As part of its Worldwide Developers Conference keynote, Apple announced it’s finally opening up its Siri digital assistant to work with third-party smart home devices. The news came as part of a batch of new features for the smart home, including a new ability to watch TV with friends and a way to use an Apple HomePod mini as part of a speaker setup for your home theater. The Apple Watch and Home app are also getting updates that enable more convenient smart home features.
The third-party Siri integration means you’ll be able to use the assistant to control non-Apple devices like a smart thermostat. You can already talk to Alexa through the EcoBee, for example, and that’s the same case Apple showed off during a keynote video.
Apple publicly affirmed its commitment to the Matter smart home standard, which will enable smart home devices from rival companies play nicely together.
But there was no announcement of a homeOS, a smart home operating system that was rumored to be on deck for WWDC. Instead, Apple showcased small but useful updates for the home.
If you miss watching TV with friends and family, Apple introduced SharePlay, which lets you and a friend or two share the same stream. Everyone in the watch session will be synced through FaceTime. As you watch more often with others, the Apple TV app will surface a row where you can see what others are into, with the hopes of inspiring future watch parties. If you’re all in the same room together, use the For All of You feature to let Apple TV aggregate shows and movies based on everyone’s overlapping interests.
If you have an Apple TV 4K and a HomePod mini, you’ll be able to use the latter as a background speaker in your living room. The HomePod mini is also getting lossless audio support for Apple Music later this year, as well as voice recognition to distinguish between different people in your household.
Apple Watch users will be able to use their smartwatches as smart home security controllers. The Watch can bring up HomeKit-compatible live security camera footage with a voice command. If you have a package waiting at the door, your watch will let you know. Both the iPhone and Apple Watch can also be programmed to work with compatible smart locks. And if you need to broadcast a message back at home, you can use the Apple Watch to dictate an audio announcement to your connected HomePod speakers.
Of all the smart home announcements Apple made today, the biggest is the fact that Siri is now available on third-party products. Apple users have been hoping for years that the company would open up Siri for use on third-party accessories. HomeKit is capable, but it remains a limited ecosystem. With Siri able to control non-Apple home devices and support for the Matter smart home standard, we expect to see more HomeKit devices coming through the pipeline towards the end of the year.
Update: 6/7/2021, 4:57 p.m.: Ecobee announced its smart thermostat will be among the first devices to support Siri. New and existing owners of the smart thermostat will be able to enable Siri and activate it with a simple “Hey Siri” command.