functionality has improved with a much more extensive range than the Hub Mini.

Features in a nutshell

    • Wi-Fi Hub with Matter support
    • Mesh Bluetooth support
    • LED screen
    • Temperature and Humidity sensors
    • Two programable scene buttons
    • IR control function


You can see the Matter support demo from CES here:

Pricing was not yet made available. The article will be updated once the official pricing is announced.

You can check out SwitchBot by clicking here. (Affiliate link)

 

Apple unexpectedly announced a new HomePod

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The original HomePod was discontinued back in March 2021. Today Apple unexpectedly announced a new full-sized HomePod.

The 2nd generation full-sized HomePod has more features compared to the original. While there is not much difference in sound apart from what Apple calls computational audio, there are some new features in terms of connectivity.

Audio

The 2nd generation HomePod will also feature a room sensing technology much like the original. It means it can detect if it was placed on a TV table close to the wall or is freestanding, and then it adapts the sound in real-time. The HomePod has one center 4-inch high-excursion woofer and an array of five beamforming of tweeters.

Here is what Apple has to say about the audio:

Woofer
“A high excursion woofer packs HomePod with deep, rich bass. Its powerful motor drives the diaphragm a remarkable 20 mm, while its bass‑EQ mic dynamically tunes low frequencies in real time. Superclean bass. Fills the room. Boom.”

and tweeters
“HomePod has an array of five beamforming tweeters around its base. They optimize high frequencies to produce detailed, articulate audio with stunning clarity. So you can enjoy crystal-clear vocals and all the details of the instruments — just as if you were there in person.”

You can still use the multiroom audio by asking Siri to hold the touch surface at the top.

Internal parts of the Apple HomePod
Source: Apple


The 2nd generation HomePod will also support Dolby Atmos, and you can create a stereo pair for an immersive movie-watching experience.
Remember that you will need a HomePod of the same generation to create a stereo pair. That means you can only create a stereo by combining two HomePod minis or two full-sized HomePods of the same generation.
If you already own one the 1st gen, HomePod, and you will purchase the 2nd gen. hoping that you can create a stereo pair, it will unfortunately not be the case.

Source: Apple. To create a stereo pair, you must use a HomePod of the same generation.

Smart home connectivity

The 2nd generation HomePod will support Thread and Matter for smart home connectivity and feature built-in temperature and humidity sensors.
This is the main difference between the new HomePod and the old one.
The new HomePod will also feature an S7 chip and a U1 chip which should improve the handoff feature.
Later this spring, Apple will support sound recognition, which will be used to listen for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. If a sound from the alarm is detected, you will receive a notification.
For the Sound recognition to work, you will need to have all devices updated to the latest software, and you need to upgrade your home to the new architecture that was recently released and then pulled back by Apple. The new Architecture upgrade will be available again in the upcoming iOS 16.3 update.

Pricing and availability

Apple HomePod in White and Midnight colors
Source: Apple

The HomePod will be available in 2 colors, Midnight and White. It is open to order for 299 USD. It is also available in AustraliaCanadaChinaFranceGermanyItalyJapanSpain, the UK, the US, and 11 other countries and regions starting today, with availability beginning Friday, February 3. 

Pricing will vary based on the country. In Germany, the HomePod will be available for 349 EUR, in Canada for 399 CAD, and in Australia for 479 AUD. 

 

Google Nest and Android devices are now Matter compatible

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Matter is now available on Google Nest and Android devices. Google completed the initial rollout to enable Matter on its devices. Setting up smart home devices will become much easier.
To be compatible with Matter, your Android device needs to run Android 8.1 and up, Google Play Services 22.48.14, and the Google Nest devices must have the latest firmware. You can click here to check the latest firmware update available for your device. 

Here is a list of devices that gained Matter support: 

  • Nest Mini
  • Nest Audio
  • Nest Hub (1st gen)
  • Nest Hub (2nd gen)
  • Nest Hub Max
  • Nest WiFi Pro
  • Google Home
  • Google Home Mini

Google Nest devices are receiving updates automatically, so chances are that you are on the latest firmware already. To check the firmware version you are running, open the Google Home app > touch and hold on the device’s tile > tap settings and check Device Information. Scroll down, and you will see it under Technical information.

More devices should be updated in 2023.

Google Nest Mini Showing Matter Firmware update


If you fall into the above category and have all the latest updates installed, you can now control Matter-enabled devices using your Google Nest. At the moment, you can only use an Android device to pair Matter devices to Google Home. iOS users will need to wait until 2023. Google said it would be in early 2023, so hopefully, it will be released in the first few weeks.


Google joined Apple and Samsung in enabling Matter for smart home devices. Amazon should also join before the year’s end.

Apple released a new software update for the HomePod and HomePod mini – update 16.2

Apple released its new iOS 16.2 for the iPhone and iPad, which means the latest software version for the HomePod mini is out.
The new update is 467.7 MB and includes general performance and stability improvements.

This update is a minor update on its own. However, if you have already updated to iOS 16.2, you can switch to the new Home architecture. The new home architecture is promised to be faster and more reliable.

To make the switch to the new architecture, all your home hubs need to be upgraded to 16.2.
The update will be installed automatically if you have enabled auto-updates; otherwise, you will receive a notification in your home app.
If you do not see a notification, you can request the update from the Home app by opening the HomePod settings.

Software update 16.2 for HomePod mini and Home Pod shown on screenshot
16.2 update now available for the HomePod and HomePod mini

If you want to keep up to date with the latest Smart home news, you can follow HomeTech on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Mastodon.

Create a cleaning list for Roomba using Siri Shortcuts

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Robotic vacuum cleaners are becoming ever more popular. One of the most popular brands is iRobot and their Roomba robotic vacuums. Roomba can clean your home and save time, you may say. Having the robot clean your home while you are away is very convenient. Right? Well, if you have been a robotic vacuum cleaner owner for some time, you have probably realized that it is not always as easy and convenient as many might think. And now I’m not talking about cleaning. That part is great, well, most of the time. I’m talking about getting the robot to clean, as it’s not always simple or quick.

The controls…

So you got yourself a shiny new Roomba and can’t wait to use it. However, after the excitement disappears, you will realize that you only have two options to control your robot. Well, three, if you are old school and want to use the clean button.
You can use voice commands using Siri, for which support was only recently added, or the iRobot app.
For the most part, both options are great.
Use the iRobot app and select which rooms you want to clean or which clean zone you want. Need to clean only one room? The app can do that too. Do you want your robot to make two passes in the same room? Yes, the app can do that too.
Laying comfortably on the couch and your phone is not within reach, ask Siri. All is perfect. Almost.

The not-so-good…

But what if using Siri is not convenient for you at specific times? For example, when you are at work. Or you do not want to use the app simply because it takes ages to send Roomba to clean a room. Know what I mean?
You must open the app, wait for the app to connect, tap the new job button, select a specific room, and click start. There are too many taps when you only want to clean one room.
And at times, it can take a moment or two or three for the app to connect. And the worst part is that you have to wait for the app to connect before you are allowed to select the rooms to clean.

For some, using Siri is not convenient, and you will always use the app. And it just takes forever when you do it often.

The easy way …

What if there was a way to make all this easier and be just one or two taps away? Use the shortcuts app and create widgets that you can place on your home screen, right? NO. To have one widget taking up space of four app icons is not a solution. Besides, you can only clean one room with the shortcuts widget.
Use the other available widgets that the shortcuts app offers. Right? Well, again, no. You will have more options available, but it will take up even more space on your home screen. None of the options is good enough for me.

iPhone with Siri Shortcuts widgets on screen
The Shortcut widgets take too much space on the screen

Well, good news because you can have all your cleaning options just two taps away. And the best part is the Shortcut will blend in with your other apps thanks to the Shortcuts app. It is a much faster method that only takes two taps. It is way more convenient when you can not talk to Siri for one reason or another. Or you do not want to wait for the app to connect to your robot.
I will show you step by step how you can set up a nifty Shortcut that allows you to choose which rooms you want to clean. The options we are about to create are fully customizable to fit your needs, so feel free to change them as you see fit.

Screenshot showing a cleaning list created for Roomba using the Siri Shortcuts App
A cleaning list was created using Siri Shortcuts

The iRobot app

You will need the iRobot and Shortcut apps to set up our cleaning Shortcut. You can download the Shortcuts app from the App Store if you do not have it. Also, this list was created using the Roomba S9+, so your robot should also support the smart imprint navigation map.
To make our list work, we first need to add our Siri Shortcuts through the iRobot app. To do that, open the iRobot app, tap on the Menu, select Smart Home, then Voice assistants and Siri shortcuts. 

iPhones showing screens from the iRobot app

You will see a list of all the available actions you can add to Siri. The list is based on your home, so it may differ from what you see here, but the steps will be the same. 

