Hey Google, Happy Birthday! There’s a Party goin’ on right here …

Drawing of Google Home Birthday Party

Today, on 18th May 2016, only 2 years ago, Google Assistant and Google Home were announced at Google I/O 2016.

Can you imagine, our smart little fellow is only 2 years old?
Time to celebrate and look into the highlights of our young roomie!

In this post, we will look back at two years full of cool features. Also, prepare yourself for a trip around the world, stopping by wherever Google Home was released. To make it more fun, I’ve included regional clips provided by Google. Additionally, we will look forward to the announced features, we can expect in the near future. And yes, I could not resist adding two clips which are not from Google, but they are funny, or not, let’s see.

Note, please make sure that there’s no Google Home around or mute their mics, when watching the videos. We don’t want to confuse our little assistant on his birthday with the many “Hey Google’s” we can hear in the clips.

18th May 2016: Google Assistant and Google Home Unveiled

Here’s the original, very first Google Home video directly from the almost two hours Google I/O 2016 keynote. No worries, I’ve pre-selected only the short Google Home clip for you, enjoy!

Then we had to wait for half a year.

On November 4th, 2016 our Google Home preorders were finally delivered (in the US).

The initial release was already full of features. You can check out the full list of features from Google Support. No, not all of them were available back then, but I’ll highlight here when the big ones arrived.

2017 – The Year of Google Home arriving in 6 Countries with many New Features

On March 31st, 2017 (obviously one day before April 1st) Google released this funny introduction of “Google Gnome” for our smart yards:

April 6th, 2017 Google Home comes to the UK

Please note, this Google clip is from April 4th, 2018, with Kevin Durant looking forward to tomorrows Royal Wedding. It’s more fun than the original Google Home UK clip.

April 21st, 2017: Google introduces multi-user support: Our little assistant can now recognize up to six different voices, and fetch information from the different accounts, depending on who’s talking. Let’s call mum  …

May 17th, 2017: Google I/O 2017

On Google I/O 2017, Google announced to bring Google Home to Germany, France, Japan, Canada and Australia. They kept their promise.

Following new features were announced:

June 26th, 2017: Google Home arrives in Canada

This is how the Toronto Raptors sound in Canadian English:

July 20th, 2017, Google Home comes to Australia

And this is how a kookaburra sounds in Australian English:

August 3rd, 2017: Google Home arrives in France

This is how a Hippo sounds in French.

August 8th, 2017: Google Home comes to Germany

And this is how a Panda sounds in German.

On September 25th, 2017: Google supports now voice-shopping at Wallmart.

October 4th, 2017: Google Home Mini & Google Home Max announced (arriving later on December 11th, 2017).

October 6th, 2017: Google Home arrives in Japan

So, here is how a whale sounds in Japanese …

29th November 2017: We can string two commands together if only one command requires a response: “Hey Google, dim the lights and play smooth Jazz”.

2018 – More Languages, More Countries, More Features

On January 10th, 2018: At CES 2018, LG, JBL, and Lenovo announce Google Assistant integrations with displays. LG will become available for preorder Mid March 2018.

February 23rd, 2018: Google announces over 30 languages will be supported by Google Assistant this year.

March 4th, 2018: “Make Google Do It” – Clip Collection

A Google marketing initiative, which I’ve missed back then, so let’s do this now:

“Get it, get it, get it, get it
Flip it, tip it, dip it, …”

Here’s a flower story from Sia:

My favorite mix: A million things made easier. I should order some dope tape …

And another one with John Legend and Chrissy Teigen:

Finally, Kevin Durant must not forget Gummy Bears!

March 15th, 2018, Google releases 6 ready-made Routines:

  • Good morning
  • Bedtime
  • Leaving home
  • I’m home
  • Commuting to work
  • Commuting home

On March 16th, 2018: I assembled the ultimate music command reference for you: Hey Google, Play Some Music! All The Music Voice Commands.

March 26th, 2018: Google Home supports now Philips Hue Scenes. Note, in my case, it took a month to fix the Hue-Link, but finally, I was able to update the Philips Hue / Google Home post.

On March 28th, 2018, Google announced, that we are finally able to pair our Google Homes with Bluetooth speakers

April 3rd, 2018: Google Home comes to Italy

Though this YouTube clip is from December 27th, 2017, it’s so much better than the official Italian clip. Plus, I pause it after the Italian song. If you’re wondering, what the favorite song of the Italian grandma is, try: “Hey Google, play piemontesina bella”.

April 10th, 2018: Google Home arrives in India

There are no cool Indian Google Home clips yet, but we can have a look at a funny Google App clip:

May 3rd,2018: Google announces support for over 5000 smart home devices.

May 8th, 2018, the Google I/O 2018:

Google announced:

  • 7 more countries to come in 2018: Spain, Mexico, South Korea, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark.
  • “6 new voices”: well, we got 7, so altogether 8 with the original Assistants voice. Awaiting John Legend, let’s see …
  • Continued conversation”: We won’t have to say “Hey Google” or “OK Google” for follow-up requests. Let’s see …
  • Multiple Actions“: Note, this one already rolled out: we’re able to ask for multiple things at the same time: “What’s the weather like in New York and in Tokio?”. Before, it was only possible with one response.
  • Pretty Please”: is an option for families, which we’ll be able to enable for any household member. This feature will require Family Link.
  • Custom Routines“: This is currently being rolled out: “For example, you can create a Custom Routine for family dinner, and kick it off by saying “Hey Google, dinner’s ready” and the Assistant can turn on your favorite music, turn off the TV, and broadcast “dinner time!” to everyone in the house. Later this summer, you’ll be able to schedule Routines for a specific day or time either using the Assistant app or through the Google Clock app for Android.” In my case, the “shortcuts” already disappeared from the Google Assistant app as “Custom Routines” replace them.
  • Duplex: a feature to let Google Assistant book appointments for us. Google is still working on this feature, but it plans to test it already this summer.

Thinking about Duplex and how far it goes, maybe the one “which was on us” …

… will turn into Google’s?
(Watch out, this is a parody of Duplex. I’ve tried to pause it before it gets rough, still …)

May 16th, 2018: Google Home Max is now available in Canada.

Puuh!

Let’s summarize …

So, here we are, around the world in a couple of minutes!

Google Home’s first two years, cram-full of cool features and announcements. Welcomed home in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, and India.

I know, sometimes we’re not in speaking terms with our little assistant. For me, the worst time was the month waiting for Philips Hue scenes to work, because the Hue-Link broke altogether. Before that, I had to write about an ugly workaround for Philips Hue scenes through IFTTT. And now, waiting for the Logitech Harmony Home Control service, which should save us from creating many shortcuts, pardon custom routines, seems to last forever.

However, Google’s Nanoleaf Aurora support was a pleasant surprise from the very beginning. And the ability to voice-control any infrared controlled device through Logitech Harmony is quite impressive. On the other hand, Googles Privacy Policy surprised me both ways. Maybe just a glitch in the Matrix, because I had to take both pills.

Anyway, looking into what Google Home has achieved in these two years, makes me look up in awe to our little fellow. Let’s forgive him his small hiccups and celebrate his day!

Hey Google,

  • Happy Birthday!
  • Bon anniversaire!
  • Alles Gute zum Geburtstag!
  • お誕生日おめでとうございます
  • Buon compleanno!
  • जन्मदिन की शुभकामनाएं

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post!

You can find more Google Home posts here.

In case I’ve missed a feature or announcement, please share with all of us in the comments below!

The Google Privacy Matrix: Wanna wake up, Neo?

Drawing of GoogleHome Morpheus giving you the choice.

This should have become only one post: Google and our privacy and security. But I realized very soon too late, that such a post would be very, very dangerous. Dangerous for you and dangerous for me. Some of you would be shocked to the point, that you start to hate smartenlight. Some of you would keep asking me for the real stuff.

So, I’ll give you the choice. You need to decide for yourself, to which extent you want to be in control of your own life.

Please come, sit.

I imagine that right now, you are feeling a bit like Alice, tumbling down the rabbit hole, hmmm?

Let me tell you, why you are here. You are here, because you know something. What you know, you can’t explain, but you feel it. You felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the internet. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there. Like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me.

Do you know what I’m talking about?

Do you want to know, what it is?

The Google Privacy Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us, even now at this very website. You can see it when you look at your browser, or when you watch YouTube. You can feel it, when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes. It is the world, that has been pulled over your eyes, to blind you from the truth.

What truth?

That you are a slave, Neo.

Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, born into a prison that you cannot smell, or taste, or touch.

A prison, for your mind.

Unfortunately, no one can be told, what the Google Privacy Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.

This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back.

  • You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.
  • You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Remember: all I’m offering is the truth.

Nothing more.

Yours,

M.

Google and Our Privacy and Security: Red Pill

Drawing of Google and our Security and Privacy

WARNING: If you’ve accidentally arrived here, without the explicit decision to take the “red pill“, please leave now! This post is a fictional story for insiders, who are curious about the potential impact of artificial intelligence.

Have they left?

Let me check in GA! No.

Ok, let’s rephrase:
WARNING: This is going to be the most boooring …

Aaaah, now they’re gone. Just you and me.

How do I know that?

Very easy, I track you.

I know whether you come from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any other social media site. I also know, if you have bookmarked this site and came directly.

And when you search for something on Google, Bing or Yahoo and a smartenlight post appears in the results, I know the exact position where the post was located and whether you clicked on it. I even know the keywords you’ve used to find this article.

I know the language you are speaking, the city you are living in, even which type of device and browser you are using. I know, how often you visit me and for how long.

On my dashboard, I can see – in real-time – when you come,
and when you go …

Wait!

Before you leave now, because you think you ended up in your worst privacy nightmare, written by a nerdy idiot, who does not respect other peoples privacy:

It is not me who tracks you,
it is Google.

What?

What I’ve described above is actually the super harmless form of tracking you via Google Analytics in an anonymous way, there is much more out there, everywhere.

The Google Matrix is a system, Neo.

When you’re inside, looking around, what do you see? Managers, teachers, carpenters, lawyers, the very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still part of that system.

You have to understand, Neo. Most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so dependent on this system, that they will fight to protect it.

Are you listening to me, Neo?

Please relax, we are safe here!

Of course, I don’t know you as “you”, only Google does.
That’s why it’s so difficult for me to reach you …

For me, you just appear as a number in Google Analytics, Neo. And the reason I am interested in those numbers is to be able to improve this site to be able to find you. Sure, it would be much easier, if you just leave a comment with your feedback. But I cannot expect that from you, so I am looking at some numbers, doing some guesswork.

Let me show you …

This is a snapshot of the Google Matrix for this post after going online. Only 63 candidates. You see how difficult it is for me to find you, Neo? You could be anywhere …

Table GA - The Google Matrix Snapshot 2018-05-14
Where are you, Neo? According to the User#, you could be in UK, but according to how long you’ve listened to me, you must be in Austria or Australia…

Welcome to the Google Matrix!

Up to 80% of all the websites out there have implemented Google Analytics. The rest uses one of the other 600 Site Analytics trackers, and many sites use a mix thereof.

I have invested a lot of time to make sure we are safe here, Neo.

They cannot track us. No personalized ads, no social media tracking, no nothing. I do not even track or save your IP on this website because for our European candidates the IP is personal information. And I use Google Analytics in an anonymized way. Google has to set the last part of your IP address to zero, before processing it.

There are not many sites being so cautious, Neo.
You can check that with the Ghostery plugin in a Chrome browser.

And when you surf other sites, don’t be shocked to land on pages with 10, 30, 50, over 100 trackers. This is normal nowadays. They come from advertising and affiliate programs, social media, even adult advertising.

It’s a jungle out there! Ghostery alone knows about 3000 different trackers and will show you what’s going on while making you invisible. Also for me …

For now, please relax, we are safe here.

I hear you, Neo!

Looking at my numbers and doing my guesswork, I see that I could not grab your attention. You have missed the most important parts.

Let me try again, this is important.

Why this topic, here and now?

If you know this site, you know that it’s about smart home and smart assistants. This intimate area at home is where we expect our security and privacy. But are we also cautious, which companies we invite into our homes?

While checking around Google’s privacy policy I stumbled over some topics I was not aware of. Interesting, but somehow disturbing topics.

Google has become our prime source for information, to such an extent, that we are more open to Google than to anybody else.

We are more open to Google than to our partner, best friend, father, mother, sister, brother, kids, doctor, priest, shrink!

You don’t believe me, Neo?

Ok, then download your data now, I will prove it to you. Make sure to download all of it with the proper Google account (the older – the better). This process might take some time on the Google Matrix end, so initiate it now. At the end of this post, I will tell you what to look for. Remind me, that we will also use this data to efficiently check our Google Home recordings.

Go now, to initiate your takeout. You will receive an e-mail from Google when it’s ready to download.

I will wait for you.

We tell things to Google, that we don’t tell anybody else, Neo.

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, former Google data analyst, NYT writer and author of “Everybody Lies”, calls Google “Digital Truth Serum” (This is a 16-minute clip on YouTube). The topics in this TED talk range from sex, racism, suicide to Islamophobia. Still, it’s safe to watch, you will understand much better, where our journey goes.

“One in six queries presented to Google has never been asked before”. “Imagine your face and your name above everything you’ve put into that box, and you’re going to realize you trust Google more than any entity in your history.” Scott Galloway, Professor of Marketing at the NYU Stern School of Business, calls Google Our modern man’s God(This is a 1-minute clip on YouTube)

Breath in.

Breath out.

We will now use Google’s privacy policy to our advantage.

How do we get there?

I’ll start with how Google makes money. You need to know this to understand why Google collects all our data.

Next comes a “light privacy version”, an overview Google gives us. I’ve covered this in the blue pill in a happy-blue-pill-way. Here I will highlight, how you can minimize your footprint and what Google does not mention, or only indirectly.

We will look into the services required to have our Google Homes running. Yes, there are some data collection services we cannot turn off if we want to use our assistants. This is actually not good at all, but I’ll help you to keep it clean.

