Google makes operating systems, and Android Things is the latest example.

Google's Android OS powers smartphones and tablets. Google's Android Wear powers wearables like smartwatches. Google's ChromeOS powers laptops and desktops. Google's Android TV powers set-top boxes and televisions. And now Android Things is meant to power smart devices and Internet of Things (IoT) gadgets. But Android Things isn't new, technically.

Here's everything you need to know about Google's latest OS.

On 13 December 2016, Google launched a version of Android called Android Things. It can run on products like connected speakers, smart thermostats, security cameras, routers, and so on. The idea is that, with Android Things, it'll be easier for companies to start shipping IoT hardware, because they’ll be able to use and work with the Android developer tools they've used in the past.

At its core, Android Things is a stripped-down version of Android aimed at more capable smart hardware, rather than simple ones like light bulbs.

The thing is, Android Things, the operating system, isn't exactly new. It's a new name. Last year, Google announced Brillo, an Android-based OS for smart devices and IoT gadgets, but it hasn't done much with the OS since then. Android Things is a rebranding of Brillo. It's also an update that allows development to be accomplished with “the same developer tools as standard Android", whereas Brillo didn't offer that.

Brillo didn't catch on because experienced developers likely found it difficult to jump in and start work on a new product. Now, because they have access to the same familiar tools, the hope is they can quickly get up to speed.

Yes, Google has released the SDK preview of Android Things. You can learn more about that (and key Android Things concepts) from here.

Don't think of Android Things as Android or Android Wear, which you plainly see running on a phone or watch, respectively. Android Things is an OS that works in the background but isn't visible. It allows smart devices to handle their own tasks rather than let servers do the processing. Because it is capable of more complex tasks, it's ideal for complex smart devices like printers and locks, rather than basic power outlets.

Also, Android Things devices will be able to integrate with Android and iOS devices through Weave, a communications system that Google launched alongside Brillo. That protocol will also allow Android Things devices to have access to Google Assistant, which you can read about from here.

Google has already launched a developer preview, though it hasn't named any partners yet. So we don't yet know which devices will be the first Android Things devices to appear on the market -- let alone when they will appear.