Apple’s wireless media streaming protocol, now known as AirPlay, has actually been around for almost two decades, making it one of the oldest dedicated music streaming protocols in existence today.
Originally dubbed AirTunes, it began as an audio-only protocol back in early 2004, back when Sonos was just releasing its first wireless speakers, and almost ten years before Google’s Chromecast would see the light of day.
Back then, however, the protocol worked exclusively between Macs and PCs using iTunes as the sender, with Apple’s AirPort Express base stations working as the receivers, thanks to their 3.5mm combo analog and optical S/PDIF output jack.
In 2010, Apple expanded the protocol to include support for streaming video, renaming it to AirPlay to remove the emphasis on music, and also introducing the ability for iPhones and iPads to beam music and video to AirPlay-enabled receivers, which by that time also included the Apple TV and a slowly growing collection of speakers from companies partnering with Apple to bake in AirPlay support.
These early AirPlay speakers were expensive and fraught with problems, at least partially due to the limitations that Apple put on speaker makers and the way in which the technology was being implemented, so a couple of years ago, Apple returned to the drawing board and created a new “AirPlay 2” standard that was both more reliable and offered advanced capabilities such as streaming from an iPhone or iPad to multiple AirPlay 2 enabled speakers — something that had been offered from the beginning in AirTunes, but only when transmitting from the iTunes app on a Mac or PC.
In addition to including AirPlay 2 support in its own HomePod speaker, Apple also began encouraging more and more companies to add the technology not only to their speakers, but also television makers such as Samsung, Sony, and LG.
So there’s no doubt that AirPlay — once a niche feature of more expensive boutique speakers — has now hit the mainstream with the second-generation of Apple’s streaming technology, and as evidenced by the latest product to gain AirPlay 2 support, it’s fair to say that it’s becoming downright pervasive.
A Smoke Alarm?
First Alert has been making household smoke detectors for many years, so it wasn’t a big surprise when the company decided to begin releasing “smart” smoke alarms a few years back.
We actually saw the first HomeKit-enabled Onelink models back in 2015, which could allow users to receive alerts on their iPhone or iPad if their smoke alarms at home were triggered, and even query Siri as to their status.
While it’s arguable how useful this feature was for most users — especially since the HomeKit-enabled versions of First Alert’s smoke alarms cost upwards of $150 — it was nice to have for home automation enthusiasts who could afford it or those who wanted some more peace of mind while travelling but were reluctant to engage the services of a home monitoring company.
However, now it looks like First Alert is ready to take its Onelink smoke alarms to the next level — allowing you to play music through them from your iPhone or iPad courtesy of AirPlay 2 support.
The feature will be coming only to First Alert’s latest Onelink Safe & Sound 3-in-1 model, since the older models don’t include the necessary level of speaker hardware or CPU power, and will be available to existing users via an OTA firmware update that should just make them automatically appear as AirPlay 2 playback destinations, in addition to their existing placement in the Home app.
While this may sound like a bit much for a smoke alarm, the Onelink Safe & Sound already includes Amazon Alexa support, and a speaker that’s roughly equivalent to the kind of quality you get from most in-ceiling speakers. You won’t necessarily want to hear it belting out your favourite tunes, but it could provide a nice way to listen to some ambient music as you wander around your home.
It also makes the idea of purchasing a Wi-Fi enabled smoke alarm slightly more appealing since it offers more practical features that you can use around your home every day, rather than a simple Wi-Fi alerting feature that you’d hopefully never actually need to take advantage of.
The Onelink Safe & Sound 3-in-1 can be found on Amazon for under $200 and includes both smoke detection and carbon monoxide detection features, along with voice alerts, HomeKit integration, and even the ability to pair up multiple units in a large home so that they work in tandem to notify you of where in your house smoke has been detected.