Google appears ready to tackle Tizen, HomeKit with its own IoT platform

Perhaps this is Android@Home round two, but Google will reportedly launch a light software platform for the Internet of Things next week.
Written by Kevin Tofel, Contributor

It's not terribly surprising that Google wants to connect everything to the web. After all, more web usage, particularly with Google search and apps, leads to more information for the company. And that in turn leads to more potential revenue through targeted advertisements.

What may be more surprising is a new Google platform specifically for the Internet of Things (IoT): The Information reported that Google is working on software called Brillo for that very reason. I would have thought Android, or at least parts of it, could be the underlying IoT platform.

Perhaps Android is too "heavy", however.

By that I mean the software has relatively hefty hardware requirements compared to a smart light switch, garage door opener, doorbell, or smart electricity meter. Brillo could run on devices with as little as 32 to 64 MB of memory while phones minimally have ten times or more memory.

Google actually headed down a similar path in the past. Remember Android@Home? You'll be forgiven if you don't: The platform was introduced at the 2011 Google I/O Developer event and never amounted any tangible products.

The landscape has changed much in four years, however.

Now, we're on the verge of seeing products that support Apple's year-old HomeKit platform, for example. And at a January Consumer Electronics Show keynote address, Samsung announced its Tizen software would be central to the company's IoT strategy. There are now more competitors in this space and we're seeing actual progress in it.

Google itself has made some of that progress, at least on the hardware side. The company bought Nest for $3.2 billion and later added DropCam to its acquisition list.

It could be that some of the old Android@Home bits will live on in Brillo but that's the least of my questions.

I'm wondering how open Brillo will actually be since Apple and Samsung are making a platform play here: It's near a certainty that you'll need an iOS device for HomeKit, for example.

Will Google, which touts more openness than its peers, lock users in with Android for Brillo or will it provide a truly open framework?

And how will Google entice hardware partners to embrace Brillo? Samsung faces less of a challenge here because it is its own best hardware partner: The company makes televisions, household appliances, computers and more that could work with Tizen.

As I said, Google has meandered down this road before. Let's see what it announces at next week's Google I/O event to see if the company is any farther along towards a final destination.

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