From the list, tap the plus button next to each action you want. If you like, you can customize the Hey Siri phrase on the next screen. This is the phrase you will use when you ask Siri to send Roomba to clean. 

iPhones showing screens from the iRobot app

You can change it if you like or you can tap done. 

When the Shortcut is added, you will see the plus button is replaced with the specific command.
Do this for all your rooms or the clean zones you want. You can even add the actions like pause or send the robot home.
You can do this for multiple rooms if you have saved your favourites and added Siri support.
Once you are happy with your selection, you can close the iRobot app, as we will no longer need it in this tutorial.

Creating the Shortcut

Now that you have added all the shortcuts you want to use, open the Shortcuts app, and we will start creating our list.
Now it’s an excellent time to organize the Shortcuts that were added. This is an optional step.
But if you want to have all your iRobot shortcuts, you just added all in one place, tap Edit and once the icons start to jiggle, select all the iRobot ones. Tap move at the bottom of your screen and tap a new folder. You can name it anything you want. I’ll call mine Roomba, select an icon for your folder, and tap Add in the top right corner.

  • iPhones showing the Siri Shortcuts app
  • screen showing how to create a folder in the shortcuts app on iOS
 

With this done, we can start creating the Shortcut that we will use to control Roomba. Tap the plus button in the top right corner and tap Add Action. 
Now tap inside the search bar, search for Choose from Menu, and tap on the Choose from menu action. The Choose from Menu action will have two parts – the “Item list” and the “Action list

  • Siri Shortcuts app, choose from menu
  • Siri Shortcuts app selecting from menu
 

The Item list will be the items on the list that will be shown on your screen. And the Action list is the automation triggered when you select an option from the list. 

First, you will need to add a Prompt. You can name it anything you like. This will be the name of the list that will be shown to you when you run the Shortcut. I will call mine Unleash Roomba

Next, I will rename the two list items. I will add the Clean Kitchen and a Clean Living room. To add more options to the list, tap the green plus Add new item and give it a name. You can add as many as you want. I will only add the most important ones to keep the list short to avoid a lot of scrolling later. 
Now, if you have noticed, the action list part got updated with the corresponding names from the list items. 

Now you have to add the actual action to each list item. To do this, tap the search bar at the bottom of your screen and type in Run Shortcut
The action will be added at the end of your list after the End Menu item. To move it, tap and hold for a moment, and then move it under your first action. Now you need to repeat the steps for all your actions. 
The Run Shortcut should be indented under each action item.

Now go back to the first Run Shortcut option and tap on the blue Shortcut option. You must tap the text and not the arrow. Now search for the iRobot shortcuts you created earlier once you have added the Shortcut to the first action. Repeat the steps and fill in your list. Once done, double-check to ensure that all the Actions are under the correct List items. 

Siri shortcuts app

If you have added the Pause, Resume and Send Robot home options, the process of adding them is slightly different, as you will not need the Run Shortcut action.
Instead, you will search for the iRobot actions directly. Why was iRobot able to add these few but not the others? One can only wonder.

Siri Shortcuts app

With this, completed the difficult part is done.

Almost there…

Once your list is complete, give your Shortcut a name. Tap on the down arrow in the top middle of your screen and select rename. This will be the name of the Shortcut you are creating and will be shown on the home screen. You can also choose a new icon and a new color. 

Siri Shortcuts renaming

After this, there is a couple of options you can select. Tap the little i in the circle ⓘ at the bottom of your screen. If you have an apple watch, you can enable the Show on Apple Watch toggle. You can select the Pin in the Menu Bar toggle if you have a MAC. If you use the shortcuts directly from iRobot, tap the privacy tab and toggle the switch.

iRobot Privacy settings

Finally, select the add to home screen option, change the name and icon if you like and tap Add. You will be taken to the home screen where the Shortcut was added. 

Swipe on the bottom edge of your screen to get back to the Shortcuts app. Tap Done in the top right corner and then tap Done again. Now you close the Shortcuts app.
Congratulations your Shortcut is now ready, and you can test it out and send your Roomba to clean. 

  • Siri Shortcuts list
 

You will need to make one more step if you trigger any actions from the list for the first time. You will receive a Privacy notification asking if you want to allow “iRobot” to run another shortcut. Tap Allow. And you will receive another notification showing that the Shortcut has been triggered. 

At this point, you have successfully built your Roomba cleaning list. You can easily send Roomba without opening the iRobot app or asking Siri. 

If you have trouble with the app or Roomba does not clean the room you have selected, make sure you have added the correction actions under the correct list item.
You can also leave a comment on the blog post, and I will try to answer your question and help you out.

 

If you want to keep up to date with the latest Smart home news, you can follow HomeTech on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Mastodon.

Apple released a new software update for the HomePod and HomePod mini – update 16.0

Apple has recently released a new software update for the HomePod and HomePod mini. Update 16.0 does not bring any new significant features. This update only includes general performance and stability improvements.

The update will be installed automatically if you have automatic updates enabled, or you will receive a notification that a new update is available.

Screenshot showing software update for the HomePod and HomePod mini
Software version 16.0 for the HomePod and HomePod mini

One of the new things you may see after the update is enabling you to receive Beta updates. If you want your HomeKit and Home Hub to work as expected, you should keep this off.

Screenshot shows the new Apple Home App
 

After the update, you may be asked to sign in to your Apple Music to use in your HomePod or HomePod mini.

The size of the update is 467.7 MB

If you want to keep up to date with the latest Smart home news, you can follow HomeTech on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Mastodon.

Ikea new app update – Ikea Home Smart 1

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Ikea recently released a new app update for Ikea smart home users. The new version of the app does not bring any new features or any app redesigns.

The only new update that was released is the new app icon and the new name. Ikea decided to add a number 1 to the name of the app – Ikea Home smart 1

According to Ikea, this change is for the future. It was made to distinguish their existing app as they continue to develop new solutions for the future.

smartphones showing Ikea app screenshots
Ikea renamed their app to Ikea Home smart 1

Ikea offers a wide range of smart home products such as bulbs, blinds, speakers, smart plugs, air purifiers and so on. For many people, it’s the first smart home product they buy as they are much more affordable than products from other brands.

It looks like Ikea will expand its smart home product range in the near future.
Whatever the next big thing for Ikea is hopefully we will get a better-executed app that is easier to navigate. Hopefully, they will drop the support for a need for a control device for some of their products.

Other articles: Ikea Smart Home or read the VOCOLINC door and window sensor review here.

Apple released a new software update for the HomePod and HomePod mini – update 15.5

Apple released a new software update for the HomePod and the HomePod mini. The update version is 15.5

This update does not bring any new features this time. Just a very minor update. Apple improved general performance and stability improvements.

Apple released a new HomePod software update 15.5
HomePod and HomePod mini software update 15.5

The size of the update come is 467 .7 MB

Apple released a new software update for the HomePod and HomePod mini – update 15.4.1

Apple released a new software update for the HomePod and the HomePod mini. The update version is 15.4.1

This update addresses an issue where some HomeKit-enabled accessories could fail to respond when controlled via Siri and various bug fixes.
Like me, if you had issues with some of your accessories not responding when using Siri or resulting in a long response time for this update should fix that issue.

Apple released a new HomePod software update 15.4.1
HomePod and HomePod mini software update 15.4.1

The update also extends Siri voice recognition to new languages. The update also brings the usual performance and stability improvements.

The size of the update come is 467 .7 MB

If you want to keep up to date with the latest Smart home news, you can follow HomeTech on Facebook and Twitter.

Other articles: 5 Everyday Uses for the HomePod mini and Hidden built-in sensor in HomePod mini

iRobot releases update to support Siri Shortcuts

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Recently iRobot released a new update that added support for Siri Shortcuts. That means you can finally control your vacuum cleaner with Siri natively.

There is no smart home without a robotic vacuum cleaner. If you own one of the iRobot vacuum cleaners, you have probably noticed that there is no native Siri support. If you wanted to use your fancy Roomba with Siri, you had to use 3rd party services like IFTTT to make Roomba work with Siri, which was not the case if you are using Google Assistant or Alexa. 

After updating the iRobot app to the latest version, 6.4, you will see a new addition to the existing voice assistant options. After selecting Siri shortcuts, you will have 4 basic options: Clean everywhere, Pause cleaning, Resume cleaning and Send robot home.

iRobot Roomba and Siri Shortcuts app
iRobot Roomba 6.4 app update adds support for Siri Shortcuts

You still won’t have the option to ask Siri to clean a specific room or clean a particular zone. This is something you can do with Alexa and Google Assistant. But it is a good start. 

