Android Things, Google’s new OS for IoT

By Prometteur solutions 27 Min Read

Do you want to know how to make an Android app for IoT? Get set as Google brings Android and its entire ecosystem to the innovative development of IoT devices. Developers will now be able to create apps for IoT devices, just like they develop regular mobile apps. Google has launched Android Things for android application development with IoT Android Things, to heats up the device market with a new Android OS for the Internet of Things. The new OS contains feedback from Google’s previous Android-based IoT OS, Brillo.

Android Things integrates Weave, the communication platform for IoT devices. OS uses Weave server to handles command propagation, storing of states, device registration and integration with Google services like the Google Assistant with the help of new public SDK for weave communication protocol.

android application development

Primarily Google’s weave device SDK will support sachems for light bulbs, smart plugs and switches, and thermostats and later on company will add more devices to list. Google is also working to merge “Google Weave” and “Nest Weave” together to giving devices on both platforms an upgrade path going forward.

Google claims android things will make android app development simple as never before, If you can build an android application, you can build a device. Android thing allows developers to built devices powered by android things using Android APIs and Google services.

Here are some interesting facts about “Android Things

  1. Android Thing is a re-branded version of Google’s Android-based Internet of Things initiative Brillo.
  2. Brillo used C++ while Android Things targets all Java developers as the primary development environment.
  3. Android Studio, the popular IDE for Android based on JetBrains’ IntelliJ IDEA can be used for IoT development through Android Things.
  4. Android Things OS supports a subset of the original Android SDK. APIs that require user input or authentication credentials are not supported.
  5. OTA updates for Android Phones can also be used for Android things OS updates and custom app updates.
  6. Google recommends Raspberry Pi 3, Intel Edison, and NXP Pico for the initial prototyping and development.
  7. Google Cloud Platform components including Firebase can be easily integrated with Android Things. Android app developers will be able to utilize various cloud services for storage, state management, and messaging.
  8. Weave, an independent protocol can be used with or without Android Things for android application developments

Google’s primary goal for launching Android Things for Android app development was to heat the device market with a brand-new Android operating system. Google made this announcement on the eve of its annual I/O developer conference.

Let’s take a look at the question “What is android IoT?” and what t is all about.

What are IoT Android Things?

To shed more light on the answer to the question “What is android IoT?” we’ll break it down starting from the basics. 

Android Things is an operating system (OS) efficiently managed by the search giant, Google, that allows developers to build highly intelligent IoT devices for a wide variety of customers.

Android Things is now the robust platform that developers focus on to develop the connected devices as well as other things which are managed by Google’s backend infrastructure. This includes:

  • Managing highly secure software updates
  • Integrating smart developer APIs
  • Introducing certified hardware to produce the devices

Android Things integrates the communication platform for IoT devices known as ‘Weave.’ Weave is the communication protocol – built by Google’s Nest Labs division – between the IoT devices that Google uses. And it has been enhanced to access more cloud services directly – including Assistant – which provides device control via voice commands

Operating systems generally use Weave to handle the storing of states, command propagation, device registration, integration with Google Assistant, etc., with the help of brand-new public SDK for Weave communication protocol.

Android Things contains – besides the standard Android API as well as the library to access several Google services – a brand-new library known as ‘Things Support Library’, which comes in 2 distinct features:

  • A Peripheral I/O API which enables access to actuators and sensors via several interfaces and protocols (GPIO, I2C, PWM, SPI, UART)
  • A User Driver API that makes it possible for developers to add new device drivers to an app. This is useful for injecting hardware events into the system, making them available to apps.

Practically, the User Driver API allows developers to extend an IoT device beyond what was available when it came directly from the factory. The already written code for Brillo must be ported, thus replacing low-level I/O code and SELinux configurations with calls to the brand-new Peripheral API.

Google’s Weave device SDK will primarily support sachems for smart plugs, thermostats, smart switches, and light bulbs. And it is expected that the company will add even more devices to the list – including support for custom ones – such as Belkin WeMo, Honeywell, First Alert, LiFX, Wink, TP-Link, etc. 

