When Apple announced its HomePod mini smart speaker, it talked up the sound quality and ability to summon voice assistant Siri to handle calendar appointments, the latest headlines, and song requests. However, it failed to mention that its latest smart home gadget has the ability to measure temperature and humidity.
Apple quietly included a sensor to monitor air temperature and humidity, according to a new article by Bloomberg. The technology, which is currently dormant inside the HomePod mini, could be activated by a future software update and used to enable a number of new features in the orange-sized speakers.
Apple already allows Siri to control a number of third-party smart home devices, including Philips Hue lightbulbs, Eufy security cameras, Eero mesh Wi-Fi kit, tadoº smart thermostats and more. While HomePod mini can already use the far-field microphones built-in to ask Siri to dim the lights and crank up the heating, it’s possible that a future update will enable some of these commands to happen automatically based on the data being monitored by the dormant hidden sensors.
According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, this exact feature was discussed inside Apple ahead of the announcement of the HomePod mini. In his article, Gurman notes: “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 your 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.”
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The sensor is found at the bottom of the bulb-like speaker, located close to the power supply. According to TechInsights, a firm that analyses components inside of electronics, which independently verified the existence of the sensor outed by the Bloomberg article, this placement suggests that Apple intends to use the speaker to monitor the external environment.
Some had speculated that Apple used the humidity sensor as an internal diagnostic tool – letting engineers know if it had been used in a steamy bathroom, for example, if the customer is complaining about issues with the gadget.
This wouldn’t be the first time that Apple has shipped a product with a hidden sensor, only to enable its functionality in a subsequent software update.
Back in 2008, the iPod Touch shipped with a Bluetooth chip, but support for connectivity over Bluetooth was only enabled the following year with a new version of iOS. If Apple decides to follow a similar plan with the HomePod mini, it’s possible this hands-free speaker will be transformed into a home-monitoring gadget that works as a wireless thermostat for your heating.
The news comes as Apple discontinued the original HomePod. Announcing why it had decided to call time on the Amazon Echo rival, Apple said it would allow it to focus on the HomePod mini.