Today Google is announcing a developer preview and rebrand of Project Brillo, Google’s Android-based Internet of Things initiative. The new name highlights the project’s Android base—it’s called “Android Things.”
“Android Things” joins the Android family alongside Android TV, Android Auto, and Android Wear. At its heart, Android Things is a stripped-down version of Android aimed at cheap, ultra-low-end IoT hardware. Today Google’s developer preview is offering “turnkey” support for the Intel Edison, NXP Pico, and the Raspberry Pi 3. If you remember the Raspberry Pi 3 showing up in Google’s AOSP repository earlier this year, now we know why.
Google has also partnered with these companies to create a smooth upgrade path from development hardware to a large-scale production run.
Android Things allows developers to build a smart device using Android APIs and Google Services. This takes the usual Android development stack—Android Studio, the official SDK, and Google Play Services—and applies it to the IoT. Developers will be able to use the Google Weave protocol to communicate between devices along with Google Cloud services like Google Cloud Vision.
Of course updates are always a problem with Android phones, but Google is trying to solve that here with “updates direct from Google.” The post says that “in the coming months” newer developer previews will support some kind of “infrastructure” so developers can push out images and OTA updates on their own schedule. This sounds way better than most of the IoT market, which has an almost nonexistent approach to security. A platform with regular updates would go a long way to fix that.
Google is also releasing a public device SDK for the Weave communication protocol, along with a management console and access to the Google Assistant. At the moment, the Weave Device SDK supports schemas for light bulbs, smart plugs and switches, and thermostats, with more device types coming soon. Google is also working to rectify the current (crazy) situation where “Google Weave” and “Nest Weave” are two different things. The blog post says the company is working toward merging the two while giving devices on both platforms an upgrade path going forward. Google says that SmartThings and Hue are already using Weave to connect to the Google Assistant and says that “Belkin WeMo, LiFX, Honeywell, Wink, TP-Link, First Alert, and more” are working on adopting Weave, too.
With today’s announcement, Brillo/Android Things is also finally coming out of its closed “invite” program and will soon have a public source code release. We’ll finally be able to stop talking about Brillo/Android Things in vague generalities and see what Google is actually offering, which sounds exciting.