Aqara smart home who makes several HomeKit compatible devices that work via its Zigbee hub will soon drop support for HomeKit only mode from August. While Aqara is yet to comment on this, the news comes via the Aqara app and a Reddit post.
Update – Following customer feedback, Aqara has made a U turn and decided to keep HomeKit mode for firmware updates. This is great news for customers and fantastic that Aqara have listen to the feedback and acted.
In response to recent feedback, Aqara has decided to continue to support HomeKit Mode, which allows customers to enjoy basic device features and manage firmware updates for your Aqara HomeKit compatible devices.
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To give a little background, when Aqara launched its products internationally, particular EU countries. They stumbled on the General Data Protection Regulation, abbreviated to GDPR. This is a regulation in the EU to help protect users’ data and privacy. But in the past Aqara’s servers required a user to register, but they were not compliant with GDPR. So they created a HomeKit only mode that allowed users to use Aqara devices without needing to register for an account.
Besides getting around GDPR for EU customers, it also served as a safety net for those concerned with privacy. I am not saying users should be concerned over Aqara and privacy. But I see comments all the time on my YouTube videos and Reddit posts about concerns over privacy with using Aqara. So using HomeKit only mode was one way for customers to feel safe.
So what’s changing? Well, it looks like the Aqara servers for international users are now GDPR compliant. So they are removing the ability to use HomeKit only mode for its products. This means that you will now need to register for an account and connect to its servers to update firmware on your devices. Aqara has also said that you will only get access to extra features when registered. Although they are yet to clarify what these extra features are.
Although the reasoning on face value seems to be sound, advice coming from its official support AndrewFromAqara contradicts why Aqara are doing this. He said via a Reddit post users can block internet access to the devices which stops devices connecting to Aqara cloud. But if you block access, then your device could not connect for firmware updates or use the additional features. Which sort of defeats the object of registering for an account.
So is this a way to collect user data or is a genuine attempt to improve customer experience? Well, at this point I cannot really comment as the reasoning for this move appears at odds with advice to block internet access.
So in the absence of clarity coming from Aqara and August fast approaching. My advice is to register for an account with dummy data and block internet access. Then when Aqara provide further clarity, you can then decide what to do next.
I reached out to Aqara via Twitter when this news first broke and they said they would provide clarity, although at the time of publishing they have still not done so. If I hear from them, I will update this article with further information. So don’t forget to subscribe for more HomeKit News. You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.