Hopefully, iRobot will bring a new update for HomeKit users in the near future. Update where HomeKit has the same options as the other two voice assistants without a need to rely on IFTTT. 

The other updates include a Robot health dashboard survey where the app will suggest if any parts will need changing, so you don’t have to keep track anymore, which is a handy feature.
The update also brings the usual bug fixes and performance improvements.

If you want to keep up to date with the latest Smart home news, you can follow HomeTech on Facebook and Twitter.

Other articles: 5 Everyday Uses for the HomePod mini and Hidden built-in sensor in HomePod mini

Apple released a new software update for the HomePod

Apple released a new software update for the HomePod and the HomePod mini. The update version is 15.2

This update includes support for the new Apple Music Voice plan. During the Apple keynote on October 18th Apple released the Apple Music Voice plan, a new subscription tier for Apple Music. This voice plan allows you to control Apple Music only by using Siri. The new plan costs 4.99 USD / 4.99 GBP / 4.99 EUR per month.

Apple released a new HomePod software update 15.2
HomePod and HomePod mini software update 15.2

The update also extends Siri voice recognition to new languages. The update also brings the usual performance and stability improvements.

The size of the update come is 467 .7 MB

If you want to keep up to date with the latest Smart home news, you can follow HomeTech on Facebook and Twitter.

Other articles: 5 Everyday Uses for the HomePod mini and Hidden built-in sensor in HomePod mini

VOCOlinc door and window sensor review

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VOCOlinc has been around for some time now, and they have a pretty wide range of smart home products. They work with Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, and Alexa. Today I will be looking at the VOCOlinc VS1 door and window sensor, which works exclusively with Apple HomeKit. I have been using it for a couple of months now, so how does it work and perform? Let’s take a look. 

Specifications

  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Battery powered CR2032
  • Works with Apple HomeKit
  • Battery life up to 6 months  

What’s in the box? 

The VS1 comes in two versions. A single pack or a double pack. I got the double pack here as it was a better value. However, it will depend on your region and retailer. In the box, you will find the sensor and the magnetic piece itself, a CR2032 battery to power the sensor, some adhesive 3M tapes, and the user manual. 

Design

The sensor is on the small side compared to the competition, which is good and bad. Due to its small size, it may not fit all the windows and may not be the right choice for everyone. The sensor comes in at 30 x 63.5 x 9.6 mm, and the magnetic piece at 11 x 45 x 8 mm.  The small size might not be an issue for everyone, but I had problems fitting the sensor to my windows. It is something worth noting, and I had to mention it. However, I solved the issue by using some of the packaging the sensor came in. I must say though it is not the most elegant solution in the world, it works.

The nice feature is that the magnetic piece can be placed on either side of the sensor. So you should have no issues finding the correct setup for your needs. You will find the HomeKit code on the front side of the sensor itself. The reset button can also be found on the front side, and it is surrounded by a green LED light. The LED light will blink every time the sensor is triggered.

 

Set-up process

The setup process was straightforward and effortless. As it is a HomeKit product, you don’t really need to download the VOCOlinc app if you do not own any other VOCOlinc devices. However, it is recommended as you might need to install a firmware update down the line. There was no update during my setup process. 

To set up the sensor, all you want to do is open the Home app on your iPhone or iPad and tap the plus + sign in the top right corner. Now you will be asked to scan the HomeKit code, which you can get from either the sensor or the backside of the manual. Note that the HomeKit code in the manual is not the QR code version. Once you scan the code and after the initial setup, the accessory will be added to your home.

You can choose how you want the sensor to be displayed in your home app during the setup process. You can select it to be displayed as blinds, contact sensors, doors, garage doors, or windows. After the setup is complete, the sensor is ready for use. Now you should probably test out the sensor before you will mount it permanently on your door or window. You can do that by simply moving the magnetic piece away from the sensor and then bringing it back close and checking the accessory status in the home app. Once everything works as intended, you can go ahead and mount it to its desired location. 

You can choose how you want the sensor to be displayed in your home app.

Functionality

So how does the sensor performed so far? Well, I’ve been using it for a month now, and so far, it has worked without any issues. Initially, my concern was that the sensor’s Bluetooth connectivity would not be good enough and that the sensor would be slow to respond. I only had one short initial loss of connection after I mounted it on the window frame. I suspect it was only for a few moments until it picked up the Bluetooth connection from my HomePod mini. After this, I did not experience any connection issues whatsoever. The sensor is mounted in the next room where my HomePod mini is, and it still works just fine.

The reaction times are not bad either for a Bluetooth device. It takes just a second or two to receive the notification that the sensor has been triggered, which is perfectly acceptable for a Bluetooth device. I’m not sure if the VS1 would support Zigbee; its response times would make a noticeable difference. I already have other Zigbee devices in my home, and I didn’t notice any significant delays in using Bluetooth compared to the Zigbee devices.

There is the added benefit that the sensor will still work if there is a loss of power. The sensor should keep a Bluetooth connection to your phone, so it should still function. What I would like to see is an updated version with Thread support. It may perhaps also improve the battery life, which may be the biggest weakness of this sensor.

Cons

So far, it was the good stuff. Now for the bad stuff. VOCOlinc claims 6 months of battery life, which seems relatively short compared to the competition. Some sensors can last up to 2 years. It’s just one more thing to keep in mind: you have to replace the battery in your door sensor. I can not confirm the battery life yet as I have been using the device only for a couple of months, but I will be sure to update the post once I need to replace the battery.

Another thing where I would like to see an improvement is in the details you are given in the Home app. For instance, you are not able to see the battery level of the sensor. And you will not be able to see the battery level in the VOCOlinc app either. There is just no way to see it without using a third app. For a device that lasts up to 6 months on a battery, I think it is pretty important to see it. Even the Ikea shortcut button has these options available, and you can check the battery level at any time.

And it’s not like the sensor is not reporting this information because you can see the battery level in the Eve app. The only reason I know this is because I have some Eve devices in my home, and I decided to check the Eve app to see if it is any different. So far, after a month of use, the battery is still at 100%, which is a positive sign.

Should you buy it?

It depends on how you plan to use it and if you will get the intended use out of it. By itself, the sensor is not something that you really need to have in your smart home but can very quickly become much more helpful if paired with automation. For instance, I have set up an automation in my kids’ nursery where the air purifier turns off when we open a window and turn back on when the window is closed. You can use it to trigger your alarm system when a door or a window is opened. Although you have to keep in mind that the battery only lasts for 6 months, so you probably shouldn’t.

Or you can check the status of your doors and windows from anywhere. For my wife and me, it is handy. When we leave the house, we often forget to close a window, specifically in the bedroom (You are welcome, burglars). Now it saves us a trip of getting out of the car, going back into the house, unlocking the front door, and going all the way to the bedroom just to check if the window was closed as you can just pull out the phone from your pocket and check it in the home up. Or even better, ask Siri, and you don’t even have to pull out the phone from your pocket.

So the question of whether you should buy it depends on your intended use for it. If you are already on the market looking for a door and window sensor, then yes, I could recommend this one. Especially if your budget is small or you don’t want to spend too much. For the price, the product is very compelling. But it again depends on where you live as the price may vary by region. 

However, don’t forget to look into the other competing products as the Aqara sensors are reasonably priced, assuming you already have other Aqara devices and you already own the required hub or plan to get other Aqara devices as well. 

 

 

Apple released three new colours for the HomePod mini

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Yesterday Apple held their “Unleashed” event. Although the event’s main focus was the highly anticipated MacBook Pro’s, Apple also managed to squeeze in some minor updates to Apple Music small but a welcome update to the HomePod mini.

Apple Music

The new feature, if you can call it a feature that Apple announced, is the new Voice Plan for Apple Music. You will still get access to the entire music library, but you can only use your voice and play music by asking Siri. Not sure if this plan is essential. I can assume most of the users are already using this feature. Especially if you own a HomePod or listen to your music through your AirPods or in your car.

The new plan costs $4.99, which is $5 cheaper than the individual plan. If you only want to subscribe to Apple music and only use Siri, it is a way to save a few bucks.

Apple Music voice plan option comparison chart
Source: Apple

Another addition was the announced new 3rd generation AirPods. The new AirPods feature spatial audio and, as Apple claims, industry-leading sound, longer battery life, and an all-new design. Now, design-wise they look the same as the AirPods Pro minus the silicone ear tips. Apple said the new AirPods will have one extra hour of listening time and the case now supports Mag Safe wireless charging. The new AirPods will cost $179. The 2nd generation of AirPods will drop the price down to $129.

