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Voice Control for Home Automation: Google Home vs Alexa

Posted by LiveHouse Automation on

With the release of Google Home in Australia, and official launch of Amazon Alexa on the horizon I thought I'd write about where we're at with using these devices for Home Automation voice control. 

Firstly, a disclaimer. I don't have a Google Home, I do have a number of Echo Dots and an Echo Show which I use for various things including control of my Home Automation system.

Secondly, I'm only really going to focus on integration with Home Automation here. By way of general guidance:

  • If you want a device you can randomly ask questions and get a reasonably intelligent answer - go with Google Home.
  • If you've got Google Assistant on your Android Phone, you already know what to expect from Google Home. 
  • If you shop on Amazon - go with Alexa.
  • If you feel stupid saying "OK Google" all the time, go with Alexa.
  • If you're a Star Trek fan, you can change Alexa's wake word to "Computer".
  • If you want lots of voice control coverage around the house, Echo Dots are the cheapest way to achieve this.
  • If you think Google collects enough data on you already, go with Alexa.
  • Looking for 3rd party support? Alexa now has over 10,000 skills. 

Both Alexa and Google Home already work out of the box with a number of consumer automation widgets. Generally these are your typical App + Device products like Philips Hue, but hubs such as SmartThings and Wink may be compatible too. If you have any of these devices, check the compatibility and choose the smart speaker that works with your gadgets.

Home Automation Control

Now, I've touched on the integration with Vera and Alexa previously. The same ha-bridge solution used there can equally work with Google Home. In this regard, controlling your Home Automation system is the same regardless of whether it's Alexa or Google issuing the command. Compatibility and Functionality are up to you to define and this path is for the more technically minded.

For the Vera owners with a decent internet connection, Vera's native Alexa skill is the easiest way to get voice control working. I would expect that Vera will release a Google Home equivalent in due course.

At the moment, this means you can control devices. On, Off, Dim, etc. But there's a deeper integration available for Google Home and Vera that offers interesting possibilities.

Vera Concierge + Google Home 

Richard T. Schaefer - the brains behind some of my favourite Vera Plugins has produced his own integration for Vera and Google Home called Vera Concierge

Where Vera Concierge excels is instead of just controlling your Home Automation System, you can now converse with it in a more intuitive way and request information.

For example:

  • What is the status of all devices in the Garage? - Will tell you if the door is open, lights are on, motion sensor is tripped etc.
  • What is the Beer Fridge Temperature? - Will tell you how cold your beer is.
  • Turn on all switches in the Lounge Room - Will turn on the downlights and the floor lamps.

Vera Concierge supports a wide range of voice commands, making talking with your Vera Automation system more natural than with the current Alexa solutions. With greater power though, comes greater complexity. Vera Concierge has a lot of moving parts (there's a diagram on their website). But it's designed easy to maintain and update.

I haven't personally tested Vera Concierge, but it's working on similar principles to ha-bridge with a local server handling the interaction and Google/Vera Concierge cloud servers dealing with the voice processing. If anyone is running this in Australia I'd like to hear how well it performs.

Conclusion 

Your choice of Voice Assistant is largely going to come down to a little bit of personal preference and a little bit of what other smart devices you already have. At the end of the day they both do what they say on the tin. But if you're looking to really converse with your Vera smart home, Google Home is the best option at the moment.

 


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