This time last year, products designed for Apple's smart home platform made their debut at CES. It was a small but pleasant showing: a series of power outlets, light bulb adapters, and door locks. Nothing fancy, but enough to show that the system was here and happening.
I expected the same thing to be happening this year for Google, which announced a new smart home platform — going under the names Brillo and Weave — last spring. But if you look around, there's hardly a mention of it anywhere.
Weave was quietly inside a lot of products
It’s true that Google's smart home system is present in some subtle ways. At CES, Brillo and Weave are being presented inside a security camera, a speaker, an oven, a printer, a scanner, a series of light bulbs and some door locks, coming from companies including HP, Philips, and Asus. LG is the biggest Weave partner, putting it inside an air conditioner, a washer and dryer, a refrigerator, a security camera, and wireless speakers.
But neither Google nor its partners are making a big deal about its smart home system's debut, even though this is the very first time any Brillo or Weave products have been shown. The most attention it got was during LG's press conference, when a Google VP came out to discuss Brillo and Weave for three minutes — the presentation didn't even highlight LG's specific uses of the new platform.
There's another reason that Google's presence is being passed over: Brillo and Weave may be inside these products, but we still haven't seen the platform in action. This time last year, there were plenty of demos showing how an iPhone could be used to turn a lightbulb on and off. That's not much, but it let you understand what HomeKit was and how it worked. For now, it's hard to even pull together an understanding of how Brillo and Weave work unless you're making a product for it.
There's already an impressive breadth of products
Here are the basics: Brillo is software that runs smart home devices, and Weave is the language they use to speak to each other. Importantly, a device doesn't have to be running Brillo to speak Weave, making Weave arguably the more important and open of the two pieces. Weave also allows products to communicate with smartphone apps, both on iOS and Android.
It's no small feat that Google got LG to join an open system that'll let its appliances work alongside everyone else's. That Weave is already inside such a wide range of products is impressive, too — Apple isn't yet trying to work with core appliances like ovens, fridges, and air conditioners.
It’s not that Google tried and failed to launch Weave at CES, it just didn't really try. Weave is here, but hiding in the background. That means — even for all the manufacturers it has on board — Google still has a lot to prove. Does Weave actually work? Maybe that's a question for next year.