Apple_AirPods-3rd-gen_hero_10182021
Source: Apple

HomePod mini

The last update before the big reveal of the new MacBook Pro’s was the new colours for the HomePod mini. There is nothing new other than the colours. HomePod mini has the same features as the old one, but it comes in three new bold colours. Yellow, Blue and Orange. 

Apple_HomePod-mini_hero_5up_10182021
Source: Apple

The price of the HomePod mini remains unchanged at $99.

Despite not adding any new features to the HomePod mini, the new colours look perfect, in my opinion. It is a welcome change to the typical white and space grey colour offerings. Especially the Blue and the Orange colour looks great. If you are in a market for a new HomePod mini you can now choose the colour that fits in your home. 

Will you be getting any of the new colours? Let me know down in the comments as I would like to see which one is your favourite?

If you want to keep up to date with the latest Smart home news, you can follow HomeTech on Facebook and Twitter.

Related articles: 5 Everyday Uses for the HomePod mini and Hidden built-in sensor in HomePod mini

 

Top 5 everyday uses for the HomePod mini

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Haven’t you got a HomePod mini yet? Are you just starting out with a smart home? Not quite sure if you should pick up a HomePod mini? In this article, we will look at my top 5 everyday uses for the HomePod mini. So let’s jump straight into it.

Control your home

This one seems quite obvious, but the number one for me is using the HomePod to control my home. It is so much easier to manage your smart home once you have a smart speaker. Forget pulling out your phone from your pocket every time you want to control an accessory. You do not need to have your phone just to ask Siri to do something. The nice thing about the HomePod is that you don’t even need to raise your voice as you would expect. Even when you are across the room. Want to turn on your lights? Just ask Siri. Want to vacuum your house? Just ask Siri. Do you want to turn on your alarm system? Yeah, just ask Siri. She can do that too.
It will make your life so much easier. Once you get a HomePod, it will also act as a home hub for your smart home. That means you don’t have to use an iPad or the Apple TV. You will also be able to control your smart gadgets from anywhere where you have WiFi or a cellular connection.

Reminders

The second thing for me would be reminders. Does it ever happen to you? You want to set a reminder, but you can’t find your phone. You left your phone in a different room, and you can’t be bothered to get it. By the time you finally get your phone, you already forgot that you wanted to set a reminder. No? Well, it does happen to me. Sometimes more often than not. It is very convenient to ask Siri to put something in your reminders at any time, even if your phone is not close to you. You can set up a default reminder list where you want Siri to add your reminders. Or you can specify which list you want the reminder to be added to. And don’t worry. Siri will recognise who is speaking, so she will always add it to the correct list for the proper family member. It is also helpful if you have a shared grocery list. For example, I have one shared grocery list with my wife, and any of us can ask Siri to add an item to the list at any time.

Timers and Alarms

The third most used option for me would be timers and alarms. Specifically, it is convenient to set a timer when you are cooking, for example. Your hands are dirty, and you can’t find your phone. You can have multiple timers running at the same time. You will just need to remember which timer you have set for which task. As there is no screen on the HomePod so you will need to rely entirely on voice commands. You can easily track the timers you set by asking Siri. Let’s say you set 3 timers for 5, 10, and 15 minutes. Just ask Siri how much time is left on the 10 minutes timer.

HomePod timers and alarms, screenshot from the Home app
Alarms and timers are shown in the Home app after selecting the setting for a HomePod.

The only visual option you have is to open the home app and check all your timers. If you have multiple HomePod minis’ you will need to check it in the specific HomePod you have set the timer on.

Alarms

The other helpful feature would be Alarms, and it is not an alarm you would think of. While you can easily set a reminder on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac, for that matter, the notification you receive can be easily missed. Or overlooked, which does happen to me, at least. However, when you set the alarm on your HomePod, Siri will announce it for you. The difference between the alarm you set on the HomePod and the one you set on your iPhone is that they will be treated entirely separately. Your phone can be in a completely separate room, and you will still hear it. Siri will also announce the label if you have set one. This can be useful, especially during times when kids are staying at home. For example, you can select the start of each class for your kids, and you know when each class will start and what class it is.

Music

The 4th most used thing we do in our house and use the HomePod for is listening to music. It is super easy just to ask Siri at any time to play some music. You can either ask her to play a specific song, but in that case, only that one song will play. You can tell Siri to be your DJ quite literally. “Hey Siri, be my DJ”, and Siri will play some music for you based on your likes in your music library. Or you can simply ask Siri to play your specific playlist. If you start listening to music on your phone, you can just bring it close to the HomePod, and your music will begin playing through the HomePod. If you have multiple HomePod minis’ in your house, you can start playing music on one HomePod and continue it on the other.
Let’s say you are in your office and listening to music or a podcast, and you need to go to the kitchen. Simply ask Siri to continue playing in whichever room your other HomePod is in. Or create a stereo pair and listen to your music that way. One thing to remember is that not all the music services are supported on the HomePod, which is one of the disadvantages. You will get the best experience if you use Apple Music.

Intercom

The last feature that we use often is the Intercom. It comes in handy when you just want to make a quick announcement to the rest of the house for other family members. It can be beneficial if you live in a large house and you don’t want to scream across the entire house. You can ask Siri for an Intercom message, and your voice will be heard from all the HomePods in your home.

I hope you have found some valuable tips for the HomePod mini. I could have included more; however, these would be my top 5 use cases. I’m inquisitive to see what you guys are using your HomePod mini for? Which are your top 5? Let me know in the comments below. I can probably make a second article based on what you guys are using on your HomePod. 

If you want to keep up to date with the latest Smart home news, you can follow HomeTech on Facebook and Twitter.

ecobee announced support for Siri

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Every year Apple holds its WWDC where they announce some exciting new features coming to their devices. This year Apple also announced some welcome improvements to HomeKit. During the keynote, Apple showcased that third-party accessory makers will be able to integrate Siri into their devices making it even easier to control your smart home. Apple showed this feature using an Ecobee SmartThermostat.

This was suggesting that ecobee will be one of the first accessory makers to support this new feature. The same day ecobee tweeted that in fact, they will be one of the first ones to support “Hey Siri” on their devices. At the moment it will only be supported on their SmartThermostat with voice control.
At this point, it is unclear if more devices in their line-up will support this feature or not.

ecobee have been making smart thermostats for some time now with added companion devices such as motion and window sensors with a goal to increase your energy savings. About a year ago they also introduced a security camera to their line-up. Now they are the first manufacturer to support “Hey Siri” on one of their devices.

If you want to keep up to date with the latest Smart home news you can follow HomeTech on Facebook and Twitter. For other news updates click here.

iOS 15 and its new HomeKit features

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Yesterday iOS 15 started to roll out to iPhone users. As with every iOS release, some new features are announced alongside. The new iOS update brings exciting features to FaceTime, messages, maps, focus mode and group notifications. This year there are also a few changes in iOS 15 for HomeKit as well. There have been welcome changes in HomeKit secure video, new Siri features and support for third-party accessories to use Siri. Let’s take a look at iOS 15 and its new HomeKit features.

HomeKit Secure Video

One of the new features in iOS 15 is a few upgrades to HomeKit’s secure video. One of them being package delivery recognition. Doorbells and security cameras that support HomeKit secure video up until now supported peoples detection. This is great that cameras can recognise a person, as it helps to lower the number of motion alerts you receive. Starting from iOS 15, these cameras will also detect packages and send you alerts when your parcel arrives at your doorstep.

iCloud+

Another update for HomeKit is the recent iCloud+ subscription changes that were made. Previously if you wanted to use Apple HomeKit secure video with supported doorbells and security cameras, you needed to upgrade your iCloud storage plan to a minimum of 200 GB. After the upgrade, you got support for one camera. If you wanted to use more, you needed to upgrade to the 2 TB plan, which supported 5 cameras. With the new changes, you only need to upgrade to the 50 GB plan, and you receive support for one camera, and with the 200 GB plan, you will receive support for 5 cameras. With the 2 TB plan, you will get unlimited camera support.
If you don’t care about the 10-day history recording, viewing live streams from your camera does not require any subscription.

