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Amazon Echo vs. Google Home

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The battle for home automation has officially begun. Home automation used to be a thing that people dreamed of after they had seen an amazing Sci-Fi flick. As the years have gone by, home automation technology has continued to evolve. Now we are moving closer to having homes that are autonomously controlled. Earlier this year, Google unveiled the smart home speaker, with the hopes of taking over the small niche that the Amazon Echo dominated last year. This niche refers to that of smart speakers, which have the capability to be the central hub for your smart home. With two similar products going head to head on the market (much like the smart lock wars), it is only natural that they will be pitted against each other in comparison. It raises the questions about the functionality of each device, and begs the question about which device will work better in homes. Without further ado, let us take a look at the amazing home automation devices that are changing the landscape of home automation.

Amazon Echo

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What The Company Says

The Amazon Echo is described (by Amazon) as a hands-free speaker that allows people to use voice commands to control the device’s actions. This product is primarily a speaker, but it has the potential to be the smart home hub that homeowners crave. The Echo works in conjunction with the Amazon hosted Alexa Voice Service. The Alexa Voice Service (AVS) gives users the opportunity to integrate their Echo device with other home automation gadgets, and allows them to perform a series of actions simply by saying a few words.

The Amazon Echo is able to answer your questions, make you a shopping list, control the lights within your home, set timers, etc. There are a host of possibilities for this smart speaker. The Echo is able to provide answers to queries about the weather, the news, and even about past occurrences. It does this by drawing information from its cloud server and filtering through it in order to provide the most suitable answer. The device is also able to play music from a variety of music hosting websites, and it can play different things simply upon request. This amazing speaker could even help you call up an auto locksmith if you are locked out of your car.

The speaker is equipped with seven microphones that use beamforming technology, coupled with enhanced noise cancellation features. These traits help the Echo pinpoint a voice across a room, and it can also clearly pick up what is being said above the sound of other things. The voice recognition capability of the Amazon Echo is one of the features that truly sets it apart from any other similar devices. In addition to this, the speaker system itself provides homeowners with a crisp, lush sound that they are bound to love. The possibilities of the Amazon Echo are truly endless.

The Alexa Voice Service that the Echo works with was built on the cloud, which allows your Echo and Alexa to constantly learn and adjust to fit your routines, habits, and even your speech patterns. The Echo is constantly powered and listening, which allows for easy updates and quick responses when owners have their hands full. The device is constantly listening for the keyword that wakes it up and makes it responsive to your commands. The keyword varies from ‘Alex’, ‘Amazon’ to ‘Amazon Echo’. The owner simply has to determine which one they are most comfortable using, and then set the device to respond to that keyword.

However, none of these are as groundbreaking as the skills that the Echo is able to learn and use. A majority of these ‘skills’ were developed by third-party application developers, but they allow the Echo to integrate better with other devices and applications. For instance, homeowners can use their Echo to order a ride from uber, or to even order a pizza from dominos.

Not all homeowners use it to order pizza, though. Many homeowners use the Amazon Echo to increase the scope of their other home automation devices, and allow the Echo to function as the central hub and controller. This gives people the opportunity to control their lights with a sentence, or to open up their garage door, simply by asking Alexa.

What The People Say

The Amazon Echo was initially available (by invite only) to people who had an Amazon Prime membership. These lucky people only had to pay $99 for an Amazon Echo. Since then, the price for the device has gone up to $179.99. Even so, many homeowners have clamored to get one, and they have. Most of the people who purchased the Amazon Echo were not really sure what to expect, and most of them ended up being pleasantly surprised. Some homeowners say that they didn’t know they needed a quasi-personal assistant speaker until they met the Echo and Alexa.

A majority of people that own the Echo love it, and it seems the most popular place to set it down is within the kitchen. This allows the Echo to be in a central location while you walk around talking to it. Another feature of the device that homeowners have fallen in love with, is the sound of Alexa’s voice. Until the release of the echo, the voice that headlined automated personal assistant was Apple’s Siri. Although many people love to use Siri, there is no denying that it is sonically robotic. The Amazon Echo revitalises this with outstanding natural voice synthesis, which makes Alexa sound like an actual personal assistant you would love to have.

