Google's Project Brillo is an OS for the home -- and a lot more

Brillo, a stripped down version of Android, is a platform for connecting devices at home and in industrial settings

How Brillo works

How Brillo works

Google has made a big play for the Internet of Things, announcing a new OS on Thursday that will connect appliances around the home and allow them to be controlled from an Android smartphone or tablet.

Dubbed Project Brillo, it's a stripped down version of Google's Android OS that will run on door locks, ovens, heating systems and other devices that have a small memory footprint, and allow them to communicate and work together.

Project Brillo also includes a communications layer, called Weave, that provides a common language developers can use to locate devices on a network and tap into their capabilities, said Sundar Pichai, Google senior vice president, who announced the system at Google's I/O conference in San Francisco.

Along with smart homes, the system is designed for industrial use, so a factory could use it to tie together sensors and manufacturing equipment, for instance. It supports Bluetooth Low Energy and WiFi for communications, as well as the Thread protocol used by Google's Nest devices.

And because it's based on Android, it will integrate easily with phones and tablets based on the mobile OS. If a person is writing a recipe on an Android tablet, for instance, the app could tell the oven to switch on and set itself to the right temperature.

It's a concept many vendors are pursuing, and Google will have a lot of competitors. Samsung is pushing its SmartThings technology for the home, and the chip maker ARM has also announced an IoT operating system called mbed. Apple and Microsoft also have smart home and IoT efforts.

Brillo will be released in preview form to developers by the end of September, and the full stack including Weave will be ready by the end of the year, Pichai said.

One role it aims to fill is to provide a common language or schema that allows objects to identify their capabilities in a network, and to communicate with each other, with the cloud and with end user devices. A door lock will have a standard way of identifying itself as a lock and receiving commands like "lock" and "unlock," for instance.

"We will have standardised schemas, developers can submit custom schemas, and we will have a Weave certification program to make sure anything that is Weave certified can work together," Pichai said.

And Weave will be cross-platform, he said, meaning developers can use Weave and the Brillo OS together or use Weave with a different operating system.

Google already has a foothold in the smart home with its Nest thermostat and smoke detector, and a program called Works with Nest that lets them communicate with other appliances for energy-related tasks. But Project Brillo widens the scope to include far more devices, and also takes Google from the home to the industrial workplace.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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Zach Miners

IDG News Service
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