Storage option Price No. of cameras No. of cameras
    (old plan) (new plan)
50 GB 0.99 none 1
200 GB 2.99 1 up to 5
2 TB 9.99 up to 5 unlimited
Home app after upgrading to iOS 15
Home app after upgrading to iOS 15. 200 GB iCloud plan was upgraded to allow up to 5 cameras

Siri time scheduling

The next feature that was announced and arrived in HomeKit is Siri time-based automation. If you wanted to schedule any accessory to turn ON or OFF at any specific time, you needed to create an automation. Very good when you want that automation daily. What if you want it to run only on a particular day or time once? Creating automation for one specific occasion was not very convenient. You had to open the Home app, tap automation, select the automation type and so on. You see where I’m going with this. Too many steps involved.

iOS Siri time scheduling

Now with iOS 15, you can create time-based automation by simply asking Siri, which is a much more convenient way to do it, in my opinion. “Hey Siri, turn on the living room lights at 7 p.m.” It is that simple now.
You will need to update your HomePod mini to the latest iOS 15 for it to work. Once you have updated your HomePod, you can start enjoying the new feature.

Siri access on third-party devices

With iOS 15, Siri can be accessed now on third party accessories. Accessory makers will need to integrate this feature into their devices. I’m not sure if this can be enabled for already existing accessories over an update, or this only applies to new additions that are related after the iOS 15 is launched. For this to work, you will need to own a HomePod tough as the requests from the accessories will be sent through the HomePod itself. Apple showed this feature on an Ecobee smart thermostat. Ecobee already announced that their thermostat will be one of the first with Apple’s Siri feature.

Apple digital keys

Apple already supports digital car keys, which means you could store your car key in your Apple wallet. In iOS 15, you will be able to keep additional keys as well. Such as your hotel, office or your home keys. Now that new key options have been added to the wallet app, we should very soon start to see smart locks with this feature.

Apple_iOS15-avail_homekey_09202021
Source: Apple

Additional featueres

Other features include selecting a single or a pair of HomePod minis as a default speaker for your Apple TV  4k. Media playback control will appear on the iPhone’s Lock Screen when a playing HomePod mini is nearby. Ask Siri to turn on your Apple TV and start playing your tv show. Siri will now automatically adjust the speaking level based on the room environment. So if it is louder in the room, Siri will speak louder, and when it’s quieter, she will talk with a lower voice. 

This year’s update brought some improvement to HomeKit. For the first time, Apple will allow accessory makers to integrate Siri on their devices to enable even greater and easier control over your smart home. A much-needed upgrade was made to the iCloud plans and the number of cameras you can have with each subscription.

If you want to keep up to date with the latest Smart home news, you can follow HomeTech on Facebook and Twitter.

Ikea Smart Home

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The Swedish furniture giant Ikea became a big player in the smart home space. Ikea no longer only sells furniture with names you can’t pronounce but also sells smart home products. Still with unpronounceable names, but you may find them interesting. This article will cover the Ikea Smart home product lineup and which devices you will need to start and set up your smart home using Ikea products only.

Why Ikea smart home products?

So why would you choose Ikea products over more well-established brands such as Philips Hue or LIFX?
The simple answer to that question is price. Yes, the Ikea products are cheaper than those of Philips or LIFX, for that matter.
For many people, price is one of the most important factors when deciding to go with one brand or another. Despite the initial expense, Ikea-enabled smart home will cost less than a LIFX or Philips setup, where a single bulb can easily cost 25 EUR and more. Depending on which one you choose, you can pick up 2 or even 4 Ikea bulbs.

Ikea already offers a wide range of smart products ranging from bulbs to smart speakers. Their latest addition is the Ikea shortcut button and the Ikea motion sensor. Both these products recently received HomeKit support. This further expands the possibilities of the Ikea range. With this addition to the Ikea smart products family, it’s only a matter of time when there will be support for more devices.
It looks like Ikea is not slowing down. You can be confident that Ikea will be releasing more and more products to its range.

How Ikea smart products works?

Before you head to Ikea to buy any products, you need to understand how these products work and your setup options.
If you have already looked into any other brands, you may already know that you can buy three types of accessories. The first type is WiFi-enabled. The second one is Bluetooth enabled. The third type uses its own wireless network. WiFi-enabled bulbs will connect directly to your WiFi network. The Bluetooth enabled will only work when they are in the Bluetooth range and optionally need one primary device to be connected to.
The others will require you to have a separate hub to which you connect the lights. In this regard, all Ikea products fall into the third category and need a bridge for them to work.

Smart vs. “Smart”

You also can choose if you want the full-on smart home experience where you can control your home using your phone, voice assistant, or when you are away, or you just want a straightforward wireless setup. Let’s take a look at the option you have.

Option 1: For the full-on experience, you will need the Ikea Gateway, wireless remote control, and of course, light bulbs. Later you can expand and add speakers, plugs, and motion sensors.

Option 2: If you want a basic setup, all you need is the remote control and a few bulbs. If you decide to upgrade later, you can add the gateway to your configuration at any time, and you can expand the possibilities of your smart home.

I would not call the second option a smart home, as you will basically be controlling your home using a simple wireless remote. This setup will only work with light bulbs. You will not be able to control smart plugs or any other accessories. But if that is what you are looking for, you have the option.

The great thing with the Ikea product line is that you can start with the basic setup, and you can always expand later if you decide to. Whichever option you will go with, you will need one of 2 Ikea wireless remote controls.

Ikea product range

Let’s look at the Ikea product range and what is on offer if you are considering setting up your home using only Ikea products. It can be confusing when you first look into the product range. There are so many options and starter kits available. I will try to break down each product the best I can. The products offered and prices will vary based on your location.
As I already mentioned earlier, you have 2 setup options. Are you looking for a full smart home setup? Or do you just want something really simple? This will purely depend on what you are looking for and what you wish to achieve.

Starter kits

If you do not own any Ikea smart home gadgets, it is highly recommended to pick up one of the starter kits. It will have everything you need to get you up and running. Ikea has a few starter kits available, and regardless if you want the basic or full setup, you can be sure that you can find the one that will fit your needs the most. If you pick up one of the basic kits, you will have a light bulb in the box based on the wireless remote capabilities. That means you will get a bulb that can change colour temperature from white to warm white. Or you will only get one set to a specific colour temperature, and you can only adjust the brightness.


Starter kits product line

  1. The essential starter kit will have the Ikea gateway, 2 bulbs, and the Ikea remote. You can also find this kit with 3 bulbs however the bulbs will have a different base.
    It will cost 79.99 EUR (50 GBP / 69.99 USD) or 89.99 EUR (65 GBP / 69.99 USD) depending on which kit you will pick up. This is a great kit to start with if you want to use a voice assistant or your phone to control your home.
    Link: Gateway starter kit with 2 bulbs / Gateway starter kit with 3 bulbs

  2. The remote control kit. In this box, you will get one bulb with a wireless remote. You will have the best featured remote in the box Ikea offers. If you only starting with a basic setup and plan to expand later this is the kit to buy. It will cost 29.99 EUR (25 GBP / 19.99 USD)
    Link: Tradfri remote control kit

  3. The dimmer kit will also have one bulb in the box and a dimmer switch. The difference between this and the remote control kit is that you will not be able to change the color of your bulbs or the color temperature. All you can do is turn them on/off and change the brightness. This kit will cost 14.99 EUR (12 GBP / 12.99 USD)
    Link: Tradfri dimmer kit

  4. The last kit you can get is the dimming kit. It is the same as the kit above however the remote is not as good. It uses a design of a volume knob where you have to rotate the remote to adjust the brightness of the bulb. Looks great in the store when you try but once you bring it home is the least practical way of controlling your lights. This kit will cost 19.99 EUR
    Link: Tradfri dimming kit

Individual products

If you prefer, you can also pick up each product individually. I would not recommend this as it may cost more based on the setup you want to achieve.

