You never know what you might find when you take an Apple device apart. In the case of the HomePod Mini, that would be a previously unmentioned temperature and humidity sensor. To some of you, that may sound like something random to include in a speaker, but thanks to my line of work I know the value of a well placed environmental sensor or two.
This news definitely got my attention when I saw it yesterday. Apple including temperature and humidity sensors inside the smaller, less expensive (and now only) HomePod will add an additional layer of functionality that could prove quite handy. Typically, home automation hub devices delegate such sensing duties to other accessory devices. However, as I have found with some more sophisticated devices meant for commercial and industrial use, the more readings you can bring in across an area, the better you can control the temperature and humidity in that space.
In the case of the devices I use at work, these intelligent room controllers act as a more sophisticated version of a programmable thermostat and can function stand-alone, or part of an open-protocol Building Automation System. It’s a really powerful and flexible device and we sell a lot of them for Rooftop Unit, Fan Coil Unit, Heat Pump and traditional split-system furnace applications because of that.
What makes them particularly powerful is that you can also wirelessly connect up to 10 ceiling or wall-mount Zigbee Pro temperature, humidity and motion sensors to cover the entire area served by a unit. For example, instead of just reading temperature at a single thermostat location, you can choose another sensor in a different room. You can average them all together, or control heat to the lowest temp and cooling to the highest. There are also other available sensors that cover CO2, and door and window status. There’s even a wireless leak detector for the condensate pan of a ceiling-mounted unit, attic furnace or hot water heater. Inexpensive sensors that can be placed pretty much anywhere are changing the way my business works.
Based on a bit from Mark Gurman’s Bloomberg article yesterday, it seems that Apple has the same kind of thing in mind for these new sensors in the HomePod Mini:
The company has internally discussed using the sensor to determine a room’s temperature and humidity so internet-connected thermostats can adjust different parts of a home based on current conditions, according to people familiar with the situation. The hardware could also let the HomePod mini automatically trigger other actions, say turning a fan on or off, depending on the temperature.
The same that’s true in my business is also true in the home, so it’s good to see that Apple’s showing a little bit of vision here. With its intercom and multi-room capabilities and competitive price, the HomePod Mini is the kind of device that Apple-users will consider buying more than one of. Combined with a couple of wireless HomeKit sensors, they could be used to sense the temp and humidity across an entire home and then trigger actions to control it.
The only unfortunate thing about this revelation is that Apple still hasn’t activated these sensors or admitted to their existence yet. However, their presence is no accident and if Gurman is writing about them, it means Apple has active plans for them. My hope is that we hear something about those plans during this year’s WWDC. I also hope that Apple won’t shy away from adding more sensors to their home-based products in the future.