Clash of the Smart Home Titans: Amazon Echo vs. Google Home vs. Apple HomeKit

By Nathan Rockershousen, Technical Writer/Marketing

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been revolutionary in changing the way consumers interact with the technological devices in their lives. The amount of users with IoT devices in their homes, cars, and even on their bodies is also growing at an increasing rate. It is clear that IoT technology is heavily integrated into the lives of many consumers. That being said, there has been a lot of media coverage regarding the security of these devices.

Security in modern technological devices is a critical feature and a very big concern for consumers due to the threat of being hacked. Properly encrypting IoT devices is very important because very personal information can be accessed through IoT devices. In addition to simply losing personal information, the physical safety of consumers is at risk. An example of this can be found in the 2014 Jeep incident. Hackers were able to infiltrate a Jeep Cherokee via the internet in order to send commands to the car’s entertainment system, brakes, steering, and even the transmission. Despite the fact that this happened a couple of years ago, the technology is still under the same risk of being hacked. Even the FBI has intervened and has begun to warn any car makers and owners that vehicles with high levels of internet access have an increased risk of being hacked. 

These security issues aren’t just affecting cars; these problems can be observed in a variety of other Internet-enabled devices. Another example is how connected baby monitors and other home monitoring devices are being tapped into by hackers, allowing them to see if anyone is home. Essentially any IoT device can be breached and used in an unintended way if proper security measures aren’t taken. When valuable data is at risk, security should be a bigger concern for manufacturers. The current and common culture among IoT companies is to release devices to this public with minimum protective measures in order to be the first to the market. Not all companies are a part of this culture, but a large portion of them contribute to these security issues. It’s not an issue of developers being unfamiliar with the intricacy of this high-end technology, it’s an issue of not taking the extra time to implement adequate security measures.

It is clear that having impeccable security features will benefit the consumer and the manufacturer in the long run. The invasive nature of IoT technology leaves the user very vulnerable to breaches in safety and security. The manufacturers should be responsible for monitoring the activity of their devices and determining how to block suspicious activity once the product is released. However, if security systems were developed in entirety before a device is released, these extra measures wouldn’t be as necessary. As IoT technology continues to become a bigger part of the lives of the consumers, it will be vital to our safety that a higher standard of security is implemented.

Smart home technology is continuing to grow in popularity as Google, Amazon, and Apple have begun to take over the smart home market. Even though Google Home, Amazon Echo, and Apple HomeKit are inherently similar products that include the integration of Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things, they are not as similar as they appear.

Amazon Echo was one of the first devices that allowed control of smart home technology when it was released in 2014, giving it a big advantage in the smart home market. The Echo is controlled via voice automation with its personal assistant named Alexa. The user is able to ask Alexa questions and use a series of commands, each starting with “Alexa,” in order to control compatible smart home devices. The Echo is well-equipped with a large amount of smart devices that are compatible with its software in comparison to Google. The thing that makes the Echo stand out is that the user doesn’t have to try and use multiple apps and passwords to access their different devices. The Echo has a lot of unique voice control options which you can use to do things such as order a pizza, play games, call an Uber, and much more. The built-in machine learning algorithms allow Alexa to pick up on voice patterns, user vocabulary, and even your habits when using the device.

Google Home is currently the biggest up and coming threat to the Echo. Google Home is similar to the Echo as it is a standalone speaker that is able to listen to you and respond. Each device is activated with a simple voice command, in this case, the user only has to say “Google” before speaking. Google Home is a lot more efficient than the Amazon Echo because of conversational voice commands. This essentially means that you can ask Google Home “What are the names of the restaurants around me,” followed up by asking, “Which is the closest to me now?” Google Home allows you to continue down a certain path while Amazon Echo can’t follow strings of associated questions. Another benefit of Google Home is that you can control any Google Cast speakers or any speakers and televisions you have a Chromecast device plugged in to. Amazon Echo devices are not able to sync with each other. The Google Now operating system is the most efficient in comparison to the devices by Amazon and Apple due to the plethora of commands available. A simple addition of Google Home is its customizable appearance. Having the ability to change the colors and material of the product can be beneficial for matching the design patterns of your home.

