Google has finally released a fully supported version of Android for open source development boards in the form of Android Things (aka Brillo). I think the potential is there for this to open even more possibilities for these little boards and the makers who use them. Previously Android support for these boards was sketchy at best. The original Raspberry Pi team opted not to initially work on Android support at all. Instead choosing to focus solely on the Raspbian OS which has worked out ok for them but at the same time there aren’t millions of apps available for it like there are with Android. Granted if you wanted to do a lot of digging you might find an AOSP version that some people were trying to make work on these boards but there is no guarantee that it would run the way you expect it to not to mention driver support.
This does not seem to be just a watered-down version of Android but something they put at least a little thought and time into customizing for an embedded environment. A notable difference from the Android on your phone is it can run headless, as in with or without a screen depending on what you are trying to make the hardware do. Also, APIs that were required for a phone or that need user input or authentication are not included here, as well as notification support since there may not even be a screen to put them on. One of the other things that sticks out to me is UI support which is kind of non-existent on Windows IoT. I believe this could be much more useful where Windows IoT totally feels like a slimmed down version of Windows phone.
One last thing that Android things is bringing to the larger IoT ecosystem that may not be as obvious is security. Given Android does have vulnerabilities from time to time I would consider it more secure than the average Wi-Fi security camera running an Asian firmware doing who knows what, that has no chance of ever being updated. Lets just say it would probably be much more difficult to turn some Android things devices into a botnet than would be with these other Wi-Fi cameras and their hardcoded admin passwords.
This is just a hunch but I would not be surprised if Google’s new home voice interface device was based on this IoT version of Android. They were released oddly close together and the home device has all the functionality described here. Anyway, I know the next image I’m flashing to my pi’s.
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