Just when you thought Android’s world takeover couldn’t possibly get any hungrier, Google announced a new target for the little green robot: your home. The new Android @ Home framework provides a low-cost, unified solution to the problem of aggregating various home automation systems. What Android @ Home does isn’t new, exactly; home automation systems have been around for years.
Those systems have never caught on with mainstream public users, however, for two good reasons: complexity and cost. Traditional home automation systems have never been cheap; regardless of which standard you go with, you can generally expect to pay out a pretty penny. Moreover, the more affordable a system becomes, the less fully-featured it is, relying on standalone components that can each do one thing and not central hubs from which users can take control of several different home automation systems at one go.
They’ve also been difficult for typical users to implement. Once in place, they’re often easy to use, but getting them there isn’t easy. It requires skill and expensive labor, and often some scripting of various actions in order to make everything play nicely together. Adding additional components after the original install is problematic, too, requiring customers to bring the installation company back out for other visits.
Enter Android @ Home. Google’s goals are to let Android devices of any stripe (running minimum operating system versions, of course) act as the control centers for the home automation network, with each device talking to one another. One of the search giant’s main goals for the framework is to introduce a set of open standards that any company (even mobile competitors, such as Apple’s iOS and Microsoft’s Windows Phone) can implement easily and most importantly, inexpensively.
Early partners, such as LED light bulb maker Lighting Science have already showed off preliminary products such as bulbs with built-in wireless transceivers that can communicate along the open 900MHz spectrum to communicate with control hubs and Android devices. Lighting Science says that they intend to offer the new bulbs at the same price as non-wireless versions, meaning that users will be able to buy Android @ Home compatible equipment for zero surcharge.
Said Joe Britt, who’s leading Google’s efforts as chief of the Android @ Home group: “We’d like to think of your entire home as an accessory, or better yet as a network of accessories, and think of Android as the operating system for your home.” If successful, Google’s push into the home could finally bring home automation out of the future and into reality.