  1. Ikea gateway is the central hub. You will need it if you want to be able to control your home using a voice assistant, your phone, or when you are away. If you are going for the simple set up the hub is not required. It will cost 39.99 EUR (22 GBP / 35 USD)
    Link: Tradfri gateway

  2. Wireless remote control. This is the best remote that is on offer. It is also the remote I would recommend the most. You can control every type of light from the Tradfri lineup. You can use this remote to turn the lights on/off change the brightness, color temperature, and change the color if you have the color-changing bulbs. This remote will cost 19.99 EUR (15 GBP / 15.99 USD)
    Link: Tradfri wireless remote

  3. Wireless dimmer is the second remote that is on offer. As the name suggests it’s purely used to turn the lights on/off and dim the lights. This remote can only be used with bulbs that are set to a specific color temperature. Therefore if you pair it with the color bulbs or the ambient bulbs where you can change the color temperature you will lose this ability. This remote will cost 9.99 EUR (6.99 USD)
    Link: Tradfri wireless dimmer


Optional products

  1. The wireless plug is another addition to the product line on offer. Simple smart plug which you can control remotely. It does not have any special features like some other smart plugs do such as energy monitoring. Based on your location you can find it as a kit with wireless on/off switch in the box. It cost 14.99 EUR ( 10 GBP / 9.99 USD)
    Link: Tradfi wireless control outlet

  2. The motion sensor is can be used with the lighting setup. You can set rules in the Ikea Home Smart app when you want the sensor to activate. This product recently received HomeKit support.
    The motion sensor cost 14.99 EUR (12 GBP / 9.99 USD)
    Link: Tradfri motion sensor

  3. The shortcut button is one of the latest additions to the lineup. You can assign scenes to the button in the app and you can control groups of lights with a push of a button. It cost 9.99 EUR ( 6 GBP)
    Link: Tradfri shortcut button


Light Bulbs

In this paragraph, I will tell you what you should focus on when choosing lights from Ikea. There are plenty of choices when it comes to light bulbs, so everyone can find the right fit. I’m not going to list all of them as there are way too many to cover. Instead, I will tell you what you should focus on when it comes to choosing the right one for you. All Ikea bulbs come with various types of base and brightness output, so you can find the right fit. Also, all smart bulbs are rated for 25,000 hours.
The main thing to look out for is the colour options you can have. Ikea offers 3 types of bulbs. White, Ambiance, and Color.

IKEA Smart home
Image: different variations of IKEA Smart light bulbs – warm white (left), white to warm white (centre) and colour bulbs (right).

The first type is set to a specific colour temperature, mostly 2700 Kelvin and can’t be changed. You can only adjust the brightness.
The Ambience bulb has a broader range of colour temperatures ranging from warm white to cool white. You can do that through the app or with the wireless remote.
The colour bulb, as the name suggests, supports colour light. If you are into colour-changing lights on the cheap, this is the one to get.

If you want to keep up to date with the latest Smart home news, you can follow HomeTech on Facebook and Twitter.

 

HomePaper – custom wallpapers for the Apple Home app

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Home paper is live now in the Apple App Store. If you are a HomeKit user you are probably aware that you can set your own wallpapers in the Home app. There is nothing wrong with the default wallpapers but they are, how shall I put it a bit boring.

Well now there is a very easy way to create your own wallpapers which looks a lot better then the default ones.

HomePaper is the newest addition to the app family developed by Aaron Pearce.

The app is very simple to use and you will get plenty of customisation options. You can choose from the pre made gradients. If you want even more control you can select any colour you want. You can also type in the HEX code of the colour you want for even greater control.

HomePaper app Screenshots
HomePaper app
HomePaper final wallpaper
Apple Home App with a new wallpaper applied from the new HomePaper App

You can check and download HomePaper here and you can check out Aaron’s other apps as well.
Apps available HomePass for HomeKit, HomeScan for HomeKit, HomeRun for HomeKit, HomeCam for HomeKit

If you want to keep up to date with the latest Smart home news you can follow HomeTech on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Apple HomePod mini has built-in sensors

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The new Apple HomePod mini which was released on November 16th 2020 has built-in sensors. A report was published earlier by Bloomberg which confirms that the new HomePod mini has a built-in temperature and humidity sensor. Although not yet active these sensors could be activated later by a software update. This could bring new functionality to the HomePod mini and HomeKit.

The teardown was done by iFixit after an inquiry from Bloomberg News. iFixit states that the sensor is a 1.5 x 1.5 mm HDC2010 Humidity and Temperature digital sensor from Texas Instruments Inc.
The sensor is placed away from the other internal components. This suggests that the sensors are to measure external humidity and temperatures rather than those of the internal parts.

Source: iFixit

This could be a huge deal for HomeKit users as you could eliminate third party accessories such as Eve Room. There are a lot of temperature sensors on Apple’s website. But having this feature built into the HomePod mini would be extra convenient. You would not need to spend more money on other accessories.

Source: iFixit

If you have connected thermostats they could come on automatically based on the temperature in the room the HomePod is in. Or have your fan activate when the room becomes too hot. You could include these features in your home automations as well.

It is very unusual for Apple to include sensors in their devices that are not activated from the start. However, Apple did this in the past with an iPod touch that had a Bluetooth chip built in which was only activated a year later.

Hopefully, we will see a software update sooner rather than later that will enable these sensors for added functionality to the HopePod mini.

If you want to keep up to date with the latest Smart home news you can follow HomeTech on Facebook and Twitter.

Apple Home app overview and guide – part 2 – Adding accessories

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Welcome to part 2 from the Apple Home app overview series. In the first post, we have checked the general overview of the Apple Home app. If you did not read it you can find it here. Now that you are familiar with the Home app it’s time to add your first accessory to your smart home. So let’s get started.

HomeKit Code

In order to add and setup a HomeKit enabled accessory to your home, you will need a HomeKit code. It is a small sticker with a series of numbers and a QR code. It is unique to each accessory. Some accessories will also have the option to add them using an NFC chip. This is done by simply holding your phone near the accessory.

The HomeKit code is usually found inside the packing. Some manufactures will also include extra stickers with the code and you can also find it on the accessory itself.

It is really important that you save the code after you added the accessory and you store it in a safe place should you ever need to reset and re-add the same accessory again.

One place where you can keep your codes is directly in the Home app itself in the notes section. You can also take a photo from the code and store it in iCloud or you can use an app such as HomePass.

Adding accessories

There are a couple of ways you can add accessories to the home app. The process will depend on the accessory and you will be adding and who is the manufacturer.
You can either add it directly from the Home app by tapping the Plus icon and select the “Add Accessory”.

Home app adding accessory
Apple Home app: Adding accessories

Or the second option is to download the manufacturer app first for the accessory you are trying to add. Start the setup process through the app and when you are prompted agree to add it to the Home app. For example, if you are trying to add some Philips Hue lights you would need the Philips Hue app to set up your lights.

The recommended option is to always use the manufacturer app and only add the accessories to HomeKit when you are prompted to do so. This way you can download any firmware updates that might have been released.

Now that you know what is a HomeKit code and which is the recommended way of adding new devices to your home we can move on to the exiting part of adding accessories to your home.

Guide

In this tutorial will we will add the Nanoleaf Shapes decoration lights. The process will be very similar to any other accessories once you pass the app-specific steps.

First, we will need to download the Nanoleaf app from the App Store. Once downloaded we will need to open the app and follow the on-screen instructions. The general steps will be pretty much the same across the board. In the case of the Nanoleaf app, you will be required to sign up for an account. After you have signed up and logged in you can start adding the light.

Once you select to add in our case light in the Nanoleaf app on the next screen, you will be prompted to scan the HomeKit code.
Find the code on the accessory or a sticker inside the packaging and simply scan it with your phone. The Home app will detect what type of accessory you are trying to add. In our case, it is identified as a light.

HomeKit code scan
Apple Home app: Scanning HomeKit code / detected accessory

On the next screen tap the Add to Home. Your phone will try to connect to the accessory you just added. Upon a successful connection, you will be prompted to choose the location of the accessory. You can always change it later after you added the accessory. If you are happy with your selection tap Continue. You may be also given the option to rename the accessory but it may not always be the case as you can rename it later from the app you are using to set up the accessory and it will update the name in HomeKit for you as well.

HomeKit detecting accessory
Apple Home App: Connecting to accessory and selecting the location


On the next screen, you will be prompted to add the accessory to your home automation. By default, you will be shown the “When first-person arrives, Turn On” and the “When last person leaves, Turn Off” options. If you are sure that you will be using the accessory with these automations you can enable this option right away. However, you can always change it and enable this option later. So you can skip this step altogether and tap Continue.

Apple home app - automation
Apple Home app: automation setup

If you have completed all the steps you will be shown a message that the accessory was added to your home. Tap Done.

Apple Home app

Congratulations, you have just successfully added your first accessory to your home. Now you can use the Home app to control the accessory you just added, or use your voice and ask Siri to do it for you.

You can read the Apple Home app overview and guide – part 1 here.

Google Home app overview and guide – part 1

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If you are building a smart home and you want to use the Google Home app and Google Assistant as your preferred choice over Amazon Alexa or Apple HomeKit then this guide is for you. This guide will be a series of articles covering the Google Home app. In this first post, we will check out the basic overview of the app.

There are a lot of smart gadgets and smart home accessories that work with Google Assistant. Some even offer more functionality when used with Google or Alexa than with Apple HomeKit.

General

Google has one of the most multi-platform apps out there. The Google Home app is no exception. You can get the Home app even on iOS if you prefer Google Assistant over Siri and HomeKit.

The nice thing about Google is that you have a nice choice of speakers and hubs to choose from. You can choose the Nest Mini, Nest Hub, Nest Hub Max, Nest Audio.

