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One of the most exciting improvements to come to Apple’s HomeKit ecosystem with iOS 15 is the ability to talk to Siri on third-party accessories, opening up a world where you’ll truly be able to call out to your voice assistant from anywhere in your home.
It’s something that’s long been possible with Siri’s biggest rival, Amazon’s Alexa, but it’s a significant expansion for those who prefer to stay firmly entrenched in the much more secure and private world of HomeKit.
Although Apple announced the feature at WWDC back in June, it requires accessory makers to get on board. However, some like Ecobee wasted no time in announcing their thermostat would be first in line once iOS 15 was released in the fall.
Ecobee is one of the best-known smart thermostat companies, right up there with Google-owned Nest. However, unlike Google’s smart thermostat, Ecobee prides itself on offering powerful features that are platform-agnostic, which means it’s one of the best smart thermostats for HomeKit users.
In fact, the company’s popular Ecobee3 was actually one of the first truly smart thermostats to embrace HomeKit when it was first released years ago, so it didn’t come as a big surprise that the company would be quick to embrace the new Siri support — and now it’s officially here.
The best part of this is that you won’t need a new thermostat to use this feature either, as Ecobee is offering it as a firmware update for its current SmartThermostat with Voice Control, which was released back in 2019.
According to Ecobee, the software update has begun rolling out already, and while it’s going to be a staged rollout, the company says that all SmartThermostat customers should have it within the next few weeks.
Unfortunately, this only applies to the current SmartThermostat with Voice Control. Although Ecobee released its first voice-assistant capable thermostat, the Ecobee4, back in 2017, this older model doesn’t have the hardware necessary to handle the new Siri support.
To be fair, it also lacks other features from the current SmartThermostat too, such as Alexa calling, Bluetooth streaming, and Spotify Connect.
However, this also means that your Ecobee SmartThermostat is getting another bonus: AirPlay 2 support.
Ecobee hasn’t specifically announced this capability, but The Verge has confirmed that it does indeed show up as an AirPlay destination when streaming audio from an iPhone, iPad, Mac, or even your Apple TV.
While you won’t necessarily want to listen to your favourite tunes on the tiny speaker in your SmartThermostat, it should be more than fine for streaming things like podcasts or audiobooks, and combined with AirPlay-capable smoke alarms it could even be a nice way to stream some ambient music around your home.
In fact, The Verge also notes that this is one area in which the Siri integration on the Ecobee SmartThermostat beats out Alexa, since the latter doesn’t work with multiroom audio.
How Do I Set It Up?
The setup process is particularly straightforward, especially if you’re already using your Ecobee SmartThermostat with HomeKit. As soon as the new firmware has been delivered to your thermostat, you’ll get a notification in the Home app asking you if you want to enable Siri, after which it walks you through a process similar to that for a new HomePod, including asking if you want to enable personal requests.
As this shows, Apple’s Siri support on third-party hardware goes well beyond merely handling home automation requests. You’ll be able to ask your SmartThermostat for anything that you could say to a HomePod mini, including checking messages, reminders, and calendar appointments from your iPhone.
This may not be all that surprising, however, as Siri on the Ecobee SmartThermostat — and all the other third-party Siri-capable devices that will come — still requires that you have at least one HomePod device on your network.
In other words, Apple hasn’t gone so far as to let third-party manufacturers build the full Siri intelligence into their devices. Instead, it appears that all the heavy lifting will still be done by a HomePod device. Of course, since the HomePod and HomePod mini also double as a Home Hub, chances are anybody who is invested in HomeKit already has at least one in their home anyway. Apple also notes that this will work with the now-discontinued HomePod, but apparently not with other Home Hub devices like the Apple TV and iPad.