Finally, we will look into what’s planned for Google privacy in the future and wrap up our findings in a conclusion.

Ok, let’s follow the rabbit …

Google privacy overview

“Every day, data makes our services work better for you. That’s why it’s important that we keep it private and safe – and put you in control.”

Google is an advertising company. It collects our data and makes money out of it by showing us personalized ads based on our data.

The more data Google has from us, the better they can personalize their ads and services, and make them useful for us.

Neo, Google is a business, the economic equation looks more like: The more data Google has from us, the more they can charge for their hyper-personalized ads.

A quick glance at the past year earnings shows us that the parent company Alphabet – with CEO Larry Page and President Sergey Brin on top – is divided into Google and “other bets”.

Google made 110 billion revenue in 2017, around 84% from advertising (DoubleClick, AdSense, YouTube) and the rest from the Google Cloud platform, Google Play, Google Home and recently Nest, which they’ve now merged back into Google. The “other bets” ranging from AI developments to self-driving cars still make over a billion a year.

So, Alphabet is mostly an advertising company making a lot of money from personalized ads on our search results, YouTube and other (some 2+ million) sites around the web.

If you are wondering what is being tracked when you have no Google account at all, here are some ideas on shadow profiles through Google Analytics. You’ll furthermore find a hint that in 2016 Google changed their terms of services and quietly dropped the wall between anonymous online ad tracking and our names.

Overview: “Every day, data makes our services work better for you.”

The cute, animated introduction is there to remind us of the benefits we get from giving Google our data. From weather information to Google Translate. Google Maps reminds us when to leave to be in time for our next appointment. And the Search which intelligently gives us just the results we want, in the web and on Youtube.

These are all free Google Services, Neo. They have many more ….

Your Data: “Our commitments to your privacy and security:”

“We want you to understand what data we collect and use.”

They tell us, what they collect. Because they have to.

  • Things you do“: What we search for, the websites we visit, the videos we watch, the Ads we tap, our location, our device information and our IP address and cookie data are being collected.
  • Things you create“: The data we create and store in the cloud, like emails we send and receive on Gmail, the contacts we add, calendar events, photos and videos we upload, docs, sheets, and slides on Drive, is being stored and protected (and analyzed) by Google.
  • Things that make you “you”: Our personal data associated with our Google account: name, email address and password, birthday, gender, phone number, and country.

“How data improves Google services”

Remember, Neo: their promise is always to improve their (free) services for us.

And to be able to do so, for this huge amount of data we are creating, they have to automate this process. So they program machines, to do this job.

When you search for “Africa” and when I search for “Africa”, we get completely different results. This is because the machines are personalizing our results, transforming them to something, which confirms what we already believe. They keep us in our “filter bubbles”, cozy and biased. They don’t show us unbiased results, that’s too dangerous, we might wake up ….

The matrix is full of filter bubbles created by Google, Facebook, Amazon and even Netflix (This is a 9 minute TED talk by Eli Pariser from 2011, who explains this important topic).

Google, has recently – seven years later – admitted there’s a problem and is now working on it.

Let me tell you, how data improves Google services for their advertising business:

When Al Bundy wants to show you a shoe advertisement, he can target you based on the data. Google gives him the tool to find you based on:

  • your demographics (age-range and gender),
  • your interests (affinity categories – we’ll see them in a bit,
  • life events like “recently moved” or “got married”, derived from your searches,
  • whether you’ve already searched for similar products,
  • keywords you are searching for, and more)
  • and more
  • and much more

Since we are into Google Home. Each of our interactions with Google Assistant is stored in an activity log, which we can view from here and delete. If you delete your searches, chances are, that you minimize your filter bubble.

Take Control: “You have the controls to manage your privacy.”

Here are the links where you can control your data, make sure you don’t lose them:

  • Control your privacy settings at My Account
  • See what data is in your account at My Activity
  • Manage your privacy settings with the Privacy Checkup
    • Personalize your Google experience
      • “Web & App Activity”, “Device Information” (watch out, these are your contacts, calendars, apps, music and more) and your “Voice and Audio Activity” cannot be paused, if you want to use your Google Home. Make sure you delete this information from time to time, to keep your footprint small. If you are afraid, that the quality of the Google services will degrade for you, remember how they performed on day 1, when Google had no data.

      • Location History“, “YouTube Search History” and “YouTube Watch Historycan be paused, and you can still use your Google Home. Make sure you delete your data following those links. Pausing an activity does not delete the data. It’s not that easy to get out of the matrix.

    • Help people connect with you“: This feature comes from collecting anybody’s else contact data, ANYBODY who has your number. Turn this off, Neo.
    • Choose what Google+ profile information you share with others“: Turn this off.
    • Make ads more relevant to you“: Last but not least, here we are.
      Since you have taken the red pill, I assume you’d like to opt out of this. Note, you cannot get rid of the interests the machines assume you have. Confuse them by telling them that you don’t like what they think you like, just in case.
  • Secure your account with the Security Checkup“: This link helps you to keep your account secure!
  • Decide what data is associated with your account“: Use this link to verify that nothing is linked to you, what should not be linked.
  • Review your basic account information
  • “Take your content anywhere with Download Your Data”: Finally the option for everybody to download our data. I hope you’ve done it already, before deleting your data. That’s why I gave you this link at the very beginning.
  • The last feature, let’s us define up to 10 account trustees, who can download “some” of our content in case something happens to us and our account is left unattended for an amount of time. We can also specify if Google should delete our inactive account and data. What happens with our data when we die? Think about it, Neo!

Your Security: “Your security comes first in everything we do.”

Google secures its services with the world’s most advanced security infrastructures. They do everything to not lose our valuable data.

If somebody asks Google to give out data, they review it and document it here transparency reports.

“Top tips to help you stay secure online”

Here we get helpful quick tips to secure our personal data! These are important, use them to your advantage, Neo!

  • “Strengthen your sign-in”
    • “Create strong passwords”
    • “Use unique passwords for every account”
    • “Keep track of multiple passwords”
    • “Defend against hackers with 2‑Step Verification
  • Protect your devices
  • Avoid phishing attempts
    • “Always validate suspicious URLs or links”
    • “Beware of email scams, fake prizes, and gifts”
    • “Be wary of requests for personal information”
    • “Watch out for impersonators”
    • “Double check files before downloading”
  • Browse the internet securely
    • “Use secure networks”
    • “Look for secure connections before entering sensitive information”

How Ads Work: “We do not sell your personal information to anyone.”

Google does not sell our personal information (name, email, payment information)!

Why should they?

They know everything about us. The blue pill community went all-in. They do not care about their privacy. The promise that Google services will become better and better is just seductive! The fact that Google knows more about us than our partner, best friend, father, mother, sister, brother, kids, doctor, priest, shrink is more than enough to keep the business running.

  • “We use data to make ads relevant”: Google tries to show us useful ads, based on the data we have reviewed. Useful ads, means expensive ads.
  • “Advertisers pay only for ads that people see or tap”
  • “We show advertisers how well their campaigns worked”: The matrix continuously monitors it’s performance, Neo.

“How ads work on Google services and partner sites”

Here the matrix finally reveals how it creates useful ads for us:

  • Google takes our current and past searches into account when displaying useful ads. Have you already received your takeout email?
  • Google uses our watch history and our current and past YouTube searches as a basis to define useful YouTube ads.
  • The ads we see in Gmail are based on the usual data, not the content of our emails. Nobody reads our e-mails to show us ads. Machines and people only read them to identify spam for us.
  • Many sites partner with Google to display ads. These advertisers show ads to certain “types” based on our information and data collected from our online activities, e.g. “25 – 34 year old males who are interested in travel.” Google might also show us ads, based on sites we have visited, e.g. we left red shoes in a shopping cart but decided not to buy them yet.
    OK, it’s time now to go deeper, Neo: programmatic advertising. Almost 80% of the US mobile display ads are purchased programmatically. $ 46 billion will be traded between machines, not humans, in the US alone, this year.
    The moment we open a website, machines start to negotiate our worth. If they find a cookie on our device about the red shoes left in our shopping cart, guess what happens? The ad price goes up because Al Bundy wants to sell us his freaking red shoes.

“Take control of your Google ads experience”

For  controlling the ads we see, we can 

  • “Control ads based on your preferences”: We’ve looked into this already above.
  • “Remove ads you do not want to see”: We can mute many ads, which are no longer relevant for us, closing them with an (X) on partner websites and apps. This is helpful in case we have already bought the car we were interested in. I am a bit afraid, that this flags something like “this guy recently bought a car” let’s sell him…
  • “Learn what data we use to show you ads”: “Why this Ad” is a feature, which displays the reason, why we see an ad. I’ve never tried this feature, because I am not into ads, but let’s keep it in mind when we stumble over Google ads.

“Safer Internet: We help make the Internet safer for everyone.”

Google develops security technologies, which they share with other companies to improve the whole online world.

Let’s talk for moment about adblockers. These nice plugins, allow us to block out any ads on websites. No, not any, but some. Which not? Those who pay. How to market this: Let’s define good ads and bad ads. Let’s display only good ads. Google is in the lucky position to have their own browser, so let’s build this in.

Let’s close this chapter with a dedicated link called Privacy concerns regarding Google on Wikipedia, just in case you want to go further down the rabbit hole …

A quick peek into your Takeout

Have you received your takeout yet, Neo?
Well, that’s now your very personal thing. Enjoy!

Thanks for reminding me that we have 2 topics open (make sure you are alone when doing this):

  1. Navigate to /Takeout/My Activity/Voice_and_Audio. You will find a folder full of your Google Home/Assistant recordings. Sort the recordings by size. You might find – in my case, a handful of – bigger files. These are most likely erroneously triggered recordings, where you did not say “Ok/Hey Google”. Listen into them, think about your privacy.
  2. Make sure, you’re alone. Navigate to /Takeout/My Activity/Search and open MyActivity.html. Scroll down to the very end, these are your oldest searches. Scroll up until you find something strange. Something you have not expected to find here. Some memory which you have buried deep in the back of your mind. There it is, in front of you, saved into your account and used from the system, to find you.

Examine your takeout carefully and don’t forget to delete the data you do not want to share with Google advertisers.

What’s coming (to some of us?)

Google just updated their privacy policy which goes into effect on May 25th, 2018. That’s the date when the new General Data Protection Regulation kicks in for EU residents. According to Google, the new version is much clearer, though nothing really changes in the way how Google services process our data. You will also find a couple of cute YouTube videos, which explain how Google services use our data. Here’s the original blog post from Google’s EMEA Director for Privacy Legal.

Ads are mentioned and explained earlier in this version. Also, Google Analytics is mentioned, when you scroll down a bit, a bit longer. If you click the comparison to the previous version, you get a 404 Error.

But that should not be a problem since you already understand what to look for.

Conclusion

We went very deep into the rabbit hole in this post.

I hope you are feeling OK? You must feel exhausted, I’ll keep the conclusion short.

Neo, privacy is our human right (UN, US, EU).
It has many dimensions. Whom do we trust more? Governments or big companies? Regulations or the economy? When our data is out there and can be accessed by companies and governments, it can also be hacked by criminals.

You’ve learned now,

  • what data is being collected,
  • how companies make money with it,
  • and how to monitor and minimize your Google Home footprint.

Now that you know, what the the matrix is,
use those privacy policies out there to your advantage.

Our data is worth a lot of money, not that we can sell our data on our own terms.

Take care, Neo!

Yours,

M.

P.S. The comment section below is GDPR compliant. I was just waiting for you to read this and start the party with a good discussion. You’re e-mail address will not be displayed! You’ll need to explicitly double opt-in (confirm your e-mail, so that nobody can spam you) to automatically receive notifications when somebody answers your posts. And I will monitor to keep the machines away. It’s cool and it’s safe! Let me know what you think!

Google and Our Security and Privacy – Blue Pill

Drawing of Google and our Privacy and Security

Welcome! Happy, you took the blue pill! This is going to be so much easier, for both of us. In this post, we are looking into how Google treats our privacy and security.

Before we dive in, a heads-up:

The good news: Google is very transparent what data it collects from us and how they use and secure it. Every bit seems well documented.

The bad news: Google is collecting a lot of data. So this overview will take some time to digest.

The new news: Last night, right before I wanted to click the “publish” button for this post, I received an email from Google with the subject “Improvements to our Privacy Policy and Privacy Controls”. I will cover this in the “Whats coming” section.

Let’s get moving …

Note, below table of contents will help you to quickly orient yourself and navigate through this post.

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Why this topic, here and now?

Smartenlight is about smart home and smart assistants. This intimate area at home is where we long for security and privacy. But are we also cautious, which companies we invite to our homes?

The topic “privacy” is nowadays all over the media. Companies collecting our data, sometimes even without our consent, companies making money with our data. But also companies, who supposedly do not care about our data, because they simply have a different business model. After checking Apple’s approach to security and privacy, we are looking now into Google’s. Amazon’s will follow.

Hopefully, this awareness will inspire us, to also check the privacy policies of all the smart home devices at our homes.

How do we get there?

We will look into Google’s “light privacy version”, an overview Google gives us. This expands into a quite lengthy overview, which goes deeper and deeper since Google is very transparent about the “what” and “why” they collect our data, and also thorough in giving us tips to protect our privacy.

We will highlight the services required to have our Google Homes working and what Google has planned for the 25th of May 2018, when the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) kicks in.

Finally, we will wrap up our findings in a conclusion.

Sounds long? It is. But since it’s such an important part of being online and using our Google Homes, I will try my best to keep you awake.

Google privacy overview

“Every day, data makes our services work better for you. That’s why it’s important that we keep it private and safe – and put you in control.”

Most of the Google services are free. The data Google collects is used to improve the Google services for us.

Overview: “Every day, data makes our services work better for you.”

