I’ve Seen the Future of Home Automation and it Starts with Google Now

AI is here: Google Assistant voice-control, coupled with Google Now, mixed with oodles of analytics, is a revelation for this smart-home reporter.


I’ve seen the future of home automation and artificial intelligence. It starts with Google.

Let me back up. I just got a Google Pixel phone, only because Verizon was next door to my haircut place and I had no loyalties to AT&T and they had an amazing deal to switch. Next day I’m flying cross-country and I get this pop-up notification that I should leave for the airport in 17 minutes.

Where did that come from?

Upon landing, another unsolicited notice tells me which gate to head to. At one point, I must have accidentally swiped right on the phone, and there was a list of articles that look suspiciously like the ones I tend to read online at work. Remember, this is a brand new phone, one day old.

Below these articles is the stock price of companies I follow – stocks that I don’t bookmark or otherwise store. I just go there a lot. Google knows this, I guess.

Wrapping up the trip, I swipe right again. Lo and behold, Google is telling me the last place I parked.

The experience eerily portends the future of home-control, where “something” in the background is watching, learning and predicting all the time.

Turns out this is “Google Now,” and apparently I’m the last tech person on the planet to know about it (previously you had to download an app for it, but on the Pixel it’s just there).

The experience eerily portends the future of home-control, where “something” in the background is watching, learning and predicting all the time.

This is the “automation” part of “home automation” that has eluded us for so long.

As it happens, Google scraped my flight data from gmail confirmations. So Google now has Pixel and the new Google Home IoT hub (just installed mine, haven’t been able to really do anything with it). The company also has gmail, calendar, photos, maps, smart devices (Nest, etc.), the Google Assistant speech-recognition platform, Cast for audio and video, Allo for text messaging and – here’s the clincher – years of listening, learning and number-crunching.

At the airport, I tried a few things that would have heightened the Now experience. It should have been able to direct me to the nearest Delta club room or tell me when I should leave for the next gate. No go. Heck, it can’t even read my text messages aloud, so there is still much work to do.

But Google will get there, of course … and let the Nest thermostat know when you’re heading home.

My Google epiphany actually occurred a few months before this experience when I discovered the voice feature of Google Now, which (obviously) was available on my other Android phone.

So I’m at a trade show and I’m discovering all these things I can now do with the phone hands-free (hey, I’m a slow learner). I’m randomly calling out commands like: “OK Google, take a memo.”

And it does these things.

Sure, we’ve been talking about AI, and predictive analytics and the rest of it for many years. We all knew it was coming, but this really was the first time that I actually felt it.

If you’re not creeped out by it, get yourself engaged with Google Now. It’s one of those things like Amazon Alexa. The people that say they don’t like voice control … don’t own an Echo.

I think it’s an important thing to experience for yourself to really understand what’s down the pike.

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About the Author

Julie Jacobson
Julie Jacobson:

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson


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