What we learned about the Internet of Things and Connected Home from Google I/O

Google Assistant and Google Home are coming soon.

This afternoon at the Google I/O keynote, Google showed its plans for the connected home and the Internet of Things. Improvements to its search functions, and also Google Home, the big G’s answer to the Amazon Echo.

Google Assistant

Google is working on enhancing and improving the power of search with Google Assistant. Essentially, Google is pushing to become an actual virtual assistant who can help you with everyday tasks easier and faster.

Google has worked to make the “OK, Google” voice search more responsive even in noisy areas, and speak more naturally and conversational. Also, voice search will become more context-aware and intuitive. Search results will be branching, able to respond to follow-up questions with correct information.

Google will also be able to do even more to streamline tasks using third party apps like purchasing movie tickets automatically for you on Fandango, or making reservations at a restaurant through OpenTable. These tasks are handled by Google with minimal input from the user, and without having to open a new app. The information will just be displayed after it’s done.

The goal with Google Assistant is to make Google search into a tool that will make your everyday tasks as simple and streamlined  as possible, and to that end, Google unveiled its latest device in the smart home family, Google Home.

Google Home

Google Home is the response to Amazon’s successful Echo device. A small, sleek and customizable independent speaker-like device that blends in well in any home, the Home is your hands-free search tool and virtual home assistant. Home has a set of LEDs to indicate activity and show notifications, and the entire setup is simple and minimal in design.

Amazon has held a monopoly on the Smart home assistant for a while now with the Echo. It can stream music, control smart devices, and do basic searches and tasks hands-free, but it is limited by it’s Amazon ecosystem dependence.

Home has some serious advantages over the Echo in that regard, being backed by Google. Echo has a hard time answering questions and finding information outside the Amazon universe, where Home can access the entire internet’s worth of information using Google search, making it immediately more useful for information and searches than Echo. Echo still has the upper hand in connected devices for now being compatible with dozens of IoT (Internet of Things) gadgets. Home is going to stay limited in its compatibility, but it still will have a respectable lineup of devices to control.

Google Home is also a Cast-enabled device, meaning it can communicate and control Chromecast and Chromecast audio devices automatically. Google Home can stream music from popular music apps in the cloud, and play them on individual speakers or your entire home using Chromecast audio. Home can pull video sources as well, and send them right to your TV of choice, using only your voice.

Google hopes Home will become the center of your connected home, with the ability to control smart home and IoT devices like Nest. Turning on and off your lights, adjusting the temperature, and whatever else can all be done hands-free with your voice. Home already works with many different IoT devices and hopes to add more as time goes on.

Google Home can do the tasks you’d expect like set alarms and timers, but it can also do more complex things like track packages, flight information, and reservations and give traffic and weather reports. Home can also stream audio and video from the cloud to your Cast devices, and playback on it’s built in speaker.

Google Home is also customizable, to an extent. The speaker grill is replaceable, and Google has promised metal and fabric finishes, and multiple colors to help make Home truly unique and yours. The total number of options and colors are not yet available, but Google showcased a number of them at the keynote.

Google hopes that Assistant and Home will help it to gain a stronger foothold in the world of IoT and connected devices, an area where it have been trailing behind Amazon with the Echo.

Google Home launches later this year, and you can find out more information at google.com/home.