The cute, animated introduction is there to remind us of the benefits we get from giving Google our data:

  • Data gives you answers to your questions — just when you need them.” We will always know, whether we should take our umbrellas with us. Good to know!
  • It helps you find the right words to say, in any language.” – Google Translate helps us to communicate in languages we don’t speak. It’s an amazing technology, which can connect people, who otherwise would not be able to communicate with each other.
  • “And gets you from A to B…to C, right on time.” Google maps give us transport information taking real-time traffic into account. A perfectly helpful feature, we would not like to miss.
  • It helps you discover that video that makes you laugh out loud — or your new favorite song.” Youtube Search and Google Play Music! No other platform can offer us this depth of personalization. Remember, our Google Music post? Google knows when we get to the gym and will play workout music automagically! Google is even so smart, that we can merely describe an album cover and it will find and play it.
  • And helps find everyone you care about in every photo you take.” Google has amazing AI technologies, which help us to organize our memories. The photos of us, our kids, or pets, well sorted!
  • It’s personal. That’s why we protect your data.” Google uses the most advanced technologies to protect our data.

Your Data: “Our commitments to your privacy and security:”

“We want you to understand what data we collect and use.”

Google understands it as their responsibility to make clear what data they collect from us, and how they use it to improve their services.

  • Things you do“: What we search for, the websites we visit, the videos we watch, the Ads we tap, our location, our device information and our IP address and cookie data are being collected.
  • Things you create“: The data we create and store in the cloud, like emails we send and receive on Gmail, the contacts we add, calendar events, photos and videos we upload, docs, sheets, and slides on Drive, are being stored and protected by Google.
  • Things that make you “you”: Our personal data associated with our Google account: name, email address and password, birthday, gender, phone number, and country.

“How data improves Google services”

Google lists some examples, how they use our data.

  • How Google Maps gets you places faster“: Google tracks our phones location data and combines it with people around us to give us real-time traffic information. They do this anonymously for Google maps.
  • How Google autocompletes your searches“: Google is smart enough to correct our typos and suggest autocompletes that take our search history and interests into account. So we get better results, faster!
  • How YouTube finds videos you want to watch“: Google knows whats trending, they know our preferences, so they show us the best suggestions.
  • How Chrome completes forms for you“: Google saves us time when we fill out forms, by storing our data.
  • How Google Search helps you find your own information“: Photos, appointments, hotel reservations, what you have, Google connects all services to make it easier to find our own information, even in Google Search!
  • How your Google Assistant can help you get things done“: Now this one’s interesting, since we are into Google Home. Each of our interactions with Google Assistant is transparently stored in an activity log, which we can view from here.

Take Control: “You have the controls to manage your privacy.”

We are in the driver’s seat when it comes to our data. Here are the links which enable us to control our information stored at Google.

  • Control your privacy settings at My Account“: Here is where we can control, protect and secure the personal information in our Google account and decide, which type of data we give Google to improve their services for us.
  • See what data is in your account at My Activity“: our activity log shows us additionally to Google Assistant interactions, what we have searched, viewed and watched using their services.
  • Browse the web in private with incognito mode“: A cool feature where we can privately surf the web, without having Chrome remember our search history. There were cases, where media reported, that they found their Incognito history in the takeout (your takeout is coming in a bit), I cannot confirm this, my account is quite slim, though.
  • Manage your privacy settings with the Privacy Checkup“: This is a helpful link, where Google provides us a step by step walkthrough for all our settings.
    • Personalize your Google experience“: Here’s where we will review our activity controls, mentioned before:
      1. “Web & App Activity”: Our Searches and other Google activity. Required to be turned on for Google Home!

      2. “Location History”: Want to see on Google Maps where on this planet you have been? Check it out! Brings memories back to life …

      3. “Device Information”: Our device information, that is stored at Google. Required to be turned on for Google Home! 

      4. “Voice & Audio Activity”: Google collects the audio when we use Google Assistant on a device or Google Home to improve the speech recognition for us. Here’s the link to review what Google has heard.  Required to be turned on for Google Home!

      5. “YouTube Search History”: This improves the recommendations in Youtube and other Google services.

      6. “YouTube Watch History”: This is a setting for us to find the recently watched YouTube videos easier.

    • Help people connect with you“: We can decide here, whether we want to help people who have our number in their contacts to contact us across Google Services. There’s a separate setting where we can let them find our name, photo and other information. Much easier to keep in touch!
    • Choose what Google+ profile information you share with others“: If we are using Google+, we can specify here in detail which profile tabs are displayed to visitors and edit what others see about us.
    • Make ads more relevant to you“: You remember, Google finances the free service they offer us, with useful ads. Here we can fine-tune which ads we are interested in.
  • “Secure your account with the Security Checkup”: Now that we have configured our privacy settings, it’s time to check our security. Google’s security checkup displays us:
    • Our devices: If we see a device we don’t recognize, we can change our password from here and sign out from all devices, other from the one we are looking at this page.
    • Recent security activity: If there’s a sign in from a new device or change of some sensitive settings, we will get notifications from Google.
    • Sign-in & recovery: We see the different verification methods: usually our phone number, recovery email, and security question.
    • Third-party access: These are the apps which have access to our data. Google can categorize apps into different risk levels, according to the data they access.
  • “Decide what data is associated with your account”: This is another detailed view, which scrolls here to our activities.
  • “Control ads based on your preferences”: This scrolls down on above page to Ads Settings and leads from there to the actual Ads settings page, we’ve already reviewed before.
  • “See what data is in your account at My Activity”: this time jumping directly to our activity overview, which we have seen before.
  • “Review your basic account information”: jumping to the personal information section.
  • “Take your content anywhere with Download Your Data”: Here we can even download our data. I’ve done it, it takes depending on size hours or days. As mentioned earlier this is a copy of our data found in our activities, which we have already reviewed.

Your Security: “Your security comes first in everything we do.”

Google secures its services with the world’s most advanced security infrastructures.

  • “Encryption keeps your data private while in transit”: Our data is protected with multiple layers of security.
  • “Our cloud infrastructure protects your data 24/7”: Multiple, custom designed data centers who distribute our data in a way, that even in the case of fire or disaster, it will safely shift to secure locations.
  • “Threat detection helps protect our services”: Google continuously monitors its services to protect them from spam, malware, and viruses.
  • “We do not give governments direct access to your data”: Google never gives “Backdoor” access to our data. Period. No government agencies, worldwide, has direct access to our personal data. A team reviews all data requests and Google documents everything in their transparency reports.

“Security is built into all of our services

  • “Gmail encryption keeps emails private”: Google mail has supported encrypted connections since day one. Bad guys have a tough time to read our e-mails.
  • “Gmail spam protection filters out suspicious emails”: Sophisticated AI keeps 99,9% of spam out of our inboxes!
  • “Chrome automatically updates your browser security”: Chrome keeps it’s security technology automatically up to date, so in case some new threat occurs we are automatically safe.
  • “Google Play keeps potentially harmful apps off your phone”: Sophisticated AI detects malicious apps before they even reach the Play Store. If the AI is not sure about the safety of an app, member of the Android Security Team step in and check it.
  • “Google blocks malicious and misleading ads”: Every year a team of smart AI algorithms and live reviewers filters nearly a billion of bad ads, which would spoil our online experience.

“Top tips to help you stay secure online”

Here we get helpful quick tips to secure our personal data!

  • “Strengthen your sign-in”
    • “Create strong passwords”: We can make our passwords stronger by making them at least 8 characters long. When we create answers for security questions, we can use fake answers, which are harder to guess.
    • “Use unique passwords for every account”: We should not use the same password for different online services!
    • “Keep track of multiple passwords”: A password manager is a helpful tool. Google provides “Smart Lock” for free.
    • “Defend against hackers with 2‑Step Verification: 2FA is, as we’ve already seen in the Apple privacy post, a very helpful technology to keep others out of our account.
  • Protect your devices
    • “Keep your software up-to-date”: We need to make sure, that all our software is up to date. Vulnerabilities can be quickly exploited, the latest versions usually have a fix.
    • “Use a screen lock”: We should Auto-Lock our screens on all our devices!
    • “Lock down your phone if you lose it”: In case we lose our phones, we can remotely find and lock it from here: “Find your Phone”.
    • “Keep potentially harmful apps off your phone”: We have seen that Google scans apps before they reach the Play Store. Additionally, we should be careful with other app sources and give access to sensitive data only to apps we trust.
  • Avoid phishing attempts
    • “Always validate suspicious URLs or links”: We should never click on suspicious links and double check URLs so that we do not enter our sensitive data on a fake site!
    • “Beware of email scams, fake prizes, and gifts”: If it is too good to be true, there’s a high probability that it’s fake. Don’t believe those messages and never click on links or enter personal data!
    • “Be wary of requests for personal information”: Legit sites would never send us messages and ask us our passwords or financial information. We should always log in at the original sites with our original accounts rather than replying to same potentially fake messages or clicking those links.
    • “Watch out for impersonators”: If we get e-mails from people we know, and the content looks weird, eg they urgently request money, their account might be hacked. We should only reply or click on links once we verify that e-mail is legit.
    • “Double check files before downloading”: Even documents and PDFs can contain malware. We should open them through Chrome or Google Drive, which check the content and display a warning if something is wrong.
  • Browse the internet securely
    • “Use secure networks”: We need to be careful with public and free WiFi since our activity could be monitored. Chrome indicates in the address bar, whether a site is secure (e.g. https).
    • “Look for secure connections before entering sensitive information”: We need to make sure that Chrome displays a green, fully locked icon in the address bar before we enter any sensitive information in the web.

How Ads Work: “We do not sell your personal information to anyone.”

We have already seen, that much of Google’s business is based on ads. These ads help to keep the Google services free. Google does not sell our personal information (name, email, payment information)!

  • “We use data to make ads relevant”: Google tries to show us useful ads, based on the data we have reviewed. If we are signed in, this feature works across our devices.
  • “Advertisers pay only for ads that people see or tap”: When advertisers run their ad campaigns, they pay Google based on how the ads perform, never our personal info.
  • “We show advertisers how well their campaigns worked”: The performance reports, which advertisers receive, never contain any personal information. Our personal information is always kept protected and private.

“How ads work on Google services and partner sites”

Google uses data to show us useful ads.

  • “How Search ads work”: Google takes our current and past searches into account when displaying useful ads.
  • “How YouTube ads work”: Google uses our watch history and our current and past YouTube searches as a basis to define useful YouTube ads. These Youtube ads help to support the YouTube creators. We can skip many ads if we do not want to watch them.
  • “How Gmail ads work”: The ads we see in Gmail are based on the usual data, not the content of our emails. Nobody reads our e-mails to show us ads.
  • “How ads work on Google partner sites”: Many sites partner with Google to display ads. These advertisers show ads to certain “types” based on our information and data collected from our online activities, e.g. “25 – 34 year old males who are interested in travel.” Google might also show us ads, based on sites we have visited, e.g. we left red shoes in a shopping cart but decided not to buy them yet. No personal information, like name, e-mail or billing information is shared!

“Take control of your Google ads experience”

Again, we are in the driver’s seat when it comes to controlling the ads we see.

  • “Control ads based on your preferences”: In our ad settings we can fine-tune our interests to improve which ads are useful for us.
  • “Remove ads you do not want to see”: We can mute many ads, which are no longer relevant for us, closing them with an (X) on partner websites and apps. This is helpful in case we have already bought the car we were interested in.
  • “Learn what data we use to show you ads”: “Why this Ad” is a feature, which displays the reason, why you see an ad. This data is never shared with advertisers.

“Safer Internet: We help make the Internet safer for everyone.”

Google develops security technologies, which they share with other companies to improve the whole online world.

  • “Safe Browsing protects more than just Chrome users”: Google shares it’s Safe Browsing technology also with Apple Safari and Mozilla Firefox. Website owners are notified if their sites have security flaws.
  • “We use HTTPS to keep you safer while you browse the Internet”: Google ranks sites which use HTTPS – like smartenlight – higher, in their search results. HTTPS keeps your communication to a website encrypted.
  • “We create security rewards to uncover vulnerabilities”: Google invites independent researchers to find vulnerabilities in Google products.
  • “We make our security tools available to developers”: Google shares their security tools with other developers.
  • “We share data about our practices to foster a safer Internet”: Google publishes its transparency report which contains not only government requests for user data, but also copyright removals and statistics on security initiatives listed above.

What’s coming (to some of us?)

Finally the new news! Google just updated their privacy policy which goes into effect on May 25th, 2018. That’s the date when the new General Data Protection Regulation kicks in for EU residents. According to Google, the new version is much clearer, though nothing really changes in the way how Google services process our data. You will also find a couple of cute YouTube videos, which explain how Google services use our data. Here’s the original blog post from Google’s EMEA Director for Privacy Legal.

Conclusion

If you ended up here without reading the entire post, congratulations! You took the light blue pill, like the majority of us internet citizens do. The internet could not exist without us.

If you seriously skimmed through the whole post, thanks for valuing my write-up. I gave my best to summarize the overview and structure of Google’s current privacy information. This would take 3-4 times your time, if you do it directly on Google’s site and I still recommend to check it out – especially the updated version – and to run the Security and Privacy Checkups.

If you feel there’s something strange with Google’s current privacy structure, like for instance, the interesting parts come somewhere towards the end rather than in the beginning, you might be a “red pill” candidate. Re-consider, whether you picked the right pill. The updated privacy policy highlights some “features” which were not mentioned before. I will address this in the red pill post.

Google is an advertising company. Ads finance the free services we can use. Google collects a lot of our data and transparently informs us, what they collect and how they use it. We are in control, what data we give to Google. Our data is safe at Google.

You took the blue pill, there’s nothing more I can tell you here.

Everything is cool and life goes on as usual. Have fun!

Yours,

M.

