Google Assistant Sets New Smart Home Device Quality and Safety Standards
Google Assistant announced a policy update for developers connecting smart home devices to Google Assistant Actions. Companies have to prove their product meets the new quality and safety standards, or Google won’t let them market the device as one that works with the voice assistant.
Google divided the new rules under the heading of quality or safety, but they all are aimed at a goal of consistent developer and user experience, laying a foundation level that Google Assistant Actions need to reach just to be available. Quality, in this case, refers to a device responding quickly and accurately when Google Assistant uses the related Action. That means devices relying on the cloud can’t use mobile devices but need a constant connection to a hub. Google also created a list of commands each type of device must be able to perform, and another that of functions it recommends but doesn’t require. For instance, smart coffee makers have to allow Google Assistant to turn them on or off, but a temperature control command is just a suggestion.
Meanwhile, the new security rules are built around secondary user verification, an additional test to prove a user’s identity in the form of a PIN or just Google Assistant confirming what the user is asking. Any device with a security element, like a door lock or burglar alarm, must include the option for secondary verification, but users can adjust their settings to shut it off if they don’t want to use it. The circumstances for when Google Assistant asks for verification can also be adjusted. Google describes the voice assistant as potentially challenging someone who wants to unlock a door only if they don’t have a keyfob linked to the lock on them.
“As more developers onboard to the Smart Home Actions platform, we have gathered feedback about the certification process for launching an Action,” developer advocate Toni Klopfenstein explained in a blog post. “[W]e have updated our Actions policy to enable developers to more quickly develop their Actions, and to help streamline the certification and launch process for developers. These updates will also help to provide a consistent, cohesive experience for smart device users.”
If a device can’t meet the new standards, Google will remove its ‘Works With Hey Google’ badge. No new badges will be issued to devices that don’t conform, but Actions already in production will be checked when they are checked for annual recertification. The changeover will be fast but not immediate. Developers have until April 12 to update their product. The new policy’s timing seems to tie it to Google’s decision to stop supporting the Template Actions for Google Assistant feature at the end of this month. The shutdown, announced last year, brings an end to Google’s direct control over the no-code tools for creating voice apps, which will now be open-source.
Google had already begun a similar process for child-focused apps in January. Google Assistant Actions for Families (AFF) are being restricted to developers with apps on Google Play marked Teacher Approved, meaning the voice experience essentially needs some kind of mobile app. Approved Actions in the AFF program are identified with their own badge in the Assistant directory, and those who had an AFF had to reapply to get permission to attach one of the badges. All together, these moves paint a picture of how Google envisions its developer ecosystem and that it feels comfortable pushing for a more mature, professional coalition compared to the more Wild West days earlier in the voice tech space.