From IoT to Android TV™
The story that links Google to IoT is not a very long one, but the journey towards it is kind of interesting and worth your time. It all started with a Coca-Cola machine, yes, it’s that interesting.
Let’s take you back to a world with virtually no cell phones, where “internet” was an insider term and walkmans were all the rage.
Back in 1982, a team in Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science decided to make a little experiment: connect their campus coke machine to the internet in order to check it’s stock without having to physically move there. A website was created to log the experiment and up until 2006, it was still being used to organize the machine’s refilling routine. Well, that rusty machine stands as the founding father of what we know today as the Internet of Things or IoT, the idea of a global network of devices or appliances connected and sharing data across cyberspace. From then on, innovators all across the world have been putting their best efforts towards the pleasures of laziness, creating devices that can talk between each other, from lamps that can learn from your sleep cycle to flower pots that can water themselves when needed.
In fact, to say IoT is growing at a steady pace is to put it lightly, according to Forbes it is expected that this market segment will be a $457bn business by 2020. This is not to say it is an industry without its fair share of challenges, its open source nature, along with a lack of central programming standards, has opened a floodgate of Operating Systems with no true pied piper. IoT products are all singing to their own tune, making it harder for them to communicate and creating major security gaps waiting to be exploited by hackers.
Now, Google has come up with its 1.0 version of an Operating System designed for IoT, in hopes of resolving some of these issues and integrating Android TV, as well as Android Automotive into the mix. The aim is to standardize the IoT universe and get all devices to communicate with one another, all while using an already familiar setting of Android OS. There are plenty of familiar features, but this time they are trimmed to fit the IoT environment, mostly sharing data related to temperature or humidity, just to name a few, with no need for “intelligent” functions like the ones you find on smartphones or tablets.
Google first announced Android Things in 2016, back when it was still called Brillo, but it took them three years, and a whole bunch of developer previews in order to have a steady platform, that is able to adapt traditional Android functionalities to the new realm of interconnected devices. Making it purposely as simple as possible, Google made sure that its latest roll-out would be open to all developers, aiming it at low power devices with limited processing and storage workloads. According to the company, Android Things handles most of the heavy lifting and lets the developer have the creative freedom to make the perfect app.
For those of you who have already built Android apps, there should be no worries as you can use the same software development kit used for Android smartphone apps, using Android Studio and Kotlin in a fairly standard approach. Adding features to your app, you’ll find an adaptation of Google Play Services made for IoT, along with the same UI toolkit. There are some new APIs available through the support library, but you can still use the same Connectivity APIs. Apps can also be easily integrated with Google services such as FireBase, TensorPro and the Google Cloud Platform.
Android Things was made to be fast with no need for a launcher or a browser, booting directly into the app and saving a lot of memory. There’s also a significant improvement when it comes to security, offering significant protection from bugs that have previously affected Android devices. This security improvement was achieved by taking the security updates out of your hands, every single product built with Android Things will receive free, over the air, mandatory system updates for at least three years from Google, making it harder for those undesired bugs to see the light of day. Of course, this means developers will have less freedom of skipping an update when they see fit, but this measure has more on its side than the other way around.
Creating the Future
As we’ve previously established, Google wanted Android Things to become the unified standard for IoT developers (before recently deciding to refocus as a platform for OEM partners to build smart speakers and smart displays) and, to do so, it paired its OS with Weave. Simply put, Weave provides a common channel for devices to communicate with each other without being connected through Wifi, which makes it a clear advantage from any other existing OS.
Although this new change of focus announced in February, the community page is still alive and well, showcasing some of the apps being built right now using Android Things. Some of these include:
- Smart glasses for the blind: a camera placed in the front of theses glasses takes images and analyses them in real time, the person gets the information through a hearing aid connected to this camera. This information can be translated into an audio commentary and provide safety warnings.
- The Friller Explorer Robot: uses its sensors to learn from the terrain it runs on, learning as it goes. For now, it only runs on wifi, but developers are expecting it to go fully autonomous in the near future.