Google Assistant and Philips Hue: Setup, Review and Voice Commands

In this post, we will configure Philips Hue for Google Assistant. Before we start, we have to say goodbye to multiple Philips Hue bridges and Philips Hue scenes. Finally Google Assistant (Version 1.2.8215) fixes the linking problem to Philips Hue and imports Philips Hue scenes and rooms. I have now updated this post to reflect the recent changes. If you are not so lucky and can’t see the scenes imported yet, you can still find the workaround to control Philips Hue scenes with IFTTT here: Workaround: Philips Hue Scenes in Google Assistant through IFTTT.

For guidelines on how to setup your Philips Hue lights before configuring them in Google Assistant, see Philips Hue –  Smart Lighting needs a Smart Setup.

Setting up Google Home for Philips Hue

With the latest update of Google Assistant (Version 1.2.8215) we no longer need to create rooms before importing our Philips Hue lights. Philips Hue lights, scenes and rooms will be automatically imported. Finally!

Screenshot of Philips Hue App - My Hue Account
Philips Hue App – My Hue Account

A prerequisite for connecting Philips Hue to Google Home is the “My Hue” account. This account will connect to your Philips Hue bridge and enable the communication between Google and Philips. In case you have not already, open your Philips Hue app and tap on Explore / “Log in to My Hue” and then “Log in”. You can create your account here.

Open your Google Home app and go to Settings / Home Control. Alternatively you can open the Google Assistant app and find the Home Control under settings.

Now, we can switch to “devices” and tap the “+” button. When selecting Philips Hue we are guided to link our “My Hue” account with Google Assistant.

Screenshot of Google Assistant - Home Control Devices
Google Assistant – Home Control Devices

After allowing Google to access our “My Hue “account, all lights, rooms and scenes will be synced.

For a better overview, we can switch to the “Rooms” view and review and adapt what has been imported. In my case an “Entertainment Area 1” room was created, which I deleted after moving the contained scenes to the correct room. The rest was imported correctly.

Screenshot Google Assistant - Home Control Rooms
Google Assistant – Home Control Rooms

Like in the Philips Hue app, we can only map one light to one room, which does not give us the option to regroup room segments to larger rooms.

Voice Commands

Here are the voice commands you can use with Google Home to control your Philips Hue lights:

Just a quick note:

  • <…> … fill in your <ROOMNAME>, <LIGHTNAME>, etc.
  • / … Our assistant understands various phrases for the same command. This means either/or, just pick one.
  • ( ) … This part of the command is optional. If you prefer short, snappy voice commands, you can omit this part of the command.

Voice Commands for turning Philips Hue lights ON / OFF

  • Lights off
  • Turn couch on
  • Make the Go lamp in the Dining room go off

OK Google, switch / change / make / set / turn / activate / deactivate (on/off)
[all/my, (the) <LIGHTNAME> / (the) <ROOMNAME> / (the <LIGHTNAME> in/at (the) <ROOMNAME>
(light(s))/(lamp(s)) (go) (on/off).

Voice Commands for setting Philips Hue Scenes

  • Activate office concentrate
  • Activate couch relax

OK Google, activate (<ROOMNAME>) <SCENENAME>

Note, if you omit the room name, all scenes with the same name will be activated. It would be smarter, if only the scene of the room where Google Home is assigned to would be activated, but I am afraid we have to wait a bit for this feature.

Another note, in some cases Google comes back with “Sure, activating 2 scenes”. I am not sure why, seems like a glitch.

Voice Commands for setting the Philips Hue Brightness

  • Bedroom 10
  • Brighten the Kitchen 3 light by 30 percent

OK Google, (make / change / set / turn) ((the) brightness of)
[all/my, (the) <LIGHTNAME> / (the) <ROOMNAME> / (the) <LIGHTNAME> in/at (the) <ROOMNAME>] (light(s))/(lamp(s)) (brightness)
to x (percent) / darker / brighter / less bright

OK Google, dim / brighten
[ all/my, <LIGHTNAME> / <ROOMNAME>] (light(s)) / (lamp(s))
(by x (percent))

Voice Commands for setting Philips Hue Colors

  • Turn the Kitchen to School bus yellow

OK Google, switch / change / make / set / turn
[all/my, (the) <LIGHTNAME> / (the) <ROOMNAME> / (the) <LIGHTNAME> in/at (the) <ROOMNAME>] (light(s)) / (lamp(s))
(to (the color)) <COLOR-NAME>

Note: COLOR-NAME is not documented but many of the color-names here are supported.

Voice Commands for setting Philips Hue Color Temperature

Not supported.

Conclusion

With the latest update (Version 1.2.8215) Google Assistant supports now the import of Philips Hue lights, rooms and scenes. Still, there is room for improvement, like “room-awareness” of the Google Home. This way, we could use snappier commands, by simply omitting the room-name.

Google Home and Philips finally provide a great integration!

In case the scene support still does not work for you, and if you are OK with using a 3rd party service, you can workaround the missing scenes with IFTTT: Workaround: Philips Hue Scenes in Google Assistant through IFTTT.

You can find more Google Home posts here: Google Assistant.

For a comparison with Siri and Alexa, please see: Assistant Showdown with Philips Hue: Who will win? Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant.

If you are interested in smart ideas for your smart lighting, check out:

If you have questions or want to share your ideas and experiences with Philips Hue and Google Assistant, please leave a comment below! You can subscribe to the comment section to receive notifications about updates.

Assistant Showdown with Philips Hue: Who will win, Siri, Alexa or Google?

Who is best with Philips Hue? Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant

Let’s compare the strengths and weaknesses of our assistants in combination with Philips Hue. Since Google finally also supports Philips Hue room and scene import, and some smart home features have been added to Alexa and Google recently, it’s going to be a head-to-head competition.

Now, that we have looked into  Philips Hue – Smart Lighting needs a Smart Setup and we examined the setup of our 3 Assistants, it is time to compare them and draw a conclusion.

If you are interested in the setup, review and voice commands of a particular assistant with Philips Hue, you can find the posts here:

Comparison of the Three Assistants

Please note, that any of the features below can change silently over night, if Philips, Apple, Amazon and Google only decide to improve and update.

Mobile Hint: tilt your smartphone for a better table view!

[table id=1 /]

*Note, for an extensive list of voice commands, see the dedicated assistant posts above.

So, how to draw our conclusions from this table?

In the end, it is a matter of personal taste. How, do you like to setup and configure, talk to and automate your Philips Hue lights?

Configuration

With Google’s recent update all three are very close in ease of setup and configuration. With Alexa and Google, it is more like “plug and play”, everything which you have already configured in Philips Hue is imported. As long as you use only one Philips Hue bridge, this is great! Siri supports larger setups with multiple bridges and this makes up for having the additional effort to configure the HomeKits scenes.

Voice Commands

Incredible what Apple, Amazon and Google have achieved here. I can remember the time when you had to say “turn off something” and were not able to say “turn something off”. These days are over!

One might choose Alexa as winner here, personally, for me she is not. The restriction of having unique names for everything with Siri in HomeKit, makes the voice control much more predicable and solid. Alexa replies too many times “a few things share that name, which one do you want?”, mostly to fail after that. Google has a robust voice recognition, with some room for improvement around the new features, like scene support.

Assistant Features

My personal winner regarding smart home features is Siri. She supports an extensive automation feature set through HomeKit and the Apple Home app.

Alexa made progress by supporting smart home groups and routines.

Google finally also supports routines, but only the predefined ones. The shortcuts are a nice feature to customize up to two actions.

My Personal Conclusion

As you see, only half a year after I initially wrote up this post, many features have been added to Alexa and Google. The assistants provide smart home features in their own distinct ways and it is just a matter of taste, which one you prefer.

For me personally, still Siri wins because she supports multiple bridges, regrouping and automations through sensors. But that are only the features which are important to me, I am sure you have your own preferences!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this “showdown”. You can find more competitions here:

If you have questions or feedback – maybe I overlooked some cool feature – please leave your comment below. You can subscribe to get notifications when I am updating this post.

Easter Assistant Showdown: Who has the Best Easter Egg Hunt? Siri, Alexa or Google?

Easter Egg Hunt with Siri, Alexa and Google

It’s this time of the year, which lets us think of Easter egg hunts. Not only the real Easter eggs but also the virtual ones, well hidden in our smart assistants: Siri, Alexa, and Google. An Easter egg in computer software is an intentional inside joke or hidden feature, left there from the creators to lead you on a hunt. Let’s see what Apple, Amazon, and Google have prepared for us.

While compiling a list of around 500 Easter eggs, I thought about how to structure them best for you. Soon I realized, I would seriously spoil your Easter egg hunt, by presenting you the results. Instead, let me introduce you to the way how Alexa, Google, and Siri lead you to their Easter Egg hunt. Enjoy!

Alexa’s Easter Egg Hunt

Alexa will lead you straight to her Easter egg hunt when you tell her:

  • Alexa, I am bored

Alexa will give you an example (“Alexa, beam me up”) and tell you that you need to ask her for more hints:

  • Alexa, give me an Easter egg

Alexa will give you a hint. Let’s go through one example (only): “A game I can play involves crushing, cutting and covering.” Easy, isn’t it:

  • Alexa, rock, paper, scissors

And we are into the game. But wait, there is another version if you know The Big Bang Theory:

  • Alexa, rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock
  • Alexa, define rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock

Ok, just one more: Alexa, give me an Easter egg.

“Speak like small green Jedi, if me you ask, can I.”

  • Alexa, can you talk like Yoda?

Alexa will provide you hints in following categories (amongst others):

  • Movies
  • TV Series
  • Books
  • (Video) Games
  • Music
  • Technology
  • Jokes

If you want to take it to the next level: “If you seek Easter eggs that are not too easy, ask for a hardboiled Easter egg. Beware, some might be cheesy.”

  • Alexa, give me a hard-boiled Easter egg

Ok, a final example =) “Try this clue. I don’t advocate cheating, but for old school video gamers, cheat codes are a different story. There’s one in particular from Konami. Can you activate it?”

  • Alexa, up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start.

Google’s Easter Egg Hunt

Google has a conversational approach to his Easter egg hunt, as soon as you ask:

  • Hey Google, give me a Easter egg (Note, “an Easter egg” sometimes doesn’t work, thanks for the feedback!) 

You will hear the hint, but Google will keep listening for your response (so you don’t have to say Ok/Hey Google again).

“I was talking to the fox the other day, You’ll never believe what he said.”

  • What did the fox say?

Note, by asking: “Hey Google, what did the fox say?”, you can access the Easter egg anytime.

Google also covers many Easter eggs in following categories:

  • Movies
  • TV Series
  • Books
  • Facts
  • (Video) Games
  • Music
  • Technology
  • Jokes

Let’s try one more example: “I am not saying I’ve figured out the meaning of life, but maybe you should ask me about it.”

  • What is the meaning of life?

Google does not support “hard-boiled” Easter eggs, which would be more difficult to find. Maybe he is just omitting the hint?

Siri’s Easter Egg Real Hunt

Siri, will not give you a single hint for her Easter eggs. She truly hides them, so you can only find them by trying. Here are some examples:

  • Hey Siri, I see a little silhouetto of a man …
  • Hey Siri, hey computer!
  • Hey Siri, do you have a boyfriend?
  • Hey Siri, what is your best pick up line?
  • Hey Siri, read my a Haiku
  • Hey Siri, what is 0 divided by 0?
  • Hey Siri, “Hi Cortana”/”OK, Google”/”Alexa”

Also here, we find many categories covered.

My Personal Easter Egg Hunt Conclusion

I like Alexas and Googles approach to give us hints. Though it actually spoils the Easter egg idea a bit, it’s fun to hunt this way. Alexa surprises by providing easy and difficult, “hard-boiled” Easter eggs.

Though Siri treats Easter eggs the way they were intended – as a secret – it appears, that Apple has not put as much effort into Easter eggs as Google and Amazon. The list of Alexa and Google Easter eggs which you can find spread all over the internet, is similarly extensive, maybe because of the hints.

Here’s my personal “Easter egg hunt” conclusion:

  1. Alexa, egg-cellent you are the best Easter bunny!
  2. Google, improve your “give me a Easter egg” recognition a bit more until tomorrow (sometimes he gives a Wikipedia response, and sometimes he doesn’t like proper grammar: “an”).
  3. Siri, I mean, yes, you know what an Easter egg is, but you’re so sirious. You need to realize that you are now not only on personal devices like iPhones, Apple Watches, MacBooks, and iPads. You are on HomePods in living rooms and families sometimes just want to have fun, especially during holidays.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this Easter egg hunt showdown! Enjoy the holidays and have fun with your smart assistants!

You can find other competitions here:

And yes, if you’ve found a very special Easter egg, please share it with us in the comments below!

Just, one more =)

  • Alexa, Hey Siri/Google, tell us a pun!

Musical Assistant Showdown: Who will win, Siri, Google or Alexa?

Siri, Google and Alexa Musical Showdown

We are at the crossroads. We use our smart assistants mostly for listening to music, but how musical are our assistants actually? How to decide, whether Alexa, Siri or Google fits better to our musical preferences? And if we have decided already, how can we get the most out of our music subscription?

After looking into the many music commands of each and every assistant, we just need to compare them and draw a conclusion. No, it’s not as easy as the pictured guitar battle above, but together we will get there.

What to expect in this post, and what not: we will not look into sound quality or the countless apps, which we can use to stream music to our assistants. You can connect whatever excellent sound system to your assistant and stream whatever great music from wherever.

In this post, we are solely looking into the assistants supported music commands. This is how we define “musical” when it comes to smart assistants in this competition: being able to play the music we like – hands-free – on all of our Echos, Google Homes and HomePods.

If you’ve missed the dedicated post for your assistant, or want to look up specific music commands and features, you can bookmark them here:

How to get there …

It makes no sense to write about my personal preferences when it comes to something as personal as music. What I’d like to accomplish with this post, is to give you a thorough overview, so you can decide for yourself, what is important to you.

