Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Google launches IoT OS aimed at industrial internet

William Payne
June 2 2015

Google has launched an operating system for the internet of things (IoT) that the  company is aiming at industrial internet applications amongst others. The new IoT operating system includes features that make it particularly suitable for enterprise wide integration, including the ability to control from a central management console.

In addition to Brillo, the name for Google's new IoT operating system, the Mountain View, California based company is also introducing a new IoT focused schema for communicating and interoperating with IoT devices: Weave.

Google is aiming Brillo and Weave at a range of applications. One is the smart home. But according to Sundar Pichai, Google's vice-president of Products and head of IoT developments within the company, the company is also aiming Brillo at industrial applications, smart agriculture, and remote infrastructure.

Brillo and Weave development are not being handled within Google's Nest division, which is tasked with home automation. Instead, Brillo and Weave are quite separate within Google. Moreover, Brillo is aimed at devices between 32Mb and 64Mb RAM, which suggests larger and fixed infrastructure hardware devices. One Google source has described 64Mb as "our medium-end target".

The new OS is based on a Linux kernel, with a minimal, stripped down version of Android to handle the hardware abstraction level (HAL), and provide the network stack.

The power of Brillo will come in part from how it integrates into Google's wider infrastructure, both in edge computing terms, and within the cloud. Brillo appears to be designed to integrate readily with Android handheld devices and Chrome desktop systems locally, as well as with Google's whole cloud IoT system.

This integration with Google's Android local and cloud infrastructures mean that developers can build applications that allow operators to control machines by voice commands, using Google's Now technology. The Google Now project is a major focus for development with the company.

One considerable advantage that Brillo and Weave might have over potential rivals is in the availability of developers. Android is already the default operating system for developers to build device applications and integrate them with the Google cloud infrastructure. There are hundreds of thousands of experienced Android developers around the world. Since Brillo is a "scrubbed down" version of Android -- hence the name it has been given, after the Brillo pad -- all those Android developers can transfer their expertise and skills to Brillo without too much difficulty.

Brillo will support Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and potentially alternative wireless radio protocols such as Thread, a new radio prototcol supported by Samsung, ARM and Google amongst others. Thread is a low power, mesh network that supports IPv6, which addresses the short comings of conventional Wi-Fi such its high power, high data throughput focus, and low node support -- all of which makes conventional Wi-Fi unsuitable for IoT. Thread by contrast is low power, more focused on low data throughput, and can support very large numbers of devices within a mesh.

All Brillo devices will be manageable from a central management console. This may be similar to the Chrome management console, which can be used to manage thousands of individual chromebox computers worldwide.

Google is also introducing a certification scheme for Weave that Google says device manufacturers must adhere to.