Apple's HomeKit and Home app didn't get a whole lot of time at this years rapid fire dub-dub, but there were indeed some significant announcements. For this year's iOS release, Apple is adding improvements to face detection for its HomeKit Secure Video feature, deeper HomePod and Apple TV integration, and color shifting for lights. Of course, there were also some smaller visual tweaks and features announced, so let's dive into everything that is coming in iOS 14.
In iOS/iPadOS 14 setting up a HomeKit accessory will look a little different, yet familiar. Just like with the AirPods and the HomePod, users will now see an overlay appear on the Home screen when there is a HomeKit accessory available to pair.
If you are already in the Home app, the pairing process still begins with tapping the "+" icon, and then by choosing "Add Accessory" on the pop up menu. The scanning screen has been changed to a smaller card like view that is similiar to the overlay when on the Home screen.
Once an accessory is paired, users will be presented with handy suggestions for the device, such as adding it to a light scene or to location based automations.
HomeKit controls have also gotten some love in iOS 14 in the form of a new control center layout. The latest update brings support for individual scenes and favorite accessories right in line with other controls, so you no longer have to tap into a Home icon to gain access to them.
HomeKit accessories are shown in the same icon sizing as other controls buttons, like screen recording. Scenes have larger icons, that mimic their appearance in the Home app. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that cameras are included in this new view, and it looks like the Home app isn't included with the new iOS 14 widget functionality.
Home app overview & visual changes
In the Home app, Apple has redesigned the status overview area to include circular icons for accessories that are in use. This new view replaces the text descriptions that are used to relay the number of lights that are on in the home, or if a door is unlocked.
In iOS 14, the text area has been replaced with a set of circular icons to represent home status at a glance. Users can tap directly on these icons to quickly change accessory states like closing the garage door if it is listed as open.
Accessing Home settings has been slightly altered in iOS 14, with the Home icon in the top left hand side of the app now presenting a pop over menu.
When viewing settings for HomeKit accessories, you will now see a list of suggested automations and existing automations. In most cases, the Home app suggests location based automations, and include accessory specific controls like one for the HomePod for pausing playback when the last person leaves.
This list also includes quick toggles for enabling or disabling the automations, which makes it easier to track down a specific automation when you want to make temporary changes.
iPadOS 14 side bar
Along with other Apple apps in iOS 14, the Home app on the iPad has gained a new side bar view. Upon launching the Home app, you will now see a list of all of your rooms within the home, as well as a quick menus to access the automations screen and the Home screen.
At this time, the side bar only works as an easy way to jump from room to room. You cannot drag accessories into rooms or edit the bar in any way.
First introduced alongside iOS 9.3 back in 2016, Night Shift, Apple's color shifting feature designed to promote rest and improve sleep, has made its way into the world of smart home accessories. iMore contributor and co-founder of Anxiety-videos.com Georgia Dow, summed up the feature in an excellent break down back when it was first introduced:
During the day we soak in light from the sun. Unlike Superman or Supergirl, to whom it grants unbelievable power, in us the light suppresses melatonin. As it gets darker we produce more melatonin. It usually starts a few hours before bedtime and increases greatly towards the middle of the night. That helps keep us asleep and ensure we get a good night's rest.
Shorter wavelength blue light, by contrast, does the opposite: It suppresses melatonin and builds up histamine that helps wake us up. Unfortunately, electronic displays like those on phones and tablets have a higher concentration of blue light than the sun. So, when you're lying in bed at night playing Candy Crush, watching YouTube, or reading iMore, you're soaking in the blue light and wreaking havoc with our circadian rhythm. In other words, it resets that feeling of tiredness and hurts our sleep cycle.
For the home, Apple is able to leverage the plethora of available color temperature adjustable smart light bulbs, lamps, and panels, to create an automatic schedule that changes throughout the course of the day. Once enabled, HomeKit will adjust colors in the day time to cooler shades of white and during the evening, HomeKit will shift the color to warmer, yellow, tones.
The best part of the feature is that it doesn't require anything other than a few taps in the Home app. Apple has not said if the feature will be available for all existing light bulbs or if it requires firmware updates to enable it, but in theory, all adjustable bulbs should be compatible. The Adapative Lighting feature is not yet available in the first iOS 14 developer Beta.
Apple's HomeKit Secure Video while still somewhat in its infancy, already works in the background to provide smart notifications based on the action within a supported camera's view. In combination with a HomeKit hub, such as an Apple TV, HomePod, or an iPad, image analysis is performed locally to determine whether a motion event includes a human, animal, or vehicle.
In iOS 14, Apple is taking this analyzation process even further, through face detection. Just like its name suggests, the latest feature can distinguish between people in a camera or doorbell view, and can provide notifications that include a person's name. An example of this would be a notification that states "Jon has arrived home", or "Jon is ringing the doorbell" which is perfect for keeping tabs on the happenings of the home throughout the day.
Faces are trained through tagging in the Photos app, so there isn't a new process to learn, making it easy for everyone to get up and running. In the first version of the iOS 14 Beta, face recognition is not enabled by default. It can be turned on by going into a camera's setting just like accessing HomeKit Secure Video options.
The latest face detection features for HomeKit also integrates with Apple's smart speaker, the HomePod. When someone presses the button on a HomeKit-enabled doorbell, the HomePod can announce who is actually at the door. Since the HomePod does not have a current beta program, this feature may remain dormant until the general release of iOS 14 later this year.
Activity zones for cameras
HomeKit cameras, while great, have been hampered by the lack of custom activity zones, creating a mess when it comes to notifications. This is changing in iOS 14, with Apple finally providing this capability, which is set directly in the Home app.
The feature allows users to define which areas in a camera's view will be used for detection, by drawing and positioning custom shapes. In addition to drawing shapes for specific areas, users can also use an invert option that can make covering larger areas quicker.
When combined with A.I. image analysis features already offered through HomeKit Secure Video, users can exclude animals or vehicles, and now busy parts of a camera's view, like a sidewalk. To enable the feature, users must have their designated HomeKit hub running iOS 14 in addition to the beta on their iPhone or iPad.
Apple TV control center
Over on the Apple TV, Home app controls can now be found in the control center, accessible by a long-press of the Home button. From this screen you can tap on a Home icon to bring up select home controls. Favorite scenes are displayed just like they are on iOS, with a larger button complete with an assigned icon. Changes cannot be made to this list on device, with favorite assignments coming directly from the Home app on other devices.
Favorite cameras are also available, which are accessed with a swipe if you have more than one in your home. Tapping on a camera in this view will open up a full screen live view, along with audio which was not previously available to HomeKit cameras on the TV.
All the little things
The Home app has quite a few odds and ends that we are just now discovering. One of which is a larger Alarm overview when diving into HomePod settings. Another is that the talk button for camera live views is larger and more prominent, showing as a large yellow button right underneath the view in portrait mode. On Wi-Fi accessories, a new "Wi-Fi Credential" section appears in the device information area which shows if HomeKit Secure Router is managing its connection.
We're updating the details on new features coming to HomeKit and the Home app as we peak into iOS 14. Check back later for more details!
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