Now May Be the Perfect Time to Get Into Privacy-First Home Automation

Apple may have changed the game

  • The new HomePod includes super-handy temperature and humidity sensors 
  • So does the existing HomePod mini, and Apple just enabled them with a software update.
  • Thread and Matter are about to make home automation way easier.
A blue HomePod mini sitting on a white surface.

James Yarema / Unsplash

The new HomePod may sound great, but its new environmental sensors are the really interesting part.

If you buy a new HomePod, it comes with some home-automation extras that might initially seem a bit pointless. Apple's smart speaker can act as a home hub, and now it also has two rather useful home-automation-related sensors inside: temperature and humidity. This opens some fundamentally useful automations, and all with Apple's high regard for privacy.

"Trust is a critical factor in the adoption of home automation technology, and it varies among consumers. Some may view Apple as a trusted brand in the technology space, while others may prefer the experience and ecosystem offered by Amazon or Google. The choice often depends on individual preferences, budget, and the specific needs of the home automation setup," technology writer Shahnawaz Sadique told Lifewire via email.

Home Automation Privacy

To get into home automation, you kind of have to commit. It's not just about buying the gear and setting it up (although that's obviously one barrier). You also have to consider the privacy angle and decide which vendors you trust.

That's why the HomePod having great home automation capabilities right out of the box is great news. First, you've already done the hardest part. Apple is known for its focus on privacy, and this extends through its HomeKit home automation platform. You can hook up accessories without the manufacturer ever knowing about you.

I definitely think people trust Apple more... and I feel that trust spreads to other products like the HomePod.

For example, if you buy a compatible security camera, it will only upload recordings via Apple's HomeKit Secure Video, storing them in your iCloud and locked by a key that only exists on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac.

"I definitely think people trust Apple more as [they] has been pushing the security and privacy side of their products, particularly the iPhone, and I feel that trust spreads to other products like the HomePod," home-automation blogger Ryan Mawby told Lifewire via email. 

More Than Just Temperature

The new HomePod has internal sensors for temperature and humidity. Thanks to the automation options built into Apple's Shortcuts automation app, you can go a lot deeper than just checking the temperature in the kitchen from your Apple Watch.

For example, you could have your heating switch on when the temperature drops below a certain threshold. Previously, you'd have to go out and buy a smart thermostat to do this and then add sensors to different rooms. You still have to wire up your heating with a compatible controller, but now you won't have to bother with the sensors. 

Plus, you can do other neat stuff like have the heat come on a half hour before you arrive home or a half hour before your morning alarm sounds.

A Nest smart thermostat mounted on a textured white wall.

Dan LeFebvre / Unsplash

The point is the HomePod mini was already the best way into home automation. Now, with its new sensors, and the upcoming avalanche of Thread and Matter accessories, it's even better.

Thread Matters

Thread is the new wireless standard for home automation. Devices have built-in, low-power Thread radios that can talk to each other without a regular Wi-Fi network, although they can also be reached from the internet. It's all interoperable and also more reliable. Plus, you don't have to configure anything. It should all just work.

"I think Thread/Matter will make automation across the home more common for all—especially for those that have dipped a toe in the water with Ring doorbells or automated thermostats," says Mawby.

Matter is the other half of this new paradigm. Instead of shopping for devices that are compatible with your Google, Amazon, or Apple home automation setups, Matter is a standard that works with them all. This is better for everyone, from manufacturers who now only have to support one standard to us buyers, who can mix and match without worry. And it's especially good for Apple, which is far behind Google and Amazon in this market.

Soon, you'll be able to enjoy the privacy of Apple's HomeKit and choose any Matter accessory you like. And if you buy a new HomePod, or already own a HomePod mini, you'll already have a lot of what you need to get started.

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