home: Blizzard of new Apple Home connections from curtains to switches to A/C

Well, I’ve been busy as the Apple Home is rapidly evolving through a combination of Homebridge plug-ins that allow great access to all devices and also the coming of Matter and Thread. So I’m working on two things:

  1. Move to new Home Architecture. This requires a massive update of all Apple devices
  2. Integrating more devices. My latest two are an automatic curtain opening system and something that controls a legacy mini-split air conditioner. Both work quite well.
  3. Migration to Matter and Thread devices. Actually, Matter, no pun intended, matters much less than the move to Thread which results in a more reliable and faster mesh. But in the end, as more people adopt Matter, it means that Apple should have a lot more devices that it can use.

Apple Home Architecture Update

What has happened this quarter is that we moved to the new Apple Home architectures which was a pain because all devices need to be upgraded to the latest operating system releases. What happens is that when you get there, you will see a Home Upgrade Available in your Apple Home applications, close your eyes, and push on it. It also required that 2FA be turned on for Apple ID and iCloud for Passwords and Keychain.

One sad thing is that if you have older devices, then they can’t use Apple Home anymore. You need at least iOS 16.4, iPadOS 16.4, and MacOS Ventura 13.3. The solution for the Macs is to use the OpenCore Legacy Loader which gives you Ventura on old hardware. It is complicated and deserves another guide, but I have it working on a MacBook 2014, Mac Mini 2011, and soon a MacBook 2010. If you have an older iPad or iPhone though you are out of luck.

What does it buy you? Well, it supports the new Matter standard and it is supposed to be much faster to switch. I actually haven’t noticed either, but I would say that I don’t get any devices connected as much anymore.

Homebridge for Switchbot Curtains and IR blast to a Fuji Minisplit HVAC

Well, I’ve been using Homebridge quite successfully for things like Roborock, Logitech Harmony for older home theater equipment, older Samsung TVs, UniFi Protect cameras, and even our Tesla. This has been great, but there are always more devices. The latest are two products:

  1. SwitchBot Curtain. ($90 for new Curtain 3, $85 at for old version Amazon, $20 Solar Panel at Amazon, $20 for ) This was actually just replaced by version 3, but it is a little motor that sits on a legacy curtain and it moves the curtains in and out. I’m actually pretty shocked at how well it works. YOu need one of these for each side of the curtain and it connects via Bluetooth to your phone. The thing has two arms and you basically take one out and connect it at the top there is even a solar panel you can attach so you don’t need to take it down to charge. On our curtains which are heavy, it has trouble moving them, so I think I’m going to put a little WD-40 on the rods to reduce resistance, but it definitely works. Then with Homebridge, you can put a plug-in and connect it. There is a little pain with having to figure out the private token but unlike the Roborock and MiHome, this is very easy. I think the Curtain 3 is going to be even better, it comes out at the end of September and has Matter support so you won’t need Homebridge, it also has a more powerful motor.
  2. Switchbot Hub Mini. ($40 at Amazon) This is actually a very useful little gizmo. Basically, it’s a small puck that connects any IR device to Apple Home. It’s a small plastic box that has an IR blaster and a 2.4GHz WiFi connection. You then download their application and put your IR remote and it tries to identify what device it is. In our case, we were trying to get a Fujitsu Mini split and it was too old, so I randomly picked a Fujitsu device and it basically works. The net is that you can say, “Siri, turn on the AC” and it actually works. Pretty neat. In combination with the Logitech Harmony, this is a good way to add legacy devices which for me are primarily Home Theater equipment and this Air conditioner.
  3. Apple Home integration with Homebridge. This actually works really well. Unlike the MiHome with Roborock integration, getting the token is very easy, it is part of the iOS application. But this lets you see whether the curtains are open or closed

Eve Water Guard, Aqara Water Sensor, and Eve Weather

These are some very nice devices. The Eve Water Guard ($100 from Amazon) is a Thread Router which is nice, but the even better part is that it is AC powered, so you don’t need to change batteries and it has a 2-meter-long cable for sensing water leaks. Now, if you have a water leak during a power failure this is not a great idea, but if you have UPS on your house then this gives you protection without having to wander all over the place looking to change sensor batteries.

We also have the Aqara WAter sensor which is battery powered and this seems to work as well. It does need an Aqara hub, but it’s a good place to look.

One of the things that we’ve been thinking about is installing curtain and blind systems so that based on outdoor temperature, things close and open. While there are more expensive weather systems, the Eve Weather is a great choice because it is small and while it doesn’t have rain or water, it does give you temperature. I have it set now so that if the temperature in the evening is low, then it will open the garage door to cool it and then close it in the morning. This actually works pretty well.

The new Onvis Smart Plug and Kasa Matter Smart Plug work

I wanted to try this Onvis Smart Plug ($17 from Amazon) because it is Matter over Thread which is great and it doesn’t use WiFi, instead, it uses the Thread protocol over 2.4GHz using Zigbee, so the response time and reliability should hopefully be better than the WiFi Smart Plugs that I have (including the WeMo for instance and Satechi which do fall off the network).

Kasa Matter Smart Plug 4-Pack. OK, this one I wanted to try just because it is technically Matter but over Wi-Fi and not Thread, so I wanted to see how reliable it is. AT just $50 for four, it definitely is a bargain on Amazon. I have not had time to try them very much, but they haven’t gone down that much.

I’m Rich & Co.

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