App Development

Get your OTT video app ready for Google Home

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday past and the holiday season upon us, there are soon to be thousands more proud owners of Google Home, Google’s recent foray into the realm of the “smart” or “connected” home (as well as its answer to Amazon’s Echo). Home gives users all the search capabilities and assorted superpowers of Google Assistant, but with always-on voice-operated availability. Normally, to use Google Assistant you would either need a Pixel phone or you would need to download the Allo messaging app to your iOS or Android smartphone. Home conveniently turns Assistant into a virtual housemate ready to act on your every request.

Imagine the possibilities. Happily, Google already has!

Google’s marketing touts Home’s ability to control smart home devices, like lights, thermostats, etc., and now TVs are simply another such device courtesy of Google Cast and Chromecast. Home can operate as a Google Cast sender, just like the Chrome browser, Android phones, and smartphone apps supporting Google Cast. This has big delivery implications for OTT streaming video providers, as voice control of such services is relatively uncharted territory. Currently, Home can only cast Youtube videos and Netflix (Netflix came onboard just days ago) but word on the street is that soon Google Play Movies, and potentially many other video providers, will also be streaming options.

Google hasn’t yet made public any specs about enabling a Chromecast video streaming app for Home. That’s probably due to an early focus on bringing big players, like Netflix, to the platform, and learning what that takes in the process. It’s not difficult, however, to anticipate a few things that might need to be in place for this to happen.

First, if licensing and subscriptions are involved at all, user authentication will be necessary in order to access content. Somehow, Home will need to acquire user credentials. For this, the Google Home apps for Android and iOS will presumably allow users to link supported video services, as they do with music services, by requiring a user to sign in. Following that step, a user can also choose a default service, so that vague commands like “Hey Google, play Adele,” will just work. Under the hood, Google home will need to authenticate on a user’s behalf for restricted content, and the most likely means by which it does this is using OAuth to supply an auth token to Home.

Second, Home will need help understanding that when a user requests that a certain video play, that translates to a Chromecast receiver app playing a video asset at a particular URL. The Google Knowledge Graph provides the smarts underlying Home’s knowledge and abilities. That graph accumulates its knowledge the same way Google Search does generally, by crawling the web. To slip hints to the Knowledge Graph about playing Game of Thrones using HBO Now, for example, HBO would need a public facing web page marked up with structured data for TV and movies, which indicate possible view actions and watch actions. The Google search bot consumes this markup, understands its semantics, and passes anything learned along to the Knowledge Graph. Watch actions are the primary aid to Home when a user expects Game of Thrones to simply start playing, as these specify URLs for directly streaming a video.

After marking up public video content web pages with structured data, a video service provider needs to reach out to Google for the final stretch. Google no doubt wants to ensure all technical implementations and the user experience of video services supported by Home are of the highest quality—some sort of vetting and certification is probably needed before all is said and done—so from this point on, service providers enter into a partnership with Google to hammer out the final product.

Of course, there could be more than this to readying an OTT video service to work with Google Home and Google Cast. Time, and Google, will ultimately tell. Chances are good, however, that if you are a video service provider wanting to get in on the ground floor with Home, working OAuth and structured data into your short-term development roadmap will pay off.

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