Google’s Android Things IoT Platform Promises Secure Update

Google announced Android Things, an operating system for Internet of Things devices that promises secure update capabilities.

In-brief: Google on Tuesday unveiled Android Things, a new Internet of Things platform based on its Android mobile operating system and earlier forays into the Internet of Things operating space.

Google on Tuesday unveiled Android Things, a new Internet of Things platform based on its Android mobile operating system and earlier forays into the Internet of Things operating space.

From Google’s announcement:

Now any Android developer can quickly build a smart device using Android APIs and Google services, while staying highly secure with updates direct from Google. We incorporated the feedback from Project Brillo to include familiar tools such as Android Studio, the Android Software Development Kit (SDK), Google Play Services, and Google Cloud Platform.

Importantly, the new platform will include what Google describes as “the infrastructure for securely pushing regular OS patches, security fixes, and your own updates.”

The Android Things platform will integrate with Google Weave, a communications platform comprising both an SDK (software development kit) and cloud-based server that allows device makers to connect their gadgets to Google’s cloud services to enable features like voice recognition and data analysis. Weave is already used by device makers like Philips Hue and Samsung SmartThings and Google says others are implementing it including Belkin’s WeMo, LiFX, Honeywell, Wink, TP-Link, and First Alert.

Google said that developers who want to use Android Things already have “turnkey” integrations with IoT platforms including Intel’s Edison, NXP’s Pico and Raspberry Pi 3.

Changes in the Weave platform will make it easier for heterogeneous devices to connect to the cloud and interact with services like the Google Assistant. Google will also be adding more ready-made schemas to its Weave SDK to support a wider variety of IoT device types. Current Weave schemas support light bulbs, smart plugs and switches, and thermostats. The company wants to supplement those with support for custom schemas and traits and a mobile application API for Android and iOS. Eventually, Google wants to bridge its Weave and product specific Nest Weave – the company’s most popular IoT product – so that a variety of smart devices can connect and communicate with each other.

Android Things is an outgrowth of its earlier Brillo IoT platform and incorporates feedback from that project, Google said in a statement.

Secure update features is widely regarded as a necessary development as companies look for ways to create secure and manageable ecosystems of connected devices. The inability of companies to centrally manage deployed devices by supplying patches and critical security updates has been an issue in a number of high-profile incidents, including the recent Mirai botnet attacks, as well as the hack of the Fiat Chrysler Jeep Cherokee in 2015.

Google is just one company competing to offer the “Microsoft Windows” of the Internet of Things – if such a thing is even possible. (I don’t think it is.) Among its competitors is…Microsoft, which has tuned Windows 10 to run on small, embedded devices. Like Google, Microsoft is promising easy integration with its cloud services (Azure) and the benefit of advanced analytics features. The company Microsoft used the WinHEC coference in Shenzhen, China to announce that its Cortana voice recognition software would arrive on Windows IoT Core as part of the Windows 10 Creators Update.

Other vendors such as WindRiver (VxWorks) and GreenHills Software (Integrity) have long sold so-called Real Time Operating Systems (RTOS) to industrial firms and device makers. There isn’t much daylight between those and IoT operating systems. Further, there are many open source offerings to run on IoT platforms like the Raspberry Pi. Just announced changes to the Linux kernel will allow it to run on the tiny Raspberry Pi Zero platform as well as other embedded systems.

Source: Announcing updates to Google’s Internet of Things platform: Android Things and Weave | Android Developers Blog


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