Date
18 August 2017

Google in your living room? Go search

What’s the world’s largest search engine doing smartening up homes?

Simply, Google is diversifying into the smart home market to bring the wow and wonder of technology into living rooms.

Not that it needs to. By all accounts, search continues to deliver the lion’s share of Google’s revenue. The new venture merely connects the company to its creative side but it doesn’t hurt to make money off it.

That’s essentially the thinking behind its high-profile takeover of Nest Labs, a maker of smart thermostats and smoke alarms, for US$3.2 billion in cash, the second largest deal in Google’s history. The acquisition allows Google to shift gears in its nascent smart home business.

Nest Labs’ co-founder, Tony Fadell, is the father of Apple’s iPod. Analysts have praised him for a great job in marrying software with hardware to enhance customer experience.

Nest’s products extend Google’s smart home concept to a wide range of applications developers can build on. In September, it opened its application programming interface (API) to enable developers to do just that. API is a kind of language and platform which let software components interact with each other.

The smart thermostat could be part of an interconnected, web-based system that offers everything from automated lighting to climate control, helping create the home of the future.

It’s a concept so attractive — and potentially lucrative — it has given Google some interesting company.

One of them is Xioami, the Chinese maker of a wildly popular eponymous handset. In November, it launched a smart router that serves as a hub for various home applications similar to Google’s.

Xiaomi has developed a user interface, a modified operating system based on Google’s Android. In Xiaomi’s vision of the future home,“prepare bath”, “turn on air-conditioner,” “play music”, and a whole host of programmed commands will be the norm.

Lights out will be as quick and easy as a tap on a smartphone.

Smartphones can also function as a surveillance device for checking on pets and people and seeing what’s on TV before you get home. 

Other Chinese technology heavyweights such as Baidu and Qihoo are looking at these developments with more than passing interest. They have rolled out their own wi-fi routers but no word yet on how they’re going to proceed.

Xiaomi founder Lei Jun {雷軍} is in no doubt about the direction of his company in the home technology market which ties in with his ambition to turn Xiaomi into a 100 billion yuan company in three years, or seven years after it was founded.

If Lei succeeds in his new venture, he will have Google to thank — at least partly.

– Contact the writer at betsytse@hkej.com

RA

 

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