Future Tense

Google Just Stepped Up the Competition for Internet of Things Platforms

The layers of Google’s Brillo interoperability platform.

Screencap from Google

On Thursday, Google announced a new Internet of Things platform for Android called Brillo. Developed by Nest engineers, Brillo will work as a central place where users can access and control their Internet of Things devices through uniform standards that allow products from different manufacturers to coexist.

It’s not a new idea. Almost a year ago, Apple introduced its HomeKit database, which had similar goals of standardizing protocols and partnering with third-party manufacturers to create interoperability. But it was clear at the time that Apple was a long way from offering an Internet of Things solution that “just works.” For one thing, the company’s HealthKit platform for quantified-self data came with a consumer app called Health in iOS 8. An analogous Home app was conspicuously missing.

Since then, it seems like HomeKit has been plagued with delays and setbacks. There are rumors that iOS 9 (which will probably be announced at Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference in June) will finally include a Home app, but Apple has clearly missed its chance to get out in front and achieve Internet of Things dominance.

With Brillo’s common standard—called Weave—Google is working to enable any connected device to communicate with the cloud, a user’s smartphone, and also directly with users’ other smart devices. That last part is crucial, and if Weave works as well as Google claims, it will make it much easier to coordinate smart locks with thermostats or whatever other combinations you can imagine. It also doesn’t hurt that Google owns Nest, which makes products that might be the most recognizable face of the smart-home movement.

“We want to connect devices in a seamless and intuitive way and make them work better for users,” Google senior vice president Sundar Pichai said at Google’s I/O conference.

Brillo is set to debut by the end of 2015, so for Apple and Google—and lots of other companies that have similar projects—the battle is just beginning.