Apple’s well-received HomePod mini smart speaker has a secret: a sensor that measures temperature and humidity that could be used to help control smart home thermostats.
The Cupertino, California-based technology giant never disclosed this component and the device currently lacks consumer-facing features that use it. 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.
If Apple eventually enables the sensor, it would bolster a smart-home strategy that has sometimes lacked focus and trailed those of rivals. Amazon.com Inc.’s latest Echo speakers have temperature sensors, while Google’s Nest sells sensors that can be placed around homes and connect to its thermostats to adjust the temperature of each room.
The component’s location was confirmed by iFixit, which took apart one of the speakers after an inquiry from Bloomberg News. The sensor is made by Texas Instruments Inc. and is called the HDC2010 Humidity and Temperature Digital Sensor, according to TechInsights, a firm that analyses components inside of electronics. The part is situated relatively far from the device’s main internal components, meaning it is designed to measure the external environment rather than the temperature of the speaker’s other electronics.
MacDailyNews Take: Apple’s home automation strategy, if you can call it that, is a disjointed, directionless mess, but the presence of this secret sensor in HomePod mini suggests at least some forethought and intent to do something with HomeKit that will eventually work for the majority of consumers, not just the tinkerer fringe.