Earlier this month at the #MadebyGoogle event, Google spectacularly made their entry to the hardware game across a swath of consumer electronics, writes Audio Analytic CEO, Chris Mitchell.

Google Inc. CEO Sundar Pichai fronted a team that in one fell swoop launched the brand new smartphone Pixel, a low cost VR headset named Dreamcatcher, a Google WiFi router and last but not least Google Home – an aggressively-priced competitor to Amazon’s successful Smart Home assistant Echo. All that was missing from Google’s launch was a smart kitchen sink.

Sundar pitched the artificial intelligence and knowledge graph behind their voice-activated assistant as the culmination of 18 years of the company’s history. For those wondering what exactly a ‘knowledge graph’ is when it’s at home, it’s the semantic-search information that Google gathers from users across its wider range of platforms and services. And with Google Home now ‘living’ among us, we can expect Google to further improve not only their knowledge graph (and therefore their search experience) but also to train their artificial intelligence – giving us an ever more ‘human’ assistant.

The benefits of an improved assistant won’t be limited to the home – key to Google’s proposition is that this same assistant will mediate our interactions with Google across web, mobile, home and soon (if Google’s self-driving cars are any indication) our cars too.

And yet, there was a sense that the launch of Home was perhaps a little rushed, driven perhaps by the commercial need to release a competitor to Amazon’s increasingly popular Echo. Amazon have stolen a surprisingly rapid lead in the march to conquer the Smart Home market and now Google are, for once perhaps, playing catch up. In Google’s favour is the ability to leverage an enormous developer community and create connected experiences between online, mobile, home and soon, our cars.

In addition to Google’s bold vision for their knowledge graph, a few features clearly differentiate from Amazon’s Echo. One notable difference was the form-factor – smaller and squatter than the Echo – and with a customisable base to suit different home decors. Consumers tend to respond to increasing aesthetic choice – especially when purchasing devices for the home. We can no doubt look forward to a range of different smart assistant design approaches as more companies enter the home assistant market.

Looks aside, perhaps the greatest point of difference for the consumer will be the price point. Google are launching Home at the very aggressive price of $129, which is $50 below Amazon Echo’s tag of $179. Google’s entry into the Smart Home may herald the beginning of a price war, waged between tech giants who can afford to sell devices near to or even below their bill of materials.

The value for these companies is of course not to be measured in device sales, but in the services these devices can provide on top and (certainly in Google’s case) in the additional consumer data they can provide.

But capturing our homes means capturing our hearts. And here, it feels that Google maybe missing a trick. While Amazon Echo is beguilingly activated by calling out “Alexa” – the very human name of their smart assistant – Google Home requires us to call out a more android “OK, Google.” Acceptable perhaps when operating our phones hands-free in the car, but surely a phrase that becomes a little tiresome when used thirty times a day around the home.

The entrance of Google to the Smart Assistant space will no doubt add rocket fuel to the already fast-ascending Smart Home market, creating competition between two of the world’s most innovative and valuable companies as they jostle for a place in our homes.

The world’s largest consumer tech players simply can’t afford not to win a share of the Smart Home ecosystem. Any company that successfully dominates the Smart Home user interface will have a tremendous advantage in other assistant-driven markets as they emerge and coalesce – such as self-driving cars, telemedicine and future mobile.

Those companies that fail to get their foot in the Smart Home door will no doubt lament their failure to move fast enough into the space on future earnings calls – in much the same way as Microsoft, Yahoo and HP all publicly regret not embracing mobile early enough.

It’s unsurprising then that most of the consumer tech giants have Smart Home assistants in rapid development. Samsung are queuing up a Smart Assistant of their own and Apple, as ever fashionably late to the party, is rumoured to be doing the same.

And with every Home Assistant purchased, homeowners will seek out new smart companion devices to add to their home assistant’s ecosystem, driving more innovation in the Smart Home space and ever smarter ways to live.


This post originally appeared in Business Weekly.


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About Audio Analytic

Audio Analytic is the pioneer of AI sound recognition software. The company is on a mission to map the world of sounds, offering our sense of hearing to consumer technology. By transferring our sense of hearing to consumer products and digital personal assistants we give them the ability to react to the world around us, helping satisfy our entertainment, safety, security, wellbeing and communication needs.

Audio Analytic’s ai3™ sound recognition software enables device manufacturers and chip companies to equip products with Artificial Audio Intelligence, recognizing and automatically responding to our growing list of sound profiles.