Google Android Things Platform Scales Back Its IoT Aspirations

In somewhat of a surprise announcement, Google is pulling in the reins of its Android Things platform and will now focus solely on smart speakers and smart displays, as opposed to the Internet of Things (IoT) category as a whole. The reason it is a bit of a surprise is because the IoT market is rather larger, and growing.

Devices are getting smarter and more functional by the day, as a result of baking in Internet connectivity and related features. That is part of the reason why Samsung last year announced a $22 billion investment AI, 5G, automotive component ,and biopharmaceutical technologies. Samsung mentioned the IoT category as one of the areas that would benefit from its investment, and specifically from 5G.

Be that as it may, Google sees the smarter decision in narrowing its focus for its Android Things platform, at least for now.

"Given the successes we have seen with our partners in smart speakers and smart displays, we are refocusing Android Things as a platform for OEM partners to build devices in those categories moving forward. Therefore, support for production System on Modules (SoMs) based on NXP, Qualcomm, and MediaTek hardware will not be made available through the public developer platform at this time," Google said.

System on Modules
Google no longer plans to support certain production System on Modules through its Android Things platform.

It is not entirely clear why Google no longer wants to make a push in the IoT sector at large through the aforementioned SoMs. Perhaps it is the growing competition from the likes of Windows IoT and other platforms. It could also be that smart speakers present a more immediate opportunity for growth.

Research firm Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) recently said there was total install base of 66 million smart speakers in the US during the fourth quarter of 2018.

"Amazon and Google both have broad model lineups, ranging from basic to high-end, with even more variants from Amazon," said CIRP co-founder Josh Lowitz. "Apple of course has only its premium-priced HomePod, and likely won't gain significant share until it offers an entry-level product closer to Echo Dot and Home Mini."

That said, Google will continue to supply Android Things system images for the NXP Pico i.MX7D and Raspberry Pi 3 Model B.