The primary enhancement introduced by Android Things is the perfect integration with the entire Android ecosystem:

  • Access to Google services such as Authentication, Voice, Assistant, Play, Messaging, etc.
  • IoT android app development via Android APIs on Android Studio
  • Security and general-purpose updates provided to the system via the usual Android channels

Developers will still be able to continue writing code in C/C++ via Android NDK and Java.

Google is still working hard to merge ‘Nest Weave’ and ‘Google Weave’ together to give devices on both platforms a powerful upgrade path going forward.

According to the search giant, Android Things will make IoT android app development incredibly simple. And if you can efficiently build an Android app, it simply means that you can also create a device.

Android Things is a stripped-down version of the Google phone operating system designed for IoT, a network of cheap, small devices like smart home devices and sensors. The concept is that Android would bring about hardware compatibility, easy access to Google’s cloud platform to the Internet of Things, and an established app SDK.

This also includes regular security updates, which are unheard of within the fire-and-forget IoT firmware space. Android always receives lots of flak for its lack of ability to update every smartphone with little or no delay. In IoT, where your device may never receive any firmware update, Android’s distinctive 3-to-6 month-late update cycle would be an unbelievable upgrade to the security universe of the Internet of Things.

Therefore, in simple words, without Android Things, developers may not know how to make Android app for IoT. But with Android Things, IoT Android app development is now a possibility.

Google’s Announcement

Google announced the stable and final version of Android Things 1.0, its unique operating system for the Internet of Things devices. The operating system had been in development since 2016 under the name ‘Brillo’. 

Developers from around the world downloaded the SDK and provided feedback to Google via workshops, issue tracker, Google+ community, and meetups. 

And this was the feedback that Google worked on to develop its first beta version. 

Based on the 100,000 SDK downloads of the Android Things developer preview and honest feedback from up to 10,000 developers, Google – encouraged by such astronomical figures – released the first version of Android Things. Moreover, Google brought the live demos of the connected IoT devices to the Developers Festival in 2018.

For several months, Google worked with partners like JBL, LG, iHome, Lenovo, etc., to include Smart Displays and Smart Speakers using Android Things. It is also believed that these products will also feature Google Cast and Google Assistant.

But Android Things has now been made available as a Developer Preview. The final version is now official, and the first devices to emanate from IoT android app development will soon hit the market.

Google has been steadily dominating the smartphone platform with Android. But IoT devices are swiftly emerging as the next big platform behind the smartphone. 

The search engine giant is offering Android Things free of charge for non-commercial users, thereby efficiently managing up to 100 devices through the new console. And for those who need over 100 devices, Google is providing commercial subscriptions. 

According to the search giant, Android Things 1.0 will offer up to 3 years of support for every one of its long-term releases. This Android app development software will include updates with security patches and stability fixes. 

Security is now vitally important within the IoT sector. It will include objects that interact with our daily lives and external attacks that may be much more dangerous than expected. 

After the 3-year support for every version of this operating system, there will be extra options for extended support. Product manufacturers will then be able to release their updates. 

Google also announced the compatibility with brand-new System-on-Modules, which will power IoT devices. These are SoC (System-on-Chip) plus Flash Storage, RAM, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and some other components. Qualcomm also intended to partner with the search engine giant on Android Things OS, which supports scalable, rapid, and security-focused IoT and Android app development.

This is the move that will enable developers to display their expertise in Qualcomm Snapdragon Processors and Android in order to accelerate the development of IoT solutions. Android Things is expected to be released much more broadly on Snapdragon processors.

 The new hardware modules that are powerfully supported are Qualcomm SDA212, NXPi.MX8M, MediaTek MT8516, and Qualcomm SDA624. It also supports Intel Edison, Intel Joule 570x, NXP Pico i.MXUL, and NXP Argon i.MX6UL.

The Developer Preview of the OS already supports NXP i.MX6UL, Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, and NXP i. MX7D. The compatibility with Raspberry Pi 3 Model B and NXP i. MX7D will remain. But the Android Things 1.0 version will no longer support NXP i. MX6UL.

Entry barriers for Google:

Microsoft’s Windows 10 IoT to hobbyists and OEMs. Despite not having any device OS, Amazon is making AWS Lambda available to IoT developers. AWS is partnering with device manufacturers to bundle Lambda Greengrass, a local version of AWS Lambda that can be installed in IoT devices and hubs.

Though Google doesn’t have potential client tale at this moment but there is short list of clients using weave to connect to goggle assistance includes SmartThings and Hue whereas “Belkin WeMo, LiFX, Honeywell, Wink, TP-Link, First Alert are working on adopting Weave, too.

The Android Things, a highly secure platform with regular updates is going to acquire a high market share for IoT, The OS will soon have a public source code release, which sounds exciting for the whole android app developer community.

Entry Barriers for the Search Engine Giant

Microsoft’s Windows 10 IoT to OEMs and hobbyists. Amazon is presently making AWS Lambda available to developers involved in IoT android app development, irrespective of the simple fact that the eCommerce giant does not have any device operating system. 

AWS is currently partnering with several device manufacturers in order to bundle Lambda Greengrass, which is the local version of AWS Lambda that can be installed in hubs and IoT devices.

Although the search giant, Google, does not have any potential clientele at this particular moment. However, there is a shortlist of clients that use Weave to connect to Google Assistant. 

Android Things will be a highly secure platform with updates from time to time. It is going to acquire an incredibly high market share for IoT. The operating system is expected to have a public source code release, which sounds pretty exciting for the entire Android app developer community. 

More Interesting Facts About Android Things

  1. Android Things is Google’s re-branded Android-based Internet of Things initiative Brillo.
  2. Android Studio is a very popular IDE for Android-based primarily on JetBrain’s IntelliJ DEA and can be used for IoT android app development via Android Things.
  3. Brillo used C++, while Android Things is designed to target all Java developers as the #1 or primary development environment.
  4. OTA updates for Android phones can also be utilized for Android Things operating system updates as well as custom app updates.
  5. Android Things operating system supports a subset of the original Android SDK. But APIs that require authentication credential or user input is not supported.
  6. Google Cloud Platform components – including Firebase – can be integrated easily with Android Things. IoT app developers and regular android app developers will be able to use a wide variety of cloud services for state management, storage, and messaging.
  7. Google highly recommends Raspberry Pi 3, NXP Pico, and Intel Edison for the initial or first prototyping and development.
  8. Weave, the independent protocol, can be utilized with or without Android Things for IoT android app development.

Google has shown a very keen interest in working actively with startups with innovative ideas in order to convert user needs in connected devices. Google declares that it would provide support and in-depth guidance to startups to help them build tremendous and functional connected devices. 

By releasing the beta version and extending the support to be provided to startups to build or develop smart applications, one can expect the birth of more innovative, connected devices in the coming years.

The IoT Industry

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the concept of a global network of several inter-connected devices or appliances that share data across cyberspace. Innovators and creators are presently creating appliances and devices that can efficiently talk to each other. This includes lamps that effectively monitor your sleep, flower pots that efficiently water themselves, etc.

The IoT industry is now growing at a fast and furious pace. Even Forbes predicted that the Internet of Things market would almost treble in size to about $457 billion between 2016 and 2020.

However, since the industry has an open-source nature as well as a complete lack of central programming standards, it has led to the spawning of a motley assortment of a wide variety of operating systems. 

IoT products abound on the market today, making it pretty challenging for them to communicate efficiently. And they are even creating lots of gaps that hackers readily exploit.

This is one of the primary reasons the search engine giant, Google, is attempting to address by rolling out the first version of Android Things, its own OS (operating system) for IoT devices. Android Things will facilitate the standardization of the IoT universe and also ensure every chatty little gadget speaks the same language. It is expected to serve as an extension of existing form factors such as Android Automotive and Android TV.

If you are familiar with most Android OS variants before now, you will notice lots of prominent features. However, as mentioned earlier, the new version is striped-back for IoT devices. Most of these features don’t do anything other than sharing basic data such as moisture and temperature. 

And there is zero need for those ‘intelligent’ or ‘smart’ functions of tablets and smartphones. 

Android Application Development Software

Developers can use the same rich SDK or software development kit to build Android smartphone applications to build IoT apps. And the programming language – i.e. Kotlin – and environment – i.e. Android Studio –  are both relatively standard. 

Whenever you want to add some features to your Android applications, you will always find a variant of Google Play Services optimized efficiently for IoT, along with the same Connectivity APIs and UI toolkit. Of course, as mentioned earlier, brand-new APIs are currently available through the support library.

Android applications can be easily integrated with Google services such as TensorPro, FireBase, as well as the Google Cloud Platform.

Android Things is developed to be super-fast. This means there is practically no need for a browser or launcher, meaning that its boots efficiently and directly into the applications. This will significantly help minimize boot time and reduce your memory footprint. 

This platform is also designed effectively to be secure. This provides a very robust defense against nefarious bugs that have somehow infested Android smartphones in the recent past.

How precisely did Google tighten up security, you may be asking? Well, the good news is that the entire security update process has been taken out of your hands. This was why Google promised to update every single product created with Android Things, and this will go on for at least 3 years right from Google OTA (over the air) for free. 

The only thing you need to do is push them out through the Android Things Console. After several years of open-source development – with every one of its attendant weaknesses – this brand-new approach will definitely make hackers work a bit harder and sweat more when carrying out their nefarious activities.

The Downside to Allowing Google Control Everything

Despite the apparent benefits of using Android Things, there is also a potential downside. The search engine giant’s attempt to control nearly every bit of the update process as much as possible simply implies that Android Things users will not have too much room for maneuver.

Don’t even fancy updating the operating system on your own because Google will not allow you. Nevertheless, the simplicity of Android Things and the search engine giant’s control-freakery have a lot more positives than negatives.

Google’s Android Things is the Game Changer

It is apparent that Google hopes that Android Things will become the #1 or go-to standard for every developer that wants to delve into IoT android app development. 

The tech company conveniently accompanied Android Things with Weave, which will provide the pathway for all IoT devices to effectively talk to each other without the need for using Wi-Fi. This is the crucial advantage for most of the smaller applications that are built by savvy developers using Android Things.

Google is presently pushing developers to a brand-new community page that showcases several game-changing applications or a wide range of products built using Android Things. Here are the top 3 favorites:

When you look at these shades from a distance, they look precisely like regular Oakleys or Ray-Bans. But there is no glass in them whatsoever. 

In fact, the frame is a façade as it is designed only to hold a camera that snaps images for the blind individual that wears the device. The photos are swiftly and efficiently analyzed using tensor flow and then described to the device’s wearer using headphones or speakers.

The SMART glasses for the blind provide an audio commentary and a potential early warning system.

2. The FRILLER Explorer Robot

This is a 3D-printed futurist’s fantasy that makes use of sensors in order to change the overall size of its wheels in direct response to the terrain. This enables the robot to probe tiny spaces as well as overcome obstacles.

The FRILLER Explorer Robot runs off Wi-Fi, and developers are still working to improve it, hoping to make it fully independent or autonomous.

BrewCentral is innovatively designed to soup up homebrew kits that were once anchored by the DIY-booze industry. It is intended to be an add-on to a conventional home brewing rig.

BrewCentral manages volume, temperature, and flow rates in order to ensure the entire process runs seamlessly. This makes it much easier to create homebrews that do not take like paint-strippers.

The Future of Android Things

Now that Google is presently on the scene, the IoT market is expected to explode. The industry has a noticeable and clear development platform, complete with a standard programming language as well as one of the world’s largest organization underpinning it all.

Android Things operating system is the brainchild of the search giant, Google. And it is poised to revolutionize the IoT universe, making it incredibly easy for developers to engage heartily in IoT android app development.

If you want to know how to make an android app for IoT or desire to have one created for your business or establishment, get in touch with Prometteur Solutions Pvt. Ltd. 

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