Google initially introduced us to Android @Home at Google I/O in 2011. Up to that point, Android was powering smartphones, tablets, and some set top boxes, but that was about it. With Android @Home, it seemed that Google wanted to make Android the one-stop-shop for home automation.
Various home appliances and fixtures could tie into an open ecosystem, all of which would play nicely with products powered by Android. It was a marvelous vision of what the future could hold — and then it fizzled out. However, thanks to a recent acquisition, all hope may not be lost.
Thought it may not be interested specifically in thermostats and smoke detectors, could a Google smart home powered by Nest and Android @Home be in your near future?
Soon after Google I/O 2011 we were supposed to see Android-connected LED lightbulbs manufactured by Lighting Science hit the market by the end of 2011. I don’t know about your calendar, but mine says 2014. Where are those bulbs?
Other manufacturers have released WiFi connected lightbulbs, some of which are more open than others, but the ones that tie into Android @Home are nowhere to be seen.
Google’s had a rocky start with set-top boxes. Google TV never really took off, and I’ve even unplugged my Logitech Revue due to lack of updates and poor support from Logitech, Google, and app developers.
Google decided to cut out the partners and released its own Nexus Q at Google I/O 2012. I bought one, hoping that it would somehow become the central hub around which Google’s smarthome would be built. Shortly thereafter Google announced it wouldn’t be charging those of us who’d ordered the Nexus Q, and quickly dropped the orb. It was later replaced by the ChromeCast dongle — but no smarthome features have been announced or even hinted at. Not yet anyway.
Fast-forward to today. Google has announced their intent to purchase Nest for US$3.2 Billion dollars. Billion, with a “B”. Whether or not you think Nest is worth that much doesn’t matter — Google does.
Why does Google care about your thermostat and smoke detectors? Honestly, I don’t think it does. However, Nest products fill a gap that Google has been trying to fill for at least two years, which brings us right back to Android @Home.
I haven’t got an inside source nor do I have any leaked internal memos, but mark my words, Google’s acquisition of Nest is less about thermostats and smoke detectors than many are letting on.
So why fork out all that money? Simple: Google just bought itself an entire smarthome team, complete with products that are already doing very well, and a customer-base that very much into smarthome technology.
Z-Wave, Zigbee, and others
There a a few big names in the DIY home automation industry. In my opinion, Z-Wave seems to be leading the charge. If you’re not familiar with these standards, they essentially allow you can wirelessly interconnect fixtures around your home.
You can replace a light-switch with one that’s got Z-Wave inside. It functions like a normal switch. Pressing the top turns the lights on, and pressing the bottom turns them back off again. Since it’s got extra bits inside, you can turn them on and off (or set them to any brightness you want) through an app on your phone, a website, or even a controller that looks like a picture frame in your living room.
You can replace your dead-bolt with hardware that is wirelessly connected as well. It can tell you if the door is locked or unlocked, and allow you to toggle it to either state.
Expand this to every light and lock in your house and you can see how powerful this technology can be. Now, add a little Google magic…
Google Smart Home powered by Nest
Let’s say it’s been a long day at the office. Google Now knows your location. Nest knows you’re not at home, so does Google Now. Your thermostat isn’t heating your cooling your house because you’re away, thereby saving you money on your heating or air conditioning bill.
Night is falling, and your Android @Home hub knows when the sun sets in your neck of the woods. It turns on your landscape lights as well as the lights outside your home (it automatically adjusts this for the time of year, and weather conditions, too). It also turns on some lamps in the house to give the impression that you’re already home, keeping you just a little safer from criminals looking for an easy target.
As you wrap things up at the office, Google Now knows that you’re heading home. It relays this information to your Nest Learning Thermostat which starts to condition your space so it’s ready for you when you get home.
As you pull into your driveway your smartphone connects to your home network over WiFi, triggering your garage door to open for you, and the garage lights to turn on.
You exit your car and, as you approach the door into your home, it automatically unlocks to let you in. Just behind that door, the lights turn on in the rooms that you’ll be using next, and your ChromeCast starts playing your favorite “unwinding” playlist. As you close the door behind you it locks automatically and the garage door automatically closes.
You can see where I’m going with all this. That is why Google wants Nest so badly. After you take out the “creepy factor”, it sounds really cool, right?
“Okay Google, good night.”