Google's Android Moving into Homes

May 11, 2011
The growth of Android@Home could depend on the availability of tiny, low-cost chips so that innovations are practical to make and affordable to buy.

With the open-source software powering everything from smart light bulbs to sound systems, it is Google's intned to move into people's homes. More than 5,000 software savants at Google's annual developers conference in San Francisco earlier this week were shown an "Android@Home" software platform for making dumb devices smart and robots manageable.

Among the innovations on display were light bulbs that can be controlled by Android-powered gadgets and a Tungsten sound system that could be synched to Google's freshly-launched Internet "cloud" music storage service. Android light bulbs are to hit the market by the end of the year and developers were invited to turn them into smartphone-controlled alarm clocks for waking people up in the mornings.

"We are extending the Android platform into the home," said Google senior vice president of mobile Andy Rubin. "It's a lot of fun. The power of Android is that it can be used by a lot of people in a lot of different ways. We are going to see some pretty interesting stuff."

The technology has the potential to turn Android smartphones or tablets into remote controls for lights, appliances, irrigation systems, thermostats and more, according to Google.

"It is basically connecting lots of things together that inherently weren't designed that way," Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney said of Android@Home. "So many devices are becoming smart and connected, and Android is looking to become the technology to do that."

While Microsoft has talked for decades about software giving brains to dumb devices in homes without bringing the vision to the masses, Google could succeed due to its open-source model, according to the analyst.

Android is free, as compared to proprietary Microsoft software, and developers can customize it to devices as they wish.

The growth of Android@Home could depend on the availability of tiny, low-cost chips so that innovations are practical to make and affordable to buy, according to Dulaney.

Android was intended from the outset to go beyond powering smartphones, according to Google product manager Hugo Barra.

A display area at the conference was devoted to robots powered by Android software.

"We think there are a crazy number of new opportunities for developers to create new software," Google engineering director Joe Britt said after demonstrating Android@Home. "There is a hydroponic grow system being controlled by an Android device. We never would have thought of that."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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