There's a lot riding on the success of Apple's new HomePod smart speaker, so news that it had sold out on pre-orders ahead of the 9 February launch will have been met with a few sighs of relief in Apple's 'spaceship' HQ in Cupertino.
Initial reviews generally praise the speaker's audio quality, but the HomePod is also an AI-driven device that's designed to work with Apple's Siri voice assistant. And, crucially, the HomePod also incorporates Apple's HomeKit software for home automation. HomeKit was actually launched back in 2014, as part of iOS 8, but has struggled to gain support as smart speakers such as Amazon's Echo and Google Home have taken a lead in the smart home market.
So, as well as just being a high-quality speaker, the HomePod is also a vital strategic product that needs to be a success if Apple is to gain a foothold in the key home-automation market. And, with the HomePod barely a week old, the initial signs are favourable, with a number of new smart devices announcing support for HomeKit. Most of these are aimed at home users, but many can also be useful in an office or commercial environments such as hotels or restaurants (and, of course, most of them also support the Amazon Echo too).
If you're thinking of buying a £319/$349 HomePod as a hub for your smart home or office, here are some of the HomeKit-compatible devices you'll be able to control.
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August Home is the best-known manufacturer of smart locks in the US, and several of its products work with HomeKit, allowing to you lock or unlock a door using Siri voice commands (as well as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant), or simply by using your smartphone as a key.
HomeKit's interoperability features mean that you can also link the locks to other HomeKit devices, perhaps turning on your Philips Hue lights as soon as you unlock the door to your office in the morning.
August's products aren't widely available in the UK as European homes and offices tend to opt for mortice locks rather than the dead-locks used in the US. However, the Smart Lock range is available via Amazon in the UK, although you should check the suitability of the door fittings in your home or office before buying.
£230 (inc. VAT, or $230)
Buying new lights, thermostats and other smart devices for your home or office can be expensive, but there are cheaper options that allow you to add some smart tech to existing devices.
Belkin's Wemo range of plugs and switches provide smart power-management features, allowing you to turn other devices on and off remotely, and also to monitor energy consumption. And, at CES this year, the company announced the Wemo Bridge, which adds HomeKit compatibility to the Wemo range of energy products (but not its security cameras, unfortunately).
The Bridge costs just $39.99 in the US, and has been selling like hotcakes since CES -- in fact, Belkin informed us that demand in the US is so strong that it may be a few weeks before it can start shipping to the UK and Europe.
Many recent news stories have covered health problems caused by indoor air quality, so monitoring devices that can measure temperature, humidity and levels of carbon dioxide and VOC (volatile organic compounds) can be useful in many offices and homes.
However, Elgato's Eve Room is one of the few air-quality monitors that also supports HomeKit (Netatmo's Healthy Home Coach is another). One of the great strengths of HomeKit is its ability to create 'automations' that combine and control multiple devices. So you could create an automation that links the Eve Room to a smart plug or switch that activates a fan or air-conditioning system (or even open the windows using the forthcoming Velux system from Netatmo). Elgato also makes a number of security sensors that support HomeKit, so they can all be controlled using the HomePod, or the Home app on most iOS devices.
£70 (inc. VAT, or $80)
Like Belkin's Wemo Bridge, the Link Plus hub from Lightwave can be used to add HomeKit compatibility to the company's existing range of plugs, light switches and heating controls.
The hub can be bought on its own for £108.33 (ex. VAT, or £130 inc. VAT), which is more expensive than the Wemo Bridge, but the Link Plus can be used to control up to 200 separate Lightwave devices, including dimmer switches, power sockets, thermostats and radiator valves, and security sensors. The company also sells kits that bundle the Link Plus with a number of other accessories.
£130 (inc. VAT; $TBA)
Security cameras are far and away the top-selling smart devices, and Logitech's Circle 2 is a versatile camera suitable for both home and office use. Bear in mind, though, that it's only the mains-powered 'wired' version of the Circle 2 that supports HomeKit, although there's a battery-powered 'wireless' model that can be controlled via its own app on both iOS and Android devices.
