Google Builds "Smart-Home" Platform

Google Builds "Smart-Home" Platform

Google’s new Android@Home service turns smartphones into universal remotes for all kinds of electronic devices, promising to revolutionize peoples’ interactions with their environments.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company said it will partner with Lighting Science Group to build a wireless home lighting network that can be remote-controlled with an Android smartphone. Among its ambitions, Google plans to create a wireless home theater system that also controllable with a smartphone, under its “Project Tungsten” program, or its blueprint for a connected-home.

“We want to think of every device in your home as a connection to Android apps,” said Hugo Barra, Google’s product management director, in a speech at the company’s annual I/O developer conference.

In other words, by the end of the year, Android users could be using phones to turn off lights and adjust the volume on their speakers, with other possibilities — think phone-controlled toasters and even cars — down the line.

LSG’s remote-controllable internal and external lighting fixtures should hit shelves by 2012.

Future Android devices will be able to run on a new version of Google’s wireless network, using low-power — around 12 watts — for short-range home connections. Google may even apply these technologies to smart-grids, integrating its services directly with power companies themselves.

Demonstrating of Project Tungsten on Tuesday, Google showed how users can control and sync music using an Android-run tablet. In addition, the company demoed a speaker system that plays music by swiping an NFC-enabled CD case.

The search giant isn’t the first company to jump on smartphone-controlled wireless technology, but it may prove to be more successful than others, given its reach and clout in the market.

Sonos, a rival home-connected group, already provides wirelessly remote-controlled music services. But Sonos’ hefty price tag keeps it at the high end of the market, whereas Google plans to release the open-source project to the masses.

Google also need to challenge rival DLNA, which developed remote-controlled technology for appliances. DLNA hasn’t been able to unify software developers around its technology, though, which is essential for standardizing the platform.

The Internet giant is doing the opposite, building a solid developer platform and worrying about compatible appliances later.

In addition to its Android@Home ambitions, Google’s Android platform may soon make a debut in automobiles, challenging Microsoft’s Sync presence in cars as technology companies race to integrate their software ever more fully into ordinary life.

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