Google Dreams Electric…

It looks like life is lonely at the House of Google. Google – and by association Larry and Surge – are looking for an invitation into everyone’s living rooms and kitchens. In fact it’s a home invasion of the Google kind. At Google’s annual developers schmooze this week – I/O Developer Conference in San Francisco – Google announced the Android@Home platform designed to facilitate home automation on Android devices – Tablets, phones initially. Imagine being able to control every light and appliance in your home from a single tablet. Stream music and have it follow you from room to room.. Google is aiming at becoming apart of our home life in a much more direct and personal way.

As part of the Android@Home Google has also announced the Google Light bulb, the bulbs were developed by LightingScience, Being an LED light they are low power and include a wireless chip to llow it to become part of you home network. The wireless network that’s required to make all of this happen is still being finalised by Google and will be made available to developers and the public towards the end of the year. Towards the end of the year a version of the Android operating system will be released with all of the framework and protocols in place, this will enable the brains of the Android@Home network. Once enabled your Android phone will detect every compatible device in your house and after downloading the right drivers it will be able to monitor and control all devices.

One of the interesting demonstration products was Project Tungsten, a kind of technology test bed Tungsten fills many roles, as a wireless speaker it is able to play music from your Google Music account, it can act as a player for you Android phone, device hub and communications point for other Android@Home appliances, media centre hub and RFID sensing. By embedding RFID tags in a CD cover the playback of that album can be triggered by waving it in front of the unit, essentially another kind of interaction, the swipe and go just like the supermarket. A definite gimmick but interesting technology

It’s all about Hardware Accessories. Google is trying to standardize the way devices communicate and work together to the extent that everything becomes an accessory to an Android device. Accessories have their own driver support, allowing any Android phone to work with any compatible household device. An excersize bike that conected to you phone to turn excerceie into a game was demonstrated, still going to make more than that to make excercise interesting but an impressive demo it was.

ADK – The Android Developer Kit was made available to allow fast prototyping and ensuring compatibility during design. Google is very into working with it’s developers so you can count on them to push the dev kit.

Interesting is what happens when you start to use many devices together at once to achieve the desired effect. Instead of just an alarm clock your phone could slowly bring up the lights, turn on the heater and play some music while you wake up, or it could set off the fire alarm to give you that 100db wake up call. This is some pretty clever technology but like anything it will need to be done right to be really effective.

While the home automation market is well established, companies like Sonas have built a solid name for themselves with home automation and music specifically. This is not a new market but it is a market that is crying out for standardization, up until now it has been a minefield of proprietary connections.

The details on the way the network operates are still a little sketchy, the final standards will be released by the end of the year. What is known is that the network is a lot more ad hoc than that traditional home automation systems. Like most wireless home networks there is one wireless hub, a central wireless point, the Android@Home wireless devices will form a network amongst themselves as well as being able to work with central hub device like a wireless router.

In the Google network the tablets are the controller, Google’s is a much more ad hoc network where each device acts as a hub. While there is still the need for a central server of some kind, costs of the network will be much lower, With software already appearing for Android smart phones, the phone is all of a sudden able to control every aspect of your home. By far the best suggestion during the presentation was the idea of controlling all of the garden equipment with Android@Home and in a sense creating a real world Farmville by controlling the garden devices using Android@Home

Also interesting is the idea of people hacking into your house. Lights going on and off at strange times, it may not be a ghost, it could just be hackers. Could you lock someone out of their own house till they pay a ransom, or just to wind them up ?

Why would Google shift into this market? Is it more than just another handy use for an Android phone or does Google see some potential in this market. The sheer weight of numbers has to count for something. We generally only have one or two phones but if a little piece of Android is built into every lightbulb, power point, sensor and appliance in a house that could be hundreds of Android devices in every house. These devices will make use of the ultra cheap processors available at the moment and allow them just enough processing power to do simple tasks, switch on / off for example.

The idea can logically be extended to the car, the android@car, Cars are actually something Google has been dabbling in for a while. Google is already working with Ford on the software than runs inside the car. Using black box technology – like an aircraft flight recorder or black box – along with Google’s expertise at collecting and analysing data Ford is aiming to improve efficiency of every aspect of a trip in the car. From recommended route to engine power requirements every aspect of your trip is optimized. They are also the pioneers of functioning driverless vehicles and it looks like the Google car will take the drive out of the equation. The Android@Home technology can easily be applied to cars, touch screen fly by wire steering maybe or simply just sharing some media you can bet Google will be there.

Does that mean eventually I’ll be able to do a Google search for the remote control ? It’s all leading edge technology that is going to require a lot of making it up as we go along. How practical and useful any of this technology will be is anyone’s guess. Done right home automation can be an incredible thing, the house can feel like its working with you, done wrong and you have the most evil remote control in the universe. Google’s plans are grand and will require a lot of muscle to keep a number of industries involved. Many industries will need to be involved or none of this will work. Every device needs to communicate with the network. Will we soon get Google ads straight to the screen on the fridge, Good luck Google it’s going to be fun.

Google Presentation here

Buddha’s Brother out…