Google moves in: How the tech giant is bringing IoT home

Ben Doran: head of technology at Lowe Profero
Ben Doran: head of technology at Lowe Profero

The Internet of Things has been around for a while, the term was coined in 1999 by Kevin Ashton from MIT. So the concept of a bunch of interconnected devices that autonomously talk to the internet is far from new.

However, IoT has become the darling of the media and tech press in recent years, taking up more column inches and getting tech companies to sit up and listen.

Project Brillo is Google's first proper step into this game. Apple (through Home Kit) and Samsung (Smart Things) have already made big splashes in this field.

So what's different about now versus five years ago? What has made IoT the next big thing and what is the big difference this time? The big difference is three fold – access, cloud and mobile.

We now have far more access to prototyping technologies than ever before. Integrated circuits, sensors and mature connectivity options are within reach to everyone from the bedroom coder to the multinational.

This paired with our ability to rapidly 3D print any product means we can easily build connected devices faster and cheaper than ever before.

The second big shift is our ability to utilise the cloud to process the information these devices collate and collect.

We don't need to bake logic into the devices anymore, or have PHDs in embedding programming. We can simply send raw data to a cloud service using open APIs and open source technologies, which we can then easily process and act upon.

What's more, mobile has played a key role in this maturity. Your mobile device is you in the digital world, connecting and communicating with all these new sensors and devices around you.

We were sold the promise of smart fridges that order milk when you run out, but we didn't expect the fridge would just tell your phone you're out of milk and let you do the ordering.

We imagined an autonomous world of devices, but what actually happened is your device is the centre of the Internet of Things. This means your device can now make sense of all these new contexts that are arising from the connected devices around you – the home.

Google has finally entered the home automation game with Project Brillo. Google took footsteps into this world with the purchase of Nest, and the quietly retired Android@Home project, but Google's Project Brillo is its first proper stride into this space. It's exciting news.

The promise is a mature platform which will stop device producers having to roll their own platforms and build complex account management, truly placing mobile as the centre of this new world of connected devices.

It will be interesting to see how cross-compatibility between Apple's Home Kit and Brillo will work (or get resolved), and whether true home platforms will finally kick off the IoT boom that has been long speculated and expected.

Ben Doran is head of technology at Lowe Profero

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