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Cuckoo! Google settles into Nest, starts folding dev platform

And Brillo becomes Android Things

By Kieren McCarthy, 13 Dec 2016

Google has expanded its corporate grip over smart home company Nest, announcing that it will fold the company's developer platform into its own.

"We're working towards merging Weave and Nest Weave to enable all classes of devices to connect with each other in a secure and reliable way," Google said in a slew of Internet of Things (IoT) news.

Nest has long held a semi-autonomous role within Google following its acquisition for $3.2bn in early 2014. But that autonomy faded when CEO Tony Fadell left in June following criticism that he had created a controlling culture that was at odds with Google's approach and, most crucially, was not producing results.

When Nest inexplicably decided to end support for the Revolv smart home control product, widespread complaints brought the issue to the fore. Nest had declined to include Google's new Brillo IoT standards in its products, and it created its own Weave protocol that it initially kept closed before being forced to open it. Nest also prioritized iPhones and iOS development over Android.

When Fadell left, Nest's platform team was pulled into Google and the company was put under the watch of Android senior VP Hiroshi Lockheimer, who was given the task of creating a unified IoT platform.

The results of that task were formally announced Tuesday.

And now... Android Things

Android Things is Google's new developer toolkit and will provide "a comprehensive way to build IoT products," with Android using its APIs and Google services.

Brillo finds itself referred to as a "project" that elicited "feedback" that has now been incorporated into other Google services including Android Studio, the Android Software Development Kit (SDK), Google Play services, and Google Cloud Platform. Google's version of Weave will now be built into all of these.

Weave will become Google's main IoT platform and will incorporate both its cloud services and Google Assistant – a key part of which will be trying to make Google's Alexa competitor, Google Home, a control point for IoT devices in the home.

The announcement revealed that a number of big companies were signing up to the Weave platform, including Belkin WeMo, LiFX, Honeywell, Wink, TP-Link, and First Alert.

Weave will provide cloud infrastructure – something that Google says will both improve the notoriously poor IoT security and allow manufacturers to "focus on building their products without investing in cloud services." Or, in other words, put Google at the heart of an IoT ecosystem.

There is a Weave Device SDK for microcontrollers with schemas for light bulbs, smart plugs and switches, and thermostats. Google says it will be expanding that to include more devices, as well as custom schemas and an API for both Android and iOS. It is Google's effort to rival Apple's HomeKit system but without all the control-freak requirements.

With all these efforts put into creating a single IoT platform, it was inevitable that Nest's own Weave platform was living on borrowed time. How much "merging" will occur is hard to know; it could well be that Nest's people are simply told to re-engineer their systems to work with Google's version. ®

PS: Google today spun off its self-driving car project into a separate biz called Waymo under the Alphabet umbrella. The research lab effort is suffering from low morale and has been shedding staff to rivals. It's hoped project boss John Krafcik will bring the autonomous vehicles to commercialization by around 2020.

The Register - Independent news and views for the tech community. Part of Situation Publishing