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Thursday, 12 May 2011 12:06

Google kicks off Android home invasion


For the past couple of years a number of companies have been employing Android in a range of non-mobile applications. With Google now focussing on the home appliance and home networking market the industry is likely to accelerate rapidly.

At its I/O developer conference in San Francisco earlier this week Google showed a sneak preview of its Android@Home project, which will extend the Android platform into household objects.

Wired reported this development saying: "The first Android smartphone came in 2008. Then in 2010, the platform appeared on tablets. Now, Android wants to move into your home."

That is nothing new. Almost two years ago, in an piece on this site headed "Get Ready for the Android home invasion" I said: "A series of recent developments point to the Android software platform, developed for mobile devices, finding its way into a whole range of smart household appliances by the end of this year."

OK, so my timing was a bit out, but blame that on San Francisco based company Touch Revolution, which had been reported by Forbes magazine saying: "a string of well-known companies" would introduce a variety of Android-powered household gadgets before the end of 2009.

However I did point out that there was already considerable momentum behind Android's push into the home, in particular the Open Embedded Software Foundation (OESF), an organisation founded in Japan in February 2009 focused on driving Android beyond mobile handsets and of which Google had been reported as saying: "We give our all-out support to the aim of the OESF. We are holding high expectations for the OESF's activities, as our activities are concentrating on the mobile phone market. We hope the OESF will cooperate with the Open Handset Alliance (OHA) and promote developments that do not overlap with the OHA's projects."

With the unveiling of Android@Home, Google has clearly expanded its Android horizons and while Wired, and Google might portray this as a pioneering initiative it will in reality legitimise and accelerate an industry that has been quietly developing for the past couple of years beneath the radar as Android has gathered momentum in the mobile market.

Wired, suitably impressed by Google's demo of Android@Home, said: "Google explains it has essentially created a framework to control wireless communication between objects in your house'¦That means some day in the future, you could control home appliances- your dishwasher, the heating system, the lights in your house - using your Android device as a remote control."


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These are exactly the applications that some of the early Android pioneers were targeting. Back in 2009 Forbes had reported Bill Brown, Touch Revolution's vice president of marketing, saying that Android devices for the home based on his company's technology would fall into three basic categories: home control devices, media control devices and home phones and that the home control devices would talk to household systems such as lights, locks, security and heating/ventilation/air conditioning.

Another company pushing Android into the home back then was MIPS Technologies which had ported the Android platform to the MIPS architecture and made the source code publicly saying "MIPS developers can now begin using this revolutionary platform for consumer devices such as set-top boxes, digital TVs, mobile Internet devices (MIDs), home media players and VoIP systems."

There is even an Australian company in the game. In February 2010 Sydney-based Fluffy Spider Technologies announced that it had ported its FancyPants user interface to Android, targeting mainstream mobile applications and others beyond mobile such as set-top boxes, DVRs, printers etc. It claimed that FancyPants 3.0 "gives original equipment manufacturers of Android-based devices and their channel partners new capabilities to differentiate their wares in an increasingly crowded marketplace."

Wired reported that, in addition to the Android@Home preview, Google had debuted Android Open Accessory support that allows external hardware, like a mouse or an Xbox controller, to interact with an Android-powered device and that to spur the development of further peripherals able to interact with Android devices. And it quoted Google director of product management Hugo Barra, saying: "As an open platform'¦Android was always meant to go well beyond the mobile phone."

With Ericsson forecasting 50 billion connected devices by 2015 and Google now clearly supporting the non-mobile Android market, the sky's the limit.

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