The battle for the smart home is on, with dozens (if not hundreds) of companies launching light bulbs, thermostats, fridges, garage door openers and a plethora of other gizmos you can control from your smartphone.
The real important battle however is between the companies that want their devices and services to act as the central hub for the others. Apple has HomeKit, Amazon has Alexa and Google has Google Assistant which, until now, had those features limited to just the Google Home device.
With the latest version of Android (in beta form) you can control your smart connected devices just by saying "Ok Google - switch on the living room lights."
Adding smart home product control to your Pixel or Pixel XL's built in Assistant is fairly simple, although its usefulness will very much depend on whether or not you have the supported products. So far, the list is relatively limited:
- Philips Hue
The first step is making sure you have the right software installed, at the moment that means running the latest beta version of Android 7.1.2. If your phone isn't registered in the beta program, you can do that simply by heading to Google's sign up page. Bear in mind that beta software isn't the final release software, so might not run the most smoothly, or have some problems with it.
How to setup Google Assistant to control your smart home
- Launch the Google Assistant as normal by tapping and holding the virtual home button, or saying Ok Google.
- Tap the dots in the top right-hand corner of the Assistant's pop-up card to bring the side menu up, then tap "Settings". You'll see a "Home Control" option, which you should select. If you don't see this menu, try asking Google Assistant instead: say "turn my lights on" and you'll be given a link to the Home Control menu.
- The Home Control menu shows devices and rooms. Tap the little floating "+" button in the bottom corner, and you'll see a list of compatible manufacturers (listed above) and you can add devices. You'll be asked to sign-in to the relevant service.
- You'll be asked to assign devices to a room, allowing commands like "turn my living room lights off".
- Once completed, you can now say "Ok Google, turn on my lights and it will work".
You'll notice that we said you might not get the Home Control menu in your Settings. We've got smart home control working on a couple of devices, but the menus are different. If you find you don't have access in the settings menu, then it's worth talking to Google Assistant to bring up the menu instead.
If you say "Ok Google, turn on my lights" and you have no devices set-up, the Google Assistant will suggest the Home Control menu instead. Of course, once you set up the lights, you'll have to say something else, like "Ok Google, turn my heating on". Again, if you don't have heating set-up, you'll then be prompted with the Home Control menu and so on. We imagine that this will be resolved as software is updated.