Android Things is finally ready.
Google makes a bunch of perating systems: Android powers smartphones and tablets; Wear OS powers wearables like smartwatches; Chrome OS powers laptops and other computers; Android TV powers set-top boxes and televisions (we think this will become Google TV in the future); and Android Things, which is designed to power lightweight - but not dumb - devices, from smart displays to kitchen appliances.
Here's everything you need to know about Google's latest OS.
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What is Android Things?
Android Things powers smart devices and Internet of Things (IoT) gadgets. Originally announced in 2016, 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.
Just keep in mind that it's a stripped-down version of Android aimed at more capable smart hardware, rather than simple ones, like light bulbs.
But what about Brillo?
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 developers likely found it difficult to jump in and 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.
When will Android Things be available?
Google released the first SDK preview of Android Things in 2016. Then, in May 2018, Google announced that Android Things hit its official 1.0 release, which means we are getting closer to devices being made available with Android Things on board.
When will the first Android Things devices arrive?
Google said the first devices include speakers from LG and iHome, as well as smart displays from LG, Lenovo, and JBL. They'll launch over the next several months in 2018.
Anything else you should know?
Don't think of Android Things as Android or Wear OS, 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 enable Android Things devices to have access to Google Assistant.