While a majority of people rave about all the cool things you can accomplish with the Amazon Echo, there are still some minor kinks that need to be worked out before the general public is won over by this talking speaker. One of the main problems that its owners encounter stems from learning to use the right words to command the Echo. There are many differences in linguistics and speech patterns, and the Echo has a set of commands that it is responsive too, which takes most owners a while to get used to. For instance, if you want the Echo to play the next song in a queue you would have to say “Alexa, next” instead of saying “Alexa, skip”. This is a minor issue for some people because there are those who do not naturally speak the way the device is built to understand.

In addition to this, there are homeowners who do not like the fact that the Amazon Echo devices are not able to communicate with each other. If a homeowner has 3 Echo devices because they have a rather large home, they are not able to integrate these devices with one another. This creates the hassle of having to assign different wake words and commands to each device so that they are not overlapping with each other when you shout out a command.

What The Experts Say

Experts love the Amazon Echo. A lot of the experts are fans of the natural voice synthesis that makes the device sound like less of a robot. Think more Big Hero 6 than Terminator. The editors of CNET hailed the Echo as the best smart home hub that allowed other devices to talk with one another. It was compared to other smart home hubs and it came out on top due to the fact that the Echo is able to seamlessly integrate with so many other different devices, which is impressive because that is not it’s primary function.

Also, the fact that the Echo and AVS exist on the cloud gives the device so much potential for future actions. This feature means that the device is constantly learning, which allows users to introduce more complex actions and requests as time goes by. A great many experts were also impressed by the skills that the device is able to acquire and learn. The ‘skills’ store is the Echo version of the App store. It allows third party developers to create functions that the Echo can carry out in conjunction with other devices and services. There is no doubt that the Amazon Echo has the potential to grow into much more. Imagine, in a few months, homeowners might be able to control their DIY home surveillance cameras simply by talking to their Echo. For now, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the Echo.

Pros

  • The Echo has revolutionary voice recognition technology that enables it to pick up your voice from various directions and over various sounds.
  • The natural voice synthesis of the Echo makes it feel less like a robot and more like an actual personal assistant.
  • The Echo is able to act as a smart home hub since it can communicate with varying services and devices.
  • It is easy to setup, use, and requires little or no additional gadgets to maximize its functionality.

Cons

  • The speaker for the Amazon Echo delivers crisp, clear sounds. However, once the volume is turned up the sound quality is sacrificed because the bass becomes distorted.
  • The Amazon Echo is constantly powered and it is constantly listening for the keyword that wakes it up. This raises the security concern that the Echo could be used to infringe on people’s privacy and could also be used to unlawfully access personal information and data.
  • The Amazon Echo works well with third party services and applications, which broadens the scope of its reach. However, the Amazon Echo is not able to integrate with itself. If users have multiple Echo devices, they cannot be integrated and used seamlessly.

Google Home

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What The Company Says

The Google Home device is a Wi-fi enabled speaker that can operate as a smart home controller and a personal assistant. The device is also equipped with an interchangeable base that gives homeowners the opportunity to customize their Google Home to fit in with their interior decor. The device will be able to play songs, answer queries, and even help you control another device. The speaker can be used in conjunction with Google Cast, which will allow users to control their TV’s via voice control or to play a song on all the speakers in your home.

The Google Home device boasts the addition of the Google Assistant that helps homeowners with basic tasks (travel itineraries, setting up reminders, purchasing items online etc.) and even perform more complex actions. Google Home and Google Assistant will make use of the Knowledge Graph to provide cohesive answers, which are also within the context of your search. This will allow users to have conversations with their home automation device, rather than just responses.

