Android Makes the Jump to Home Appliances

Google’s quest for world domination continues as it announced a number of major product launches yesterday at its annual I/O developers conference. While much of the initial buzz was over Google Music, the company also a demonstrated a product that hits closer to home for all.

With Android@Home, Google aims to make your home as smart as your phone (at least that’s been the prevailing headline among various media reports). 

The scenario laid out is like this: Imagine that your Android-based smartphone or tablet can communicate with your home’s major appliances and light bulbs, making it something like a universal remote. Run out of milk and your Android-enabled refrigerator can send you a message the next time it’s told through your phone’s GPS that you are at the grocery store.

“We want to think of every device in your home as a connection to Android apps,” Google Product Management Director Hugo Barra said in the conference’s first-day keynote.

A company named Lighting Science Group is currently working with Google to build wireless LED light bulbs and switches that can communicate with Android. The products are expected to hit the market by the end of the year. 

“Google reached out to us, but we were already working on something similar,” Eric Holland, vice president of electrical engineering at Lighting Science, told PCMag

Google demonstrated the product because it wants developers to begin building applications to automate houses. As an example of a creative way Android could be applied to home use, Google demoed a home theater system called Tungsten. A user holds up a CD case equipped with Near Field Communications technology and taps it against the non-descript white sphere at the center of the system. Immediately, all the music is ripped to the device. Another tap of the CD begins playing the music. “It was pure magic,” writes Gloria Sin at ZDNet.

As for appliances that don’t have Wi-Fi connectivity, such as a refrigerator, Google said that it’s working on a new protocol that will connect any device that uses electricity, but no further details were given.

According to PCMag, the Android@Home network will be “a low-power wireless network used for short-range home automation,” similar to ZigBee. The low-cost network will have enough power to wirelessly transfer video — as in surveillance-camera applications — but will use less than the typical 12 watts a lamp consumes.

“At Home is going to be huge,” DisplaySearch Analyst Richard Shim told PCMag. “I think it’s something that’s very ambitious. It’s what I like to call the next level. Everyone now has this synchronization of data, where you put it in one place with multiple devices. The next step is controlling these different devices, and no one has been able to crack that nut.” 

Shim also noted that Android@Home differs from DLNA because DLNA companies integrated the technology on appliances, but left the other side of the spectrum — client software and devices — wide open. The new offering by Google addresses both sides. 

Protocols for Android@Home are set to be released later this year.

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