Google Home Outage Shows Smart Homes Can Be Dumb Sometimes – ExtremeTech
Google launched its Google Home hardware last year as a way to bring the Google Assistant into your daily life. Unlike Assistant on a phone, Home is designed for everyone to use, and it launched with various smart home integrations like Philips Hue lights and Nest thermostats. Google has been talking a big game when it comes to voice recognition and control, but a small hiccup on Google’s end over the weekend is a reminder just how fragile a “smart home” platform can be.
Beginning on Thursday or Friday and going through early Monday, Google Home became unresponsive to many users. Not everyone was affected, but those who were simply got an error message as soon as using the “OK Google” trigger word to wake up the device. “Hmm, something went wrong. Try again in a few seconds,” it would say over and over.
The thread on Google’s support forums contained dozens of reports of this behavior. Meanwhile, threads of similar complaints popped up on the Google Home subreddit. It’s fair to say this was a widespread issue—in fact, both the Google Homes use in my house were affected. Interestingly, Google Assistant on phones was not affected.
Google responded to the outage complaints over the weekend and noted that engineers were working on a fix. Everything is working fine again right now, but this might convince some people to pull back on the smart home devices. Many of these devices replace something as simple as a light switch or a door lock. The luster comes off when you spend 10 seconds bantering with a defective AI, and then have to walk across the room and flip a switch anyway.
This is the situation with which I was confronted. My lighting is controlled by Google Home, and I couldn’t use it. I had a strange moment where I had to actually think about what I should do in order to turn on a light. Never in my life had that been something I had to think about before.
Google and Amazon both have powerful voice recognition engines at work in their smart hubs, and lots of devices that connect to them. Voice is a great way to interact with these platforms. But as more people dip their toes in the home automation waters, the rough edges are going to become all the more apparent. It won’t really take off until my smart hub is as reliable as a light switch.