In the build-up to Google I/O 2018, Google has introduced Android Things OS 1.0, its platform for Internet of Things (IoT) devices. While the platform was announced back in 2016, it was an in-development project all this time, and went through eight developer previews before finally making it to a stable version 1.0. Android Things OS has been developed with improving security and offering better stability and security for IoT devices, which are usually susceptible to breaches.
The focus on security isn’t misplaced, considering that IoT devices are put into use at home, and are often used in settings that require privacy. IoT cameras and door locks in homes, if hacked, could pose serious security threats to the users. The reason that IoT devices cause privacy concerns has a lot to do with the fact that many device makers don’t offer post-purchase software support, leaving gaps that can be exploited.
Google’s approach to its platform is that it will offer three years of updates and security patches itself for all devices running Android Things. This is because Android Things is closed-source and centralized as far as updates and development is concerned. This is similar to the Wear OS approach; the platform is uniform and controlled entirely by Google, while device manufacturers get very little control on the framework of the software. It’s entirely unlike the way the open-source Android OS for smartphones and tablets works, where manufacturers use only the core of the framework, while designing the UI overlays themselves.
Obviously, device manufacturers will have to ensure their product adheres to standardized hardware requirements, since this is the way that Google can continue to offer firmware updates. Android Things 1.0 has certified System-on-Modules (SoMs) based on the NXP i.MX8M, Qualcomm SDA212, Qualcomm SDA624, and MediaTek MT8516 chips. These are like the SoCs seen on smartphones, but are usually bigger and can be integrated onto larger devices.
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The functionality is simple, and based around simplified control and connectivity of consumer electronic products and electronic appliances. It allows these devices to remain connected to the internet and receive instructions from other connected devices remotely, interface with displays and other devices or control certain functions such as sensors. Some of the first devices to feature Android Things OS will be Google Assistant-powered Smart Displays, as well as smart speakers from brands other than Google, such as LG and iHome.