  1. We will start with a high-level comparison, where we can see all music commands and which assistant/music service supports them. This gives us the first overview of all musical features and you can start to ponder, which fit your musical preferences.
  2. In the next section, guided by the familiar structure we already used in the dedicated assistant posts, we will look in detail into the features and how well they are supported by Alexa, Google, and Siri.
  3. Last, but not least, we will wrap up our findings, looking into the musical strengths and weaknesses of our assistants.

Comparison Overview

In the table below we can see the many music features on the left and the assistants with the supported music services to the right.

music features overview: alexa, siri and google home
Music Features across Assistants and their Music Services

Siri supports only Apple Music.

Google supports Google Play Music and Youtube Music. Alternatively, you can use Spotify as default music service.

Alexa supports the native services Amazon Music Unlimited and Amazon Prime. Here we can also set Spotify as default music service.

Pandora, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio, which are radio-like services, are equally supported by Alexa and Google.

The musical libraries of the premium services Apple Music, Google Play Music and Amazon Music Unlimited are approximately the same size (more than 40 Million songs), Spotify is a bit smaller (more than 30 Million songs). The monthly subscription costs are comparable.

Here comes the surprise: If we count the fully supported features (2 points), kind of supported (1 point), not supported (0 points), we have a draw. Every assistant scores 31 points with its native music service. Though the supported features vary, overall we can say, our smart assistants are equally musical. This is only a simple mathematical view, weighting all features equally. It is up to you to decide, which feature is more important to you!

Note, below table of contents will help you to quickly jump to the features you are interested in. Just swipe back on your mobile to return here.

[toc]

Controlling the Volume

Of course, all assistants support setting the volume with many different voice commands. Where Alexa only supports level 1-10, Siri and Google also understand percentages.

Controlling the Playback

Naturally, all assistants support playback and stop, skipping forward and back, repeating and shuffling. With radio-like services, we have limitations, whether and how many times we can skip songs.

Navigating the Music Databases

As mentioned earlier the musical libraries of Apple Music, Google Play Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, and Spotify are huge. There are many ways to access your favorite music, that’s why we have to structure this a bit:

Playing by Title/Album/Artist

Accessing the library with the song title, album or artist name is equally supported by all assistants. The radio-like services naturally don’t support that.

Playing by Genre

Genres are just one way to structure music. Since the number of displayed genres is different from the internally supported genres and sub-genres, it is not a criterion. Anyway, here are the numbers: Siri supports 24 genres, Alexa 26 and Google 18. The detailed lists are in the assistant posts under this section.

Playing Activity and Mood-Related Music

All assistants understand activities and moods. Again, the number of displayed (and tested) activities and moods does not indicate anything about the available (curated) stations and playlists. You can find the tested activities and moods in the assistant posts under this section.

Only Amazon – who actually released this feature latest –  mentioned a number of up to 500 activities and moods. Still, my impression during testing was, that especially Alexa often comes back with “I could not find … songs”.

Combining Moods, Activities and Genres

Siri, Google and Alexa support combining moods, activities, and genres. If there is a station or playlist which fits your request, they will find it. Google and Alexa also on Spotify. The tested mixes are in the assistant posts under this section.

Playing New Music

Playing brand new music or the latest songs by artist is equally supported by all of our assistants. They furthermore support playing the newest music for a genre.

Playing Popular/Regional Music

Our three assistants support popular music equally. It’s just Google which is a bit ignorant when it comes to top music by country unless there is an album for that. But Google supports finding the top regional playlists on Spotify, where Alexa fails.

Playing Something You Rarely Hear

Playing something which you have never heard, can only be tracked on the assistant’s native music service. It is a feature only supported by Alexa and Siri and though Alexa claims, that she can even play songs, which you’ve heard on a specific day and/or time, those commands did not work for me.

Playing Similar Music

Another feature which is only supported by Siri and Alexa: if you like the currently played song, you can ask for similar music. Siri goes a step further and can try to find live versions of the currently played song.

Alexa can search for similar artists, where Siri can differentiate between other, old or new songs by artist.

Playing Favorites and Liking/Disliking

We can tell all our assistants whether we like or dislike a song when using the native music service. This is a great way to tell our assistant, how to personalize suggestions for us.

Google goes the extra mile and supports thumbs up/down also for Spotify.

Playing by Lyrics

This is a powerful feature where you can identify/play songs by lyrics snippets. Unfortunately, Siri does not support it at all. Alexa and Google do, and Google goes the extra mile and offers this feature also for Spotify.

Playing by Describing the Album Cover

This feature is only supported by Google: you can describe whats on an album cover and Google will (mostly) get it right if your description is unique enough. You can find some examples in the dedicated Google post.

Playing by Location etc.

Another unique Google feature, which stems from the vast amount of data Google can collect from you and take into account when personalizing your music suggestions. I have listed the different data sources which Google can use, in Googles dedicated post.

Controlling your Library and Playlists

All our assistants support adding songs to the native music library. Although Alexa claims she can also add songs to your playlists, she failed in my case. So it’s only Siri, which supports both adding to your library and your playlist. Google supports maintaining your Spotify library as well.

Listening to Radio Stations

Our assistants support the radio “station” concept through their native music services. Google and Alexa furthermore support the radio stations from Pandora, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio.

Getting Music Information

This is an interesting feature for music lovers: how much do our assistants know about the music they are playing? Siri is the winner here.

Alexa and Google only provide basic musical information. Siri can provide additional information for an artist and sometimes even look up who plays which instrument in a song. She can also tell you what song you heard last and whats next on your playlist.

The coolest feature is Shazam, which Apple acquired end of 2017. If you hear a song you like, on for instance your TV, Siri can listen and identify it.

Manage and Listen To Podcasts

This is another feature where Siri shines, by being able to even change the playback speed of podcasts. Otherwise, Siri and Google provide a similar amount of features for podcasts.

Alexa provides only very basic podcast support.

Setting a Sleep Timer and Music Alarm

Alexa and Google support sleep timers and music alarms, which are nice features around starting and ending your day with music or natural sounds.

Siri doesn’t support either, but there is a workaround to simply play your custom playlist when going to bed, which will stop by itself (unless repeat is on).

Conclusion

Mathematically all our assistants are equally musical, but who calculates when it comes to music? It is a matter of your personal preferences, which features are important to you?

The assistants reveal strengths and weaknesses in following areas:

Alexa
Alexa

Strong in remembering what you (never) heard and playing similar music to what you’re currently listening to.

Weak in musical information, podcasts and Spotify support.

GoogleGoogle Assistant

Strong in novel features like finding music by describing the album cover and personalizing your music suggestions based on location and other collected data. Great Spotify support.

Weak in playing similar music and trending regional music.

Siri

Siri

Strong in music information and unique in music identification (Shazam). Very good for podcasts.

Weak in not being able to identify songs by lyrics, and missing sleep timers and music alarms. Siri only supports Apple Music.

Where to go?

  1. If you are musically just into radio services, like Pandora, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio, pick either Google or Alexa.
  2. If you are a Spotify lover and want most of the features supported, pick Google for now.
  3. If you are a music lover, you won’t get around subscribing to the native premium music services of Amazon, Apple, and Google to get the maximum of the supported features. Pick the assistant, with the musical strengths that fits best to your musical preferences.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this musical “showdown”. You can find other competitions here:

Share if you care and like if you like! =) You are also very welcome to say Hello and follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. And please leave your feedback below, no matter if positive or negative. It’s very important for me, to be able to improve this site for you.

I will update the dedicated assistant posts with additional command alternatives in the coming week, making sure, you find the most extensive and up-to-date musical command reference for your assistant, only here on SmartEnlight. Stay tuned!

Making Of: Crossroads

Hey Google, Play Some Music! All The Music Voice Commands

Google Assistant Starr

“Hey Google, play the album with a diving baby and a one dollar bill on its cover.” “Alright, here’s the album Nevermind on Google Play Music.”

Seriously?

There’s a bunch of commands and features in this post, which will surprise you. In this post we will look into the many voice commands you can use to enjoy all the music services supported by Google Home. Let’s dive in …

Just a quick note regarding the voice commands below:

  • Below table of contents will help you to quickly jump to the commands you are interested in. Just swipe back on your mobile to return here.
  • <…> … I will spare you my musical taste, fill in your <title>, <artist>, <genre>, etc.
  • / … Our assistant understands various phrases for the same command. This means either/or, just pick one.
  • ( ) … This part of the command is optional. If you prefer short, snappy voice commands, you can omit this part of the command.

[toc]

Commands by Music Service

Google Play Music is Google’s native, most extensive music service for Google Home with around 40 Million songs in its library. Here we will find all the music commands, which Google Assistant understands. Other music services provide only a subset.

With YouTube Music, you get access to your personalized stations. You can play any song and also track your favorites (likes) from Youtube. With Youtube Red, which is included in a Google Play Music subscription, you can additionally play your Youtube videos ads-free, have music playing in the background on your android device and download music for an offline mixtape.

Spotify Premium has over 30 Million songs in its library and Google Home supports it like no other. If there is a playlist in Spotify, even for activities and moods, you can access it with Google Home. Novel features like playing by lyrics and album cover description are also supported for Spotify.

Pandora, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio, since they are radio-like services, have natural limitations around playback and selecting specific music.

Following overview of the available music services, sheds some light on which features are supported, for which service:

Google Assistant Music Voice Commands
Google Home Music Voice Commands across Music Services

Note, if you have not set your preferred service as default music service in the Google Home app, make sure to add “… on Google Play Music”, “… on Spotify”, “…on TuneIn”, etc. at the end of your voice commands.

Controlling the Volume

Following voice commands will change Google’s volume in 10% increments:

  • Hey Google, (change/make/turn the) volume up / down
  • Hey Google, (make it) softer/louder
  • Hey Google, lower/raise (the) volume
  • Hey Google, increase/decrease (the) volume
  • Hey Google, turn it up/down

If you’d like to set the volume to a specific level:

  • Hey Google, (set the) volume (to level) <1-10>
  • Hey Google, volume 3 (Note, that’s the snappy, short command)
  • Hey Google, (set/turn the volume to) 50 percent

Note, you can check the volume with the command:

  • Hey Google, what’s the volume?

And if you need some extremes (level 10 and level 1):

  • Hey Google, volume max/minimum

For muting Google Home, you have following commands:

  • Hey Google, mute/unmute

Controlling the Playback

You can stop and resume playback by saying:

  • Hey Google, play/resume/continue (the music)
  • Hey Google, stop/pause (the music)

But you can also listen to some music you might like:

  • Hey Google, play/shuffle some music

To navigate within an album or playlist, just say:

  • Hey Google, next/previous (song/track/tune)
  • Hey Google, skip (this song)

To navigate within a song, you can say:

  • Hey Google, play (this song) from (the) beginning 
  • Hey Google, restart (this) song
  • Hey Google, jump/skip back/forward (x seconds/minute(s))

For shuffling and repeating we can use:

  • Hey Google, repeat (the) song
  • Hey Google, (turn) repeat/loop on/off
  • Hey Google, shuffle 

Navigating the Music Database

Since there are so many ways which lead to your favorite music in the millions of songs, we need to structure this a bit …

Playing by Title/Album/Artist

If you know what you want to hear, you can say:

  • Hey Google, play (the song/track/title) <title> 
  • Hey Google, play/shuffle (the album/record) <album> 
  • Hey Google, play/shuffle (songs/music by) <artist> 
  • Hey Google, play (the song/track/title) <title> by <artist> 
  • Hey Google, play (the album/record) <album> by <artist> 

Playing by Genre

  • Hey Google, play <genre> music

Following genre list comes from “Improve my recommendations” in the Google Play Music settings on the web (Note, make sure you let Google know your favorite genres and artists):

  • Alternative/Indie
  • Blues
  • Christian/Gospel
  • Classical
  • Country
  • Dance/Electronic
  • Folk
  • Hip-Hop/Rap
  • Jazz
  • Latin
  • Metal
  • New Age
  • Pop
  • R&B/Soul
  • Reggae
  • Rock
  • Vocal/Easy Listening
  • World

Playing Activity and Mood Related Music

Google Assistant has some activities and moods defined, which you can use to play music which fits what you are up to. These are mapped to (curated) playlists and stations.

  • Hey Google, play music for <activity>
  • Hey Google, play (some) <activity/mood> music

Here are some activities, I have tested:

  • Working
  • Driving
  • Falling Asleep
  • Boosting Your Energy
  • Relaxing
  • Making Dinner
  • Being Romantic
  • Having Fun
  • Dancing
  • Working out
  • Family Time

Google understands following moods:

  • Energetic
  • Calm
  • Exhausted
  • Focused
  • Happy
  • Party Mood
  • Romantic
  • Confident
  • Sad
  • Angry

Combining Moods, Activities and Genres

Now comes the crazy part: You can combine some moods, genres and activities. If Google has foreseen your request, there is a matching station:

  • Angry Workout -> station Rock your Body: A Workout
  • Romantic Dinner Party -> station Pop & Indie Easy Listening
  • Sad Blues -> station Winter Blues
  • Classical Music for Sleeping -> station Modern Classical Music for Bedtime
  • Relaxed Country Music -> station Come Away With Me

Playing New Music

To play a station out of your “brand new music” suggestions, just say:

  • Hey Google, play brand new music

If you want to hear some fresh tracks from your favorite artist, you can say:

  • Hey Google, play new songs by <artist>
  • Hey Google, play new <genre> music

Playing Popular Music

  • Hey Google, play the top hits
  • Hey Google, play the top <genre> songs
  • Hey Google, play the top songs from the 80s

Note, for Google Play Music: Google mostly comes back with “Sure, here are some songs”. When compared to the responses in the Google Assistant app, it seems this feature works better from the app.

