Tag Archives: Google

Google to acquire Dyson?

Back in 2014/2015, I wondered whether it would make sense for Google to acquire Dyson.

Growth of Alphabet/Google hardware presence

In order to keep their advantage in the search and data sphere, Google (now Alphabet) ramped up their presence in lots of emerging hardware spaces via acquisitions such as Motorola, Boston Dynamics and Nest Labs. Also, Google has developed their own technology innovations at Google X (now simply X), such as the world-leading autonomous vehicle company, Waymo.

In order to fully commercialise such acquisitions and innovations, Google needed to have access to an abundance of world-class hardware product development and marketing experience.

Google made a step towards this in 2014 when they acqui-hired a design firm based in California called Gecko Design. However, I believed Gecko Design was not big enough to fill this void alone.

This left me wondering whether Dyson would be a good fit to help satisfy this need for design engineering firepower.

Dyson’s common interests with Google

Dyson was rumoured to be working on an electric car after it acquired battery company Sakti3 (which has now been publicly confirmed) and also invested £5m with my alma mater, Imperial College, to develop next-generation robots, resulting in the Dyson Robotics Lab.

Given Alphabet’s world-leading autonomous vehicle project, Waymo, and it’s previous interest in robots, I thought that an acquisition of Dyson would give Alphabet/Google a huge advantage with its massive team of 4,800 design engineers.

Dyson and Alphabet have other visions of the future in common. One notable example is Halo (see right), Dyson’s previous prototype of a Google Glass-type device that they built 10 years before Google launched it!

Would Sir James Dyson sell?

As of 2018, a tie-up between the two companies has not yet emerged. In many ways it is unsurprising, as Sir James and his family appear to own 100% of Dyson, so why give up control? (On that topic, there is a great interview with Sir James on NPR’s How I Built This podcast about how he grew his business which explains that surprising fact).

Also, Sir James is a vocal advocate of keeping engineers in Britain and growing British talent to boost industry and our economy.

His leadership on this issue includes launching his own university with a £15m investment, called the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology, and his £12m donation to Imperial College to launch the Dyson School of Design Engineering (as well as the previously mentioned Dyson Robotics Lab).

In short, I’m not going to hold my breath for this one. However, it will be fascinating to see how Google and Dyson both fare in the autonomous and electric vehicle markets. Perhaps future collaboration or a joint venture could be on the cards?

Comparing Google Plus Codes with what3words

Geocoding systems are essentially software address systems that assign labels to geographic locations in order to improve navigation and the processing of locational data.

Apparently, around 50% of the world’s population doesn’t have a formal physical address, which is a barrier to the access of banking, mail, and emergency services. This is clearly, therefore, an extremely important problem to be solved.

There are lots of different types of these systems, but two notable examples are Google Plus Codes and what3words.

Google Plus Codes

Google Plus Codes, also known as Open Location Code (OLC), was designed by Google’s Zurich Engineering office.

The system assigns each location a short code that is used alongside the name of the settlement or prefixes it with another short string of characters. For example, Nelson’s Column on Trafalgar Square is either GV5C+4R Central London, UK or 9C3XGV5C+4R).

There is a great post by the creators of Plus Codes that evaluates the different “location encoding systems” and explains the rationale behind Plus Codes here.

The main benefit of OLC is that it is a free, open source system. However, a big negative for me is that it is extremely hard to memorise that many characters (see graph below to illustrate the point). I also find it confusing that there is both a long version and a short version of each address point.


what3words (w3w) is a system developed by a London-based startup of the same name that divides the world into 3×3 meter squares and assigns each one a unique 3-word identifier. In this system, Nelson’s Column is life.swung.pounds.

To use what3words requires paying to get access, so I do wonder whether this will limit the adoption rate compared to Plus Codes which has been opened up to the developer community.

However, the beauty of w3w is that the use of only three words makes it super-user friendly and memorable (see graph below).

There are some minor challenges: for example, two locations next to each other will have totally different codes, so you can’t look at two codes and understand if they are close or not. However, they are vastly outweighed by the user-friendly nature of having only 3 words to remember.


I think that the what3word system is a phenomenal tool and usage will grow exponentially over the next 10 years due to its simplicity.

I personally think that Google Plus codes, although a great invention and one with potential uses, will struggle to get adopted by everyday users in the same way.

One thing that intrigues me though. Could what3words make more money by making the entire address system available for free to everyone and then charging for services around it? It would be fascinating to play with the financial model there!