What is Android Things?
With the IoT in its infancy, Google has released its own software platform for developers. Martyn Casserly reports
Google recently announced the release of a new IoT (Internet of Things) platform that utilises the power of Android and will allow developers to easily create new smart devices.
Android Things is its name and there’s a real chance that the platform could be a very big deal. We take a quick look at what is Android Things and why it matters.
What is the Internet of Things?
There’s been a lot of talk about IoT over the past few years. This is due to the fact that technology has now reached a point where small, low power, internet enabled circuitry can be cheaply integrated into a number of products. This explains the growth in internet security cameras, door locks, thermostats, lights and, yes, even smart fridges.
The principle of the IoT is that these products use the web to communicate with each other and their owner (usually via a smartphone app) and take care of simple tasks automatically or via remote commands. Essentially it allows you to turn on the heating before you arrive home or be reminded to pick up some milk because you’re running low. Of course Red Dwarf did warn us of a future where we were terrorised by talking toasters, but hopefully we have heeded those lessons well.
There are still a few fundamentals to be worked out as the IoT becomes a mainstream reality, principle of which is what software platforms the various devices will support. Google’s release of the Android Things developer beta will be welcome news to those who prefer the Android way of life, while Apple’s already prevalent HomeKit option currently caters for those with iOS devices. There will no doubt be a fair amount of crossover in regards of products, but the real ground will be taken by those who make it easy
and profitable for devices to be made and run on their side of the fence.
What does it do and who is it for?
Android Things enables Android developers to create new smart devices that use Google’s existing services and Android APIs to accomplish tasks. This is bolstered by Google providing regular security updates for the platform.
Initially the supported hardware will include Intel Edison, NXP Pico, and Raspberry Pi 3, all of which – according to Google – can be scaled up to large production runs.
The new software builds on Google’s previous IoT project Brillo, incorporating several useful tools from that experience. These include Google Play Services, Google Cloud Platform, Android Studio, and the Android Software Development Kit. The company is also updating the Weave platform to make it easier for devices to connect to the cloud and interact with the new central part of the Google smart system – Google Assistant.
There are already a number of big name companies adopting Weave – including Belkin WeMo, TP-Link, Philips Hue, Honeywell, and LiFX – so we would expect to see some Android Things enabled products appearing before too long and focused on the Smart Home market.
It’s good to see Google focusing on the IoT area, as it feels a very natural place for the search giant’s expertise to really shine. Now a great first step would be to release Google Home in the UK, so we can all get a taste for the cloud-based world of tomorrow.