Tuesday, July 11, 2017

First Look: Google Home is still a work in progress

Google Home is not quiet as polished as the Amazon Echo For instance the Echo will search your network for devices while the Home you have to tell it which devices. Homeseer is not supported yet even though it is listed on their web site. Though the Home plug-in for Homeseer is supposed to be ready soon.

The main thing that I bought it for is the one thing it does do that Echo does not. Pass a string to IFTTT. So you can for instance make an applet to log your dreams or ideas you have. And the recognition seems a bit better than Echo too. But do not get too excited because not all actions take a parameter. For instance you can not set up an applet to run any event you say. You still have to do one for each event. Hopefully that will get sorted when the Homeseer plug-in for Home gets released.

Update 8/8/2017

Unfortunately Homeseer still is not linking but I have to say I'm liking this name your own trigger phrase feature more and more. It basically lets you add skills using IFTTT as long as you just want to send a message some where. For instance I used to have an IFTTT applet set up so when I'd add a to-do via Alexa it would get added to my Remember the Milk inbox. The problems were at first that meant using some extra channel to get it from the Amazon list to Remember the Milk. In my case Twitter which meant I got a DM notification every time. Then Remember the Milk got a skill about the same time the trigger word "remember" seemed to stop working. So for example, instead of "Alexa, remember, pick up milk" it became having to say "Alexa, tell Remember The Milk to remind me to pick up the milk at 5pm". I would still need to clear out my Amazon to-do list. Todist on the other hand has a much less polished interface than Remember the Milk BUT it interfaces directly with Amazon so anything I do in my Amazon shopping and to-do lists syncs without any plumbing on my part. So now I can say  "Alexa, add 'pick up the milk' to my to-do list" and get it added without all the notifications.

Now compare that with Google Home. I just create an IFTTT  applet that lets me say "Hey Google, remind me to pick up milk" and it adds it to my Todoist inbox with a priority, due now and a couple tags. The phrasing just flows. Like the memo one above it is nice to be able to pick my own trigger phrase. Note to call an IFTTT from Alexa directly like that you have to say "Alexa, trigger [phrase]" and [phrase] just tells it which applet to run and it does not get passed on. Plus Google Home seems to be better at transcribing text than Alexa. For instance for testing I tried to add "convert homeseer counters to objects". Google got it right. Alexa transcribed it as "for home seer counters".

Updated 10/20/2017

Still can not get Awair or Homeseer to link.

I did get Harmony linked but I can only link in one of the hubs. By default you have to start everything "ask harmony to" as in "Hey Google, ask harmony to turn on hulu". If you want to just say "turn on hulu" like you would do with Alexa then you need to create a shortcut. Note if you have a Chromecast linked by default "turn on Hulu" will try and stream to it. Also when you set up short cuts use the mic to input the shortcut or it may not work. This is a bit more of a pain to set up but it does let you choose what device to play what on though since Fire TV seems to be unsupported in might not make that much difference. Unfortunately you can't just create a shortcut like the "Remind me to" one above but at least you can create a simple one like "to do list" which will bring up the Todoist app which will prompt you from there so you do not have remember which app to bring up and how.

I should probably note here too in order to change the friendly names in Google Home you currently need to unlink and relink Harmony. There is not edit. In Alexa you can edit the names names now of smart home devices, groups and scenes. Scenes is were you will find the friendly names for Harmony activities, channels and devices.

Updated 12/31/2017

After seeing posts in the Homeseer Facebook group claiming it worked with Home I decided to give it another go. This time I did get Homeseer to link accounts and import 83 controls which is short to all of them. It still seems to not grab room info. IIt appears to have pulled in about half of the Hue lights and dimmers (for some reason) on the house hub and none from the shop and barn hubs which my Homeseer knows about. No groups but the all lights on hub. So about 10% of the Hue "things" Homeseer shows. This is fewer than Home pulled from SmartThings months back. (I still have SmartThings hubs for some legacy stuff and experiments.) It does appear to have imported in most (maybe all but hard to tell with so many and the diff in interfaces) Z-wave Switch Binary devices from the 4 networks connected to my Homeseer, my Nest thermostat and virtual devices. It did see the Lifx bulb but not the Ranchio, Harmony hubs, Sonos speakers or Onkyo that are WiFi controlled by my Homeseer. One more point. While linking stuff to rooms I ran into a few problems. When adding a new room the rooms got double added some how. I had to go back and remove the duplicated rooms that had no devices in them. Sometimes adding devices to a room did not save either and I had to go back and link them again. Also it appears you can only add a device to a room. That is fine for filtering lists but if you are grouping for control, which is the case here, that makes it not very useful.

BTW Awair still asks for your login and then just goes back to the devices screen with out error or linking. Tried Lifx and TP-link for first time now that I have a devices to test with and it imported fine. Thought my Nest account was linked but was shows as not so relinked it without issue. Note it took me 3 tries (that Google Home said it understood) before I could turn up the heat on my Nest Thermostat. "Tell Nest to set the temperature to 70" did not seem to actually do anything despite it saying it was doing it. "Set the living room temperature to 70" did seem to work but it could be it just took that long for the first command to make it though all the hops.

For added fun I thought I'd try relinking my Hue account to Home to see if that would allow Home to see the other hubs or just switch hubs to get control of the shop lights. Unfortunately it gets all the way to the final step and flashes a quick message about failing to update. After doing this a few times it did actually update despite the error. But it still only sees the house hub. I'm guessing because when you log into the Hue web interface you can only view one hub (like the official Hue app) and Google goes though the cloud instead of talking directly to the hubs like Alexa does.

Updating devices list

You can now (Dec 2017) say "sync my devices" to Google Assistant (on your phone, Google Home, etc) to refresh all of your smart home services. For example, if you have Philips Hue lights and WeMo outlets, Google will pull the full list of your devices from those services. You can also just refresh a certain category, with something like "sync my lights."

Others thoughts

Granted the landscape is changing fast but here are some articles of where things were at times.


  1. Added more info on how IFTTT integration kind of lets you add your own skills

  2. Updated with shortcut and Harmony info

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  4. Note as of this moment 7 PM on 12/29/2017 the Amazon Echo (Alexa) users Facebook group has 37,693 members, the Google Users group 5,796. On 12/23 it was 35,314 vs 4,792. Up 6.7% and 20.1% So it looks like GH is coming strong in number of households but has a LONG way to go to catch up.