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Google launches Nest Wifi with Google Assistant built in

Michael Philpott, Senior Practice Leader, Consumer Services

The boundaries between the connected and smart home are quickly blurring with Wi-Fi technology and data analytics starting to be used to support new smart home use cases, and smart home voice assistants increasingly acting as an interface to control the home network and related broadband value-added services. Google is the latest company to directly integrate a voice assistant into a Wi-Fi Mesh access point bringing the convenience of not having to buy two sperate devices and enabling some new features such as voice-enabled device management. The amount of data a company can collect by controlling both the home Wi-Fi network and home AI voice interfaces is staggering; thus, it is no surprise that companies such as Google and Amazon are keen to control both aspects. With approximately 80% of the home router market, broadband service providers currently have the upper hand in controlling the connected home segment; the question is, as the Googles of this world continue to invest, do they have the capability and desire to keep it?

 

Google revamps the Nest Aware subscriptions

Michael Philpott, Senior Practice Leader, Consumer Services

Google has greatly simplified its Nest Aware subscription service (a premium subscription service for storing security video footage) by creating a single subscription for the home rather than on a per camera basis. The original pricing was between $5 and $30 for a single camera, depending on the length of time the video would be stored. Households with multiple cameras would have to pay for multiple subscriptions, albeit additional subscriptions would come with a 50% discount. As one can imagine, this cost would quickly add up for those users wishing to use multiple cameras around their property. Once launched, the new single monthly fee will cover all Nest cameras in the home including some Nest and Google Home speakers and displays. This is a very sensible move by Google as it significantly simplifies its subscription for its users and is more likely to lock customers in to the Nest ecosystem.

 

Apple expands its smart home team to build out HomeKit

Daniel Gleeson, Principal Analyst, Consumer Technology

Apple is expanding its smart home devices team with a focus on its HomeKit platform. This raises the possibility of Apple pushing further into the smart home than the HomePod smart speaker. With the iPhone struggling for growth, it comes as no surprise that Apple would look to the rapidly growing smart home segment to diversify its product lineup. Apple has so far concentrated on personal devices – phone, tablets, watches, and laptops, while its home products have been more small scale. Tim Cook even referred to Apple TV as a "hobby." Siri provides Apple with the voice assistant it needs to be a key player in the smart home, but it has let Amazon and Google establish a very strong foothold. Apple will need yet another revolutionary device (or multiple revolutionary devices) for it to become the leader in smart home.

 

Amazon launches utility bill payments via Alexa

Mariana Zamoszczyk, Senior Analyst, Smart Home

According to Omdia's Digital Consumer Insights 2019 survey, 23% of responders would like their AI assistants to help them manage their household (e.g., control bills, schedule home maintenance). To target this market segment, Amazon is rolling out a new utility voice payment service, powered by Amazon Pay, that will allow users to pay their bills via Alexa. This new Alexa feature will support payments across different utility services such as electricity, water, mobile, and broadband from more than 700 utility companies in the US. Users will be able to get notifications when their bills are due, ask questions about previous payments, and keep track of their home expenses. The integration of Alexa and Amazon Pay will also help users reduce time and effort on similar payment transactions every month. Omdia expects this application to be especially appealing among users who want to simplify and streamline the management of their homes via voice assistants, enabling Amazon to make Alexa more valuable and useful at home.

 

Best Buy shuts down own branded smart home devices

Daniel Gleeson, Principal Analyst, Consumer Technology

Best Buy in the US is ending its own-branded Insignia smart home devices and is shutting down the Insignia Connect platform as part of that. This means that all smart capabilities are being removed from the devices. Best Buy is compounding its customers' frustrations by only offering partial refunds on their devices. While this situation is a PR disaster for Best Buy, it is also very bad for the overall smart home market. This is the greatest fear and problem for smart home platforms; the services rely on a back-end server to provide support. If that company decides to no longer provide that back-end support then the smart devices consumers paid a premium for become basic, dumb devices. Customers will need assurances that their smart home devices have guaranteed functionality if they are going to invest significantly in them. This also potentially shows a gap in the market for personal smart home servers which can both provide performance assurance and boost the privacy credentials of that platform.