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Sure, Just what IoT needs: A new OS and communications layer, this time from Google

28 May, 2015

The rumors were right. This morning Google announced it will introduce a stripped down version of Android designed to run Internet of Things devices. It also said it will offer a communications layer so devices can communicate with each other, the Internet and phones.

The platforms join several other efforts, many of which have a host of major companies backing them and are aimed at creating standards or de facto standards around various technologies required to enable the IoT.

It's notable that Google didn't mention any partner companies that are backing its technologies since many of the major companies that have expressed interest in playing a role in the IoT have already aligned with other efforts.

That's not to say that Google is unlikely to be successful at attracting users to its new technologies. The company has entered crowded markets in the past – sometimes without partners at the start – and managed to win significant traction.

It has a leg up in the IoT world because it already has important pieces of the puzzle in place. For instance, it owns Nest, the popular smart thermostat. Android is the No. 1 phone platform in the world. And Google has a cloud platform in place that vendors can use to collect and process data from IoT devices.

Brillo, the new IoT OS, is "derived from Android," but includes only what's required to run devices with minimal footprints, said Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Android, Chrome and Apps at Google, while unveiling the OS during Google I/O this morning. He mentioned that it will support Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, although he didn't mention some of the other low-power connectivity possibilities that some IoT companies are interested in, like Zigbee.

Google is also planning to offer a communications layer it calls Weave that will let devices talk to each other, the cloud and phones. Weave is essentially standardized schemas so that all the devices can have a common language, he said. Developers will be able to submit new schemas, and Google plans to run a certification program for them.

He said that Weave can run on Brillo-powered devices or "you can run Weave on top of your existing stack," Pichai said. That implies that proprietary or other IoT OS platforms could use Weave, although he didn't say whether companies building products on non-Brillo IoT devices have signed on to do so.

One key feature Brillo and Weave enable is that Android devices will recognize other devices based on Brillo or Weave.

Google has the weight and established cadre of developers to allow these new technologies to take off. But the company still faces some of the same challenges that have so far held back other efforts at enabling the IoT.

The biggest such challenge is that the truly interesting possibilities of the IoT aren't possible unless all devices can communicate with each other. Unless all device makers adopt the same technologies, though, that won't happen.

There are already a number of initiatives aimed at developing technologies that can enable the IoT. Some are competitive, others are more complimentary. They include the Open Internet Consortium, backed by Cisco, Samsung, GE, Intel, ADT, Honeywell, Siemens, HP, Dell and others; the Allseen Alliance, backed by Microsoft, Qualcomm, LG, Canon, Sony, Panasonic and other big names; the Industrial Internet Consortium with Cisco, AT&T, GE, IBM and Intel involved; and the IPSO Alliance, which counts ARM and Ericsson as backers. 

Related Articles:
Report: Google working on IoT operating system under Android brand
IoT groups ink collaboration deal on standards 
BlackBerry aims for relevancy with new IoT platform


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