Welcome to our bi-weekly roundup of the best smart home and home automation news for the week that you definitely shouldn’t miss! Some of the biggest headlines were Amazon’s brilliant Super Bowl Ad campaign, Nest getting integrated into Google and Mozilla’s slick new smart home controls. Read on for more!
Google acquired Nest Labs way back in 2014 operating it under the same roof until the entire company was moved around and reshaped into Alphabet Inc in October 2015. That’s when Nest was created as a separate division under Alphabet, running separately from Google.
However, the race to become the most successful smart home device manufacturer has been heating up recently and Google has begun to feel the heat. At this year’s CES, Google announced new hardware in the form of hardware partners to sell devices that directly compete with Amazon’s Echo line.Some of Nest’s most popular products include the Nest Learning Thermostat, the Nest Security Camera, The Nest Protect Smoke and CO Alarm and the Nest Cam Outdoor. The company has sold over 11 million units, making them a valuable asset for Google. And with Google Assistant adding support for Actions into almost every smart home device that supports it, the Nest product line would immensely benefit from the same integration.
Given that the devices mentioned above already support Alexa out of the box, bringing the Nest and Google Hardware teams together will help to speed up the process of adding in support for Assistant in order to better compete with Alexa and HomeKit.
Super Bowl advertisement slots are ridiculously expensive, and companies spend a lot of time and effort to get them right. Given the massive viewership of the game, Amazon took the opportunity to showcase a different Alexa – one that had lost her voice all of a sudden.
But she wasn’t hampered by this unfortunate incident. She called for backup and it arrived – in the form of Cardi B, Chef Gordon Ramsay, Rebel Wilson and Sir Anthony Hopkins! They provided users with witty responses just like Alexa would if she had her voice back. Using the concept of an Alexa that could lose her voice just like any other human, Amazon ensured that the ad showcased the smart home assistant’s personality.
In addition to this brilliantly executed advertisement, Amazon also slashed the prices of almost all of their Echo devices in an ongoing sale to encourage more users to pick up a device and begin their home automation adventure.
The currently discounted Echo devices are the second generation Echo Dot, the Echo Spot, the Echo (2nd Generation) and the Echo Show. The highest discount on offer is on the Echo Show ($50 off the usual $229) and if you were on the fence before, now would be a good time to make a decision!
While Alphabet Inc moved to integrate Nest back into Google’s hardware division, one of the most popular networking device manufacturers has announced plans to separate their Arlo development team into a separate entity.
Netgear believes that the companies have both reached a point where they can succeed being independent of one another, as CEO Patrick Lo puts it. That statement is accurate, given how successful Arlo has been in a market space dominated by big brands, some of which specialize in cameras for automated homes.You won’t actually see the two companies split n the immediate future, though. There are procedures to be followed and there will be an SEC approval, once the company submits their registration statement. Hopefully, we will see this happen before the end of 2018, as we are excited to see what an independent Arlo is capable of, given the high standards that Netgear is so well known for.
We’ve reviewed Arlo’s cameras before and have always come away with very little to criticize about their features or functionality. Our favorite device is the Arlo Pro, is a value for money device that performed well in all our tests. The company also sells a new Arlo Security System comprised of two wireless cameras with night vision, though if you’re thinking of an indoor setup, there’s nothing better than the high definition Arlo Q, in our experience.
Mozilla, the non-profit company that built and maintains the open source Firefox browser is well known for their activism and work towards creating a more open web has launched a new gateway for you to connect, monitor and control all of your connected smart home devices.Why does this matter, you ask? Well, for starters, big technology firms prefer to use proprietary protocols and standards with their devices in order to lock you into their ecosystems. This means that you could have a connected home filled with smart devices that cannot talk to each other, which as you can imagine, is less than ideal.
Mozilla wants to change this, taking the power away from big manufacturers and giving it back to the individual consumer. How do they plan to achieve this? For starters, you can already connect devices from multiple brands, and all you need is a Raspberry Pi 3 (or even an Arduino, if that’s what you prefer) and a couple of devices to test it on. This could possibly be a viable alternative to Amazon’s hub sporting Echo Plus speaker or Samsung’s SmartThings Hub
If you want to get yourself out of your manufacturer’s walled garden (Apple, we’re looking at you) completely, you’ll have to wait a bit longer for that – possibly after a stable release but the initial results look very promising. There’s also support for IFTTT-like ‘if this, then that’ like commands to automate your devices, even if they ordinarily cannot talk to each other.
There’s a small list of devices that are supported with this initial release, but more will be added over time. As for functionality, you can already control your devices using a web interface and generating a unique address for each device you own via the internet. Voie controls are also possible, and is currently in testing.
Between Google’s moving Nest into the fold to take on the competition and Netgear pushing Arlo out because it is ready to survive on its own, and Mozilla taking up the cause of the open web and open standards once again, we are positive that there are very interesting times ahead.
Meanwhile, Amazon has promised to double down on their efforts to completely rule the smart home speaker and virtual assistant battle in order to combat a growingly aggressive Google that also benefited from substantial holiday sales, just like Amazon did. It is impressive to note that Amazon is ensuring that they stay on top of the hill, even though the competition has a lot to do if they are to plan to replicate the company’s success.
Stay tuned for the next smart home news round-up on Monday, and if you spot any other smart home or connected home technology news we might have missed – let us know on Twitter @homesmartlife or on Facebook!