Google
By David Z. Morris
May 1, 2016

Google’s OnHub router has been a bit of a mystery since it debuted last Fall. Though marketed as a sleek and powerful wireless hub, it includes a ton of tidbits to enable smart home functionality, including support for the Weave protocol and more than a dozen antennas. It looks a lot like Amazon’s Echo, and includes a speaker—though no microphone.

Now, Google has taken a step towards putting that nebulous array of capabilities to work by enabling support for If This Then That, or IFTTT. IFTT is a platform for creating so-called “recipes,” which trigger devices to do specific things based on particular inputs.

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In a promo video released with the announcement, example IFTTT recipes for OnHub include locking a door when you leave home, turning on lights when you arrive, or sending you an email when your kid gets home.

Those examples revolve around one simple mechanic—OnHub detecting when a mobile device connects or disconnects from your network. There are exceptions—Google also highlights certain data prioritization features. But as far as making OnHub more than a brainy router, the new features feel a bit limited.

There’s a particularly unflattering comparison to be made to the Echo, which can control music, lights, locks, security cameras, and potentially much more. And Echo’s voice commands can be much more nuanced than OnHub’s yes/no awareness of whether you/your phone are home or not. OnHub does have an app for more advanced functions, but there’s just no comparing that to the convenience of voice.

For more on Google’s forays into hardware, watch our video:

So, we’re now eight months out from OnHub’s release, and while it may be a solid router, the more exciting features teased at the outset are just starting to arrive—and they’re fairly modest.

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