The Essential Home smart home hub was officially announced earlier today as a competitor to the likes of Amazon Echo and Google Home, and one of the most intriguing aspects surrounding the device was a new operating system called Ambient OS. Although the operating system is able to unify a variety of smart devices in the user's home, Essential claims that the OS was designed around the belief that "people should always be in control" of their electronics and Ambient OS reportedly gives users more control over their privacy compared to similar solutions.
The main purpose of Ambient OS is to understand the physical layout of the user's home, the people that live in it, and the devices and services relevant to the home and its occupants. This is what Essential calls "activating" your home, and the goal is to allow users to express their desires and needs while Ambient OS choreographs the home's resources in order to meet the occupants' requirements. According to the company, Ambient OS will turn a home into a computer with the operating system itself doubling as an API (Application Programming Interface) for home technology, giving developers the ability to create applications that can function on multiple devices and deliver a unified experience across one's household. Through the Ambient OS API, developers can use other available services, devices, as well as home information as building blocks for writing their applications. For example, a developer can set up a timer that activates the lights in a specific room once it goes off.
Technically this sounds quite similar to IFTTT — a web-based service allowing the creation of chains of conditional statements called applets — but unlike other web services, Ambient OS runs code on the Essential Home smart home hub itself. This practice is in line with the operating system's privacy-oriented design as Essential says it created the Ambient OS to rely less on cloud APIs and instead store user data locally and control devices through local networks whenever possible. Unlike other smart home hubs that attempt to learn and adapt, Ambient OS is less intrusive and will only offer suggestions to the user as opposed to trying to anticipate the user's needs. More details on the platform will likely be available shortly.