Google Home is a voice activated smart speaker that allows homeowners to search Google without a keyboard or phone. Users simply say “Hey Google” to turn on the device, and then they’re able to look for anything they normally look for at the computer. This is Google’s answer to Amazon’s Alexa.
While hands free access to the Google’s search engine is nice, Google Home really shines when it’s paired with Nest’s suite of smart home devices. Nest was purchased by Google in 2014, so the partnership between the two technologies allows for relatively glitch free syncing. Officially, Google Home is part of Nest’s “Works with Nest” list of approved technologies. Using Google Home with Nest allows homeowners to control lighting, security, and temperature, all without even pulling out their phones.
This means that Google Home can function as a smart home hub—a single point of contact with multiple parts of the house. If a homeowner already own a Nest Thermostat, the Home lets you control it with a simple “Hey Google, turn down the temperature.” Have a Nest Cam or Haiku fan? Just ask Google to turn them on or off.
How Much Can It Do?
For those just getting into the whole smart home thing, you don’t have to immediately run out and buy smart versions of everything. There are baby steps people can take towards a smarter home. A simple and inexpensive smart plug, for example, will allow you to control and schedule individual devices using Google Home. Nest’s Learning Thermostat is also an easy entry into smart home technology.
But for those whose homes are already connected and want to go further, Google Home has an “If This Then That” (IFTTT) channel. This allows homeowners to program their devices to react to changes in each other with almost limitless combinations.
For example, homeowners can create a customized IFTTT “recipe” and use Google Home to trigger it. Let’s say you entertain a lot and you like to have your lighting, music, and mood just right. During parties you set your Philips Hue lights to dim and change to a certain color, turn on a fresh finds playlist, and lower the shades in the living room. Google Home is able to sync all your settings and execute them through a custom phrase like “Ok Google, party time.”
What Makes It Tick?
The key to the Home’s power is Google Assistant, a voice-recognition system tied into the Google ecosystem. A team of writers from Pixar and The Onion penned the dialogue, imbuing it with a touch of personality and humor. The Home will only chirp to attention when you say “Hey Google,” or “Ok Google,” and won’t turn on at the mere mention of the word “Google.” There’s also a simple mute button to completely shut off the microphone whenever you don’t want the Home listening in.
Among other smart speakers that can connect to the Internet of Things, the Home performs better at Googling stuff (surprise!), and its communication is more natural. For instance, when you ask “Hey Google, is my front door locked?” and the answer comes back, “No,” you can say “Ok Google please lock it,” without mentioning the front door again; the Home understands that you’re still on the same topic.
Google and Nest have also helped develop smart home protocols for devices to reliably and securely connect to one another. The fact that they’ve gone to the effort of creating their own language to ensure their products work is a great sign that they’re seriously invested in this market.