If you haven’t heard about the Amazon Echo, you’ve surely heard about Google Home by now. Surprisingly, Amazon Echo has been out for a full two years ahead of Google Home, but many people were not aware of the Echo until they began to understand it in comparison to Google Home. That statement alone says something very big.
Essentially, both devices are voice controlled AI personal assistants. The idea of taking a Siri-like feature and integrating into your home for both entertainment and efficiency makes sense. However, the story of why these devices are coming to fruition now is a bit deeper than you might think. Understanding that background provides insight into who I think the winner is (read “will be”) and why. Additionally, it provides a further glimpse into the future.
The Background: IoT
This may start a little in left field, but you should see the importance pretty quickly. IoT stands for the Internet of Things, the term was first coined back in 1985 but the necessary technology was not in place yet. Even now, in 2016 we are just starting to see the first iterations of this concept.
Essentially, the internet as we have known it for the past 20+ years has been people-centric. The internet of people if you will. Everything is about the individual, people connecting to people, to information, to products, etc… The idea behind the Internet of Things is inanimate objects connected together for the sake of autonomy, data-collection, and more. By connecting ideally every valuable data point, we can gather vast amounts of data; operate with more efficiency and even have fully self-controlled processes.
IoT has a few major markets that it breaks down into, in general they are: industrial or IIoT, medical or BSN (body sensor networks), and consumer or Smart Home. IIoT has the highest initial profitability so it is receiving a vast amount of attention currently, BSNs will dramatically improve medicine but there are some significant hurdles currently. Smart Home will possibly be the slowest moving as far as depth and scale are concerned, but generally speaking, it is a safer area to approach early product concepts.
Big Data: The Core
It all comes down to data. The hardware, software, and human interface are all important, but from start to finish the effectiveness of any IoT-based platform is data. If you are at all familiar with Nest, the smart thermostat, then you know what makes it special is that it learns your behavior, ideally to the point that you no longer have to interact with it, you simply enjoy a comfortable living space that runs as cost-effective as possible. It has been said that software (or technology) will eventually solve every single human inefficiency. Big data is the core to making that a reality, of course, AI is necessary as well, but data is the map that AI plots its’ course upon. This background is important to understanding why we cast our vote with one Smart Home assistant over the other.
First-Mover vs. Data
There are many articles comparing the Amazon Echo and Google Home, most of them do a good job at comparing current features and have well put together pro and con lists if that is more of what you are looking for then check out this article. However, we’re not as concerned with “right now” as we are focused on “what’s next”. In general, the argument is over who wins between the first-mover and the biggest owner of data.
First-Mover: Amazon Echo
For what started as an online bookstore, Amazon has done a good job at developing hardware. The Kindle was a revolutionary way to consume books that merged the look of a physical book with the space-saving and tote-ability of e-books. The Kindle Fire was an excellent tablet platform with a unique OS that was effective and easy to use, and Amazon’s other products have followed suit by being well-built, user-friendly, and an overall good fit for their niche. When the Amazon Echo was introduced it did not receive a lot of attention outside of the tech space, mainly because the concept of the device was fairly outside of the box for most people to derive meaningful value, not to mention that it did not have many of the features that have been added along the way. Over the 2 years since its release the Amazon Echo has amassed thousands of “apps”, and has generally owned the home personal assistant space. The price point is reasonable, and the introduction of a smaller version Amazon Echo at a much lower price is sure to create a significant boost in sales. However, Amazon has had one redundant flaw throughout their hardware. Amazon’s devices are essentially conversion machines for Amazon.com, they are built to drive sales. The focus of driving people back to Amazon’s marketplace has its perks but they are typically outweighed by the loss of over-arching user benefit. Even with the first mover advantage, it might not be enough for the Amazon Echo to come out on top.
Data Driven: Google Home
Ok, so if you haven’t figured it out by now, our pick for the winner is the Google Home…at least eventually. It’s no coincidence that within a relatively close timeframe Google released their first phone as well as the Google Home; however, we’re willing to bet that both of these devices initial versions are more about real-world beta testing and data collection than about trying to make a land-grab. While it makes sense that Google, like any business, would want to own as much of a certain market share as possible, taking a long-term approach will pay off far greater in the end.
The end goal is the seamless integration into your everyday life. Do you remember years ago before cell phones were available to the masses? The idea of having a phone on you constantly seemed interesting enough and made sense to a certain degree, but it was seen as more of a luxury item. Now, many people feel that they could not survive without their cell phone, and for many of them having no cell phone would create a dramatic impact on almost every aspect of their lives. How did this happen in only a couple decades? Cell phones integrated into our lives in a way the continually enhanced every aspect they could touch, and as more and more apps were developed their reach got further and further. The same will be true with devices like Google Home. Right now it seems like a pretty cool novelty, but in the next decade or so, we won’t understand how we lived without them.
There are a few main reasons why we think Google Home will eventually win and it all comes back to data. The main aspects to consider are: how much data do you have access to, what can you do with it, and how easy is it to access. Let’s take a look at how this applies to the Google Home:
- Amount of Data – Google started as a search engine, and over the years they have continued to use the data they have received from queries to refine your results. Now, the Google search bar begins completing your entry for you. If that’s not enough the “I’m feeling lucky” and “did you mean?” aspects are additional examples of intuitive Google improvements. For Google it is not simply about understanding how to provide you the answers you want, it is also about understanding how to further develop their own machine learning functionality. Furthermore, if you have a Google app on your phone registered to your Gmail account then Google is able to map even more of your behavior.
- Data in Action – Because of Google’s immense data capture and brilliant artificial intelligence programming, they are continually able to provide you with an improved experience. With the implementation of Pixel, the phone by Google, their ability to map and act upon even more data will only improve. Their goal as a search engine is to provide you with the most relevant results possible, and that same goal of relevance and intuitiveness is seen throughout their software and products.
- Data Access – With Google Home, the goal is for the most seamless integration and already their voice command function has proven to be far more intuitive than Amazon Echo. We communicate vocally, we have become accustomed to touch screens, but voice control is simply a step further toward reducing inefficiency and improving the user experience. Over time the need for key terms will continue to decrease and Google Home will be able to understand your intentions based on context and history alone.
As for which to buy right now, it really depends on what you want to get out of it and how opposed you are to buying a new digital assistant in a few years. It is very likely that Google will end up with a much bigger piece of the phone market as well as the leader in Smart Home hubs. The amount of access that Google has to so many different parts of our daily lives is staggering, and their ability to refine and simplify organizing all of these different pieces continues to improve. Because of that, it is likely that eventually, people will eagerly leave their existing, comfortable OS platforms for an all-things-Google lifestyle. Apple gained huge success because it offered the easiest device functionality for anyone to approach. Things just worked like you would expect them to. As Google continues to aggregate data and make it both actionable and autonomous, switching to a Google based lifestyle will become the easiest change you ever make.
To Your Best Online!
Ingrid Griffin, Internet Marketing Consultant. Blue Dress® Marketing, an Internet Marketing Company headquartered in Knoxville, TN. Internet Marketing Developed, Implemented and Managed to Full Circle! Organic Internet Search Engine Guru. Turn Key Internet Optimization Programs Placing You Everywhere and Anywhere You Need to Be Online®