Apple HomePod smoke alarm detection feature is rolling out now — here’s how it works

Apple HomePod discontinued
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Owners of an Apple HomePod may want to make sure they install all the latest software updates, because there’s a brand new feature you'll probably want to take advantage of. One that will help alert you whenever a smoke detector or carbon monoxide (CO) detector goes off in your home.

The Sound Recognition feature was first announced when the second-gen HomePod launched earlier this year. But it won’t be exclusive to the new smart speaker, with Apple confirming it is also rolling out to the first generation HomePod and the HomePod mini.

The crucial point here is that the HomePod can’t detect smoke or CO by itself. Instead, it can detect the sound made by the alarms that are already in your home, even if you have an old-school detector that isn’t connected to the internet.

HomePod Sound Detection

Should your HomePod detect the sound of the alarm, it will send a notification to your iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch. Tapping it will then let you tune into what the HomePod is hearing, so you know exactly what’s going on — whether it’s a genuine smoke alarm or a false positive. You can also get a live video feed as part of that notification if there’s a HomeKit-compatible camera in the area. 

In line with Apple’s current privacy policies, all the relevant data is analyzed on device rather than an Apple server. The link to your HomePod is end-to-end encrypted as well.

Apple does warn that you shouldn’t rely on Sound Recognition “in circumstances where you may be harmed or injured, or in high-risk or emergency situations.” So as useful as this feature can be, especially if you don’t have a connected smoke or CO alarm, it’s not something you want to trust with your life. Too many things could go wrong, no matter how accurate it may or may not be.

You’ll also need to have Apple’s new Home architecture installed, which means updating your devices to iOS 16.4 and ensuring the Home app is properly updated. Until you have all the latest software, the HomePod’s Sound Detection feature will be inaccessible to you.

The updates are still rolling out and may not be available in the Home app immediately. If that's the case you'll just need to be patient and wait for it to arrive.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.