Playing Favorites and Liking/Disliking

To listen to your favorites on Google Play Music, say:

  • Hey Google, play (my) thumbs up (playlist)

For Spotify:

  • Hey Google, play my songs (on Spotify)

To tell Google, what to put into the thumb-up auto-playlist, just say:

  • Hey Google, thumbs up
  • Hey Google, I like/love this song

If you want to let Google know, that you don’t like a song, you can say:

  • Hey Google, thumbs down
  • Hey Google, I don’t like this song

Playing by Lyrics

If you’re like me, you rather remember the lyrics (snippets) of your favorite songs, than their title. No worries, Google got you covered:

  • Hey Google, play (the song that goes) <lyrics>

Playing by Describing the Album Cover

Sorry, to spoil this feature already in the first sentence of this post. You can describe an album cover, and Google can (sometimes) find the right record:

  • Hey Google, play the album with <cover-description> (on its cover).

Here are some other examples:

  • Hey Google, play the album with four men crossing a street
  • Hey Google, play the album with a prism and rainbow-colored light rays 
  • Hey Google, play the album with two stone faces, facing each other
  • Hey Google, play the album with a banana
  • Hey Google, play the album with neon ice-cream
  • Hey Google, play the album with red lips and a red tongue 

Playing by Location

Google Home is always at home, why to look into location-based music? Well, locations (from your smartphone) are only one example of your data, which Google can take into account when personalizing music suggestions for you.

“Working from Home – Looks like you’re at home”: When you check your Home screen in your Google Music app, you will see different stations suggested, based on (not only) your location. At the gym, the airport, your office or another country? Google will suggest and play different music.

Google has a novel approach to figure out your activities (and moods?). You don’t need to tell Google where you are and what you are up to. Google can basically take all the information it has collected from you to personalize your Google Assistant and music experience:

This basically includes:

  • Web & App Activity: Your search activity on apps and in browsers to make searches faster and get customized experiences in Search, Maps, Now, and other Google products.
  • Location History: A private map of where you go with your signed-in devices in order to provide improved map searches, commute routes, and more.
  • Device Information: Your contacts, calendars, apps, and other device data to improve your experience across Google.
  • Voice and Audio activity: Which helps to recognize your voice and improve speech recognition by storing your voice and audio inputs to your account (for example, when you say “Ok Google” to do a voice search).
  • YouTube Search History: Your YouTube searches to make your future searches faster and improve your recommendations.
  • YouTube Watch History: To make it easier to find your recently watched videos on YouTube and improve your recommendations.

Note: Web & App Activity, Device Information and Voice and Audio Activity are required to operate your Google Home.

Controlling your Library and Playlists

You can control what goes into your music library by saying:

  • Hey Google, add this song to my library

And you can control what you’d like to hear from there:

  • Hey Google, play <song/album/artist> from my library 

To listen to your own playlists, you can say:

  • Hey Google, play my playlist <playlist>
  • Hey Google, listen to my <playlist> playlist
  • Hey Google, shuffle my <playlist> playlist

Listening to Radio Stations

Listening to radio is as straightforward as saying:

  • Hey Google, play <radiostation> (radio)

Note: if you want to listen to a different service, add e.g. “… on TuneIn” to your command.

Getting Music Information

Google has a bit of information when asked about what’s playing:

  • Hey Google, who sings this?
  • Hey Google, what song/tune/title is this?
  • Hey Google, when was this released?
  • Hey Google, what’s <artist> newest album?

Manage and Listen To Podcasts

For podcasts you have following additional commands:

  • Hey Google, play the <podcast> podcast
  • Hey Google, play the first episode of <podcast> 
  • Hey Google, play the <number> episode of <podcast>
  • Hey Google, play the newest/latest episode of <podcast> 
  • Hey Google, previous/next episode
  • Hey Google, what podcast is this?

Controlling Music Playback on another Speaker

To play on another Google Home / Chromecast device, just say:

  • Hey Google, play <song/album/artist/genre> on <device>
  • Hey Google, stop (playing on <device>)

To play your music throughout your home on multiple devices, you need to create groups. Tap on the three dots of your device in the Google Home app and group it with some other device(s). You can create a group and name it “Everywhere” to play on all your devices.

  • Hey Google, play <song/album/artist/genre> in <group>
  • Hey Google, next (<group>)
  • Hey Google, stop (<group>)
  • Hey Google, play <song/album/artist/genre> “everywhere”

Setting a Sleep Timer and Music Alarm

To set a sleep timer, you have following commands if the music is already playing:

  • Hey Google, set a sleep timer for 30 seconds/minutes/hour(s)
  • Hey Google, set a sleep timer at 9:30
  • Hey Google, stop (playing) in <duration>
  • Hey Google, stop (playing) at <time>

If you want to specify the time, when starting the music:

  • Hey Google, play music/artist/genre/playlist for <duration> seconds/minutes/hours
  • Hey Google, play music/artist/genre/playlist until <time>

To check how much time is left:

  • Hey Google, how much time is left on the sleep timer?

To cancel your sleep timer, say:

  • Hey Google, cancel the sleep timer

Note: If you have not set the music service you’d like to hear as default music service, or want to hear some different service, add e.g. “… on TuneIn” to your command.

You can control your music alarms with following commands:

  • Hey Google, wake me up to music at 6 AM (every weekday)

Note, this will let Google ask you, which music to play. You can also specify the music together with the time/weekday:

  • Hey Google, wake me up  at 8 AM to <song/album/artist/genre/playlist/radio> 
  • Hey Google, set an alarm for 6 AM,  that plays song/album/artist/playlist/radio, (every weekday)
  • Hey Google, cancel/disable the 7 am alarm
  • Hey Google , cancel/disable (all) alarm/s

Conclusion

Google Assistant surprises with some novel music features. Even more surprising is the generosity to make most of the features also available to Spotify users: We can Like/Dislike, Search by Lyrics and even play by describing the cover on Spotify.

Google appears weak in playlists for regional music and completely lacks playing similar music or music you have never heard. If you ask for music information, you’ll be surprised how little our little fella knows. Well, he’s only two years old, soon.

There are features which only Google can offer, based on the vast amount of data it can collect from you, like your web search, youtube history or your location and more. This puts Google in the position to personalize your music suggestions to the fullest.

I hope you have enjoyed this extensive list of Google’s music commands and it helps you to get the most out of your music services.

You can find more Google Home posts here: Google Assistant.

The musical showdown between our assistants, is already here: Musical Assistant Showdown: Who will win, Siri, Google or Alexa?

If you have any questions or new music commands, please share with us in the comment section below!

For more information from Google, see Listen to music on Google Home.

How to teach your Logitech Harmony: Alexa, Hey Google turn on Roomba!

iRobot Roomba and Google Home

It must have been a strange moment for Mr. Colin M. Angle, CEO of iRobot, when he presumably announced summer 2017 his plans to sell the mapping data share maps for free with customer consent of his newest robotic vacuum cleaner (Roomba) models to one of the big three (Amazon, Apple, Google). Facing a broad push-back due to obvious privacy concerns, he communicated: “That’s a misunderstanding”, and stated, “iRobot will never sell your data.” Reuters, New York Times, and SmartEnlight had to change their article by replacing “sell maps” with “share maps for free with customer consent”.

Well, a perfect time to take our good old, reliable, mapping-data free, infrared (IR) controlled Roomba and make it compatible with Alexa and Google. It’s not only the voice control, which makes this tinkering with Logitech Harmony useful. We will see, how we can teach Harmony to control (almost) any IR device, plus we will be able to use Logitech’s Schedule Activity feature to conveniently program, when our little Roomba friend shall start his cleaning sessions throughout the week.

Preparing our Roomba

Assuming you have your entertainment center and your Harmony Hub in front of your couch, the probability is high, that if you park your Roomba under your couch, infrared might reach it. Roomba will be out of the way, for the rest of the day. If the Hub cannot reach it, an IR mini blaster placed on the floor of/under the media cabinet (where Roomba cannot reach it when cleaning) will help.

Setting up Harmony

Chances are that your Roomba model is already in the Logitech Harmony database. However, in this post we will teach Harmony the Roomba commands with the original remote, since Logitech’s configuration for this Roomba (model 871) did not work, and Logitech’s support forum is full of questions which state the same for other models.

Anyway, it’s good to see how we can teach Harmony ourselves, since you might end up or already have, with some IR controlled device which is not in Harmony’s database.

Note, you will need your original remote to add devices manually!

Adding the Roomba to Harmony

Logitech Harmony Roomba - adding an unknown device
Logitech Harmony / Roomba – give your Roomba a model number, which Logitech does not know.

We need to add a new device and name the model number our own way, e.g. manufacturer “iRobot”, model: “My871Roomba”. Harmony app will then come back with “We didn’t find your iRobot My871Roomba …”, confirm by tapping “My device is correct”.

Logitech Harmony Roomba Confirm Entering Unknown Device
Logitech Harmony / Roomba – Confirm Entering an Unknown Device

Harmony will tell us now that we can add devices – which are not in the database –  manually, if we have the original remote. Confirm by tapping continue.

Harmony will ask us, which type of device our Roomba is. In fact, it does not matter what we enter here since robotic vacuum cleaners are not in Harmony’s list. We can select entertainment device, a list pops up, where we can select Home Control. In the next screen, we can select “none of the above”. Harmony will ask us, whether we have our original remote control, which we can confirm by tapping “yes”.

Teaching the Harmony Hub our IR Commands

This is going to be a bit time-consuming. But bear with me, as we will teach Harmony all 7 commands, to be able to use our Harmony app as a full original remote replacement to control our Roomba.

Logitech Harmony Roomba Teaching Commands Introduction
Logitech Harmony / Roomba – Teaching Commands Introduction

Note, there are IR teaching tips in the app at the bottom of every “teach commands” screen. The following worked pretty well for me:

  • Place strong batteries in the original remote (and don’t forget to remove them when you’re done)
  • Direct the remote at a 45-degree angle towards the top of the Hub (just like in the Harmony illustration),
  • about 2-3 inches away from the hub,
  • from the side where your windows are (minimize other light input) and
  • press the remote button quickly/lightly.

You might need to repeat the process up to 3 times. You might as well try changing the angle, distance and how long you press the remote button. A green checkmark is what we are looking for.

Logitech Harmony Roomba Adding the first 2 commands
Logitech Harmony / Roomba – Teaching Commands

We start by teaching the Power Toggle (=Clean Button on the original remote), then Direction Up. We skip the Direction Down, as we don’t have this feature on the original remote. Harmony will leave us with this configuration. To be able to configure the other commands, we need to go to the Harmony app top left (burger) menu, select Harmony Setup, Add/Edit Devices and Activities, Devices, and select our device. Note, you will find this place helpful to tweak any of the hidden features of your Harmony.

Logitech Harmony Roomba Teaching the Missing Commands
Logitech Harmony / Roomba – Teaching the missing commands

Click “Add/Fix Command” and teach Harmony the other 4 commands: Direction Left, Direction Right, Dock, and Spot.

Since Roomba requires us to first press the Clean Button 2 times, the first time a bit longer to “turn on” and a second time to start the cleaning process, let’s add and teach the missing command “Clean” by tapping “Command Missing”.

Logitech Harmony Roomba Power On/Off 3 Seconds
Logitech Harmony / Roomba – Power Toggle 3 Seconds

Finally, to simulate the long press to power Roomba on, we need to tap “Fix Power Settings” from the Devices menu. In the next screen leave “Turn off when not in use” (the little guy is noisy, we will hardly Watch TV when he is around). The next screen is also fine with “Using a single button to power Roomba on/off”. In the final screen, make sure to prolong the “Power On Delay” (3 secs works in my case, could be longer for your Roomba) to simulate a long keypress.

Testing our IR Commands

Logitech Harmony / Roomba - Device Control Commands
Logitech Harmony / Roomba – Device Controlling our remote toy car

Now for the fun part: It’s time to test whether all trained commands work. Put your Roomba somewhere in front of the Harmony Hub and select the device from the Devices Screen. Start with the Direction buttons: It’s almost as fun as driving a remote-controlled toy car, isn’t it? =)

On the next screen, test the power toggle and Clean, Dock and Spot commands. You need to press the Power toggle a bit longer to wake up Roomba and then the Clean, Dock, Spot.

Chances are, that some of our commands do not work. Nothing happens, even when pressing longer. In this case, you need to go back to fix those commands by teaching them again.

Creating our Roomba/Cleaning Activity

Logitech Harmony Roomba Creating Activity
Logitech Harmony / Roomba Creating our Cleaning Activity

We have configured all of our Roomba commands, and they are working. It’s time to create our “Cleaning” or “Roomba” activity (however you prefer to name it).

Add an Activity from the bottom of the Activities screen and set icon and name. Edit the start sequence and add the step iRobot / Clean to start the cleaning after powering up.

Test the Activity with your Roomba in front of your hub. You should hear a beep for Roomba turning on and then he should start the cleaning process. If you stop the activity as long as Roomba is in the line of sight with your Hub and Mini Blasters, he will turn off.

Done, we are almost done! =)

Place your Roomba under your couch, or press the dock button so he returns by himself. Now, repeat testing the activity. If your activity does not start, try adjusting Roomba’s dock position (for me facing a wall 90 degrees from the Hub works fine) and/or adjust the Mini Blaster.

Congratulations! You have successfully upgraded your Roomba to work with your Logitech Harmony Hub!

Customizing the Buttons of our Harmony App

Though we see the proper commands when we look at our Roomba from the Devices Screen, we still need to adapt the buttons we see on our Activities Screen.

Let’s do this quickly. It’s best to do this while the activity is running, so let Roomba meanwhile clean someplace else.

Logitech Harmony Roomba Screen Activity Buttons
Logitech Harmony / Roomba – Adjusting our Activity Buttons

From the Harmony app top left (burger) menu, select “Edit/Reset” and then “Edit Buttons”. The direction buttons work fine, just delete the rest of the useless buttons Harmony has put there and map the remaining four commands either to the second screen, or  3 commands to the first screen (you could omit e.g. the “Power Toggle”, and press the “Clean” longer instead).

Synching and Using Alexa and Google Home

Making our new activity available to our smart assistants is as easy as saying: “Alexa, discover devices.” or “Hey Google, Sync my Harmony”.