What The People Say

So far, the only people who have anything to say about Google Home are Google themselves. This is because the device is not yet available to the public. Google Home is slated for release later this year, and there is already a good deal of hype built around the launch of the product. However, this does not mean that the experts aren’t already weighing in to see what the Google Home has to offer and to see how it varies from the Amazon Echo.

The Google Home device is essentially Google’s response to the domination of the Amazon Echo. When the Amazon Echo was released in late 2014, many people were skeptical about how the public would receive the product. After all, there were (and still are) a countless number of Bluetooth speakers on the market, which could probably provide much better sound quality than the Echo. However, after user got their hands on the device and the reviews poured in, Amazon sold a huge number of Echo’s in 2015 and early 2016. Many people believe that the success of the Echo is what prompted Google to unveil the Google Home at the latest Google I/O event.

What The Experts Say

Many of the experts who have provided some insight on the Google Home were avidly paying attention to the Google I/O and disseminating every little thing about it. Since no one has done any product testing yet (because the product is not available), the experts have settled on dissecting what was said during the announcement of Google Home.

Experts are excited, to say the least, even though many of them love the Amazon Echo. The Google Home shows immense promise and it gives homeowners the ability to have conversations with their home automation controller. One of the drawbacks of the Echo was the fact that it did not have a huge base of knowledge to draw from, but Google eliminates that problem through the use of Knowledge Graph. This means that your Home device will have an answer to just about every question you can throw at it.

The Google Home device is focusing more on the connection between users and the device instead of looking at the number of actions you can have your device overseeing. It minimizes it to a more personal level. There are a few extra things that experts wish were included in the Google Home. For instance, the Google Home is not opening it’s doors up to third party developers, which will limit the number of services and applications that the Google Home can function with. However, it will work with Nest products as well as Google Cast products. This will allow homeowners to have full control of their home’s automation if they have these additional products.The Google Home is essentially all about data, and what can be done with data. It works to push the boundaries of data manipulation within the home.

Pros

  • The Google Home device is paired with the Google Assistant. With these two things working together, the device is able to give homeowners answers to organic questions. This makes it much easier to ask the device for assistance or to even ask it to shut the tv off. It seems as if there are no commands that have to be learned in comparison to the Amazon Echo.
  • The Google Home can be customized to fit the interior design needs of the user. There will be different color schemes available for users to pick from.
  • The Google Home can be integrated with other Google-related products like Nest and Google Cast.
  • Multiple Google Home devices can communicate with each other, which makes it possible for users to command all of these home devices from one central location.

Cons

  • Similar to the Echo, the Google Home is constantly listening and waiting for the keyword to be uttered. This raises questions about whether it can be used to unlawfully infringe upon an individual’s privacy and store their data and conversations without their knowledge.
  • One of the main disadvantages that experts outlined was the fact that Google Home was not going to be accessible to third party developers, applications, and services. This drastically reduces the number of devices that the Google Home can work with. It raises concerns about having a home automation hub that only works with a handful of devices and services.

Verdict

Each of these amazing gadgets has a lot to offer homeowners and users. It is hard to say which one of them is better, especially since the Google Home is yet to hit the market. It will be much easier to draw a line in the sand between these two products once homeowners and experts have had the chance to take a crack at both of them.

In the meantime, there are positives and negatives on both sides of the spectrum. The commonality that each of these devices has is the fact that there are many people who are worried about the security vulnerabilities that these devices present. That is something that both Amazon and Google will have to pay close attention too, and they will have to better explain that aspect of the devices to the general public.

The Amazon Echo is definitely ahead of the curve because it allows homeowners to integrate with other devices (not including other Echos). Conversely, the Google Home is starting small, with only a set number of Google-related devices. On the other hand, the Google Home seems to have the advantage when it comes to the efficiency of the personal assistant that it uses. Its version of Alexa seems to be much more knowledgeable and conversational, which is definitely something that homeowners will gravitate towards.

Regardless of how these devices match up against each other, it is safe to say that they will effectively be making homes more connected and thus more smart and secure.

Category: Buying Guides, Smart Home


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