The Google Home app is your home dashboard. It allows you to control your smart home devices and add new gadgets to your home. You can set up routines and automations and it allows you to control your home using Google Assistant.

Google Home app overview

When you open the app for the first time and you do not have any account linked to the app you will see the welcome screen with the intro video. After you tap Next the app will ask for your location permission. Location service is required to use automations and routines that are set to run when you leave or arrive at home. Once you grant access to your location it will start to look for devices on your network.

Google Home app intro
Google Home App

Assuming that you do not have any devices yet the app will show you a list of available categories to choose from. From here you can pick a category of the device you want to add. If you want to continue you can select a device category you want to add to your home. Or you can click not now and you will be taken to the home screen of the app. From here you can go to the settings and edit your home according to your needs.

Google Home app setup

Settings

The Settings in the Google Home app is divided into 3 main categories: General, Favourites, and Services.

In the General section, you will find the settings with your Home Information. Here you can set a name for your home and edit the address. The next is the Household information where you can invite family members to your home. The last option will the Rooms and groups. If you did not add any devices during the initial setup this section will be empty. Rooms will appear automatically as you add new devices to your home.

Next is the Features section where you will have the Notifications and Digital Wellbeing. The notifications, the part is where you can set up what notifications you want to receive about your home.

The last part is the Services section where you can choose and link various services to your Google Assistant. You can link your preferred apps and services such as your Netflix account, Spotify, Podcasts, notes, and lists, etc. The last item on the list is “Works with Google” where you can find the list of all the manufactures that are making smart home gadgets that working with Google Assistant. You can easily check in advance if the device you want to buy works with your assistant.

I hope you enjoyed the Google Home app overview. You can go ahead and take a look and explore the app. In the next section, we will add our first accessory to our home so we can control it from our phone and with Google Assistant.

Thread Smart Home and Apple HomeKit

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Thread smart home with Apple HomeKit can finally bring the smart home experience we been waiting for. Many Smart Home devices these days use WiFi or Bluetooth for connectivity. Some devices such as Philips Hue use Zigbee. So why Thread now?

What is Thread?

Thread is simply put a network protocol based on IPv6. It is a low-power mesh network technology that is intended to be used with a wide range of IoT devices. But it can also be used with devices intended for a smart home. Thread connectivity can be more beneficial over the existing options such as WiFi or Bluetooth.

Is it something new? Thread has been around since 2016 so it’s nothing new and it’s being backed by companies such as Google, Osram, Qualcomm, Somfy, Siemens just to name a few. However, Apple also joined in 2018. So Thread is not a new technology however, it started to gain popularity only recently.

Why is Thread important?

Similar to Zigbee and Z-Wave, Thread enabled devices can create their own mesh network. That means that they can all connect to each other and expand the range of the conventional WiFi network. This also means that the devices can be reached from further away.
Thread enabled smart gadgets can all communicate throughout your home and extend their own range by adding more devices.
One big benefit is that Thread devices do not need a dedicated hub like the Zigbee enabled Philips Hue.
They can connect independently as well as they connect to each other. The other benefit of using Thread in smart gadgets is that the Thread network can adjust should any one of the devices on the network fail. If one of the devices on the network stops working for any reason the Thread network will just reroute itself through the nearest available Thread device it can reach.

Thread enabled Smart Home
Credit: Nanoleaf

Unlike Philips Hue, you don’t need a dedicated hub that you will need to connect your devices to. However, Thread enabled devices will need something called a Border Router. The cool thing is that this is not exactly a separate device. It is a feature of existing devices you may as very well already have in your home. Some new routers are already including Thread support, and of course HomePod mini. For a list of Thread certified devices, you can click here.
All Thread-enabled devices in your home will create a mesh network, with no user configuration required. The nice part is that this mesh network can be aided by existing devices that can double as a Border Router.
It is also very low latency, making it usable for battery-powered accessories. Since it is an open standard, devices from many manufacturers will be compatible.

How does it compare to WIFi and Bluetooth?

These days if you are considering a HomeKit enabled Smart Home most devices will be WiFi or Bluetooth enabled.
WiFi is great but may not always suitable for smart gadgets. You can have WiFi in your entire house and hopefully, your network coverage is good enough that you can connect the device to your network. You will however need to use the 2.4 GHz network and your device must be always connected to the network. If you have a poor connection in some areas of your home you will experience connection issues.
Now, this is where Thread can be useful as it can extend beyond the range of your WiFi network and can be still reached if you have another Thread device that is connected to the network and within reach.

As Thread is using low energy it can also run on low-power devices such as door locks, sensors, etc. Assuming you have a HomePod mini that supports Thread and act as a HomeHub in your home it will enable remote connectivity and you can get all the benefits of the Thread network.

But what about Bluetooth? It is also low powered, right? Yes, however, Bluetooth has its own issues. For instance the range. Bluetooth has a limited range and your HomeHub or your phone needs to be within range. If your HomeHub is out of the range of the Bluetooth gadgets you are trying to connect to you will not be able to control it or even worse the automation can fail because of an unresponsive device.

And then there is the issue of latency. Bluetooth can be slow, much slower than WiFi, however, Thread can communicate with devices much faster than WiFi or Bluetooth.

The future of Smart Home

With all the benefits you can get with using Thread enabled devices it should be a clear way forward for HomeKit and smart home enabled gadgets in general. All the disadvantages of conventional WiFi and Bluetooth can be eliminated by using Thread.
Apple didn’t mention in their keynote that the HomePod mini will feature Thread. You will need to visit Apple’s website and check the technical specs of the HomePod mini in order to notice it.
Hopefully, now that Apple has joined more companies will follow and will be adding support for Thread.


Some companies already announced support. One of those companies is Eve and they will be adding support to their existing line of products using a Firmware update. You can read more about it in Eve’s official blog here.
It is really staggering that Thread can be enabled by a simple Firmware update and does not require buying a new version of the same product. Nanoleaf also announced support for Thread. Hopefully, more companies will take an example from Eve and will add support later.

Hopefully, Thread will make its way to more products very soon to enable the seamless Smart Home experience we be all waiting for.

Apple Home app overview and guide – part 1

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Apple Home app overview and guide will be a series of articles to get you familiar with the Home app. In this first part, we will check out the basics overview of the app.

General knowledge

HomeKit was first released in September 2014 along with iOS 8. The Home app itself was then first introduced and officially released back in September 2016 with iOS 10. From then on it lives on every device running iOS 10 and later. It was also added to macOS running Mojave which was released in September 2018. And you can find the Home app on any apple watch running watchOS 3 and later.
The home app allows you to control your smart-enabled devices through a Home Hub.
iPads, HomePods, and fourth-generation and newer Apple TVs can be used as a home hub to control HomeKit appliances remotely and set up automation. You can use even the latest HomePod mini as a home hub.

Home app overview

The first time you open the Home app you will only see the add accessory button. You can skip it for now as we will focus on the general overview now. So let’s dive into it.
At the top left corner, you will see a Home icon where you can access your home settings and specific room settings and you can edit your main screen. You can also switch to different rooms that you have in your home as well.
On the right-hand side, you will see the + sign to add new accessories to your home.
The main part of the screen is where you will see all your scenes and accessories in your home.
In the bottom part of the screen, you will again see a Home icon the Rooms icon, and the last one is the Automation icon. This is the place where you can set up different automation. The Room icon will only be visible once you add your first accessory and assign it to a specific room.
The Home icon in the bottom row is different from the one in the top left corner. The bottom Home icon acts as your home button. It will always bring you back to the home screen of the app.

apple home app overview
Apple Home app main screen with a few added accessories. Screenshot from iOS 14.3

Home app settings

Let’s take a look at the settings. To access the settings tap the home icon in the top left corner and tap the home settings.
On the next screen, you will be able to change a few basic settings for your home.
The first thing will be the name of your home. You can enter anything you like here or you can keep it at the default My Home.
Below is the people’s section. By default, you will only see yourself however you can invite more people to your home.
By inviting more people to your home will make any new accessory you add available to others as well. It is a great option for adding family members to your home. Like this, you don’t have to set up the same accessory on each family member’s phone separately.
Below that you will see the Software update for the HomePod if you have one and you can set up your HomePod to auto-update.
Here you will also be able to see settings for a Speaker and TV access if you have AirPlay 2 enabled TV or speakers.
In the next part, you will be able to see your Hubs and bridges.
The last 2 options you will see if for changing your wallpaper in the Home app. You can also change it on a room basis.
The last part is the Notes section. You can add here any notes regarding your home, but it is also a great place to keep your HomeKit codes for your accessories.

