Google rebrands Brillo OS as Android Things, with bonus security updates

Credit: Alexander Kirch /

ITEM: Google has rebranded its Project Brillo OS as Android Things, a stripped down version of the Android OS which aims to make Android the default OS for IoT devices – but the real attraction could be its approach to security.

Google has issued a developer preview for Android Things, which make it “faster and easier” for developers to create Android-based connected products. According to a blog post from Wayne Piekarski, Developer Advocate for IoT at Google, the company incorporated feedback from its Project Brillo IoT initiative to include tools such as Android Studio, the Android Software Development Kit (SDK), Google Play Services, and Google Cloud Platform.

Piekarski also said that in the coming months, Google will provide developer preview updates “to bring you the infrastructure for securely pushing regular OS patches, security fixes, and your own updates, as well as built-in Weave connectivity and more.”

That’s a key feature, and a welcome one, given the notorious security problems in connected devices that have already been exploited by hackers using tools like Mirai, observes Ars Technica:

Of course updates are always a problem with Android phones, but Google is trying to solve that here with “updates direct from Google.” The post says that “in the coming months” newer developer previews will support some kind of “infrastructure” so developers can push out images and OTA updates on their own schedule. This sounds way better than most of the IoT market, which has an almost nonexistent approach to security. A platform with regular updates would go a long way to fix that.

Security expert Bruce Schneier has written as far back as 2014 that one of the reasons IoT security is problematic is because when vulnerabilities in connected devices are found, manufacturers don’t issue security patches to fix the problem.

Google has also updated Weave, the communications protocol that Android Things will use to talk to each other and cloud services like Google Assistant. Google also issued a Weave Device SDK for supported microcontrollers and a management console:

The Weave Device SDK currently supports schemas for light bulbs, smart plugs and switches, and thermostats. In the coming months we will be adding support for additional device types, custom schemas/traits, and a mobile application API for Android and iOS.

Piekarski also said Google is working to combine Weave and Nest Weave to enable all classes of devices to connect with each other: “So whether you started with Google Weave or Nest Weave, there is a path forward in the ecosystem.”

In related news, Qualcomm Technologies announced that it plans to collaborate with Google to add support for the Android Things OS in its Snapdragon processors.

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