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What was Android Things and when will it die?

(Pocket-lint) – Remember Android Things? No? We don’t blame you. It didn’t last very long, and was officially shut down by Google at the beginning of 2021. 

Google makes many operating systems: Android powers smartphones and tablets; Wear OS powers wearables like smartwatches; Chrome OS powers laptops and other computers; Android TV powers set-top boxes and televisions; and Android Things, which was designed to control all kinds of Internet of Things devices, from smart displays to kitchen appliances.

However – perhaps unsurprisingly – it became another thing to add to Google’s infamous graveyard of killed projects. 

Here’s everything you need to know.

What was Android Things?

Android Things was meant to power all smart devices and IoT gadgets. Announced in 2016, it could run on products like connected speakers, smart thermostats, security cameras, routers, and so on. The idea is that, with Android Things, it would be easier for companies to start shipping IoT hardware, because they’d be using the same Android developer tools they already knew.

In a nut shell, it was designed to be a stripped-down version of Android, aimed at nearly every type of internet-connected gadget you could imagine. However, via on its latest FAQ page Google affectively says that Android Things has passed on. It’s no more, has ceased to be, has expired and gone to meet its maker. It is bereft of life. 

Jokes aside, the announcement actually said that users with programs already running on Android Things would be able to continue pushing updates until January 2022. However, no new projects would be accepted, and once that 2022 deadlines passes, that’s it, the developer console will be competely shut down. Android Things is now an ex-thing, effectively. 

So, what is Brillo then?

Android Things, didn’t start off being called Android things. In fact, it was a rebrand. A few years ago, Google announced Brillo, an Android-based OS for smart devices and IoT gadgets, but it never did much with the OS. Android Things was basically a successor to Brillo. It was also an update that allowed development to be accomplished with “the same developer tools as standard Android”, whereas Brillo didn’t offer that.

Brillo didn’t catch on because developers likely found it difficult to jump in and work on a new product. The hope with Android Things was that the familiarity would inspire more developers to hop onboard, but we all know how that turned out now don’t we?

When was Android Things available?

Google released the first SDK preview of Android Things in 2016. Then, in May 2018, Google announced that Android Things hit its official 1.0 release, which meant we were supposed to be getting closer to devices being made available with Android Things on board. By 2022 it will have kicked the bucket for good. 

Anything else you should know?

Don’t think of Android Things as Android or Wear OS, which you plainly see running on a phone or watch, respectively. Android Things was an OS that worked in the background but isn’t visible. More of a framework than a user interface as such. It allowed smart devices to handle their own tasks rather than let servers do the processing. Because it was capable of more complex tasks, it was ideal for complex smart devices like printers and locks, rather than basic power outlets.

Also, Android Things devices were able to integrate with Android and iOS devices through Weave, a communications system that Google launched alongside Brillo. That protocol also enabled Android Things devices to have access to Google Assistant.

Writing by Maggie Tillman and Elyse Betters. Editing by Cam Bunton.

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