The Ambient is almost one year young, which doesn't sound very old at all. but such is the nature of the smart home that we've long lost count of all the smart home devices 2018 has brought.
So when the time came to make our nominations in The Ambient's inaugural Smart Home Awards, we were faced with a colossal task. And when it came to choosing our number one smart home product of the year - well, that was more than a little tricky.
But after countless hours of impassioned debate, we landed on our winner: the Google Home Hub. In a year where smart speakers were launching from all angles, Google's smart speaker rose above the rest.
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It's been an interesting year for the category, which has bifurcated into smart speakers with a screen and those without. Amazon's Echo Show might have started the trend last year, but in our view, the Google Home Hub is the one that really finessed the smart display.
Now, we know what you might be wondering: how could we give Home Hub the top gong when we awarded the Sonos One the Smart Speaker of the Year? Purely on the playing field of smart speakers, the Sonos One impressed us most with its incredible sound, but when we took a step back and looked at the entire smart home, the Google Home Hub does so much more - a smart speaker, a smart home control center, and a fantastic digital photo frame the rest of the time. No, really.
Indeed, the Home Hub's strengths span across hardware and software. The smart home dashboard, Home View, is an simple but (genuinely) innovative way to see and control all of your smart home gadgets.
Alexa might still be the top dog in the smart home, but Google Assistant has become much more capable and talented in 2018, closing the gap on Amazon's rival. In May, we were given six new voice options to choose from; in July it was granted the power of multi-step routines; and in August it became a bilingual smart assistant. Not to mention all of the other small features rolled out in between.
But in the biggest addition to the platform so far, Google announced at the start of 2018 that it would be launching something called Smart Displays, which would be Google Assistant-powered speakers with a screen. Throughout the year these have been rolling out from third parties like JBL and Lenovo, and it wasn't until October that Google revealed it was making its own Smart Display, the Google Home Hub.
While the Home Hub is the smallest Smart Display to date - just a 7-inch display - it's the best showcase of the Assistant's talents on a visual smart speaker. What's more, the omission of a camera scored it privacy points, which have become more heavily weighted in a year where tech companies are under fire for how they're managing user data. Where many companies are asking us to bring cameras and mics into our homes, Google helped itself stand out from the crowd in this instance.
Perhaps best of all the Home Hub makes interacting with the Assistant and controlling the smart home both simple and enjoyable, proving that the screen is still very much relevant in the era of voice control. Lump on top a super screen, a smarter assistant, and an affordable price, and you have our smart home winner of 2018.