Say my name! “Ok Google?”

The battle for the smart home assistant

Smart home assistants
Smart home assistance, Amazon Echo Versus Google Home

While this is not a David versus Goliath battle, Google entering into the smart home assistant space with Google Home will drive a better experience for smart home assistants. Obviously comparing Google’s device Amazon Echo is the right thing to do! Both of the devices are vying for a place in our homes and hearts.

Spolier alert! The Amazon Echo is still the better option, and if you factor in the Echo Dot device remains cheaper for outfiting an entire house with a smart assistant.

This post is intended to talk about the experiences these devices bring to smart homes. While there will be some comparisons between the devices, I am not focusing on this as a product review for the Google Home device. I  did write about my homes Amazon Echo integration and focused on some common scenarios with NUI. While I don’t think Amazon is worried about Google’s new device yet, it interesting to note that you cannot buy one on Amazon, in fact, if you search for “Google Home,” Amazon’s result presumptuously return Echo devices as an option.

While Google could have chosen not to list the product themselves, many of Google’s smart home devices have been selling on Amazon for awhile.

What did Google Home get right?

From a smart home perspective, the device supports the Samsung SmartThings hub, the Philips Hue hub, IFTTT, and of course the Nest Thermostat and Google Chromecast.

“Ok Google,” this is much more limited than Alexa namely due to the time on market and the fact that Amazon lets third-party developers build skills. Alexa currently lists over a hundred skills in the Smart home category, Google only has the six I listed, however, they did pick a good list to start. The SmartThings hub integration made it easy to get all my smart switches, outlets, and bulbs up and running on with the Google home device so that I can control my lights with voice!

Where does Google need to focus?

Personify your assistant

Give the assistant a name! Saying “Ok Google” is not natural and makes it less likely other people in my house will use this assistant over Alexa, you’ve thrown an extra syllable the pronunciation for no good reason.

Fix the performance of your iOS app

I have thirty-six devices in my home the UI in the Google app is slow and takes about 15 seconds per device to associate with a room. That’s 9 minutes just to get all my smart switches and outlets added. If this is a native iOS app, someone needs to get their money back, the Amazon app seems to be driven off of a website and is so much faster.

Let third-party developer into your ecosystem

Creating a developer ecosystem is the most important thing you could do! Without developers contributing it will be difficult to make a dent in the Amazon ecosystem. I am hopeful your teams are hard at work on this.

What are smart assistants missing (IMO)?


update 11/7/2009

I overlooked the fact that a device has to be added to a room, and I can’t make custom groups. This is actually frustrating! I can ask Google to turn off all of my lights effectively. 🙁


Things still go offline, but using Z-Wave and other Radio Frequency (RF) standards can help provide basic home functionality when the internet is not required.

Local network

The power of the cloud is undeniable, but the responsiveness of my smart home is more important to me. Ideally, smart assistants would keep more of the logic local for controlling devices in my house and on my network. If you have designed around always relying on the network being available, you are missing a simple feature.

NUI integrating with traditional interfaces

While NUI is powerful, there are some simple scenarios I would love to see integrate with traditional communication interfaces. Why can I do things like this:

  1. “Ok Google, email me a recipe for Chocolate Mousse.”
  2. “Ok Google, text me the address for John Howie in Bellevue.”
  3. “Ok Google, open the address to the nearest Best Buy in Waze on my iPhone.”
  4. “Ok Google, call me at 8:15 p.m. in case I need to get out of dinner.”

Integrating with the traditional flows of communication will be a game changer for smart assistants, nobody is ready for an assistant to talk back, but many people would be okay with asynchronous integration into

The reviews are in!

Looks like many were waiting to review this product, or had been using beta versions and were ready for the release!

Review: Google Home

  • The Verge – Google shows promise, but still needs work
  • USA Today – In catch-up to Echo, but with promise
  • Engadget – Focused on the Google Home device
  • Engadget – Focused on the IFTTT integration!
  • Cnet – List of commands for Google Home