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Amazon is Making the Smart Home Look Easy -- And It's Leaving Apple and Google Behind

By Chris Neiger - Mar 8, 2016 at 1:00PM

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Apple and Google have lost their smart home lead to online retailer.

Source: Amazon.

There's an alternate universe where Apple (AAPL -1.80%) and Alphabet's (GOOG -2.57%) (GOOGL -2.45%) Google have created the perfect smart home hub -- their digital voice assistants play music, recite the news, and adjust the temperature on command. And these hubs are a larger part of an extensive ecosystem that gets users to spend more money with the companies.

But in the universe we live in, (AMZN -2.49%) has created everything mentioned above -- while Apple and Google have fumbled around in the smart home space.

Sure, both companies have pursued their own smart home ambitions. It's just that if you take inventory of what they've actually accomplished and compare it to Amazon, they come up woefully short.

Source: Apple.

Apple's walking around in the dark
Apple first showed off its HomeKit developer kit back in 2014, and its purpose was to let companies create smart home hardware that works with Siri's voice commands. The HomeKit framework was supposed to finally propel Apple in the smart home space. But here we are two years later and Apple barely makes any mention of HomeKit, and only 15 manufacturers make devices compatible with the framework.

It's not that Apple couldn't do well in the smart home space, it's just that it's clearly not a top priority for the company. If it was, we wouldn't constantly hear about how the Apple TV might become a smart home hub. Instead, we'd all just have an iHub sitting on our mantles, asking it to tell us the latest news on Donald J. Trump's most recent pontifications. 

Google's multifaceted approach
Apple may be the slowest to get on board the smart home wagon, but Google may be failing because of its eagerness to own the space.

The company first tried to take the smart home space with Android@Home in 2011. The platform wanted to turn smart home hardware into an extension of Android, but it ultimately went nowhere. Now, the the company has its new Brillo Internet of Things open platform and Weave language, which it hopes will fuel smart home connections (among others). Brillo and Weave have lots of promise, but only a handful of connected devices work with the platform right now and there's no clear way as to how Google will make money from all this or how it'll gain consumer attention.

Source: Nest.

One of the biggest moves the company made into the smart home space was, its $3 billion purchase of Nest Labs. At the time, it appeared Google would use Nest to not only dominate the smart home hardware space but also use it as a platform to bring other smart home devices into one harmonious smart home existence.

That too, hasn't quite happened. Nest has it's "Works with Nest" standards that tie other devices to its own, but Nest isn't really being used as a smart home hub. Additionally, Nest has run into more than a few very public hardware glitches that has damaged its reputation.

If that weren't enough, Nest recently announced its smart home devices would pair with Amazon's Echo, which essentially takes the control out of Nest's hands and puts it into Amazon's.

Amazon's dominance
Which, finally, brings us to the online retail giant. Last year, the company released its Echo smart home hub with Alexa voice assistant. Echo can answer questions just like Google's voice assistant and Apple's Siri, but can also read you the news, order an Uber (or pizza!), and play music from a variety of sources.

Not only did Amazon smarty realize that a simple, inexpensive device, that you can talk to would be a great way to enter the smart home space, but it also made sure it was easy for other devices to connect to. That's why Nest's thermostats now connect to the Echo, controlled by Alexa, and why many more hardware makers are making their devices compatible with Echo.

Source: Amazon.

Just this week Amazon expanded its smart home reach even further with Echo Dot and Echo Tap. Dot is basically an extension of the original Echo, so that users will have another place to call out to Alexa in their home. But the Dot can also connecte to existing speaker systems via Bluetooth, or wires, so you can play music with voice commands as well. Meanwhile, Tap is a portable speaker you can take with you that connects to a Wi-Fi connection or smartphone to play music on the go.

Echo and Echo Dot continue to make Amazon the focus in smart homes, as a simple, easy way to connect devices and issue voice commands.

If that weren't enough, Amazon also has its Dash Replenishment Service (DSR). The DSR system is being integrated into Whirlpool washing machines, pet feeders, and even blood glucose monitoring devices, so the devices can automatically order detergent, pet food, or testing supplies from when running low.

And that's the entire point of a smart home isn't it? For it to work seamlessly in the background when you need it to and complete simple tasks without much human input.

The smart home wars are only beginning, but if I have to chose a side right now I'd have to pick Amazon. Apple and Google may be figuring out how to make self-driving vehicles and electric cars -- but they'll be parking in front of homes run by Amazon.

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