Google 'Brillo' may join Internet of Things operating system madness

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Google is reportedly looking to tame the glut of low-power, Internet-connected devices with a new operating system codenamed “Brillo.”

The software is aimed at connected light bulbs, doorbells, and other devices that form the so-called Internet of Things, The Information reports (via Ars Technica). Google wants to take some of the legwork out of building these products, providing a free operating system that handles things like the boot-up process, input, output, and network communications.

In its current form, Android isn’t really equipped for the task. The smartphone version requires at least 512MB of RAM, whereas Brillo will target devices with 64MB or 32MB of memory, and which may not even have their own displays.

This isn’t Google’s first or only initiative for smart homes and the Internet of Things. In 2012, the company announced “Android@Home,” which was also supposed to power small-scale, connected products. But that project was quickly scrapped, with executives believing it to be “too early,” Ars notes. Google also owns smart thermostat maker Nest, which has steadily built its own integrations with other smart home products.

Brillo seems like it’ll be more of a developer-facing program than a consumer-facing one, though we won’t know for sure until Google actually announces the effort. That could happen as soon as next week, at the company’s I/O developer conference.

The impact on you: While the idea of an operating system for the Internet of Things makes sense, Google is joining an increasingly crowded field. Microsoft has an IoT version of Windows 10 in the works, and Apple’s HomeKit provides a framework for hardware makers that want to work with iOS. Another company called Particle provides not only the software, but the hardware to build upon, and just this week Huawei announced its own lightweight IoT operating system.

The competition is good in the long run, but it’s yet another complication for an idea that’s already in the midst of a messy standards war. If you’re trying to keep track of what’s happening, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

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