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Monday, 12 September 2011 08:27

Motorola acquisition boosts Android's home automation prospects


At its I/O developer conference in San Francisco in May Google gave a sneak preview of its Android@Home project, designed to extend the Android platform into household objects. Its acquisition of Motorola Mobility adds a whole new dimension to this, thanks to Motorola's 4Home business.


Wired Magazine reported the news enthusiastically saying "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." And it quoted Google's director of product management Hugo Barra, saying: "As an open platform'¦Android was always meant to go well beyond the mobile phone."

I pointed out at the time that the move of Android beyond mobile and into the home was nothing new and had in fact been underway for a couple of years. I'd written about it in a piece entitled "Get Ready for the Android home invasion", published in August 2009.

So far Android@Home appears to be like a duck: it's all happening beneath the surface. A quick Google search did not reveal anything much later than reports of that May announcement. However since then Google's $US12.5b acquisition of Motorola Mobility has added a whole new dimension, in the form of 4Home, a home automation platform specialist acquired by Motorola in December 2010.

Motorola Mobility said when it announced the deal that: "4Home delivers connected home services through its carrier-grade software platform, ControlPoint. These services include energy management, home security and monitoring, media management and home health. ControlPoint is based on a customisable design, using open standards that allow partners to develop compelling new services for consumers that utilise the growing number of connected devices in the home'¦A single copy of the networked ControlPoint software installed anywhere on the home network provides whole home coverage - from anywhere and at anytime."

And guess what, it is all now controllable from apps running on Motorola Android smartphones and the Android Xoom tablet, as the 4home web site shows (www.4home.com).

Commenting on this aspect of Google's acquisition of Motorola Mobility ABI Research Sam Locero commented  "Google finds itself now with two distinct, yet overlapping home automation platforms. Given that Verizon, and 25 other service providers around the world, have either announced managed home automation solutions based on the 4Home platform, or are in the process of developing offerings based on it, it would be truly unfortunate for Google to shut down the 4Home effort."

Not that Google has given any indication that it plans to abandon 4home. More likely 4home presents the opportunity to really give Android a huge boost in the home automation market, where it has been for some time but where it has yet to really gain traction.

As ABI's Locero said: "Google has a unique opportunity to truly differentiate itself in the home automation market, both by a tiered approach and by leveraging the Android ecosystem to provide mass market education about home automation and funnel potential customers to 4Home-based systems."



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