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Android Things: Google’s New IoT Development Platform

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In the connected world, we live in today, IoT or, Internet of Things is a range. It consists of a vast network of devices connected to the Internet. It includes almost everything with a sensor on it, from smartphones to cars, jet engines or oil drills.

IoT – and the machine-to-machine (M2M) technology behind it – are bringing a kind of “super visibility” to nearly every industry. Imagine utilities and telcos that can predict and prevent service outages, airlines that can remotely monitor and optimize plane performance, and healthcare organizations that can base treatment on real-time genome analysis. The business possibilities are endless.  

Keeping up with the present scenario, Google announced a developer preview of Android Things, an update to its IoT developer platform.

Android Things

Android Things is a comprehensive way to build IoT products with the power of Android, one of the world’s most supported operating systems. A rebranding of Project Brillo, Google’s Android Things is the latest addition to the Android family alongside Android TV, Android Auto, and Android Wear.

Android Things simplifies building a smart device greatly because of it’s:

  • Android Ecosystem

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. In short, users can leverage existing Android development tools, APIs, resources and the thriving developer community.

  • New APIs for IoT devices

Android Things allows users to develop with new Android framework APIs that provide low level I/O and libraries for common components like temperature sensors, display controllers and more.

  • Trusted security

Updates have always been a problem with Android, but Google aims at making it “highly secure with updates direct from Google.” Their blog post says that in the coming months newer developer previews will support some kind of “infrastructure” that allows developers to securely push out images and OTA updates on their own schedule.

Turnkey Hardware Solutions

There are several turnkey hardware solutions available to get started building real products with Android Things, including Intel Edison, NXP Pico, and Raspberry Pi 3. It can easily be scale to large production runs with custom designs while continuing to use the same Board Support Package (BSP) from Google. It is basically a stripped-down version of Android aimed at cheap, ultra-low-end IoT hardware.

They work with SoC partners to build Android Things certified development boards that contain SoMs (System-on-Modules) to speed up developing.

SoMs integrate the SoC, RAM, Flash Storage, WiFi, Bluetooth and other components onto a single board and come with all of the necessary FCC certifications. These can be used to optimize board design by compressing existing modules onto a PCB to save costs and space.

The Board Support Package (BSP) is managed by Google. This provides a trusted platform to develop on with standard updates and fixes from Google.

Updating Weave Platform

Google is also updating the Weave platform, releasing a public device SDK for Weave communication protocol. Weave provides all the cloud infrastructure so that developers can focus on building their products without investing in cloud services. Device makers like Philips Hue and Samsung SmartThings already use Weave. Several others like Belkin WeMo, LiFX, Honeywell, Wink, TP-Link and First Alert are implementing it. Presently, the Weave Device SDK supports schemas for light bulbs, smart plugs, switches, and thermostats. However, in coming months it aims to add support for additional device types, custom traits and mobile APIs for Android and iOS.

Lastly, Google is also working on merging Weave and Nest to enable all classes of the device to connect with each other in a secure and reliable way.    

Conclusion

With the Android Things finally coming out of its close invite system, and a near-future release of the public source code, users can get to build from prototypes to complete products.

The easy-to-use development platform and assurance of added security compared with the almost non-existent security in IoT market today push the bars up. Moreover, Android Things reduces the large upfront development costs. Ongoing engineering and testing costs, too are reduced by Google-provided updates.

Android Things has definitely used the ease and power of Android well to build connected devices for a wide variety of consumer, retail, and industrial applications.

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