Upcoming Apple HomeKit technology is innovative and will make them a very real threat to Amazon and Google. Apple’s Siri-powered devices makes them a perfect fit for the home automation market. The multilingual Siri gives Apple an advantage as the Alexa voice service contained in the Amazon Echo can only speak and comprehend English. Apple is also going to allow developers of third party apps to use Siri. HomeKit is currently software only, but there will be a dedicated hardware unit released similar to that of the Echo and Google Home. There are rumors that voice commands might be integrated with the newest Apple TV. However, a potential flaw to this idea is that people often place their Apple TV’s out of sight, which could make the voice controls difficult to access.

Each of these devices will need to work to their strengths and overcome their weakness in order to adapt to the increasing demand for integrated smart home technology. The Echo is a voice-automated device with a lot of very powerful features, allowing for a very integrated and accessible smart home. The operating power of Google Home makes it the ultimate voice automation device. Apple HomeKit includes very intelligent and user friendly software. Even though Apple hasn’t confirmed what their actual hardware unit will be like, it will be comparable to the Google and Amazon hardware units in terms of functionality and integration with smart home technology. Once all devices are on the market, there are a lot of factors that will impact their success such as user-friendliness, smart home integration, accessibility, and the fluency of the voice automation.

February 2015 Newsletter – Link Round Up

Putting User Interface at the Start of Your IoT Design Process - How are your buyers going to interface with your product? This is one of the toughest aspects of Internet of Things (IoT) product design right now. Today’s consumers and business owners expect multiple ways to access and control the world around them and options for connected devices are numerous. > Read More at GridConnect.com

Going the Distance: How Range Affects IoT Design - The network range required for IoT devices plays a surprisingly important role even in the smallest design decisions. After all, the transmission of data is at the core of IoT devices. Transmission range depends on the type of network used, the environment it will be used in, and the types of data being communicated. > Read More at Remote Magazine

Upcoming Event: What You Need to Know About the Internet of Things - When: March 20, 8:30am-12:00pm | Where: Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, NV - Room N259 - IoT applications have the potential to transform every sector of business by allowing enterprises to take informed decision, optimizing the process, and supporting innovative business models. The combination of ‘low-cost’ connected devices with the need for data drives Internet of Things. Examine business opportunities in everything from M2M to green buildings to smart devices, explore how to create a wireless business ecosystem with IoT platform, and what limitations IoT might have technologically. > Learn More at IWCE Expo

Companies Help Animate Naperville North Robotics Projects - What is 6-foot 5-inches tall and can haul recycling totes and bins to the curb? For members of the Huskie Robotics Team at Naperville North High School, the answer is obvious. It’s their new robot. More than 70 students from Naperville North, as well as a handful of Naperville Central students, are building a tall, 120-pound robot as part of this year’s FIRST Robotics Competition. The Huskie Robotics Team would not be able to function without the assistance of corporate sponsors such as Grid Connect. > Read More at Naperville Sun

What Do You Do When You're 100,000 Miles Away and Your Basement is Flooding? - Earlier this year, Perry Marshall, a revolutionary in sales and marketing, took a trip from Chicago to India. He had just gotten to his destination when he received a text from his ConnectSense Water Sensor that his basement was flooding. So what do you do when you're 10,000 miles away and your basement floods? Here's what Perry did. > Read More at PerryMarshall.com

Cold Tech: 8 Smart Things to Keep You Warm

Chicago winters are full of wonder when you realize there’s an endless list of places that feel cold when you step out. The obvious ones are your ears, hands, and toes (no thanks to you, “wool” socks), and the less obvious ones like your nose hairs, eyelids, and quads. With forecasts in the low 20's by next weekend, the chilliest of us have turned to tech to solve our frostbite fears. High tech or the highway: layers just got a little old school.

Read more at ChicagoInno or download the PDF now.

Join Us at International CES 2015!

International CES

When: January 6-9, 2015
Where: Las Vegas, NV
Booth #: 75626, Eureka Park
Grid Connect’s Online Showroom

The International CES is the world’s gathering place for all who thrive on the business of consumer technologies. It has served as the proving ground for innovators and breakthrough technologies for more than 40 years—the global stage where next-generation innovations are introduced to the marketplace. As the largest hands-on event of its kind, CES features all aspects of the industry. And because it is owned and produced by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the technology trade association representing the $208 billion U.S. consumer electronics industry, it attracts the world’s business leaders and pioneering thinkers to a forum where the industry’s most relevant issues are addressed.

Conference Website: http://www.cesweb.org