Yesterday, we alerted readers that the ‘Hey Google’ virtual event was scheduled for 10PM EDT and though it was an odd time to log in and watch a digital-only event at that time of night, the reasoning became clear quite quickly. There were representatives from hardware companies spanning the globe, so no one time was right for any of them. And, as hinted on Google’s landing page for the event, this was completely geared towards hardware makers and gave them some updates on where Google is headed with some new abilities that smart home hardware will have. So, let’s talk about those things quickly as they are features that 3rd party manufacturers can add in future products, not necessarily things that are out there in play at the moment. We’ll highlight the major announcements below:
- Smart Home for Entertainment Device (SHED) support with Google Assistant – Introduced last year, this is Google’s API set that allows manufacturers to build in Assistant actions and controls into their smart TVs and speakers. The API is now public and can be incorporated into any smart TV, set-top box or game console.
- Android 11 smart home controls – When Android 11 launches later this year, it will come with a touch interface for smart home items baked into the power menu (long-press of the power button). This space will be optional for manufacturers to get their own quick controls into as long as those actions are routed through the Assistant.
- Improved state reporting and reliability – Google is making efforts to help manufacturers accurately convey the state of a smart home device without burning up the servers with useless queries. As these shifts happen later in the year, the current state of any device (door unlocked, etc.) will be reported faster with less load on the company’s servers.
- Improving linking – This new feature will go a long way in making the setup process easier for users. Dubbed ‘AppFlip’, this new integration will make the Google account linking flow for 3rd party smart home apps a simple 2 step process “by flipping users from the Google Home App to the Partner app without requiring an additional sign-in.”
- Expanded Routines – Perhaps the highlight of the keynote, this upcoming change will allow for the detection of your presence in the home. Just like users can do with Nest products now, routines can be triggered automatically when you are away or arrive home without the need to manually invoke the Assistant. For now, to get this sort of automation, you need Nest products. Down the road, other manufacturers will be able to build in the same automation with just the Google Assistant. Additionally, manufacturing partners will be able to leverage custom routines as well, suggesting routines that work best with their hardware and their overall software experiences.
Where is the new Chromecast and Google Home?
When this virtual summit began, I felt in my gut that we were not going to see any new hardware. The whole thing was fine and the info was conveyed clearly, but this was clearly not the produced type of event we’d expect to see a few new pieces of Google-made hardware unveiled. Right off the bat I was a bit bummed and a bit bored if I’m honest. With Google’s utterly confusing approach to hardware of late, we all figured they would take advantage of a smart home summit to launch a few new home-related products.
I suppose it was the setup on the landing page that lead us all to think this was going to be more than it was. After all, companies like OnePlus, Samsung, Acer and Apple have all held virtual events to launch hardware and done so in a very compelling way this year. When you use language like this, it really feels like that is the intention of the event:
“Hey Google” Smart Home Summit
COVID-19 has made it difficult for us to meet you at I/O, Global Developer Summits, and EMEA Smart Home Summit. Our team does not want to miss the opportunity to connect, and we decided to take things virtual!
Join us on July 8, 2020 to hear what’s new, and what’s coming up for the Google Smart Home.
Smart home hardware has been announced at Google I/O during polished, hardware and software-focused keynotes in the past, so it made sense that a few things could essentially be launched at this event. That clearly was not the case nor the intent of this summit and to be frank, I think Google could have put out a post on The Keyword with links to the handful of videos provided and simply called it a day.
At this point, I’m really not sure what to think about what Google is planning/not planning on its hardware. There’s clearly a new Chromecast with Android TV coming, a new Google Home on the way, and some combo of phones in the Pixel 4a and Pixel 5 also coming. With no clear indication of another event for a launch announcement, we’re beginning to wonder if all of this is going to simply be held for an event in the early fall.
We’re now less than 8 weeks from September, so a launch event to officially announce the long-overdue Pixel 4a would be strange this close to Google’s normal, annual event in early October. It all feels a bit discombobulated at the moment and we aren’t sure what to think, to be honest. Hopefully Google gets it together and figures out a way to get this hardware out to those who are really looking forward to it before the hype dies down and few care about it any longer.