OnHub

AH Primetime: Google’s Android-based IoT Uses Brillo and OnHub

August 23, 2015 - Written By Phil Bourget

Things connect to get better.  Smartphones are only as good as what they allow us to connect to, and the same is true of any smart accessory or appliance that communicates with said smartphone.  Android Wear allows a user to rely less on the center entity of the smartphone to handle many of the daily notifications it receives.  Android Auto does the same, allowing the driving to take precedence and allow the notifications enough presence to be interacted with and left alone at will.  Google’s restructuring into becoming Alphabet a couple of weeks ago marked a new direction for the Mountain View-based powerhouse.

Back at I/O, the summer developer conference, Google discussed very little of Chrome OS and Android Auto and a lot about the connected lifestyle we continue to adopt. Android Wear got a spotlight for how fast it’s been adopted and how much it’s evolved and matured as a platform since its launch just over a year ago.  The announcement of a connected home life set to utilize Google’s Android OS-based Brillo OS and its own inter-device communication called Weave, made headlines, and was left to sit until something happened. That something happened last week.

Google’s latest product, the OnHub, went on sale this past week and sold out only hours after being offered to customers on the company’s online store.  It’s a Wi-Fi router that supposedly makes it easier than ever to get and stay connected, as well as make managing connections and network errors easier and faster.  For $200 USD, the device sold out.  But what does a smarter Wi-Fi router have to do with anything Google has built and set up for us thus far?  It seems, at least looking back and guessing what is to come, quite a bit.  Here’s how.

Weave allows a smartphone to interact with a user’s cloud account to send data to, and receive it from, a smart device attached to a person’s home.  Take Nest, Google’s smart thermostat which also has a Carbon Monoxide-sensing sibling.  For example, Nest senses that your home is getting hot, since there’s a heat wave ravaging your city, and offers you to turn the air conditioning on before heading home for the day, so you can return to comfort instead of having to wait for it once there physically.  That is kind of what Google hopes to extend to any number of upcoming smart and connect-ready devices.

Only, instead of some proprietary offshoot OS to connect to your Android or iOS smartphone, the net of interconnected devices would run Google’s Brillo OS.  Brillo, as Google’s Sundar Pichai discussed at I/O, is meant for the interconnected devices that form our personal Internet of Things, or IoT for short, and will run on basic hardware meant to allow connectivity with little to no frills.

So, your kids might not be able to sneak a game of Angry Birds in while checking to see if there’s milk for cereal, but it would let you make a shopping list and add the fifteen other things you’ve been meaning to make a list of for the next run to the store.  Do something on one device, it is sensed and, if applicable, acted upon by another to smooth connections between them, and allow a seamless interface and user experience for the customer.  What’s this got to do with a Wi-Fi router though?

OnHub is very much exactly what the name says.  Google’s web of services looks to be called On, and this Wi-Fi router, in the always-online lives we lead, looks to become the hub of it all.  Google’s Wi-Fi router will be the Grand Central Station to the network of subways that we create with any of the to-be-released products from Google or its partners.  The Brillo OS developer preview is due out in Q3 of this year, and the full set of Weave protocols and code will be made available later, in Q4.  The OnHub is reported to be shipping out, as with all other official Google announcements, ‘in the comings weeks’, which puts it right in the sweet spot of Q3, fully ready to allow developers to start building with Brillo.