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Android Things is Google’s new OS for smart devices

Android Things is Google’s new OS for smart devices

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Google wants to put Android in the next wave of smart devices that’ll be vying to fill up your home. It’s launching a version of Android today called Android Things that can run on products like connected speakers, security cameras, and routers. The OS is supposed to make it easier for companies to start shipping hardware, since they’ll be able to work with the Android dev tools they already know.

Android Things is a new name, but the operating system itself isn’t strictly new. It’s basically an update and a rebranding to Brillo, an Android-based OS for smart devices and Internet of Things products announced a little more than a year and a half ago. Brillo has — publicly, at least — gone close to nowhere. It was more or less a no-show at CES last year, and there’s been little mention of it since.

Think printers, locks, and ovens more than light bulbs and power outlets

But today’s rebranding marks a key update meant to make developing a product with this operating system much easier. Unlike Brillo, development on Android Things can be accomplished with “the same developer tools as standard Android,” according to Google. The hope is that experienced developers will be able to quickly get up to speed and start work on a new product.

Though Android is right there in the name, it’s best not to think of Android Things as something you’d run alongside an Android phone and an Android Wear watch. Android Things is an OS that you won’t really see, working in the background to let smart devices handle complex tasks on their own instead of offloading them to some server for processing. That also means Android Things is a better fit for bigger and more capable smart products. Think printers, locks, and ovens more than light bulbs and power outlets.

Android Things isn’t itself a method for connecting smart products to Android phones either. Though Android Things devices will be able to integrate with Android (and iOS) devices, they would do so through Weave, a related but distinct communications system that Google launched alongside Brillo back in 2015.

The rebranding may signal a renewed push by Google to get its OS running on smart devices, but it’s not immediately obvious how much of a difference these changes will make. Google only seemed to have limited success with Brillo; Android Things sounds like an easier sell, but we’re yet to hear about what partners have signed on.