A brief overview of how these tools can simplify your life.
The term “automation” was best applied to the coffee maker. You’d measure out the grounds, fill the water container, and set the timer so your coffee would start brewing when you woke and be done by the time you got downstairs. It truly was the “best part of waking up,” as the Folger’s tagline said.
Today, the automated coffee maker has given way to the ability to control practically every thermostat, door lock, light switch, and Internet-connected device in your house. But how? Two of the most popular means to do so are the Amazon Echo, and Google Home.
Let’s take a look at each.
The Echo comes in two forms: the nine-inch-tall tower and the more compact, three-inch circle known as the Echo Dot.
In terms of functionality, they both do the same thing. Wake the device by saying, “Alexa” and then tell it to do any of more than 8,000 skills, in addition to a number of If This Then That (IFTTT) recipes. Skills, or what Amazon calls “new capabilities that create a more personalized experience,” include things like being able to:
- Play music or ambient noise
- Check the latest news, weather, and sports
- Order pizza from Domino’s or Pizza Hut
- Reorder your favorite Starbucks drink to pick up on your way to work
- Hail an Uber
- Find recipes and cooking tips
- Gett wine pairings
Amazon Echo’s skills don’t stop there. It can be used to get things done around the house, too.
If you use smart home products from companies like Nest, SmartThings, Crestron Electronics, and Wink, you can enable the skill for the Echo to control them. So instead of getting up to turn on the light, adjust the thermostat, lock the door, or any number of other things, you can simply ask Alexa.
Amazon Echo skills also extend beyond the home. Depending on the type of car you own, you can have Alexa fire up the engine or lock—and unlock—the doors.
The biggest difference between the Echo and the Echo Dot is its Internet connection capabilities. Whereas the Dot is only WiFi compatible, the tower Echo has multiple input and multiple output—MIMO—support. This means the Echo has more one than antenna, and more than one receiver, making data transfers faster. Basically, you get fewer dropped connections, which is what you want for smart home appliances.
With the Amazon Echo or Echo Dot—and fast, reliable Internet connection—you’re on your way to automating your home and your life.
Google Home comes in only one size, with customizable bases, and has much of the same functionality as the Amazon Echo.
You wake it by saying, “OK Google,” and then ask for updates on the latest news, weather, sports, traffic, and so on. Google calls these “features,” and breaks them down into the following six categories:
- Get answers
- Enjoy entertainment
- Manage tasks
- Play your day
- Control your home
- Have fun
With Google Home, you can check your flight, play music, get a rundown of your day, create lists, find answers to trivia questions, and any number of other things. Like the Amazon Echo, with a reliable Internet connection, Google Home works to simplify your life at home.
Google Home integrates with a number of smart home companies, including Nest, Wink, WeMo, SmartThings, and Honeywell. You connect compatible devices through the Google Home app on your phone, and then control things like lights and the thermostat without having to get up.
While Google Home’s features may not be as extensive as the Echo’s skills, you can create your own using IFTTT recipes. You can use Google Home and IFTTT recipes to do things like post to Facebook, create notes in Evernote, block time on your calendar, and any number of voice commands.
SO, WHICH ONE?
Choosing between the Amazon Echo or Google Home is not a decision to be taken lightly. Both share many of the same features and functionality.
If you’re already part of the Google universe, and don’t have a wide array of smart home devices like light switches, garage doors, or door locks, Google Home will most likely suit your needs. It’s a good bet Google Home’s list of features and service partners will only continue to grow, as will its list of IFTTT recipes.
The Amazon Echo has a two-year head start over Google Home, and thus, has a more extensive list of skills and IFTTT recipes. So if you’re looking for a device to help run your house—and your life—the Echo may be for you.