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New Google IoT OS to connect Android devices

Google Project Brillo is a scrubbed-down IoT OS that could entice enterprises thanks to its connections to existing Android and iOS devices.

A new Google Internet of Things (IoT) operating system could help easily connect the myriad of new "things" in IT environments to more traditional ones.

Google will soon offer an Android-based operating system specifically designed for the coming wave of IoT-connected devices. Project Brillo scrubs the operating system (OS) down to its lower-levels for use in lightweight, less-powerful IoT devices.

Brillo will support Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and developers can choose from a wide range of hardware platforms and silicon vendors for the devices. Metrics will be available to device administrators including crash reporting and update services through a Web console, Google said.

Google will also introduce Weave, a Google IoT protocol that allows devices to talk to each other, including IoT devices and smartphones across both Android and Apple's iOS. Secure communications will be enabled both locally and through the cloud and support will be built into Android.

Developing an IoT OS was important for Google because a different company may have tried to do the same thing given the openness of Android's OS, said Jack Gold, analyst and principal with J. Gold Associates LLC in Northborough, Mass.

"It helps [Google] maintain control over the Android ecosystem," Gold said.

While Brillo represents a logical step for Google, the environment around IoT in the enterprise is already messy and complicated and Brillo may add another level of complexity as another IoT OS entrant on the market, said Bob O'Donnell, analyst and founder of TECHnalysis Research LLC in Foster City, Calif.

No one has a clear leadership position in this area.
Bob O'Donnellanalyst, TECHnalysis Research

Some of the existing OSes around IoT include Intel's Wind River and variations of Linux OSes, with Apple's HomeKit (which is designed for consumer use) forthcoming, O'Donnell noted.

"This is just another set of protocols," O'Donnell said. "No one has a clear leadership position in this area."

Many people already use Android phones and tablets for work purposes, so a clear link between those devices and an Android-based IoT OS used in, for example, sensors on shipping crates or trucks could be beneficial, O'Donnell said.

A developer preview for Project Brillo will be released by Google in Q3 of this year while Weave will arrive in Q4, the company said.

Android M adds new app permissions

Google also previewed Android M this week, a new version of its mobile OS to follow the current Android Lollipop.

Google has redesigned the applications permissions system within Android M, enabling users to approve or deny security permissions on a case-by-case basis. Users will be prompted to apply these permissions when they attempt to use a feature of a specific app, not during the installation process as had been previous practice. This new permissions system is similar to one that's been in place on iOS devices for some time.

Google is also following Apple with a new Android Pay system for mobile payments, similar to Apple Pay as introduced in iOS 8.

"It's not an out-and-out statement from Android, but adding these more robust features should make it a more reliable choice for the enterprise," O'Donnell said.

Android M is available to developers now with a main release scheduled for Q3 of this year, Google said.

IT may also need to keep an eye on Google Photos, the new service that offers "free, unlimited" photo and video storage. While this is primarily geared toward consumers, IT must be wary of another place where corporate information may wind up outside of its control, Gold said.

"You need to be careful people in your organization aren't using free services like this to put up tidbits of information that shouldn't be there," Gold said.

No updates were offered for Android for Work, the enterprise mobility management (EMM) framework initially introduced at last year's Google I/O conference and made available earlier this year. Android for Work includes work profiles within current Android devices and those profiles can be managed by IT using EMM platforms.

Jake O'Donnell is the news writer for SearchConsumerization and SearchVirtualDesktop. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @JakeODonnell_TT.

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