Google’s New IoT Platform, Brillo

By Adam Lotia an Martha Vazquez

Add another to the pile of connected home platforms that are continuously growing, Google recently announced it’s new additions: Weave and Brillo. This rapidly growing stack of platforms makes our homes would-be computer science graduates, but in reality, they have yet to pass middle school. The majority of homes are still pretty low-tech when it comes to locks, switches, and various large appliances. For instance, the majority of the washers and dryers still don’t have connectivity (more importantly, do they need to?).

Last week Google launched its new project, Brillo, at the I/O Conference held in the Moscone Center West in San Francisco. Its connected platform comes in two parts: the code platform, Brillo, and Weave.

Weave is a new way to standardize the various forms of communication from the myriad of radio types. Currently, the use of radio technologies used within the connected home market is fragmented at best.  If the house has passed tech 101, then the house door lock is smarter and has more than just an ordinary key. The lock most likely uses ZigBee style radio. The washer, dryer, and fridge will all use WiFi along with the Thermostat. Finally if there is a bit of extra credit then all of the lights and outlets will be on Z-Wave radios. Weave’s goal is to unify the software commands for each radio so code doesn’t have to be written for each device or each radio set, but rather once for an application no matter what is being connected. Google Weave, in shorter terms, is an attempt at middleware for the house.

We see Brillo’s overlay as a new attempt at an old game Google has played before. Google learned hard lessons from the Google@home project and has developed something lighter in weight than a full Android operating system for embedded devices you’d find in a house, i.e. door locks, sensors, smoke and chemical sensors, or thermostats. While Brillo isn’t a full version of the Android systems you’d find in a mobile device or even a watch, Brillo is built on the same framework, making it easy for developers to pick up and use quickly.

Looking at the previous iterations google has come out with, and their various half baked labs as product launches, Brillo and Weave seem to be just another platform riding the wave of what’s hot in the market right now. Sure the headlines have lots of stories about connecting the home—but when we pass through the aisles at big box retailers, like Fry’s and Home Depot, the story is very different. We see a layer of dust on everything around us. People are getting “smarter” but we still need to get their houses past middle and high school before we send them off to college with platforms like Brillo and Weave, and the post-grad work of the various devices that plug into them.