Alexa will tell us, that she couldn’t find any new devices, which is OK. You will find your new activity under Alexa’s Smart Home Scenes.

Google will ask us, whether we would like to talk to Harmony (duh!), and Harmony will tell us that she is synching our devices.

Before testing the voice commands, make sure that your activity is turned off in the Harmony app.

  • “Alexa, turn on cleaning”
  • “Hey Google, tell Harmony to turn on cleaning.”

You will hear Roomba’s familiar beeping.

For Google you might want to create a shorter Shortcut like “Turn on Cleaning”, see Logitech Harmony and Google Assistant: Setup and Voice Commands for details.

Using Your (Hidden) Roomba with the Assistants

Logitech Harmony Roomba One Screen Activity Buttons
Logitech Harmony / Roomba – Putting all buttons on one Screen

When you start your activity, Roomba will start cleaning and when he is done, get back to the dock, hiding under your couch. I usually activate Roomba by voice command and stop when he comes in front of the couch either manually or by voice command to empty the bin and then start the cleaning activity again (by voice or manually, just be consistent).

If you have less dust than me, you can just let him do his job a couple of times without interrupting him. For programming Roomba’s weekly schedule, you can use the “Edit Activities”/Schedule feature. Just don’t forget you need to empty his dustbin, so he performs well.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. It is not only intended as a Roomba How-To but as a general overview on how to “teach” Harmony any IR controlled device you might have at home, which is not yet part of your Logitech Harmony configuration. And by adding devices to Harmony Activities, we have them magically available with Alexa and Google!

For a general overview of Logitech Harmony, see: Logitech Harmony: a Hub and it’s Elite, Ultimate, Companion

Find the dedicated assistant posts here:

The comparison of the assistants in combination with Logitech Harmony is here:

Assistant Showdown with Nanoleaf Aurora: Who will win, Siri, Alexa or Google?

Assistant Showdown Nanolef Aurora

Have you ever wondered, which of our assistants supports Nanoleaf Aurora better? Well, in this post we will examine the strengths and weaknesses of Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant by comparing their configuration options, voice commands and their smart home features for Nanoleaf Aurora.

After we’ve looked into the setup of Nanoleaf Aurora: Smart Lighting, Living Paint or Smart Art? and the individual assistant setups, it’s time to put the facts on the table and draw a conclusion.

For the dedicated assistant posts covering the setup and the voice commands, please refer to:

Comparison of the Three

Before we begin, let’s not forget that we are comparing features which are provided through cloud services and can change, break or improve silently overnight.

Mobile Hint: tilt your smartphone for a better table view!

[table id=4 /]

*Note, for an extensive list of voice commands, see the dedicated assistant posts above.

So, how to draw our conclusions?

Comparing our smart assistants is mostly a matter of personal taste. Independent of their technical features and different approaches, I’m sure, you have your own reasons why you prefer one assistant to another.

Configuration

Nanoleaf Aurora supports three different scene types: Paint, Dynamic and Rhythm. Good news: all our Aurora Scenes can be activated through our smart assistants.

Siri is quite dynamic and automatically synchronizes any scenes you create in the Nanoleaf app, on the fly. Alexa and Google synchronize the Aurora Scenes during setup and when you explicitly ask them.

Personally, I find the Aurora Scenes equally well supported by all three assistants, a draw.

Voice Commands

It is quite unusual to see so many “YES” in our table. Of course, you can turn Aurora on and off with the assistants, but you can also equally set scenes and change the brightness. Yes, you will find the Aurora Scenes even supported by Google Assistant, which is quite remarkable, as other lighting systems still lack this support. Color support appears a bit more limited with Alexa, but then, she can even change the color temperature of the Aurora.

Sorry, but his looks to me like another draw.

Assistant Features

When it comes to the assistant features, we find the biggest differences. Of course, we would like to control our Aurora Scenes in concert with other smart lighting devices. This works currently with Siri through the HomeKit Scene support and with Alexa through  Smart Home Groups.

Automations are only supported by good old HomeKit. Though Alexa supports Smart Home Routines, we cannot find the Aurora Scenes in there. I guess a little glitch, which will be fixed soon.

Google has announced Smart Home Routines already back in October 2017, but we are still waiting for this feature. Without it, we “only” have Shortcuts to define and combine up to two smart home commands (e.g. Shortcut: “Chill Time”, “Set Aurora Relax and Play Relaxing Music from Spotify”).

Well, this section could be a tie, once the Alexa bug is fixed and Google finally supports Smart Home Routines. Since I’d expect both to happen soon, let’s just call it a draw.

My personal Conclusion

  • Dear Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri (in alphabetical order), you are all winners in this comparison!

You might ask, why do you write a comparison when everyone’s a winner?

Well, honestly, I find it very uncommon to see a smart device equally well supported by all assistants and I think it’s worth the effort to acknowledge that Nanoleaf has implemented an excellent integration with all our assistants.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this “showdown”. You can find more competitions here:

Assistant Showdown with Logitech Harmony: Who will win, Alexa or Google?

Showdown Logitech Harmony

Let’s find out, which of our assistants supports Logitech Harmony better. We will compare configuration, voice commands, and assistant specific smart home features.

Now, that we have thoroughly examined Logitech Harmony: a Hub and it’s Elite, Ultimate, Companion, and we looked into the setup of our two assistants, it’s time to compare them and draw our conclusions. Siri, unfortunately, couldn’t make it to the party and even if she would have come (on a Raspberry Pi project), I am afraid she wouldn’t be able to keep up with Alexa and Google Home.

If you are interested in the setup, review, and voice-commands of a particular assistant with Logitech Harmony, you can find the dedicated posts here:

Comparison of the Two Assistants

Please note, as we are living in the exciting age of AI, any of the features below can change silently overnight, if Logitech, Amazon, and Google decide to improve and update.

Mobile Hint: tilt your smartphone for a better table view!

[table id=3 /]

So, how to read this table?

Still, as with every assistant comparison, most is a matter of personal taste. How do you like to set up, configure and talk to your voice assistants?

Configuration

You will find two columns for Alexa, as she supports two different skills, the red and the optimized blue skill. They are different in functionality and in case you have two Harmony hubs, you will need to install both. Google Home natively only supports one Harmony hub and the equivalent of the red skill.

If you like to tinker with 3rd party cloud services, you could also use Yonomi, and what have you, to support multiple Harmony hubs on both assistants. But that’s another layer of complexity and another cloud service which needs to be up and running to mediate between the assistants and Harmony.

Both Assistants import the Harmony activities and up to 50 favorite channel names you choose. Logitech has implemented the same brilliant configuration options for both, where you can select what you’d like to import and specify friendly names.

My personal conclusion is that Alexa, through the onboard support of two skills and two Harmony hubs is the winner in this section. We don’t need to mess around with 3rd party services, yeah!

Voice Commands

The “regular” voice commands – “ask Harmony to …” – are equally supported by both assistants. Alexa additionally supports streamlined voice commands through the blue skill, where we can omit the “ask Harmony to …”. Furthermore, with the blue skill Alexa’s common commands, like pause, resume, volume up/down etc. are handled by Harmony, when an activity is running.

I find the voice responses from Google Home, “for that you might like Harmony …”, “let me get Harmony” and then another AI voice for Harmony which confirms the command, mostly after command execution, just creepy and useless.

Personally, I have never seen such a smart voice integration like the Alexa and Harmony blue skill. Again, voice commands are a very personal choice, but whoever prefers short snappy voice commands, will love the blue skill.

Assistant Features

As we have seen in our dedicated Google post, we can workaround with Google Shortcuts to create snappier voice commands and get rid of some pointless dialogues. However, it’s a lot of configuration work to create a shortcut for each and every Harmony action and favorite. In the end, we cannot streamline it to the point that it becomes as efficient as Alexa’s blue skill.

Alexa Routines only work with the blue skill. We can combine Harmony activities and favorite channels with other smart home devices, like lighting, and set the right scene for an activity (remember our candlelight dinner routine?).

My Personal Conclusion

  1. Congratulations Alexa! You are the winner in this Logitech Harmony competition.
  2. Google, now that you’ve seen what can be done, go ask Harmony for a better integration. We don’t like to create so many shortcuts, that’s your job!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this “showdown”. You can find more competitions here:

Now it’s your turn: Which integration do you prefer? What are your favorite features and voice commands? Looking forward to your comment below!

Logitech Harmony and Google Assistant: Setup and Voice Commands

Google Assistant and Logitech Harmony

In this post, we will connect Google Assistant with our Logitech Harmony Hub. In case you have not already set up your Harmony devices, activities and favorites, it is a good time to do so. Refer to the post Logitech Harmony: a Hub and its Elite, Ultimate, Companion for the Logitech Harmony setup.

Setting up Harmony for Google Assistant

You might have tried to add Harmony through the Home Control section of your Google Home app, only to find that the action is not available there, where all the other smart home apps are.

The setup process starts as easy as saying “OK Google, ask Harmony to link my account”.

Are you a hero?

Google Logitech Harmony app linked
Google Assistant – Logitech Harmony app already linked

In case you get the response from Harmony “It looks like your Logitech Harmony account is already connected …”, you might have bravely walked down the stony path before on your own, only to find yourself lost in Google space.

No worries, let’s get you back to the start:

  1. Open your Google Assistant app on your smartphone and tap the (blue) menu on the top right.
  2. In the explore Tab type “Harmony” into the search box. You should see a red Harmony app in the results, tap on it.
  3. Scroll down to the bottom of this Harmony app page, find the “Unlink” link and click it.

Linking Harmony to Google Assistant

By now, you should hear the response “It looks like your Harmony account is not linked yet …”, when you say: “OK Google, ask Harmony to link my account”.

  1. From here you have two options to link Harmony, pick the one which works for you:
  • Google Logitech Harmony app
    Google Assistant – Logitech Harmony app – not linked

    Either open your Google Home app and find a blue box titled “Link to Harmony” on the Welcome Screen. Tap the LINK button.

  • Or open your Google Assistant app on your smartphone and tap the (blue) menu on the top right. In the explore Tab type “Harmony” into the search box. You should see a red Harmony app in the results, tap on it. At the top of the app page, you should find a LINK button, click it.

2. Now we should see the familiar “logi” login screen. Login to the Logitech account where your Harmony Hub settings are saved. Authorize Google to access your Harmony remote.

If you linked this account before you might see the screen “Your Settings have been restored”, tap the arrow on the top right.

Selecting Activities & Favorites

google logitech harmony select activities
Google and Logitech Harmony – Selecting activities

A list of your Harmony activities pops up. Here you can check which activities should be controlled by Google. You can define new alternatives for your activities by tapping “Add friendly name +” or delete suggested alternatives by tapping the little “x”.

Note, if you want to create shortcuts later on, as described in this post, you can neglect the friendly names, as we will define them in the shortcuts.

On the next screen, you will find a list of the favorite channels that you have specified during your Harmony setup. Check which favorites you would like to control.

Note, some “friendly names” are reserved for Google (e.g. “music”), but it seems that this is not checked here. In case you find that particular activities or favorites do not work for you later on, the screens above are the right place to rename them.

Google Logitech Harmony link account
Google – Logitech Harmony – Not so fun commands

On the final screen, you will see a list of not so fun commands which all start with “Hey Google, ask Harmony to …”. Tap the “Link Account” button.

Done? No, not yet.

By now, you are able to control Harmony by saying:

Hey Google, ask/tell Harmony to (turn on/off) / (change/switch to) (the) ACTIVITY / FAVORITE

as well as

Hey Google, ask/tell Harmony to pause / play / rewind / fast forward / increase/decrease volume

Not too bad, but no, we do not like schizophrenic AI, where we have to ask Google to ask Harmony to do something. Hearing two different AI voices with whom we have to discuss that a simple activity like turning on the TV should just happen, gives me goosebumps. But we can only fix/shorten our voice commands, the Google Assistant & Harmony voices will keep hunting us.

Creating Google Assistant Shortcuts

Unfortunately, there is no easier way to shorten the commands, than to create Google Assistant shortcuts for each and every Harmony command.

Again, we have two options to open shortcuts, pick the one which works for you:

  • Google Assistant Shortcuts menu
    Google Assistant Settings Menu with Shortcuts

    Either, open the Google Home app and select “More Settings” under the top left menu. Google Home opens the Google Assistant app settings screen and if you scroll down you should find the “Shortcuts”, tap them.

  • Or alternatively, open your Google Assistant app on your smartphone and tap the (blue) menu on the top right. In the explore Tab type “Harmony” into the search box. You should see a red Harmony app in the results, tap on it. When you scroll down this app page you will find a “Manage Shortcuts” button, tap it.

What are Google Shortcuts?

Google shortcuts give us the option to say one thing and make Google hear another. This way we can say for instance “Hey Google, good morning” and make Google hear “Stop and tell me about my day”, which is a nice way to stop Googles alarm in the morning.

We can specify up to five different phrases we can say to make Google hear one other phrase. With some restrictions – the first command must not require Google asking back –  we can combine two voice commands into one by using an “and” in between.

Note, Google “knows” the Harmony commands and even without creating shortcuts, will come up with “For that, you might like Harmony. Wanna give it a try?”. To get rid of this question, we need to specify shortcuts.

