Google Home Hub vs. Amazon Echo

When you are not at home, certain doubts tend to plague your mind that may disrupt your performance at work. These doubts can range from whether you turned off the coffee maker or set the security alarm or whether your children are doing their assignments or watching television. A smart home helps you worry less about these things because you can connect with devices and appliances in your home from wherever you are. With a single command from your phone, you are in charge of your home. Imagine not having to go back home in the middle of a trip because you forgot to turn off the oven.

Any house or building can be a Smart home. It’s the powerful connections in a house, building or mansion that makes it smart. Smart home technology is still in its infancy stage even among people who have adopted it; because no matter how we try, technology cannot be fully understood. Smart home technology keeps developing as scientists keep on adding new features throughout the years. No two Smart homes can be exactly the same; these differences arise from what smart devices are in the home and how many of it are present.

Smart Home Technology

Also referred to as; home automation or domotics, allows home owners to control smart devices usually with a smart home app installed on their smart phones or other networked devices. Devices such as linking sensors, features and other appliances connected to the Internet of things (IoT) t can be monitored remotely controlled and accessed. This provides services that respond to the needs of the users thereby, providing the homeowners with comfort, security, convenience and energy efficiency.

What is a Smart Home?

Smart home is a term used to refer to modern houses that have appliances, lighting, heating and electronic devices that can be controlled remotely, accessed and monitored using internet-connected devices (Smartphone or Computer) through smart home technology to provide services that responds to the needs of the user. This term can also be used to refer to any living area which has connected technology meant to enhance the home. This could include; smart thermostats, smart plugs, smart doorbells and locks. Smart home devices have voice assistants like Google assistant and Alexa that receive voice commands and carry out these commands effectively. For example, one may ask Alexa to reduce or increase the air-conditioner in the home.

Smart Home Enabled Devices

These are electronic devices that often connect to and operate with other devices or networks through different wireless protocols such as; Bluetooth, Zigbee and NFC, in the home. This term can also be used to refer to any device that exhibits some properties of ubiquitous computing and may sometimes include artificial intelligence. These devices share consumer’s usage data and communicate information to other smart phones to produce actions based on the user’s needs.

Smart home-enabled devices can include;

  • Various appliances such as; refrigerators, hair dryers, washing machines, dish washers, toaster ovens.
  • Heating and air conditioning units.
  • Electronic devices like, audio and video entertainment systems, camera and security systems, computer, laptops and other electronic mobile devices (smart phones and iPads).
  • Smart watches, smart key chains, smart bands.
  • Smart cars.
  • Smart doorbells.

Smart home devices are composed of 2 layers;

  • A hardware layer which includes a radio that transmits signals.
  • A network layer through which devices communicate with each other and end users send commands.

Application of Smart Home Technology

  • Houseplants and lawns can be watered by a means of connected timers.
  • Pet care can be automated with connected timers.
  • Kitchen appliances of all sorts are available. This includes; smart coffee maker that can brew you a fresh cup of coffee every morning immediately your alarm goes off, smart refrigerators that help keep track of expiration dates, make shopping lists or even create recipes based on ingredients currently on hand, slower cookers and toasters, and in the laundry room; washing machines and dryers.
  • Household system monitors may, sense electric surge and turn off appliances or sense a fire and put on the emergency sprinklers. They can also turn off water so there is no flood in your basement.
  • Smart security cameras help the home owners monitor their homes when they are away for work or vacation.
  • Smart motion sensors are able to identify the difference between the home owner, visitors, pets and intruders and can notify the security authorities in cases of suspicious behavior.
  • Users can grant or deny access to visitors using smart locks and garage-door openers. These smart locks can detect and residents and unlock the doors for them.
  • Smart thermostats come with integrated Wi-Fi that allow users to schedule, monitor and remotely control home temperatures. These devices learn homeowners’ behaviors and automatically modify settings to provide them with maximum comfort.
  • Smart lighting systems are controlled and adjusted based on daylight availability.
  • Some smart televisions may have gesture or voice recognitions. These smart televisions connect to the internet and access content through applications, such as on-demand music or videos.

Smart Home Hub

Sometimes referred to as smart home bridge, this is the hardware or software that connects devices on a home automation network and controls communications among them. It collects and translates protocol communications from smart home devices.

Some smart home hubs either connect locally or to the cloud. These types of smart home hubs are useful for internet of things (IoT) devices that use the Zigbee or Z-wave protocols or Bluetooth, rather than Wi-Fi.

A smart home hub, by tying together various devices and systems in a centralized platform, acts as the heart of a smart home network. Thus, serving as a translator between devices (example, smart phone/smart lock communication).

Smart home hubs solve the problem of remote access (always being at home to control your appliances with a remote or manually). If you want your heater turned off from your office before you return home, or schedule the watering of your garden when you are on holiday, you would need something to offer remote and secure access to your home. Basically, something with a Wi-Fi connection so that it can communicate with your smart phone. Examples of a smart home hub is Amazon echo and Google home hub.

Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo is a brand of smart speakers developed by Amazon. It is colloquially known as Alexa, which is also the voice behind the app. Echo devices connect to the voice controlled intelligent personal assistant service (Alexa). This voice controlled assistant responds to the names “Alexa”, “Echo” or “Computer”. The development of the Echo devices by Amazon started in 2010 and since then has had many features introduced over the years.

The features of Amazon echo are;

  • Voice interaction.
  • Music playbacks.
  • Making to-do lists.
  • Setting alarms.
  • Streaming podcasts.
  • Playing audio books.
  • Ability to provide information on traffic and weather.
  • Ability to control other smart devices thus, acting as a home hub.

However, Echo has suffered some limitations like responding inconsistently to common questions asked by the users. This is disappointing as the users expect to get better answers. Another limitation is that it sometimes confuses certain homophones such as where/ware/wear.

Google Home Hub

This is a brand of smart speakers developed by Google which helps users speak voice commands through Google assistant, the company’s virtual assistant. Both in-house and third-party services are integrated thus, users are able to listen to music, control playback of videos or photos, or receive news update entirely by voice. The first Google home device was released in the United States in November 2016.

Features of Google home;

  • Allows users to speak voice commands to control interaction.
  • Supports Bluetooth audio streaming through compatible devices (including phones, tablets and computers).
  • It is able to set reminders and schedule calendar appointments.
  • Interactive read-along books.
  • Proactive assistance which enables devices to dictate updates of users without being asked.
  • Ability to aid users with personal or business calls.
  • Has recognition for 6 different voices and can pull out information from their different accounts depending on who is talking.

So you choose. Which is better? Which is more your style?

Opinions will always differ, which is why it is no great surprise that every smart home is different. Because smart houses generally are outfitted differently to serve the needs of different people. Whether you live in an apartment or multi-family house, you can connect your living space to network and gain control of your home from wherever you are.