Third-party remote platform support for Siri in iOS 12, tvOS 12 will be a game changer

in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV
In what amounted to little more than a toss-away line during Apple's WWDC keynote, Craig Federighi offhandedly mentioned that in tvOS 12, Apple was working to bring more Apple TV functionality, including Siri, to third-party remote platforms. This is a big deal, and AppleInsider discusses why.

Not only can third-party remotes control Apple's set-top box, but they can now even invoke Siri -- something that has thus far been limited to Apple's own Siri Remote.

I've used many smart or universal remotes regularly in my home. In the years of the third-generation Apple TV, I was a steadfast Logitech Harmony user.

Apple forced a change when the fourth-generation launched, bundled with the new voice-enabled Siri Remote. The Harmony was still able to control the Apple TV, but couldn't query via Siri. So, I was forced to abandon my Harmony controller.

Considering that Siri was, at that time, the only way to interface with HomeKit devices, it was a problem for me.

Since the keynote, Federighi's offhanded remark stuck with me as I pondered the reach of this new upcoming functionality. Little information has been released thus far, making it harder to discern what will, and won't, be possible.

What we do know, is that several companies have come on board to offer this new functionality in their own smart remotes. Control4, Crestron, and Savant have all been name-dropped by Apple as partners who are interested in adopting it. What this means, is that there can now be IP control of the Apple TV, with voice commands coming through new devices such as Crestron's TSR-310 touchscreen remote.

Siri has become more and more useful in recent years. Users can ask Siri to control any HomeKit device, including the HomePod or third-party AirPlay 2 speakers. Now that Siri can be baked into these new smart remote systems, they too can be used to control any of those devices.

HomeKit remotes

What's more, as AppleInsider reported shortly after WWDC, is that these new remotes that work with the Apple TV, will also support HomeKit. Many possibilities exist with that simple change.

Again, we don't know how this will all play out for sure, but it has really had me thinking of what we could do. Will these "remotes" act as controllers for other HomeKit devices? Could I see my entire inventory of HomeKit devices listed on the screen of a Control4 controller?

Or, are these remotes simply added as devices to be controlled like the rest? In this scenario, any IR or RF device could be controlled. Remotes exist for blinds, TVs, ACs, receivers, speakers, fans, and more.

If this pans out, manufacturers can create an IR/RF blaster that can "learn" commands from "dumb" remotes, similar to how the Siri remote learns new commands to control the volume on a receiver. Then, you could tell Siri to turn on the TV, change the input, change the channel, control my cable box, etc.

Unofficially, adding remotes to HomeKit was possible using an aftermarket solution called Homebridge that is used to bring additional features to HomeKit. Homebridge usually requires quite a bit of know-how and is, of course, not supported by Apple.

In a tutorial I wrote a few months back, I showed users how they could create their own HomeKit-equipped camera this way. While this can be fun for those willing to tinker, it is not a solution for the vast majority of users and even the tech shamans run into problems as evidenced by the comments on the article.

HomeKit Home app

Having remotes added to HomeKit could really be a game changer for users not interested in hacks or workarounds. Instead of buying an expensive HomeKit-enabled fan, any existing model with a remote could be effortlessly added to HomeKit with a new HomeKit remote.

And, TVs, receivers, and speaker systems could all be controlled through Siri and HomeKit without any large expenditure. The same goes for AC units and many, many more devices. Even controlling accessories from non-Apple devices would be huge. In-wall touchscreen controllers, other non-HomeKit smart homes that interface with these more robust systems like the aforementioned Control4, Savant, and Crestron.

I'm holding out hope that this new remote control functionality will come with iOS and tvOS 12.0 this fall, but in all reality, it could be delayed like has often been the case. Apple intended to ship the water controller/sprinkler functionality with iOS 11.0, but instead, it didn't make it's way out until iOS 11.2 and 11.3. Devices like the Eve Aqua, were held up substantially as a result.

If the remote category doesn't launch with the initial release of iOS 12, it could end up being more than a year away before we actually see any HomeKit remotes make it to market, and this would be a shame.


