Apple Siri offline language processing announced at WWDC '21

Today, June 11th, marks the closing day of this year’s Apple Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) event.

Apple kicked it off on Monday the 7th with an epic keynote, bursting with tons of new stuff coming to different devices. From the new Focus mode and notification batching on iPhones and iPads, to Apple Maps overhaul, new watchOS and a big Privacy upgrade. However no one expected that the killer feature of the iOS15 would actually be Siri!

During the event, their CEO Tim Cook has repeatedly stated:

“At Apple, we believe that privacy is a fundamental human right.”

Privacy has surely been a big deal for Apple since the beginning (see how their stance on privacy differs from Amazon and Google’s HERE).  Of course Apple HomeKit had a special spot with iOS15 updates coming this fall, there were some welcome surprises :-)

Here’s everything coming to your Apple home:

Privacy update: offline Siri

This one is big: Apple is bringing Siri from a cloud-based to a local, on-device processing state, meaning that no audio recordings are going to the cloud from your HomeKit accessories.

“Today we’re introducing on-device speech recognition. This means that by default your audio is always processed right on your iPhone or iPad. This addresses the biggest privacy concern we hear for voice assistants, which is unwanted audio recording… You can now make many requests without an internet connection.”

- Craig Federighi (Senior Vice President of Software Engineering)

On-device language processing has been highly requested and we expected Google Assistant to be the first to announce this at this year’s Google I/O event, but Apple beat them to it. Since the processing will be done on your HomeKit hub’s chip (e.g. Apple TV, HomePod mini, iPad) the commands will not only address privacy concerns, but also substantially faster as they’ve showcased.

“We’ve designed it so that your Siri requests flow to your HomePod without going to any third-party servers providing the privacy you expect from Apple.”

- Yah Cason (Senior Engineer, HomeKit Software)

Source: Apple


Siri will be able to complete several tasks in succession even faster, almost instantly, including controlling your smart home (HomeKit-enabled accessories as well as your KNX, GIRA or Loxone devices if you’ve integrated them), launching apps, setting a timer, turning on dark mode, creating an alarm, setting reminders and more.


Siri-enabled accessories

For the first time, Apple Siri will be available on non-Apple devices! As long as you have a HomePod or HomePod mini as your home hub, you will be able to communicate with Siri through third-party smart devices.

The first product to add Siri voice control is the Ecobee SmartThermostat. It will be coming out together with iOS15 later this year.

"we’re so excited to bring Siri to third-party devices. For the first time, HomeKit accessory makers can enable Siri in their products, so you’ll be able to talk to Siri on even more devices.”

-Yah Cason (Senior Engineer, HomeKit Software)

This is something that Amazon’s Alexa has been way ahead on, so this is a step up for wider access to Siri.

Ecobee SmartThermosta, Source: Apple


Matter

Project Matter (ex CHIP; Connected Home over IP) was announced a year ago and is finally starting to move, with Apple pushing forward. They’ve mentioned that it will be fully supported with iOS15, which means that non-HomeKit devices (e.g. Alexa, Google) will eventually become available in the Home app and could be controlled through Siri.

Supposedly the devices with Matter support won’t need to be certified as HomeKit devices for this alliance to work. Over time, this will bring an even greater number of supported smart home devices for HomeKit users. For the end-user, this means that you will be able to buy smart devices that will be compatible with multiple ecosystems and you won’t be confined to a single ecosystem as this is the case at the moment. You won’t have to change your whole set of smart devices if you’d like to change from an iOS to Android smartphone.

Source: Apple

HomeKit Secure Video

One of the biggest updates in iOS15 is the announcement of iCloud+, which will open access to HomeKit Secure Video to more users. With the introduction of iCloud+, the Secure Video will get a big boost with iOS15 and users with 50GB plan could now add unlimited number of cameras (at present, the free and 50GB plans don’t support Secure video at all and the top-tier 2TB plan allows up to 5 cameras.)

Secure Video will be able to identify packages, apart from people, vehicles and animals that it currently does. Such parcel detection is something some non-HomeKit smart video doorbells have had already, so it’s good to see Apple catching up in this respect.

Source: Apple


HomeKey

Apple released an updated version of their CarKey and at the same time brought HomeKit to the Wallet app. This means that if you have a HomeKit-compatible lock, you will be able to just approach the door, use the virtual key from the Wallet app and ta-da, you’re in!

You won’t even have to open the Home app or ask Siri to unlock the door, it will appear on your lock screen just like any other Wallet accessory. Unlocking the door will literally be a simple 2 second process of you holding your smartphone near a lock.

And not just with your phone, Apple Watch will also support it with the new watchOS 8.

Source: Apple

An exciting year ahead for Apple HomeKit and Siri assistant!

Apart from the mentioned features, Apple has also announced the ability to ask Siri to control devices at a specific time in the future. Our team is very excited for this leap forward for voice control technology, that isn’t set in the present anymore, you could soon ask Siri to turn off the bedroom lights in 45 minutes. You could ask her to turn on the kitchen lights in 20 minutes. Or perhaps tell Siri to turn off your living room TV when you leave.

This affords much more natural conversation with Siri and will be a massive step in improving usability for Apple home users.

Want to know more?

Watch the full Apple keynote from June 7th:

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