Google and its Internet of Things Strategy

Aug 28, 2015

Google recently announced the launch of OnHub, a router for the home. OnHub, is not your ordinary home router, but a smart router, which runs on Google’s IoT operating system (OS), Brillo and supports Wi-Fi connections as well as BluetoothSmart, Thread and Zigbee. This announcement is not just the company’s entrance into the router business, but a part of its larger IoT strategy. With OnHub, Google is hoping to secure a position as a gatekeeper of the connected home.   

Brillo and Weave

Earlier this year at the Google I/O, the company announced Brillo, a light OS for IoT devices, a slimmed down Android OS that supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy, Thread protocol and can run on devices with lower memory and processing power. Brillo can run on locks, ovens, heating systems, creating a common platform that facilitates communication between these devices.

The IoT is fragmented with different frameworks and protocols resulting in the development of devices that work in isolation from the rest of the ecosystem. With Brillo, Google aims to create a common framework and unified system that encourages device communication. It also launched Weave, a cross-platform communication layer that will bridge the communication gap between Brillo-based devices and other devices running on legacy or competing platforms. So, Weave will establish a common language that all Weave-certified devices, whether based on Brillo or otherwise, can understand. To quote an example offered by Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, if the user were to unlock the front door by tapping a button on the smartphone, it’s not just the door, but other devices such as the thermostat or the light bulb inside the home, that recognizes the ‘Unlock’ command.

With Brillo and Weave, Google’s immediate focus is on the smart home market; however, it says its ambitions extend to other IoT domains.

Nest

Google first floated the idea of a platform for the home in 2011, in the form of Android@Home, which never materialized in the market. However, its acquisition of Nest has provided a better way through the front door, as a stylish ‘learning thermostat’ designed to interact with other devices in the home.  

Google is looking to replicate the success of its market-leading Android platform in the IoT domain. The company has a competitive edge, because of its experience developing and offering Android tool kits for mobile application developers.

More information about the developer kits for Brillo and Weave will be revealed during Google’s developer previews scheduled for Q3 and Q4 2015 respectively.

Home turf wars

Conflicting and fragmented protocols and standards are holding back the IoT. Providers are competing for territory with their own platforms (such as AllSeen Alliance, Apple HomeKit and Samsung SmartThings and Google Brillo and Weave) and racing to build connected ecosystems of developers, devices and applications. 

With the establishment of Alphabet, Google has signalled its intention to explore opportunities beyond its traditional domain; and the connected home and the larger IoT space is a prime target. Brillo as an open technology, and Weave as a cross-platform solution, could help consolidate the market. The Internet giant’s sheer size will ensure it quickly grabs market share and developer interest.

 


Shuba Ramkumar

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