  • Reply 1 of 9
    nunzynunzy Posts: 662member
     I just hope that apple is charging plenty of royalties for this. Why should any third-party be allowed to make money off of apples inventions and apples customers?
  • Reply 2 of 9
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,358member
    I was most pleased by these two announcements.   I'm planning on buying Savant this fall or next spring and while their IP stuff is really cool the $ensible solution for TV distribution in my home will be an ATV attached to each TV.  Now that IP control and Remotes are part of HomeKit I'll be able to integrate these into my entire home system. 
  • Reply 3 of 9
    irelandireland Posts: 17,794member
    nunzy said:
     I just hope that apple is charging plenty of royalties for this. Why should any third-party be allowed to make money off of apples inventions and apples customers?
    Yeah, Apple will go out of business any day now.
  • Reply 4 of 9
    jdmac29jdmac29 Posts: 40member
    I need this for the Logitech harmony hub. With Alexa skill it is hit and miss with the voice commands. Hoping Siri can change that. 
  • Reply 5 of 9
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 6,218member
    nunzy said:
     I just hope that apple is charging plenty of royalties for this. Why should any third-party be allowed to make money off of apples inventions and apples customers?
    How does allowing a 3rd party remote to control an already-purchased Apple TV (with unused Siri Remote) make any bit of difference to Apple? All this does is make the ATV more attractive to people with universal remotes for all their boxes.
  • Reply 6 of 9
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 2,246member
    nunzy said:
     I just hope that apple is charging plenty of royalties for this. Why should any third-party be allowed to make money off of apples inventions and apples customers?
    How does allowing a 3rd party remote to control an already-purchased Apple TV (with unused Siri Remote) make any bit of difference to Apple? All this does is make the ATV more attractive to people with universal remotes for all their boxes.
    I think you figured it out. Siri would be used more. I use my Harmony remote most of the time. Only grabbing the Apple remote once in a while. So i rarely use Siri with my Apple TV's. Why shouldn't Apple expand Siri support to other 3rd party devices? As it is, Alexa is going everywhere. While I'm a growing Homekit house, even I can't seem to stop Alexa from getting into my house and used for a few things, not by choice.

    You have 3rd party devices supporting Airplay and Airplay 2, so why not Siri? So only Amazon and Google and spread out to other hardware?
    edited June 2018 watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 9
    lorin schultzlorin schultz Posts: 2,771member
    Opening up Siri remote capability to third parties is a very welcome step, but it only has value if third parties actually incorporate it into their products. CarPlay is also an example of Apple providing a way for equipment manufacturers to attract Apple users, but response from those suppliers has been a little disappointing.

    The real traction point for universal remotes is inclusion in the Logitech Harmony line. Given its position on HomeKit (which seems to be "ignore it and hope it goes away"), I'm not optimistic Logitech will embrace this opportunity.
  • Reply 8 of 9
    dkhaleydkhaley Posts: 57member
    In addition to the Harmony style remote, I hope that manufacturer will come up with something innovative.

    I'd really like an LED touchscreen dedicated to controlling Homekit devices, for times when I'm not carrying my phone or when guests are over.  I want to be able to mount it on a wall.  Something similar to sticking an iPad mini on the wall, but without all the other features that add cost.
  • Reply 9 of 9
    Hi Andrew,  No disrespect, but is this article purely your own speculation and desires, or have you gotten any further information other than the brief mention in the WWDC keynote and the terse press release from Crestron?

    The reasons I am asking:

    The wording is very vague and often with Apple the delivered feature is the least/lowest functionality that might might sense, not the ultimate desires of users. As a smart home integration specialist, focused on HomeKit and consumer devices, I would love to have the Apple TV become a selling point rather than a paint point in all the home theater/home automation systems I install.

    Having said that, I have serious doubts this support is anything more than an official remote control API/Protocol over IP.  As you know, Apple currently has a traditional IR remote control protocol that is widely supported by all 3rd party control systems - big and small.

    What isn't widely known is that a few companies have implemented IP control of current AppleTV products.  Using clever reverse engineering, companies like Simple Control (formerly Roomie Remote) have been controlling Apple TV's via IP for several years.  Although not ideal, IP control offers many advantages over IR control and thus some solution is better than none.

    It would sensational news if Apple were going to allow 3rd party hardware to interface or directly run Siri voice control.  Seriously!  This would be a huge change in direction for Apple as Siri is one of the most tightly controlled technologies from Apple.  Until this year's WWDC and the upcoming launch of "Siri shortcuts", Apple has tightly controlled 3rd party Siri "intents" only allowing a few select types.  Even 3rd party podcast apps (one of the obvious customer requests) are not allowed to have Siri voice control.

    Although your, mine, and most consumers dream of having a 3rd party remote control device from Savant, Control4, Logitech or some of the new startups like Neeo able to have both button and voice control of Siri, I would be stunned if this is allowed.

    Bear in mind that today even Apple Music support is tightly controlled.  Although 3rd party hardware companies are going to be able to add AirPlay 2 support, only one company, Sonos, has direct integration with Apple Music that allows playing selections from Apple Music directly from the network without having to pass everything through an iPhone, iPad, or Mac.  (In technical terms, this is the "casting" the Chromcast supports - the device initiates the song selection, but the actual data flows directly from the cloud to the audio system. You can turn off your smartphone or tablet and the audio keeps playing.

    Only Sonos, at this time, has this unique, AND HIGHLY VALUABLE, direct interface to the Apple music.  (Rumor has it that Sonos got this special deal because as the inventor of synchronized wireless multi-room music they have unique patents and struck a cross-licensing deal with Apple, but that's only speculation on my part.)

    I believe Siri is even more tightly controlled and thus Apple would never allow 3rd party access to Siri.

    TL;DR - this announcement could be amazingly important or very boring - just an incremental update to allow existing IR control commands to travel via IP networks also.

    P.S. The joke in professional circles is that wealthy Apple execs probably have $100,000 Creston/Savant/Control4 automation systems in their Silicon Valley mansions and got tired of Roku and FireTV's having better support than AppleTV by these big control systems they own so they did something about it.
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