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Forget Trademark Issues, Google May Just Clean Up with Brillo

June 15, 2015

Brillo, the next big thing from Google and grown out of the stalled Android@Home, is expected to have an eventual impact on IIoT.

Yes, you heard that right…Brillo. Put an ® after the word and it’s the property of the scrubber and cleaning products company based in London, Ohio (and now owned by Armaly Brands, based in Walled Lake, Mich.).  But in this case, we are talking about Google Project Brillo, announced at the company’s recent I/O developer conference in San Francisco, somehow with only a passing nod to the historic association of the product name.

Revealed at the company’s annual developer conference, Brillo will reportedly be based on the ubiquitous Android operating system that powers more than a billion devices; only lighter, so it can run on smaller or simpler devices. A predecessor product, called Android@Home, was announced back in 2011 but never really got off the ground. So what are the odds this time?

Well, for starters a company as big as Google doesn’t have to be perfect or right to be successful any more than it has to worry about someone’s product trademark. So, it would be safe to assume that the second IoT operating system from Google will go places, including, in time, the shop floor. For now, observers see it as a natural in home automation (in part, thanks to Google’s earlier acquisition of Nest – the thermostat folks) and also in healthcare automation.

Google seems to have confined most information on Brillo to the presentation at its developer conference. However, perusing the reports that have emerged reveals both a vision and seriousness about the effort. According to a Fortune article, the plan also includes something called Weave, a communication standard that will help developers build programs to connect devices with support for Wi-Fi, Low Energy, and Bluetooth.  Brillo is supposed to emerge in the third quarter of this year, followed by Weave in the fourth…

“Consumer IoT will be impacted first [by Brillo], and will include products like wearables, smartphones, and connected home devices. Later on it is assumed that the IIoT will adopt either Brillo or whatever Brillo evolves into,” according to Timothy King, writing in the Best Practices column of Solutions Review.

According to comments made at the developer conference by Sundar Pichai, Google’s senior vice president of products, the challenge for Iot is to get physical devices connected in a smart way to the Internet…. However, he notes, the IoT environment has been fragmented so those making “smart” lightbulbs might not know how to build a software stack, developers don’t know how to target a device, and users don’t know how to make it all work together.

Thus, he says, Google hopes to makes Brillo the underlying OS for all of IoT.  Based on Android but “polished down” (thus the name Brillo) to mostly the kernel and hardware abstraction layer, Pichai says Brillo should run on most any device with a minimal footprint and with security built in from the ground up.  Furthermore, he adds, “because it is based on Android it can scale.”

With Brillo and Weave he envisions “A Farmer managing a whole farm from a smart phone” [or] a city being able to manage a public transit system including buses, schedules, parking, traffic and maintenance… “We see an endless range of possibilities,” he says.

Alan R. Earls is a Boston-based writer focused on technology, business, and manufacturing — a field where he spent the earliest part of his career. He has written for publications and websites as diverse as The Boston GlobeComputerworld and Modern Infrastructure as well as Industry, The Manufacturer, and Today's Machining World.