Google I/O: A peek into potential new home automation features for Android


In its bid to be omnipresent, Google has been testing waters in every segment, be it connected cars, drones, satellites or even your homes. But this time, home and health seem to be the key focus for Google at its annual I/O conference to be held next week. The reason is simple; Apple has already pulled out its big cards – HealthKit and HomeKit – at WWDC at the start of the month. So, it’s obvious that Google would want to respond to its arch-rival with a feature or two attacking the very same segments before the month ends.

 

While there have been rumours around Google Fit to compete with HealthKit, there is enough evidence that points towards Google’s smart home automation system in the making. As the year kicked off, the Search giant announced its big acquisition to enter your homes with Nest Labs. Nest Labs has been a prime player when it has come to the “Internet of things” niche and this has only strengthened its position further. For those not in the know, the niche caters to making everyday objects adhere to Internet-like structures. Undoubtedly set to be the next big thing, Google has already started betting its money on the field.

 

Back in January, during its acquisition, Google explained Nest’s mission as one to “reinvent unloved but important devices in the home”. For example, Nest has been selling its Learning Thermostat and smoke detectors for a while now. The connected devices help you control it using apps remotely, like the thermostat can be controlled to raise the temperature up or down. Now, this is something almost similar to Apple’s Homekit that could turn the iPhone and iPad into a remote control for home appliances.

 

 Google I/O: A peek into potential new home automation features for Android

Nest Protect is a smoke detector that looks like it's been designed by Apple

 

With Homekit, Apple will allow users to connect their iPhone/iPad and control their lights, garage-door, security cameras and even thermostats and switches. Users can simply control them via Siri. For instance, they could say “Get ready for bed” and the house lights will dim, doors lock and the security alarm will be enabled.

 

Google is also mulling to buy connected camera start-up  Dropcam, that is best known for its cloud-connected security camera that saves the footage to a cloud service, allowing users to check the recording anytime, anywhere, on compatible devices. Needless to say, with Dropcam in its kitty, Google could expand further into home security and automation, by tying in actions and activities to specific movements, such as turning on lights when you enter the room and native on-device notifications for important alerts, pretty much explaining why Google wants to own DropCam.

 

Google’s move is eventually about diving deeper into home security and staying at par with Apple. So, brace yourselves for some big home automation announcements on similar lines at I/O next week. Afterall, Google will want to move into the ‘Internet of Things’ space, with connected accessories taking care of the home automation just like Apple.

 

It should be noted that Dropcam that sells its cameras through the Apple Store has been a crucial partner for the Cupertino company in this segment. Apple’s plans to turn the iPhone and iPad into a remote control for lights, security systems and other home appliances, which will no doubt involve Dropcam as well.

 

Android

Google Nearby to be a part of the nest Android iteration

 

Though Dropcam may get the same independence like Nest initially, eventually Google’s plan would be to bring all of these devices under one fold, preferably with Android at its heart. In fact, some rumours have been suggesting that the platform to rival Homekit will be named Nearby. It is believed that Nearby will automate a lot of activities and actions, without the user having to interact with the Android phone. “Nearby lets you connect, share, and do more with people, places, and things near you. When Nearby is turned on for your account, Google can periodically turn on the mic, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and similar features on all your current and future devices. Google+ and other Google services need this access to help you connect, share, and more,” claims a recent report.

 

This isn't hard to believe if we take a look back at some of Google’s recent acquisitions.  Google purchased Bump, which lets two devices know they are close by and transfer files or data through an ad-hoc connection. Then there’s SlickLogin, a password verification service that’s said to be a big part of Google’s ecosystem play. With Nearby, Google could effectively allow computers and devices to sign-in to services, by using SlickLogin’s proprietary tech, which uses a combination of sound, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to sign users in.  With Nearby, Google may also take on the Continuity feature announced at WWDC.   The obvious takeaway from a location-aware, proximity-based service is a rival to Continuity. It is quite possible that Nearby could also be associated with other Internet-connected devices to perform automatic actions based on one’s proximity.

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