Apple Home app settings
Apple Home app settings screen. Screenshot from iOS 14.3

If you are planning to control your smart home while you are away from your home or you are planning to create automations you will need to HomeHub. The Automations section will be disabled until you will set up a device as a HomeHub. Remember that the HomeHub needs to be always present in your home. If you are setting up an iPad as a HomeHub the iPad will need to be in your house at all times powered on and connected to your WiFi.

Home-Automation
Apple Home app automation screen prompt to set up a HomeHub. Screenshot from iOS 14.3

This was the general overview of the Apple Home app. In the next part, we will add our first accessory to our home so we can start to control it from our phone or with voice commands using Siri.

You can read the Apple Home app overview and guide – part 2 – Adding accessories here.

Philips Hue launches a new Wall Switch module

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Philips Hue launches a new Hue Wall Switch module. Long-awaited solution for any Philips Hue smart light bulbs. There is nothing worse than an unresponsive light bulb. Yes, we all been there. You got all these fancy smart lights and you can’t turn them on because you flicked the wall switch and cut the power to the lights. This new module can solve your unresponsive lights problems. For instance, it can be installed behind your existing light switch and turn it into a smart wall switch. In other words, it will ensure your Hue lights will be always reachable and add some new functionality as well.

After you installed the Hue Wall Switch module you don’t have to get up from the couch to turn on the switch you turned off by mistake. It works with the Hue app or voice control. In addition to this, you will be able to personalize the wall switch in the Hue app. You can select lighting scenes you want the switch to perform. The only downside I see to the new Hue wall switch is that it will be battery-powered. However, Philips said the batteries will last for 5 years. Will be nice to see a solution where it can be powered by the existing wiring already in the wall.

philips-hue-wall-switch-module-explanation
Image: Philips Hue

For more detailed information about the new Hue Wall Switch module, you can read the official Philips Hue blog here.

The new Philips Hue Wall Switch module will be sold as a single or a double pack. The Philips Hue wall switch module according to Philips will be available in Spring in Europe and in Summer in North America. The pricing is EU: EUR 39.95 (1-pack) / EUR 69.95 (2-pack) US: USD 39.95 (1-pack) / USD 69.95 (2-pack) CAN: CAD 49.99 (only single pack available)

 

Philips Hue launches a new dimmer switch

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Philips Hue recently announced a release of a new Hue dimmer switch. The new switch has a new updated design and new functionality compared to the old Hue dimmer switch.

According to a recent tweet from Philips availability in Europe starts from this January and in North America this February.

The latest version of the Philips Hue dimmer switch will be available From January 26 in Europe, from February 23 in North America according to the press release. The pricing is EU: EUR 19.95 US: USD 24.99 CAN: CAD 29.99

Very excited about the new Hue dimmer switch and a review will be coming as soon I will be able to get one and test it.

Tips for Starting a Smart Home

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In this article, I will share tips for starting a Smart Home and how you can start building your own Smart Home system.
One way to build Smart Home is to hire a company that will turn your home into a smart home.
The other option, and probably the option for many, is to build it yourself.
You don’t need to be very tech-savvy to turn your house or apartment into Smart Home.

If you only want to try the experience of a Smart Home, there is an easy and inexpensive way to try it out. You can always buy just one smart plug or one light bulb and see for yourself. Some of the less expensive options are VOCOlinc bulbs and plugs. Or the Kasa smart bulb from TP-Link. My Smart Home started only with just one smart light bulb from Xiaomi and then expanded from there.

You should consider some general tips if you want to turn your place into a smart home. I will share all the information I consider important.

Check your home

One of the first things you should check is your home. What parts of the home do you want to upgrade with smart devices? Is it only some of the rooms or all of them? You don’t have to equip all of your home with smart gadgets. While it is nice to have your entire home covered in smart tech, it is not necessary. For example, not everyone likes the idea of a smart garage door or a smart door lock. This part is essential and will be different from home to home. You should make sure you get good Wi-Fi coverage throughout your entire home. Your new Smart gadgets will rely on your Wi-Fi network, and if you have weak coverage in some of the rooms, you will have a terrible experience.
It is much easier to set up a new network than migrate all of your Smart Home gadgets to a new network.

Google Home, Amazon Alexa, or HomeKit?

After you have made sure you have good network coverage throughout your home the next thing you should consider is which platform do you want to use. Google Home, Amazon Alexa, or Apple HomeKit? While yes you can control your smart gadgets from only your phone, to get the most out of your smart home gadgets you should really consider a voice assistant and you should decide before you buy your first products. The reason why is it important is because not all smart home devices are compatible with each platform. Especially if you are an iOS user and you want to use HomeKit. Regardless if you are an Android or an iOS user you can always choose Amazon Alexa as it is compatible with both platforms.

Amazon Alexa, Google assistant, HomeKit

Research

Once you have decided which platform you will be using you can start your research. Check online and see what options are available and which options fit your needs. You should start checking for devices that are compatible with a voice assistant you choose earlier. If you choose Google Assistant make you the products are compatible with Google Assistant and so on. If you are an iOS user and you want to use Apple’s HomeKit make sure you are checking HomeKit enabled devices. Not all the products support HomeKit out of the box. There are many brands out there that exclusively supports only HomeKit. Some of the most popular brands are Phillips Hue, Eve Home (HomeKit only), VOCOlinc, Nest, LIFX, iRobot, Sonos just to name a few.

Once you have an idea of which devices from which brands you want to buy you can check some online reviews to see if the products you are considering are any good. Based on your setup you want to stick to only a few brands at most. You don’t want to end up with 5 different light bulbs from 5 different companies and install 5 different apps just to set them up.

Automation

Once you upgraded your home with smart tech, you can start to advance and make the smart devices work for you. Create Automations that run at specific times of the day. Have your lights come on at sunset or in the morning. Set a mood lighting when you are watching movies or gaming. Based on the smart products you have you can create scenes and routines to make your experience even more seamless. Set your lights to turn off and your thermostat to turn down the temperature when you leave your house. You can have your garage door activate your security cameras as you leave for work. Based on your smart devices you have the possibilities can be endless.

As I mentioned in the Introduction to a Smart Home post I love the idea of a smart home, and I believe everyone should enjoy the benefits the Smart home has to offer.
Smart Home makes life so much easier by taking away the small routines and tasks from you and in return giving you more time, energy savings, and money.

Introduction to a Smart Home

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What is a Smart Home? A home where you can control your devices with your voice or your smartphone even when you are out and about away from your home. Smart Home is a more convenient way to live.
A Smart Home can bring a lot of benefits to people’s everyday lives. Some of the benefits are time, money, and energy savings. Some people might say that a Smart Home is for people who are lazy and who can’t even be bothered to turn on a light switch. But just think about it how much time you can save if you combine different home appliances with working together for you. For example, smart home devices like robotic vacuum cleaners such as Roomba from iRobot and the Brava mopping robot can vacuum and mop your house for you.

It’s great for people who don’t have time to clean their homes. It’s a great way to save time in the long run, as it can clean your home while you are away at work or doing something else. Another example of a smart home is that you can shut all your lights in your home with one button. Or you can simply ask a voice assistant to do it for you, or you can open your light in your home just before you arrive when your hands are full of shopping bags.

Why do I need a smart home?

It entirely depends on who you are, but there are a lot of benefits that come with a smart home.
One of the benefits is that you can control your home from your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or with your voice from anywhere. How about checking on your home while you are away on a holiday using your smartphone? Or turning on your coffee machine from your bed? These are only a couple of small examples of the benefits you can get with a smart home.

The other benefit can be cost savings. Did it ever happen to you that you left for work and you left the light on? Or you forgot to turn off the TV when you left your home? Wouldn’t it be nice if the lights in your home would turn themselves off when you leave? Many people don’t realize it first, and yes, while it can be more expensive to buy smart home-enabled accessories, it can save a lot of money on utility bills in the long run.

Probably the best benefit of a smart home is automating your daily tasks. Did you ever think about how much time your daily tasks can take? Simple stuff vacuuming your house, for example. And sure, they may not take up too much time if you count only one day, but in the long run? Why not automate some of the daily tasks so that your home can work for you.

These benefits can be applied to any everyday family or homeowner, regardless if you live in a family house or a small apartment. With people’s lives getting busier and busier and more hectic every day, why not give yourself the benefit of automating some of your daily tasks and routines. In return, giving you more time than you can spend with your family and friends.

I love the idea of a smart home. In the upcoming posts, I will share tips on starting a Smart Hom. I will also share reviews and my personal experience with the Smart Homme tech I already own.