GOOG has been openly gunning for home automation since announcing its Android@Home initiative in 2011. It wants Android to be the framework that controls all the connected devices in your home and your Android smartphone to be the device you use to control and interact with them.
I think everyone is looking for someone — anyone — to take a leadership role in this area. I’ve been experimenting with home automation over the past few years and while the cool factor is high, the fragmentation has been driving me crazy.
I have a collection of Philips (PHG) Hue connected LED lights that have been fantastic. Recently, I had ADT (ADT) upgrade my home security system with a connected components including a door lock, light switches, cameras, smoke detector and thermostat. Again, the results have been good, but these components use the Z-Wave standard and require an ADT app to interact with. I have other scheduled activities like data backups being controlled by computer. I’ve had vendors sending connected gear that uses the Zigbee standard — that doesn’t play with Z-Wave and requires standalone apps.
All of this technology is cool, but having to use multiple apps, with different components that won’t interact with each other because they use different standards, is beyond frustrating. And this fragmentation is keeping home automation and the connected home from going mainstream.
Whoever cracks that nut is going to win in a big way. That’s why Samsung (SSNLF) was so gung ho about its Smart Home initiative at CES 2014. It’s already the world’s biggest vendor of smartphones, it’s one of the biggest makers of Smart TVs and its been selling connected home appliances (like refrigerators, washing machines and even air conditioners) for years. If Samsung is successful in selling Smart Home as the platform to third parties, it could be game over, with Samsung in charge — not Google. These two tech titans have been at odds for a while and the connected home could just turn into their biggest battlefield yet, with Smart Home going up against Android@Home.
No one is saying which of these reasons was the driving one behind the GOOG acquisition of Nest. And while my money is on boosting Android@Home, the others could have been part of the reasoning too.
Either way, if this plays out in GOOG’s favor, there could be real upside for the company in the long term. Image a world where Android powers your home. Your appliances and lighting integrate with your Google calendar and your Android-equipped car talks to your house as you pull into the driveway to turn on your Android-powered TV and switch it to your favorite show. When your furnace filter gets dirty, Google pushes you ads for local hardware stores and furnace maintenance businesses. Your Android smartphone connects you to everything, no matter where you are.
Nest Labs could be the catalyst that makes this world real.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.