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How Google and Apple will smartify your home

Mike Elgan | May 26, 2015
The automation revolution starts Thursday. Here's what's coming soon to your house.

According to The Information, one key feature of Brillo is extreme lightness. It can reportedly run on devices that have as little as 32MB of RAM. (Note that the current version of Android barely functions on devices powered by the minimum spec for the the operating system, which is 512MB.)

That will keep costs down, meaning Brillo-powered devices could be installed affordably in inexpensive home devices like light bulbs, doorbells and shower heads. It also means they won't gobble up too much battery power.

Another difference between the Android@Home approach and Brillo is that the Android@Home project was all about home automation, while Brillo is for the whole IoT, including home automation.

The biggest and most significant change at Google since the Android@Home nonstarter was the company's acquisition of Nest.

Nest was founded and headed by former iPod chief Tony Fadell, who now runs Google's home automation group.

The company has a clear design philosophy, which it applied to its first product, the Nest Learning Thermostat, and its smart smoke detector, the Nest Protect.

Also significant is that Google also acquired Dropcam, a smart home camera company that's now part of Fadell's Nest group.

All of those products are the best of their kind, and they offer extreme simplicity, ease of use and automation.

What's interesting about Fadell and the Nest group is that it's run almost like an independent company. I think we can expect to see more good products coming out of Google's Nest group over the next few years.

While it seems reasonable that at some point Nest products will run Brillo, for now Brillo looks like the platform that other companies will use to build hardware and services on top of, while Nest is Google's hardware and services option for home automation.

There is more to come. Expect major news about both Brillo and Nest this week.

Apple Home

In two weeks, Apple will host its own developers conference -- the Worldwide Developers Conference, which starts on June 8. Apple is famously secretive about upcoming announcements. But an apparently false report in Fortune inspired the company to reveal a few facts in advance of WWDC.

After a widely circulated report said Apple's home automation platform, called HomeKit, was delayed until the end of the year, the company came out and said: No, it's right on track. Apple even revealed plans to announce third-party home automation products at its developers conference, and those products will be available in June. Apple claims that it has "dozens of partners" for HomeKit.

When Apple unveiled HomeKit at its developers conference a year ago, execs said it would involve a "common protocol" to allow home automation devices to communicate with each other, and with iPhones and iPads. Since then, however, it has been suggested that two additional hardware platforms may play roles in Apple's home automation initiative: The Apple Watch and Apple TV.


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