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Google may be home, but large Aussie retailers seemingly do not want to cash-in on home automation Featured

Google Home is now in Australia, replete with television advertising letting us know you can have it control your lighting. Yet, my experience shows large Australian retailers lag behind online outlets when it comes to making this a reality.

Google Home officially came to Australia just a fortnight ago, in late July. Television advertisements let you know it will mimic animals, answer questions, and even control your lighting. In case you haven't seen the ad, here it is:

Playing a kookaburra sound is an out-of-the-box Google Home feature. Turning your lights off is not. At least, not without help, hence the "compatible lights required" in the ad. Logically enough, a Wi-Fi device cannot know what lights you have, or turn power on or off, without those lights themselves being connected to your home network. This is where lighting systems like Philips Hue come in.

The Philips Hue product range provides LED lighting with 16 million colours and controllable brightness. A lower-priced dimmable white globe is also available. Philips Hue globes come in Edison screw-in, bayonet B22 and GU10 down-light options, along with a novel and extendable lightstrip, and a portable lamp.

Yet, finding these in stores is a problem. My local JB Hi-Fi has starter kits which include a Philips Hue hub and three screw-in globes, but when I asked for bayonet globes I was told curtly, “We only sell the standard ones.” I had not previously known bayonet to be so obscure. In fact, Wikipedia says the bayonet mount is the standard light bulb fitting in the UK and in many countries that were members of the British Empire, including Australia. Certainly, my home has bayonet light fittings. I guess that JB Hi-Fi staff member has never changed a light globe.

I visited Rovert Lighting to be met with confusion as to just what home automation is. I sent Rovert a message commenting on this; they chose not to reply.

I thought I was onto success at Officeworks. The Officeworks website lists almost the full range – the Edison screw-in starter kit could be found, along with stand-alone Edison globes, the GU10 downlights, lightstrips and the lamp, along with accessories. Yet, despite a big catalogue, stock was sparse, even non-existent except for one store in my region. Alas, on visiting, my hunt for bayonet globes still met disappointment with only the white globe available.

Fortunately, the staff were knowledgeable on the topic and assured me home automation is an area Officeworks wishes to expand, and they would most certainly be filling the shelves with globes. I returned a week later to find not only that they had no coloured bayonet globes arrived, but they had also not replenished the stock from my previous visit when I bought out their GU10 (two) and Edison stand-alone globes (one). On this trip, I purchased all four 1m lightstrip extensions so I’ll see if these are restocked next time. Meanwhile, all other stores in my region had no stock either last week or this one.

The helpful Officeworks staff member said I should try Bunnings for bayonet globes, but scouring every shelf in every aisle of the electrical section of my local Bunnings revealed no Philips Hue products, or any other Google Home/Apple HomeKit controllable lighting systems. Still, I enjoyed two sausage sandwiches so it wasn’t a wasted visit. Bunnings' website gives “no results found for Philips Hue". The entire Bunnings home automation catalogue is an Arlec remote-controlled power outlet and Brilliant TrackIt Bluetooth tracking device.

Harvey Norman, like JB Hi-Fi, only sells the screw-in starter kit with no other accessories or globes, while Domayne, like Bunnings, doesn’t stock the product at all.

It looks like online is the way to go. Amazon.com is an option. Officeworks says it allows online orders, although the lack of stock in-store may indicate lengthy wait times. Kogan and Simply Leds also indicate they have a wide range of products including the infamous, and otherwise impossible to source, coloured bayonet globe.

Philips Hue wasn’t the only item on my shopping list. I also wanted to buy the Ring video doorbell. Here, only Officeworks and JB Hi-Fi carried stock, albeit v1 of the standard doorbell. You won’t find the Pro model, or the v2 model. Further, Officeworks did not carry the non-doorbell security camera and solar panel, while JB Hi-Fi does.

To their credit, Officeworks and JB Hi-Fi also carried a variety of other home automation style products – mostly security cameras and some Wi-Fi power points, but I was very keen to specifically narrow my search to devices that work with both Google’s device control, and Apple HomeKit. In this regard, the options available for off-the-shelf purchase are just lacking, limiting and even disappointing.

Home automation is not new; many electrical companies have been providing sophisticated kit for some time. Yet, Google Home’s arrival in Australia — ahead of Amazon, and certainly ahead of Apple — is somewhat akin to what Sony’s PlayStation does for virtual reality; it makes it available to the masses in an easily acquired, easily established, and easily understood format.

It’s somewhat sad and disappointing that large Australian retailers aren’t seizing the opportunity to help excited consumers and adopters part with their money, limiting them to playing music, asking mathematical questions, and asking what noises various animals make.

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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

 

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