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What is Google Home and how does it work?

Google Home is at the heart of Google’s smart home ecosystem. From video doorbells and security cameras to smart thermostats and smart speakers, Google Home gives you the versatility needed to control everything in your home. There are a lot of nuances to the system, but getting started is simple — just download the Google Home app to your smartphone, sync a compatible device, and you’re ready to start optimizing your daily routine.

Here’s a closer look at everything you need to know about Google Home.

What is Google Nest and how does it work with Google Home?

Google Nest color screen.

Google Nest is an offshoot of smart home devices made by Google that are specifically designed to work seamlessly with the Google Home ecosystem (Google actually bought the smart home maker Nest a few years ago and integrated it into its overall ecosystem). Google Nest devices include smart speakers, thermostats, and lighting devices, as well as smoke detectors, doorbells, cameras, smart locks, and smart speaker displays.

What do you need to get started with Google Home?

To use Google Home, you’ll need a Google Home compatible device (such as the Nest Hub Max), the Google Home app, and a Google Account. The Google Home app will guide you through setup, and you’ll be able to add other information, like your location, so you can get local weather or traffic updates. If you want a quick primer, check out our detailed article on how to set up Google Home.

You will also need to connect the Google Home app with some of your other apps like Google Photos or Spotify to increase the functionality of the device. For example, you can send photos from your phone to the screen and listen to music from your favorite streaming service.

What types of devices work with Google Home?

Google is working with the Nest thermostat.

There are hundreds of devices that support Google Home, with more coming to market all the time. When home automation was first introduced, the devices were limited to things like smart speakers and light bulbs. Advancements in connectivity and artificial intelligence have expanded this range to include a broader and more diverse range of products.

Smart thermostats allow users to manually control their home’s heating and cooling cycles—or automate it entirely with geofencing, so that when the house is empty, the heating dials come back on. With smart doorbells that support Google Home, you can easily see who’s at the door from anywhere in the home, city, or the world — basically, wherever you have a connection.

Google Home can control robot vacuums. Windows and door locks can be locked or unlocked remotely, and cameras can record outdoor and indoor movement. Smart plugs can allow users to control non-smart appliances by providing or removing power. You can manage all of this through the Google Home app.

Do I need Google Nest devices to get the best out of my Google Home?

Enjoy some time in the smart home.

You don’t need Google Nest devices specifically for your Google Home smart home. Any device that supports Google Home (look for a label that says “works with Google”) will work with the Google Home ecosystem.

The advantage of using Google Nest products is that there will be little to no trouble setting up the hardware on your system. Third-party smart home products often require you to download an app, create an account, and then sync the device with Google Home. This can be frustrating at times, as third party apps may not communicate well with Google Home. Nest products will give you the “no fuss, no fuss, no mess” solution.

Google is also adding Matter support to many first-party devices, including much of the Nest lineup. This interoperability standard allows Matter devices not natively compatible with Google Home to work with the software. Matter’s product list is small, but it’s growing steadily, and it’s expected to become a huge part of smart homes over the next few years.

What are the Google Home actions?

Routines are groups of commands that you create with the Google Home app. If you haven’t done this before, don’t worry, the app will walk you through it. While many operations need only one command, you may want many things to happen from a simple command. You can select what triggers the routine, whether it’s a trigger phrase, a specific time of day, or activation of an external motion sensor.

For example, a voice command, “Ok Google, bedtime,” can start to turn off the lights in all the main rooms and turn on the light in the stairwell to the bedrooms, while the thermostat drops a few degrees. He might follow up with the weather forecast for tomorrow, or a list of what’s on your calendar.

You can activate actions that set the mood and it includes a number of smart devices. A single command can allow you to dim the lights in the living room into a warm candlelit glow, turn off the kitchen light, and play a specific playlist on your Nest Audio speakers.

You can update, change, turn these actions on or off at any time.

What kinds of things can I do with Google Home?

Google Home actions create a world of possibilities for users. Say basic voice commands to start a favorite playlist from YouTube Music, Spotify, Pandora, TuneIn and iHeartRadio. If you have a Chromecast with Google TV or a compatible Google Home TV, you can browse or play shows just by asking.

If you have a question about anything at all, you can ask Google Assistant instead of searching for it on your phone. You can also create a routine that gives you a weather and traffic report at a specific time each morning as you drink coffee from a coffee maker that Google Assistant started at the exact time.

Home security is another popular use with Google Home. You can create routines that turn on the interior lights on a schedule if you’re away. When an outside light or motion sensor is triggered, Google Home can turn on a smart bulb inside the house, creating the impression that someone noticed a sound outside. Add the sound of a dog barking playing with the routine, and you’re all set.

In short, Google Home is your virtual server, performing smart tasks around the house to automate life and make things easier. It’s an excellent addition if you’re interested in home automation or already have some smart devices at home that allow you to issue simple commands to save time and make your home warmer, brighter, and safer.

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