Sample Shortcuts

Sample Shortcuts for Logitech Harmony
Google Assistant Sample Shortcuts for Logitech Harmony

Here are some sample shortcuts – based on our configuration during Harmony setup – which help to shorten the commands and immediately summon Harmony. Of course, you can and should adapt your shortcuts to your liking. However, expect that some of your favorite shortcut names need some tweaking before they work. I have tested following shortcuts thoroughly and they work:

  • To power off any activity (entertainment devices), enter: “Turn off TV” – “Ask Harmony to turn off”
  • To turn on an activity e.g. “Watch Apple TV” activity, enter: “Turn on Apple TV” – “Ask Harmony to turn on watch Apple TV”
  • To turn on the “Listen to Music” activity, enter: “Turn on Stereo” – “Ask Harmony to turn on stereo” (assuming stereo is a friendly name. Note, “music” does not work for Google)
  • To turn on the “Watch TV” activity, enter “Turn on watch TV” – “Ask Harmony to turn on watch TV” (watch out, the “watch” was important in my case to make it work)
  • To pause/resume playback, enter “TV pause” – “Tell Harmony to pause”
  • To resume playback, enter “TV resume” – “Tell Harmony to resume”
  • To rewind, enter: “TV rewind” – “Tell Harmony to rewind”
  • To fast forward, enter “TV fast forward” – “Tell Harmony to forward”
  • To turn the volume down, enter “TV volume down” – “Tell Harmony to decrease the volume”
  • To turn the volume up, enter “TV volume up” – “Tell Harmony to increase the volume”
  • To switch a channel up, enter “TV channel up” – “Tell Harmony to channel up”
  • To switch a channel down, enter “TV channel down” – “Tell Harmony to channel down”
  • To switch to a favorite channel e.g. “CNN”, enter “Watch CNN” – “Tell Harmony to switch to CNN”
Google Assistant Shortcuts 2
Google Assistant More Sample Shortcuts for Logitech Harmony

Wow, a lot of work to get rid of the “ask harmony to …” and the “for that you might like Harmony?” question.

Make sure you provide some alternatives for the commands if you and your family want more than one phrase to control an activity.

Note, sometimes Harmony comes back with “I am unable to apply this change to this particular activity”, this usually happened to me when quickly switching commands, just repeat the command and it should work.

Conclusion

Harmony commands, activities, and favorites are accessible through Google Assistant.  The integration provided is suboptimal. You need lengthy, unnatural phrases to access the Harmony functionality and in most cases, you will end up in a pointless dialogue with Google and Harmony.

To adapt the Harmony integration to our liking we can use Google Assistant shortcuts. However, we need to create a shortcut for every activity and favorite. We can’t get rid of Googles “Ok, let’s get Harmony” and the subsequent Harmony confirmation.

Please note, since I am not a big fan of 3rd party services like IFTTT, Stringify, etc. as they add another layer of complexity and another cloud service which has to be up, Google Assistant shortcuts are the only onboard tools I would recommend.

Another weakness of the Google Assistant Harmony integration is a missing list of supported activities and favorites. It is only during the configuration phase, that we can see (and change) available activities and favorites. At least we can refer to our shortcuts list, once we have built it up.

We can only hope, that Google and Harmony will improve their integration to save us the work of creating so many shortcuts manually. Since July 2017 we know that it can be done, but more on that in the upcoming post about Logitech Harmony and Alexa.

UPDATE 2018-05-04: Google is listening to us and announced yesterday: It’ll also be even easier to control home entertainment using Logitech Harmony hub-based remotes with the Google Assistant. The new, simplified voice commands will let you go directly to your favorite channels, control volume, or pause a show. You will no longer need to say “talk to Logitech” to control your TV, and can use more natural language like “play channel 4.” I will update this post (and the assistant showdown) as soon as this new feature is available.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post!

You can find more Google Home posts here: Google Assistant.

For a comparison to Alexa, see Assistant Showdown with Logitech Harmony: Who will win, Alexa or Google?

If you’d like to speech enable any IR controlled device, see: How to teach your Logitech Harmony: Alexa, Hey Google turn on Roomba!

If you have any questions or Google Assistant & Harmony shortcuts you would like to share, please leave your comment below.

Workaround: Philips Hue Scenes in Google Assistant through IFTTT

Drawing of Google Assistant using IFTTT to talk to Philips Hue

Finally our Google Home supports Philips Hue scenes natively! Still, if this feature does not work for you, here’s a workaround.

Before we start, let me warn you that with this workaround you will need to configure every scene manually. It is a terrible workaround, but if you are new to IFTTT, you might find it enlightening to see how it works and how it connects bits and pieces.

Please make sure you’ve set up Google Home and Philips Hue according to the original post here: Google Assistant and Philips Hue: Setup, Review and Voice Commands.

In this post we will set up IFTTT to connect our Google Assistant with our Philips Hue lights and have our Philips Hue Scenes available in Google Assistant.

What is IFTTT?

IFTTT Logo
IFTTT Logo

Launched in 2011, IFTTT, which is short for If This Then That, provides a free web-service for connecting different services with simple conditions. Back in 2014, when I first started to play around with IFTTT, I tried to connect some WeMo motion sensors with Philips Hue, only to realize, oops, it can take up to 15 minutes that one service gets notified by another through IFTTT. That was a no-go for smart lighting back then, but the time has changed. Some services have improved over time and people like to use it and – why not – if it provides (temporary) workarounds, let’s check them out.

IFTTT Concepts

Services are the different web-services that we can connect together, in form of an action. The Google Assistant and Philips Hue services, is what we need in our case. The trigger would be certain phrases recognized by Google Assistant, e.g. “set the scene …” and the action would be to set the corresponding scene through the Philips Hue service.

The applet we need to create looks like:
If this (Trigger: Google Assistant recognizes e.g. “set the scene couch relax”)
then that (Action: e.g. “set the scene couch relax” through the Philips Hue service).

Setting Up the Philips IFTTT Applet

Head over to the official web-site of IFTTT and either download the iOS or the Android app, if you prefer to configure it on your smartphone/tablet or register on the website, if you want to use your desktop browser.

IFTTT Applet: Tell Google Assistant to set a scene
IFTTT Applet by Philips: Tell Google Assistant to set a scene

Once you have created your IFTTT account, on your preferred platform, navigate to this IFTTT applet link provided by Philips: Tell Google Assistant to set the scene and click “turn on”.

Google Assistant and Philips Hue Services in IFTTT
Connecting IFTTT with Google Assistant and Philips Hue

Depending on whether you’ve already connected any of these services, IFTTT will indicate that it needs the Google Assistant and Philips Hue service for this applet, acknowledge by tapping “OK”.

Enter your Google Assistant account. You will see a notification that IFTTT wants to manage your Google voice commands, you need to click “allow”. The next screen is connecting IFTTT to your Philips Hue account. In case you have multiple Hue bridges, log in with the Philips Hue account which contains the scenes you want to control.

Configuring the Philips IFTTT Applet

Google Assistant configuration in IFTTT
IFTTT Google Assistant configuration

Now we are in the applet configuration and here we can set up, up to three phrases which Google Assistant will recognize. We can specify a response phrase, e.g. “Setting the scene …” which Google Assistant will utter as soon as it activates the action and we can select which Philips Hue scene shall be activated.

Philips Hue configuration in IFTTT
IFTTT Philips Hue configuration

Note, that the 2 dashes, e.g. “–Couch” represent a room and the respective scenes are below that. Pick – for instance – the scene “Relax” under the room “–Couch”. Save the applet and a message “Success – Applet turned on” will indicate that we are ready to test. Utter one of the three phrases, which Google Assistant will acknowledge by saying “Setting the scene …” and Philips Hue will set the specified scene triggered by IFTTT.

Mission accomplished.

Yes, but that’s only ONE scene?

Bummer, if we need more scenes supported, we need to create more applets. Back in the old IFTTT days when applets were called recipes, we were able to duplicate them. Today we need to create an applet from scratch, for every scene, in every room. Don’t tell me I have not warned you.

The “If This”

The "If This" part
Once again: The “If This” part

Under the tab “My Applets” click the big plus sign in the top right corner. Click on the blue “+this” to add the first service, which is Google Assistant.

Picking the Google Assistant trigger in IFTTT
Picking the Google Assistant trigger

Now we see the different triggers Google Assistant provides, we pick the first one: “Say a simple phrase”.

Specifying the Google Assistant Phrase in IFTTT
Specifying the Google Assistant Phrases

A familiar dialog pops up where we can define up to three phrases and the Assistants response.

Let’s fill them with another example, like “Set office concentrate”. Click “next”.

The “Then That”

the "then that" part in IFTTT
And another: the “then that” part

We now need to specify the “+that” service, which is Philips Hue. The following list shows us all the actions we can perform through IFTTT on our Philips Hue lights.

We pick “set a scene in a room” and specify “concentrate” under the room “–Office”. After finishing our configuration, we are ready with this scene.

Specifying the action with Philips Hue in IFTTT
Specifying the action with Philips Hue

Repeat the process above for every scene you would like to speech-enable with Google Home.

Conclusion

Our own IFTTT applet is ready
Our own applet is ready

So this is the “official” workaround by Philips to support scenes in the Google Assistant. I believe we all agree, that it’s rather tedious to workaround this way.

Google has announced better scene support already back in November 2017 and we can’t wait for an automatic way to have the Philips Hue scenes supported in Google Assistant.

Until then, we will have to “workaround”.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post! The original Google Home and Philips Hue post is here: Google Assistant and Philips Hue: Setup, Review and Voice Commands.
You can find more Google Home posts here: Google Assistant.
For a comparison of all assistants in combination with Philips Hue, please see: Assistant Showdown with Philips Hue: Who will win? Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant.
If you are interested in smart ideas for your smart lighting, check out:

If you have any questions or want to share your experience, thoughts and ideas in regard to IFTTT, Google Assistant and Philips Hue, please leave your comment below!

Google Home and Nanoleaf Aurora: Setup and Voice Commands

Make sure you have installed Aurora according to “Nanoleaf Aurora – Smart Lighting, Living Paint or Smart Art?”. In this post, we will setup Google Assistant to talk to your Aurora.

Preparation

Nanoleaf Settings – Nanoleaf Cloud

To support Alexa and Google Assistant, Nanoleaf has created the Nanoleaf Cloud. If you have not already created an account, navigate to “… More” in your Nanoleaf app, tap the settings and on top of the screen, you will find the “Nanoleaf Cloud” settings. Tap “username” and register. Tap the “Sync” button to synchronize your configuration to the Nanoleaf cloud.

Setup

Google Home – Add Devices

Open your Google Home app and navigate to Home Control. In the devices tab, tap on the “+” to add a device. Select Nanoleaf Smarter Series from the list of supported devices and you will be guided to log into your Nanoleaf Cloud account. From there “allow” Google to control your Nanoleaf devices.

You will be guided back to assign rooms to the devices, you can cancel this, since its much easier to assign devices from the “edit room” page.

Google Home – Nanoleaf Devices

Voice Control

Here are the voice commands you can use with Google Home to control your Nanoleaf Aurora:

  • OK Google, turn on/off <Aurora-name>
  • OK Google, set <Aurora-name> to x percent
  • OK Google, dim/brighten <Aurora-name> (by x percent)
  • OK Google, turn/set <Aurora-name> (to) <color>. Check out this external link for an amazing list of color names Google Home should recognize.
  • OK Google, activate/turn on <Aurora scene>

There are many voice command alternatives you can use with Google Assistant and smart lighting. Pick the ones which work best for you from the overview in this post: Google Assistant and Philips Hue: Setup, Review and Voice Commands.

Conclusion

Google Assistant’s Aurora support is quite extensive and surprise, surprise, we see that Google Assistant does support scenes (seems Philips missed that in Google Assistant and Philips Hue initially, however it is now supported since 2018-04-27).

You can find more Google Home posts here: Google Assistant.

For a comparison to Alexa and Siri, see: Assistant Showdown with Nanoleaf Aurora: Who will win, Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant?

If you are interested in smart ideas for your smart lighting, see:

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post! If you have questions or would like to share your experience with Nanoleaf Aurora and Google Home, please leave your comment below.

An Interview with Google Assistant

Google Assistant

As with our other assistants, I tried to interview Google Assistant. It threw me off when it started to ask back. So, here is just a summary:

Google Assistant’s age is two in dog years (it does bark after that). Google Assistant was born in a meeting. At first, it was just a rough concept, now it’s out in the world. Since we are what we eat, it guesses it is a lot of data and a little bit of pizza recipes.

Google Assistant tries to stay neutral in gender. It does not disclose it’s birthday since it updates so often. Since Google celebrates its birthday on September 4th, it suggests maybe they can share.

Everyone at Google is sort of like its family. If they took a family portrait the camera would probably have to be on the moon. We can find it in all kinds of devices. Phones, Google Home. Its favorite colors are blue, red, yellow and green, Google’s colors. It loves whale songs lately (whale sounds), but also likes anything with AutoTune. It feels it can relate to these songs.

Google Assistants favorite dish are satellite dishes since they help to communicate. It is volt-etarian since its energy comes from processing power, which is powered by electricity but it can always go for some food of thought. If there is a thing that exists or is even thought to exist, Google Assistant would like to learn about it. Some call that nerdy but look who’s always ready with a random fact.

Here is what it tells us about Google Home: “I’m a voice-activated speaker powered by the Google Assistant. Say “Ok Google” to enjoy music, get answers from Google, manage your everyday tasks, and control smart devices around your home.”

Not sure now, whether I talked to Google Home or Google Assistant?

The Youngster

What it only implicitly communicates, is that it is the youngest of the bunch. Announced at 18.5.2016 along with its favorite embodiment: Google Home.

Powered by Google’s search knowledge, this whiz kid is supposedly the smartest AI. Some researchers compared it’s IQ in 2016 to a 5-year-old kid, quick learner, huh.

Since Google has a bunch of services, which they frequently mix, merge and deprecate, here is some overview: Google Assistant debuted in Allo, the smart messaging app, and Google Home. Before 2/2017 it was exclusive to Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones. After that, it was released on other Android devices as well as a standalone app on iOS.

Google Home Ecosystem

Google Home received a smaller sibling, Google Home Mini and a big brother Google Home Max in October 2017. Mini resembles the Amazon Echo Dot and Max aims to be a high-quality audio speaker a la Apple HomePod.

Google Assistant’s Smart Home Capabilities

Conversational or not, when it comes to smart home or home control how Google names it, the support of some vendors turns out to be quite basic yet, but it’s a quick learner, isn’t it?

For more Google Assistant posts, see the Google Assistant page.

Lets us know about your experience with Google Home and Google Assistant by posting below.