See How Google’s Android Things Will Make IoT Devices More Secure

Smart homes popularity has risen substantially over the years. According to Gartner, “the Internet of Things” will include 26 billion units installed by 2020. IoT product and service suppliers will generate incremental revenue exceeding $300 billion, mostly in services, in 2020.”

Another media report claims that over the next 10 years the global IoT market will post a revenue CAGR of 21.6 percent.

And this spike is pushing every tech companies to rapidly bring IoT devices to the market in order to gain market. Many tech giants, including Google, are investing billions of dollars per year into the IoT ecosystem. Google recently released Android Things version 1.0 for developers prior to this year’s I/O developers conference. It is the same Android that runs on your smartphone or on your TV or your watch or a Chromebook too. With the help of Android Things, developers can now build new and exciting commercial IoT devices that transform the way we live.

What is Android Things?

Android Things is an Android-based operating system meant for IoT devices, with a specific focus on fixing the security issue that connected devices usually create. It is designed for making developers’ task easier while working on smart display, kiosks and digital signboards.

The basic aim is to give hardware manufacturers a managed OS and certified hardware that allows them to focus on building their product without worrying about the system and its maintenance. And also to transcend the problems Android users have experienced on their smartphones by taking device makers out of the update loop.

How Will It Benefit Consumers?

With Android Things, Google wants to connect all smart devices without leaking your identity. It wants to provide universal OS layer so that every smart device can work the same way and communicate using the same method, with the added benefit of built-in privacy and security features.

Recently, at the I/O annual developer conference Google announced Smart Displays from Lenovo, LG, JBL. the first Smart Displays will go on sale in July. “These devices can make your day easier by bringing the simplicity of voice with the glanceability of a touchscreen,” Lilian Rincon, Google’s Director of Product Management said at the I/O keynote.

The Smart Displays runs on Android Things platform and will feature new customizable ambient screens, including a clock, the weather or photos. You will also be able to watch YouTube TV right on their Smart Displays. However, Google did not reveal any pricing details as of yet.

Android Things Bolsters Security Issue Of IoT Devices

A standard IoT device that is available in the market doesn’t receive any software updates and are vulnerable to cyberattacks and data theft. According to a study by HP, 70% of the most commonly used Internet of Things (IoT) devices contain security vulnerabilities, including password security, encryption and general lack of granular user access permissions.

Google has fixed that pain point too, it promised that Android Things will get timely and regular updates for three years.“One of the core tenets of Android Things is powering devices that remain secure over time. Providing timely software updates over-the-air (OTA) is a fundamental part of that,” Google said.

Hardware and Software Support

Android Things is built on Google-certified chipsets from NXP, Qualcomm and MediaTek around which these companies can build smart devices. It will come with support for new system-on-modules based on the NXPi.MX8m, Qualcomm SDA 212, Qualcomm SDA624 and MediaTek MT8516 hardware platforms. It also adds a secured and stripped-down version of Android, on which developers can write apps using standard Android tools

The Android Things saw over 100,000 SDK downloads during the preview and over 10,000 developers provided feedback during the beta phase, claims Google.

It provides hardware and software developers with all the necessary Software Development Kits to build all kind of internet of thing devices. The Android Things Starter kit are now available to purchase, it includes an NXP i.MX7 developers board, Camera Module, 5-inch display, Pimroni Rainbow HAT board, WiFi, antenna among others. It is available on Digi-Key and Tech Nexion.

Developers will get an option for extended support as well. Even after the official support window ends, you will still be able to continue to push app updates to your devices, claims Google.

What Devices Are Running Android Things

In January, Google announced a number of partnership with device makers including Lenovo, Sony to build smart display devices powered by Google Assistant.

During its beta phase, quite a few companies started building products for the platform, including Google’s launch partner LG, Lenovo and JBL for its Android smart display. Devices running this platform have been emerging since January.

For instance, Lenovo’s Smart Display that was showcased at CES, which is a Google Assistant Powered speaker and is available in 8-inch and 10-inch display, 10-watt speakers, 5-megapixel camera and Qualcomm processors.

LG’s new smart display speaker is using this same platform. The device comes with an 8-inch touchscreen and has Google Assistant and Chromecast built-in.

Even JBL Link View, released in January, built on Android Things platform, incorporates an 8-inch touchscreen display, a 5MP camera, two 10-watt stereo speakers and a rear-facing passive radiator. It also comes with Google Assistant and Chromecast support.

However, Android Things were not much advertised until Google formally announced this on 2018 I/O developers conference. “Android Things would soon show up in additional Google Assistant-based smart speakers and Smart Display and would work for everything from connected doorbells to point-of-sale terminals,” Android Things project-management lead Vince Wu said at the I/O developers conference.

Even startups and agencies are also using Android Things to prototype innovative ideas for a diverse set of use-cases. However, the search engine giant has restricted the use of the Things for software updates to 100 active devices in case of non-commercial use. Reportedly, Sony is also using Android Things platform to bring its Smart Display in the market.

To sum up, it will be interesting to see, with its new ‘secure’ Platform Android Thing will go be able to beat Amazon Echo in the smart home battle. Android Things will help Google expand the reach of the company’s operating system by securing the smart devices from hacking, which will be a plus point for Google to standout in the vulnerable IoT market.

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Smita Sinha
I have over three-years of experience in editing, reporting. My career in journalism began with The Economic Times. When I am not busy, I read, I binge-watch web series.

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