Today, Google Home and Google WiFi products are completely independent of each other. One is for your smart home controls and digital assistant needs while the other forms the backbone of a mesh network for all of your devices. Should they combine?
The question popped into my head earlier this week when 9to5Google examined the latest Google Home app, finding evidence that Google may bring many of its WiFi product settings into Google Home. That’s just from the software side though: Prior to the first Google WiFi hardware release, I had heard that the product would not just be a network device but also have voice assistant capabilities. Obviously, that didn’t happen in the end.
Bridging the software for two related hardware products into a single app has pros and cons.
Sure, a single place to manage your smart home devices and the wireless network they communicate on sounds logical. But the Google WiFi app isn’t as bare-bones as it was at launch. Now it has numerous options, detailed speed tests, and other features. And the most recent Google Home update actually went a long way towards simplifying the user interface; does it need to be cluttered up with a bunch of network settings?
Additionally, a home WiFi network isn’t just used for smart devices: A dedicated app to troubleshoot laptop connectivity or NAT problems on a video game console comes in handy in certain situations. And those situations have nothing to do with traditional smart devices, so why bundle the necessary troubleshooting tools in with sensors, webcams, and door locks?
Although the addition of WiFi settings in the Google Home software wouldn’t necessarily mean there’s new hardware coming, I do think combining Home and WiFi into a single device would make sense.
Google could — and probably would — continue to make its single purpose Home and WiFi products but a new line that turns every Google Home into a mesh access point makes sense to me. Note that today’s Google WiFi products are also Bluetooth Smart Ready; updated hardware could expand both WiFi and Bluetooth mesh networking in the home.
Why might we need digital assistants and mesh access points throughout the home? In the first case, it’s pretty obvious: Google’s goal is to make information accessible pretty much everywhere. Some rooms may be “off limits” for an always-on microphone and/or a camera, such as the one in some Smart Displays, but that’s a personal choice.
I can’t however, think of many rooms in the home where you don’t want a great Wi-Fi connection, whether it’s to watch 4K content, listen to high bitrate audio streaming, or video chat with friends, family, or co-workers. No, you don’t need a mesh router in every room; a few on each floor of a home can be useful though. And just think of streaming 4K video or digital audio to a TV or wireless speaker set up through a peer-to-peer connection — maybe on a fast in-room 60GHz frequency — directly from an in-room access point.
Of course, there’s a downside to creating a 2-in-1 digital assistant device that doubles as a modern wireless endpoint: Cost. Cramming more radios, smarts or both in a Google Home device to make it networking equipment will surely add to the price. And one of the selling features of today’s digital assistant hardware is that it’s accessible for a small investment. But again, I’d expect those devices to still be offered for those that just want an inexpensive smart speaker.
What do you think: Should Home and WiFi become one or does it make more sense to draw a line between the smart home and the network it uses?