Smart Home or Helpful Home? Catchword partner, Werner Brandl, weighs in on Google’s communication shift.


Werner Brandl, a close naming partner of Catchword in Germany, wrote an interesting piece on the use of “smart” to characterize today’s intelligent home products. In particular, Brandl’s piece focuses on Google (including its Nest brand of home products) and considers the search giant’s communication shift away from “smart home” to “helpful home.”

Here is a link to Brandl’s piece,  and below is a copy of the article.  You should also check out his blog, Namedrop, which is an excellent resource for naming news, insights, and perspectives on brand names!

Not Just Smart, But Useful. A Paradigm Shift At Google.

By: Werner Brandl

A huge shift can be observed within the communication of Google and its home enabler brand Nest these days. As Google released already in May, they have decided to get rid of their smart products or rather of claiming they were smart. For sure you are familiar with the term “smart home“ and all the smart electronic devices that are supposed to, well, what are they supposed to be? Smart? Is that really the point?

Consequently, also Google has pondered what the actual use and benefit of such products is. Sure, they are supposed to be smart so they can perform services for us. But in the end, they should make our lives easier and more comfortable. The term smart even promises that they may perform some of the thinking we used to do, and now we are available to do more advanced stuff like play vintage Tetris or work longer hours. But this leads astray. Let’s stick to the implications of smart.

For sure, smart is somehow intelligent, but the core question is – what’s in it for me? What’s the use of it? There can only be one answer, and Google answered it exactly as it has happened in your mind already. The term all such services and gadgets dance around is – helpful. It is very simple: smart without helpful is just a drag. And I guess the term “smart“ has collected some bad vibes in the smart home community over the last 15 years –with millions of hours spent on useless configuration attempts resulting for some users in a useless waste of time.

It definitely is a smart move to get rid of the promised “smart home“, and introduce the simple, but inspiring, “helpful home.” Helpful resonates far less with complications, confusing instructions, and misconfigurations. It is the plain promise of the state you reach once you have set up the smart home: no matter whether a little smarter or less, it always is helpful. And thus fulfills the real desire of smart home buyers – being assisted and being enabled.

But what about the true afficionados of “smart“? This daring handful of guys who truly want to experience smartness and techiness in all their shades? They can still resort to millions of existing smart products and spend their time cross-combining, configuring, searching, updating, cursing.

What’s next not be smart anymore? Is it the Smartphone? Strange enough, but in this narrow explicit context, smart has already become a synonym for helpful–and millions of other properties. 😉


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