The camera itself is fairly conventional, providing 1080p video recording for security footage, but the wired version of the camera is weatherproof and suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. Logitech also sells accessories such as an outdoor extension lead and window-mount attachment that can be used to position the camera in order to monitor public locations such as offices and other commercial premises. There are also multi-packs available, with two or three cameras for larger buildings.
£170 (inc. VAT, or $180)
Nanoleaf isn't as well known as Philips, but the company has been making a name for itself recently with its imaginative Smarter range of smart lighting products.
As well as simple bulbs and lamps, Nanoleaf also produces the eye-catching Light Panels Smarter Kit, which costs £150 (ex. VAT; £180 inc. VAT, or $230). The kit includes nine triangular lighting panels that click together like Lego bricks, allowing you to create custom lighting designs to suit different rooms and locations.
Initially aimed at home users, the Light Panels have proved popular with many businesses for use in public locations such as hotels and restaurants. You can also buy expansion packs with additional panels for larger installations, and there's even a 'rhythm' add-on available that can sync the light display with music playing on the HomePod.
£180 (inc. VAT, or $230)
Netatmo's Presence combines a weather-proof security camera with a powerful floodlight, making it a good security option for monitoring the outside of homes, offices and other premises. Artificial intelligence allows it to tell the difference between people, animals and cars, and also to focus on specific zones outside your building. This means that it can ignore cars driving by, but then activate the floodlight if it detects someone approaching a door or window.
You can control the Presence using a conventional iOS app, but HomeKit support means that you can use voice commands too -- such as 'turn on the floodlight' if you want to have a quick look around outside.
£250 (inc. VAT, or $300)
The Netatmo by Starck Smart Thermostat -- named after its famous designer, Philippe Starck -- isn't the only smart thermostat that aims to help reduce your energy bills (by 37%, according to Netatmo). However, it was one of the first to support HomeKit, allowing you to control the heating at home or in an office using voice commands. It also integrates well with the company's extensive range of home-automation and security products.
The Smart Thermostat is neatly designed too, with a translucent and sturdy plexiglass casing that's available in a variety of colours. You don't even have to attach it to a wall either, as the device can run off batteries and easily be carried from room to room. There's also a demo feature on Netatmo's website that allows you to view the main features in the thermostat's app to see if it meets your needs.
£150 (inc. VAT, $TBA)
Smart lighting that can help to reduce energy bills is useful for both home and business users, and Philips dominates the lighting market with its Hue range of smart bulbs, lamps and other devices.
You need to purchase one of the starter kits first, such as the Hue White Starter Kit, which costs £60/$70 and includes two Hue bulbs and the Bridge hub that connects to your router and provides the HomeKit compatibility. Make sure you get the square, second-generation version of the Hub, rather than the round, first-gen model.
With the Bridge hub in place you can expand your lighting setup by purchasing additional bulbs and lamps, as well as runners and ceiling lights that are suitable for office use.
from £60 (inc. VAT, or $70)
Yale is one of the world's best-known security companies, although it has been a little slow getting to grips with the Internet Of Things. But, after promising HomeKit support for a while, the company recently released its iM1 network module, which adds HomeKit compatibility to some of its Assure locks and keypads. The iM1 is currently available in the US and Canada, with UK pricing and availability due early in 2018.
The iM1 allows you to use Siri voice commands to lock or unlock a door, and if a HomePod or iPad is available, you can remotely control the lock over the internet as well. The lock and iM1 module cost around $250 together, but Yale recently announced plans to acquire August Home, in order to boost its range of smart locks. However, we're still hoping to see the results of Elgato's collaboration with Yale to see if they can provide a smart lock that's really suitable for European users.
iM1 - $50; with Assure Lock - $250