- Brew Central: ready to boost craft beer operations anywhere where DIY booze industries are proliferating. It manages temperatures, flow rates and basically ensures every manufacturing process is taken care of every step of the way.
As you can see, Google’s efforts to unify languages between devices are slowly but steadily coming into fruition, so there is no reason whatsoever why devices running Android TV shouldn’t take advantage of this commodity, and they are. From home to hospitality, there is a whole new point of entry for this technology, opening doors (no pun intended) for both users and businesses alike.
The television set can become a center of operations for most daily routines, either by itself or with the help of a set-top box. This represents a significant change in everyday life, not only with the commodities it offers but ultimately by saving natural resources that produce energy and creating a better future for mankind. Sounds extreme, right? It’s probably just wishful thinking, but the potential is most definitely there.
While it is definitely fun to control your lighting or room temperature from the comfort of your couch, the true potential for IoT at the touch of your remote resides in the scheduling functionalities. Let’s say you want to watch a movie and your experience needs to be perfect — with Android TV you can set the right mood by automatically adjusting your window shades, setting the right temperature, dimming the lights and even set your fridge temperature so you can have your favorite beverage nice and cool for that desired snack break, all at the same time. Whether you’re aware of it or not, you are actually saving money. By having preferences set in place for different times of the day, you are maximizing your budget, making sure that you only spend what you intend to use with no room for error.
Of course, this scenario also presents a series of benefits for operators and other service providers. At the same time, users are making their preset selections, Android TV devices are also gathering important data and understanding their habits. This data can prove extremely valuable as it can tell you when users are in front of the TV and what they want at that time. Crunching these results, it is easy to understand what kind of advertisements should be placed at any given point, furthermore, in some cases, the right ad can be specifically placed to reach someone as an individual. For instance, the Android TV device can manage your fridge stock and know what you need and what brands you rely on, potentially telling data crunchers what kind of product should be pushed on your ads and, if it’s done really well, they can even analyze the competitors faced according to your previous choices, for a more effective approach.
Knowing about the potential of Android TV and IoT for the common household is just scratching the surface. Businesses can really change their revenue dynamics and seriously increase profit, offering better user experiences and holding back on avoidable expenses.
Take hotels for example. With Android TV, users can get the most out of their experiences controlling virtually everything in their room, from air conditioning to lighting, even ordering room service. Of course, they can also choose whatever kind of media entertainment they want to watch, but now they can connect their subscription accounts to their favorite streaming services and have their VOD preferences tracked for future stays. This data tracking is also valid for any other room preference, making transitions between home and accommodation feel more seamless.
Android TV can also be used to cut costs on these major scale operations. As we stand right now, hotels already have their energy management protocols in place, reducing electricity and other current expenses to a bare minimum, but a lot can still be done by micromanagement with each customer. With this technology, the hotel can now know which towels to replace, get real-time mini-bar stock information and other useful tips, allowing for a more precise operational cycle.
Hospitals and clinics can also take advantage of Android TV in pretty much the same way, but instead of room service, they can provide a more intensive care according to patients needs. Patients can be monitored daily with the help of smart device apps and that data can be easily integrated into their treatment during the stay at the facility. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, a whole network of sensors can monitor the body for a better meal preparation and even urgent procedures, all of this connected to the Android TV interface deployed at the facility.
Android TV may very well be the face of IoT in the near future. The combination of Android Things apps and the general deployment of the operative system across devices in the market will present the perfect marriage between development and integration. Commodity meets life enhancement, with early adoption constantly proving its value and showing great promise towards the future, maybe even creating a better one along the way.
At WeTek, the Android TV solutions offered include full IoT integration. WeTek Air, for example, is a set-top box that already carries radio Zigbee, BLE and Thread standard, and like that, it is a full-blown IoT Hubs all together. Only by paving the way for the future that you can let it come and reach everyone in a meaningful way.
If you wish to know more about our solutions, be sure to visit us.
Android TV is a trademark of Google LLC.