Keeping Your Home Safe With Google HomeBy - 01/04/2017
Anyone who aims to go up against Amazon’s Alexa has big shoes to fill. And if anyone can do it, Google can. Details about Google Home are slowly rolling out, but many questions remain including two biggies, Is it better than Echo and can it protect your home?
What Is Google Home?
Google Home is an internet-connected speaker with a virtual voice assistant. It can play music and podcasts from Google Play Music, Spotify, YouTube, Pandora, and TuneIn using its high-excursion speaker. It can also stream music from your phone via phone mirroring or Chromecast-enabled apps. Unfortunately, Google Home won’t be able to stream music from Bluetooth devices. On the up side, you can have multiple Google Homes in one location and play music simultaneously from a single source, something Echo can’t do. Google Home can also cast to your TV with Chromecast to control Netflix and YouTube.
As for the virtual assistant part, Google Home keeps you in touch with Google Assistant, an evolved version of Google Now with the ability to engage in more intelligent two-way conversations. For example, you can ask it about the weather today and follow up with, “What about tomorrow?”.
Google is an expert in personalizing. With your permission, the device can “get to know you”. Using your location, your Google calendar, your search history, and any connected service or device (Android phones, Chromebook, YouTube, Nest, Gmail, etc.), it starts to piece together information about you. Combine this with Google’s search engine power, and you begin to realize that Google Home has the potential to be a valuable assistant.
But that raises another question? Does Google have too much power? Will Google Bots listen to everything you say? The answer is no. Until you speak the wake word, “Okay, Google”, or long press the touch interface at the top of the device, the device only listens locally. Once the wake word is used, information is sent to the cloud. To further protect your privacy, you can use Home’s lights as indicators. If voice control is on, the four dots at the top will light up red, blue, green, and yellow indicating that it is ready to listen. If the lights are steady and red, it means the mic is off. You can also turn it on or off by pressing the mute button on the front of the device. Here are a few of the things you can ask Google Home:
- What is 74 inches in meters?
- Play my Bedtime playlist from Spotify.
- Add “company lunch” to my calendar for tomorrow at noon.
- What’s up today? (It will give you a summary of the weather, traffic, and your schedule.)
- How many calories are there in a 100-gram apple?
- Add milk to my shopping list. (You can add things to your shopping list, but you can’t purchase directly using Google Home.)
- Turn up my thermostat to 72 degrees.
- Who won the Giant’s game?
- Set timer to 20 minutes.
Google Home For Home Security
Let’s get to the important question: Can Google Home enhance your home’s security? Like Echo, Google Home can’t create a more secure home on its own. You will have to connect it with compatible devices. And that’s where it falls short, at least for now.
Currently, Google Home only integrates with Nest Thermostat, IFTTT, SmartThings, Philips Hue, WeMo and a few other random devices. Other smart home brands are expected to follow, but beating Echo’s current position in the smart home may take some time.
The integration with SmartThings allows you to control connected devices. The focus of the integration is home control, but you can also use it to strengthen your home’s security. There is no word yet as to which commands you can use, but arming sensors or triggering sirens connected to SmartThings might be a possibility.
For home security, IFTTT is the winner. IFTTT lets you trigger smart home devices using voice commands. The thing is, you need to say the commands correctly word-per-word, similar to how Alexa interacts with Alexa Skills. If you can remember the trigger phrases, you will be able to interact with multiple smart devices, home security cameras, and even internet-backed services. With the right trigger phrase you can:
- Turn on your lights.
- Trigger a siren.
- Lock your doors.
|Smart Lights/Switches||Smart Hubs/Thermostats||Home Security and Services||Other|
|Philips Hue||SmartThings||IFTTT||Hyundai, Chrysler 300|
|WeMo, Switchmate Bright Smart Switch||Nest Thermostat||Control4|
Google Home vs. Amazon Echo
|Google Home||Amazon Echo||Echo Dot|
|Microphone||Far-Field Microphones||Far-Field Microphones||Far-Field Microphones|
|Speaker||High-Excursion Speaker||360-Degree Omni-Directional Speaker||Lower Quality Speaker|
|Dimensions||5.62” (height) x 3.79” (width) x 3.79” (depth)||9.3” (height) x 3.3” (width) x 3.3” (depth)||1.3″ (height) x 3.3″ (width) x 3.3″ (depth)|
|Play Music From||Spotify, Google Play Music, Pandora, TuneIn, YouTube Music||Amazon Prime Music, Spotify, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, etc.||Amazon Prime Music, Spotify, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, etc.|
|Stream From Your Phone||Yes, via Phone Mirroring or Chromecast||Yes, via Bluetooth||Yes, via Bluetooth|
|Stream From Bluetooth Devices|
|Wake Word||“Ok, Google!”||“Alexa”, “Amazon”, or “Echo”||“Alexa”, “Amazon”, or “Echo”|
|Calendar, Weather, Traffic|
|Shopping List:||Yes, and can order from Amazon.||Yes, and can order from Amazon.|
|Control Smart Home:|
|Questions:||Contextual Conversations||Working Toward Contextual Conversations||Working Toward Contextual Conversations|
Base: Interchangeable (Silver, Black, White, Blue, Purple, etc.)
|Black, White||Black, White, Optional Skins Sold Separately|
|Buy Now||Buy Now||Buy Now|
In my opinion, Google Assist beats Alexa with its ability to follow contextual conversations and Google Search. However, not to be left behind, Alexa is currently working on the ability to engage in contextual conversations, though the skill is not as refined as Google Home’s ability. Also, matching Echo’s position in the smart home might be difficult, and Google will have to diverge from Works with Nest to catch up.
If interested, you can order Google Home for $162. Currently, the body only comes in white with a slate fabric base, but interchangeable bases in black, white, rose gold, purple, blue, and other colors will launch soon.