Android@Home

At the Google IO event (10th May 2011) the Android@Home concept was announced. It is a combination of cloud services, software and devices, providing an 'open framework for developers to explore and write their own applications'. The concepts presented were lacking any real detail but there are probably many more announcements to come.

Android@Home is the first major step by Google into the home automation space, discounting its PowerMeter project to provide smart metering in 2009. Android@Home is different though, in that it aims to automate products used on a daily basis in most homes, such as light switches, light bulbs, power sockets, appliances, window blinds/curtains, thermostats, loudspeakers, etc. The ultimate goal seems to be every device and piece of consumer electronics in your home.

There are couple of demonstration videos on YouTube:

Feb 2013 Update

Android's home automation capabilities may have finally been revealed in the latest 4.2.2 update. System configuration files within the update mention both mesh networking and Android@home. Only time will tell though!.

Standards & Protocols

There is not much detail so far but, it looks like Google is building upon existing standards and protocols. It was stated that it will use a mesh networking protocol that functions in the 900MHz frequency bands (in the USA) (much like Z-Wave). The protocol lets Android apps discover, connect, and communicate with electrical appliances and devices in the home. It is also claimed to be an 'open' protocol.

Some quotes from Google ...
"It enables very low cost connectivity to anything electrical. It does require new technology but it is a low cost technology."
and
"We realise that it has to be extremely low cost, We have a figure in mind but we're not going to share it."
and
"It's wireless but it is not Wi-Fi. It's low cost, very low power and it's not high bandwidth. If you need Wi-Fi, use that, but if it's a dishwasher it doesn't make sense to burden it with that cost."

It is looking likely that Google plans to build upon the IEEE 802.15.4 standard for wireless personal area networks (WPAN). The 802.15.4 standard is the basis for ZigBee wireless networks but, ZigBee adds protocol layers on top of the 802.15.4 standard. Android@Home will rely on the protocol designed to allow every-day devices such as thermostats and lights to connect to the Internet.

Wireless LED Bulbs

The first product, due at the end of 2011 (but never arrived), was to be an LED light bulb from Lighting Science Group. The US version uses wireless mesh networking in the 900MHz band, which is used for mobile phones in the UK. Most home automation technologies use different frequencies for different countries or regions though, so we can expect products for Europe and other regions to follow. The mesh networks support up to 500 devices and each can be up to 50m from the Android@Home base station (code name Project Tungsten). The range will obviously depend on local environment such as walls, ceilings, interference, etc.

In the USA the LED Bulb was planned to retail for around $30 (which means about £30 in the UK). There was also to be a light switch, security lamp and a 'wall wart' (a wireless gateway from Wi-Fi to Android@Home devices).

Project Tungsten

The 'Project Tungsten' hub is an 'always on' hardware device that is permanently connected to the Cloud. Using the new Google Music Beta service (also announced at the IO event), the Sonos like device can serve home audio to a set of speakers or into an existing AV setup. Another Project Tungsten design was shown reading CDs ID from RFID tags.

Android Accessory DevKit

Google also announced the 'Android Open Accessory' standard for accessories using an API that is compatible with Android phones and tablets (running at least Android V2.3.4 or V3.1). It supports a special 'accessory' mode with the connected device acting as a USB host and also providing power (500mA at 5V), meaning they can charge your phone or tablet.

Google also announced a reference developer boards with USB connectivity and Bluetooth connectivity to follow. These are based on Arduino microcontrollers.

This technology will be the subject of a few projects in the coming months :-)

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