While the smart home industry is filled with startups and small companies, this market is increasingly controlled by the big guys, namely Amazon and Google.
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Of course, there are still a lot of fish in the smart home sea, and it’s pretty easy to support smaller companies, especially when it comes to niche devices like PoE sensors or cameras. However, when it comes to SmartHome products like thermostats, Wi-Fi cameras and voice assistants (i.e. devices aimed at the mass market), Amazon and Google are pretty much blocking them.
What Amazon and Google have
Both Amazon and Google have a bigger piece of the smart home pie than you might think.
First, Amazon owns Ring, a video intercom company that first caught on in Shark tank, and now has a line of security-focused Wi-Fi cameras and even a security system. Amazon also owns Blink, which makes battery-operated Wi-Fi cameras.
In addition to recent acquisitions, Amazon has also invested in several other SmartHome companies, including Ecobee, Luma, Rachio, and Scout Alarm. And of course, Amazon has its own small line of SmartHome products such as the Cloud Cam, Fire TV Cube, and many different Echo models that can be used to voice control all other SmartHome devices.
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As for Google, they own Nest, which makes the increasingly popular Nest Thermostat. However, unlike Ecobee (a direct competitor to Nest Thermostat), Nest has become more than just a thermostat company. They also offer several Wi-Fi camera models, a video intercom, a smart smoke alarm, a security system, and a smart lock designed in collaboration with Yale. In other words, Nest has grown from its smart thermostat roots to become a SmartHome company in its own right, and they will likely continue to grow.
Like Amazon, Google also has its own line of Google Home voice assistants that you can use to control your SmartHome devices. While other companies have been vying for voice assistants, including Apple, Samsung and Microsoft, Amazon, Alexa and Google Assistant are actually the only two big ones to take the spot.
So what does all this mean for you?
While it may seem like some or most of your smarthome products are owned by either Amazon or Google (or a combination of the two), it doesn’t really matter, but there is one glaring problem: compatibility.
Amazon and Google are in the midst of a catfight, so much so that Amazon doesn’t sell many Google hardware products, and the YouTube app is nowhere to be found on Amazon’s Fire TV devices or Echo devices like the Echo Show and Echo Spot (not to mention that Amazon Prime Video is not available for Google Chromecast).
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Basically, most things made by Amazon won’t work with Google products, and most things made by Google won’t work with Amazon products. This is doubly true for SmartHome devices, which confuses users if they mix and match SmartHome devices from both Amazon and Google.
Of course, incompatibility between manufacturers is extremely common in the smart home industry, but at least there is a chance that smaller companies will work together over time. While Amazon and Google probably never will.
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And that’s a big problem, because every SmartHome product on the market is increasingly part of one of these two ecosystems — Nest has a full range of SmartHome products, and they’re tightly integrated with Google Assistant for voice control. Thanks to Amazon, popular products from Ring, Blink, and Amazon’s own SmartHome devices work flawlessly with Alexa. But they work in reverse. This means that if you want to go all-in at Nest, you have no choice but to use the Google Assistant. And if you want to use any of the Amazon devices, you’re kind of stuck with Alexa.