Android co-founder choosing a different path with latest smart home device

31 May 2017

Image: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

The smart home market is now bulging with competition, but it appears that it’s only Android that’s thinking outside the box.

How many connected devices do you own? Add up the smartphones, tablets, lights, speakers and TVs in your home and you could well be hosting a considerable trove of smart items.

However, the odds are that they’re not all the same brand, or, at the very least, they’re not all compatible together.

This could prove problematic if you’ve got Amazon Echo’s Alexa helping you out, or if Siri or Google Assistant is your home help of choice.

“All of these [companies] have ecosystem envy and want to create their own ecosystem,” said Andy Rubin, co-founder of Android.

“But consumers don’t want just Samsung stuff in their house. They want diversity.”

Rubin was discussing Essential Home, one of Android’s latest releases, part of a range including a new smartphone, also called Essential.

It’s an interesting take on a burgeoning scene. It’s a screen, rather than a canister (Echo) or modem (Google Home), with a new operating system called Ambient OS. Much like Android, it will be open source.

Plan in place

Speaking at a conference in California, it was put to Rubin that this could, yet again, lead to fragmentation, and fast and loose attitudes towards updates and security.

“I think we have a solution for that. I think we have a better plan,” said Rubin.

“There [are] too many things you have to interact with in your home,” he said.

That’s why Ambient OS will open up to support all other smart home hubs, such as Google Assistant, Siri and Alexa.

“It’s really up to the companies … I want to be inclusive and I want to interoperate,” he said.

Essential Home. Image: Essential

Image: Essential Home

When it comes to connecting with everything, Essential Home will, supposedly, ‘introduce’ itself automatically to your existing devices in order to help you set them up quickly.

Cooperation among companies is hotting up, though nothing is on the scale of Android’s plans.

Earlier this year, it emerged that Amazon and Intel see a “tremendous opportunity” in smart homes, so they’re teaming up to put Alexa-like capabilities into more companies’ hands.

Apple, meanwhile, is expected to release its own rival device in the coming weeks.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic