Google I/O is still a day away, but the tech giant has already revealed some of the goodies it will be announcing. Chief among these is the official release of the Google Things operating system. So what exactly is it? And do ordinary people need to care? Here are the details.
What is Google Things?
As its name suggests, Google Things is an Android OS specifically geared towards Internet Of Things (IoT) devices. Think smart watches, fitness trackers, smart home sensors and other gadgets that require the internet to run. Unlike the full version of Android, it is designed to run on very low-powered hardware. It has also been used extensively in research projects, such as air pollution monitoring and various robotics initiatives.
What's new in the official release?
The release of Google Things 1.0 coincides with the availability of new kits for developers that bundle software and hardware components for IoT creators. For example, the Android Things Starter Kit comes with a 5-inch multi-touch display, a camera module, a Wi-Fi antenna, a Pico i.MX7Dual development board and associated screws and cables - everything a developer needs to build that first prototype gizmo.
Here's the official spiel from the Google Things blog:
Android Things is Google's managed OS that enables you to build and maintain Internet of Things devices at scale. We provide a robust platform that does the heavy lifting with certified hardware, rich developer APIs, and secure managed software updates using Google's back-end infrastructure, so you can focus on building your product.
The official version also ushers in support for System-on-Modules (SoMs) based on the NXP i.MX8M, Qualcomm SDA212, Qualcomm SDA624, and MediaTek MT8516 hardware platforms. "These modules are certified for production use with guaranteed long-term support for three years, making it easier to bring prototypes to market," Google explains.
I'm not a developer. Do I need to care?
If you're not an IoT developer or hobbyist, the only thing you need to know is that Google Things makes it easier for inventors to get their gadgets to market. It should also make IoT devices that run on Android safer to use.
The system allows software and security updates to be instantly pushed through by Google. Much like with the Nexus and Pixel phone series, Google is essentially bypassing the manufacturer to provide instant updates to all Google Things devices. Needless to say, this is an important control to have in today's era of hacked TVs and baby monitors; especially when third-party vendors aren't always quick to act.
If you're keen to learn more about the wild and varied things Google Things makes possible, check out the hackster.io's product page!