Google is making a play to own the smart home, but can it echo Amazon’s early triumphs?

A new ad campaign from Google Home aims to showcase how the personal assistant can turn a house into hands-free haven, but amid the competition can the tech giant take ownership of the connected home?

Google urges people to ‘Be more at home’ in its first UK campaign for its personal assistant. The creative, devised by 72andSunny Amsterdam, looks to lean into the many ways in which Google Home can help people be more present every day in a world where a lot of time is spent chin-down with faces in phones.

"More presence is something we all crave. The beauty of a device like Google Home is that it could really help us to be a little more connected when we are together," said Carlo Cavallone, executive creative director at 72andSunny Amsterdam.

The film at the heart of the marketing push was directed by Bob Harlow, the man behind Adidas’ ‘Ready to Run’ spot. It has a quirky and almost Ikea-like aesthetic to it – self-referential and a bit tongue-in-cheek but undoubtedly laying out Google’s ambitions to take ownership of the connected home.

The is a heavy focus on the product functionalities supported by Google Home, like the ability to switch on Netflix or play music without leaving the sofa, and follows on from a US campaign last year which highlighted similar features as well as the device’s calendar function.

Given that the smart home market is estimated to be worth $53.45bn globally by 2022 according to Zion forecasts, it’s no surprise that Google is highlighting where its own personal assistant tech fits into a consumer move towards connected tech.

However, while Google has claimed ownership of the search and advertising markets the internet behemoth has a fight on its hands if it wants to take command of the connected home.

Opportunity advantage

For one, Amazon’s Echo product and accompanying Alexa assistant technology have a two-year head start on the game. Alexa’s voice-driven abilities – or in Amazon terminology ‘Skills’ – include integrations with many platforms that Google Home currently doesn’t support including: Insteon,which lets users control lighting and thermostats; robotic vacuum clear, Roomba; and Yonomi which does everything from switching on coffee machines to locking doors.

While neither the Amazon Echo nor Google Home are smart-home systems in themselves, like the Hive or Samsung's Smart Things controller which are dedicated hubs, there is no doubt the devices are already central players in the game.

Principal analyst at Forrester, James McQuivey, believes that Google’s move to advertise Home in international markets signals it knows it has an advantage over Amazon in terms of international brand recognition, but that Amazon currently has the upper hand when it comes to weaving Echo into people’s daily routines (the biggest barrier to adoption).

“Amazon's long term position is stronger than any other company's simply because it can do more things for you. Getting news, weather information, or notices from your calendar are nice, but Amazon knows your home life better because it sells the products you use in your home,” he suggested.

“That gives the company a relationship advantage and an opportunity advantage, not to mention a funding advantage: The company makes money when you use Alexa because you invariably buy more stuff, whether via Alexa or otherwise.”

OK Google

Amazon's roots in retail may indeed mean it is well-placed to better understand and plan how best to blend into people's routines, but one major advantage that Google Home has is its rooting in Google's search and voice-control. Alexa's search function is powered by Bing, which accounts for just 0.87% of all global mobile and tablet searches against Google's whopping 95% – a figure which could make Google Home a more popular buy overall.

The ability to add multiple user accounts coupled with multi-room Chromecast Audio control, which lets customers use voice commands to stream playlists and podcasts via several speakers throughout different rooms in the house simultaneously, could also give Google an edge.

While the novelty of using voice commands to open up playlists is one thing, consumers concerns over privacy are quite another, and the overall industry faces a long battle in convincing consumers of the value exchange in handing over their data to make their home lives easier.

Just recently, a study from Accenture revealed that just 13% of digital assistant device owners had confidence in search engine providers when it came to keeping private information secure, showing the 'insecurity of things' is to be a major challenge. However, one positive takeaway is that over half (65%) of people who owned Echo or Home-type products were using the them regularly, showing strong acceptance of the tech.

For Google, this push to own the connected home space is just the beginning. Chief executive Sundar Pichai said during the company's 2016 Q4 earnings call that Google was committed to Home for the "long-term as a great way to bring beautiful seamless Google experiences to people."

"The early signs are promising and you can expect us to see us expand our offerings thoughtfully. We will also continue working closely with our ecosystem partners to create the best experiences for our users," he added, hinting that the giant was working fast to catch up with its rival and evolve the services and integrations it offers.

According to Morgan Stanley, Amazon shifted 11 million Echo devices before the peak holiday trading period last year, Google has yet to reveal how many Home units it has sold but it will no doubt be hoping its positioning as a tool to help people "be a little more present in the everyday" will help it outpace its competitor globally.