How will consumers react to Google’s ‘Chirp’ smart hub?

Following numerous rumours that Google plans to take on Amazon’s Echo with a smart home hub of its own, sources have confirmed that a product team at Google is working on a hardware device to bring Google search and voice assistant technology into the home.

The information comes via a report from Recode, which says that Google’s device will resemble the circular ‘Onhub’ wireless router, which is already designed to tie together smart home accessories, and that internally, it goes by the name ‘Chirp’.

While we won’t be seeing the device hitting the shops just yet, a launch is said to be planned for this year, and more details may well emerge at Google’s I/O developer conference next week.

A simple blue graphic of a house with 'wifi' style waves emitting from the roof.

There are any number of reasons why Google would want to develop its own smart home hub: not only to consolidate its place in a huge and valuable market, but to gather crucial information on consumers’ shopping habits, daily tasks, searches and the way they talk to machines.

A smart home hub would tie together several different areas that Google is already hard at work developing and innovating in: natural language search, digital assistants, A.I. and voice search, in which it has long been a pioneer. The influx of ‘smart’ devices also opens up a wide array of new opportunities for brands and marketers, which Google is bound to want in on.

There is the question, however, of how well consumers will react to a smart home hub powered by Google. Google has a bad history with ‘always listening’ voice-activated controls, having been forced to pull a Chromium extension which was thought to be secretly eavesdropping on users’ microphones.

A photograph of a poster (said to be from one of the Google cafeterias) reading "GOOGLE IS WATCHING YOU" with "Google" being the Google logo. The logo also has two eyes in the Os.Photo by Patrick Barry, made available via CC BY-SA 2.0

Recode also reported that Nest, the smart home device that Google bought for $3.2 billion two years ago, had considered developing its own Echo rival and discarded the idea because of “trust issues” with Google’s image. A Google smart home hub will not improve Google’s ‘Big Brother’ reputation for being everywhere and creepily knowing everything about its users.

But now that it seems a Google smart hub is definitely coming to the market, it will be interesting to see how the company handles the issues around its reputation as more details about Chirp are confirmed.

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