Connecting smart devices via a HomePod mini using Thread

Hello. I’ve spent the afternoon researching this but I don’t really know what I’m doing, so I thought I’d ask the forum instead. Please answer my question as if you are talking to a 5 year old, thanks.

I have smart lights (Nanoleaf) and I wanted to run them on a Thread network. Nanoleaf are Thread compatible. After lots of googling and going round in circles, I think I’ve finally established that a Thread network is established automatically if you have a Thread Border Router. Only a couple of devices are enabled as Thread Border Routers. I do not own one.

I have read online that Apple’s HomePod Mini can act as a Thread Border Router (I think this is right, although it’s not listed on the Thread website?). I don’t need a wireless speaker for music (I already have a separate setup for that) and I don’t use Siri. However, I don’t have external speakers on my tv so I was wondering about connecting a pair of HomePods to my tv. Since I only want the HomePod to act as a router, at least this would give them a use. :upside_down_face: My tv is a Samsung tv and I think is smart, if that matters.

My questions are two:

  1. Do I seem to have understood this correctly?
  2. If I connect two HomePods to my tv, will that stop the tv doing audio as well? I was thinking I’d put the two HomePods in the back corners of the room, so ideally it would be cool if the tv at the front of the room also continued to produce audio. Is that possible?

This isn’t really my question, but if we circle back to my goal (better HomeKit integration and faster light syncing), am I headed in the right direction?

I’d like my system to be “future proof” (as much as is possible!). I’ve only just started tinkering with smart devices, but I might do more if it it works!

Yes, it will stop the TV audio… you have to choose either the HomePods or TV for audio output. I have not found a way to make any of my HomePods achieve a “surround sound” type as you describe.

I will admit that I am confused by your explanation of what you want to end up with regarding Thread capability. Wondering if you would need the new Apple TV model that has Thread built in (and your HomePod mini’s) to get the desired results.

Hello, thank you for your help.

I think my problem is that at the moment I have a few smart devices, but they only talk over wifi and there is no hub/bridge. Apple seems to say that really you want a hub to get the full experience. I control them via apps.

In addition, my current setup is a little glitchy (lights losing contact with my phone occasionally), and from what I’ve read this is possibly also wifi related, and that “communicating” over a network designed for smart devices would be better.

So I looked into that and Thread seems to be the newest type of network. On the Thread website it says you need a Thread Border Router device, which I don’t have. This website says that the HomePod Mini is a Thread Border Router, so I figured that’s what I would buy to complete my set up.

Does that seem correct or have I gone wrong somewhere?

I have renamed my thread since I seem to be asking the wrong questions and am possibly doing the wrong thing.

My understanding is that a Thread Border Router (Currently Apple TV 4K128GB or Homepod Mini from apple) adds a way for Thread devices to speak to each other without using Wifi or Bluetooth.

You do not need a Thread Border Router to make existing devices, or those which can connect over WiFi or Bluetooth, so if your devices currently work fine, adding a Thread Border Router will not add anything extra at this time.

I’m interested what benefits you think you’ll gain at this time from using Thread. As Matter rolls out there may be more benefits in the future.

I mentioned above that my lights are a little glitchy. Sometimes they are “unreachable” and my phone can’t find them on my wifi. I read online that this is usually a network issue, so I’ve guessed that switching to a “dedicated network” instead of using wifi to control the devices would improve connectivity (I think it’s also more secure?).

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my comment is not specifically about nanoleaf or thread devices. I just observe that most IOT device can sometimes become offline and come back on again. At least this is my experience. I guess as our number of devices grows, the electromagnetic interference with 2.4GHz and 5GHz could be an issue, especially with wifi connected devices. Thread connection can be a whole different issue but still subject to interference, I guess.

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If you have not been through Shane Whately’s YouTube channel you might want to. He walks through Thread and Matter in a number of segments.
https://youtu.be/HoTgLFOTQto

Thread is fairly new.

So far, it looks good as a wireless comms other than Wi-Fi that is low power, low latency and more reliable.

I’m experimenting with it, and so far has worked well.

But there isn’t a lot of field experience (years or more) with large configurations to prove the claims of scalability and reliability.

There also are some limitations right now in trying to use other border routers besides Apple - one of the promises of Thread is a truly standard networking platform that can mix and match with other vendor’s equipment.

Now, add Matter on top of it, and you are really in beta category - which with all the recent hoopla, no one wants to publicly admit.

My advice is to use an AppleTV as the Thread border router. Wire it to your network using Ethernet to avoid Wi-Fi connection as another possible point of failure/reliability - so that rules out using HomePods and the new entry level AppleTV that does not have Thread nor wired Ethernet.

I stil feel that Lutron Lighting (Caseta, RA2, RA3, et al) is the best solution for lighting control, not Thread or anything else.

Even with Thread, when, not if, your HomePod or AppleTV gets stuck, you lose all your lightning automations until you can reboot the device.

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I ordered a HomePod mini today :see_no_evil: I did some more reading last night and apparently Nanoleaf lights run on bluetooth if you don’t have a proper HomeKit set up (i.e. if you’re not running a HomePod or AppleTV). This would make sense since during set up I didn’t connect them to the wifi. It’s the bluetooth connection that’s rubbish and leads to devices being undiscoverable according to people on the internet.

So, my thinking is that HomePod mini will fix this problem since it will at the very least mean the lights aren’t reliant on a bluetooth connection. I will report back tomorrow once I’ve got the HomePod set up!

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Thank you for sharing this. I can see I have quite a way to go with my setup :joy:

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