What is Android?
Android is an operating system based on the Linux kernel. Android is not a phone nor is it an application and the most simplistic way I can say this in regards to a phone an operating system is where all your phone functions live. Your calls, your text’s, your applications, anything that you input onto your device is going into the operating system.
The operating system is processing that information and putting it into a readable format. Android operating system versions have code names as well. So you may hear someone refer to android as Jellybean or as Kit Kat.
That’s just the name of the current version of Android you’re on. It still has a number associated with it whether it’s 4.2 or 4.3. The major manufacturers of Android usually have a skin on top of the operating system which some will argue enhances the current version of Android.
Skins all have different names but still under the skin is running a version of Android. Don’t the names like Touchwiz since Motoblur confuse you, it’s all android.
What is Android Things?
Basically any device its connected to the internet and it’s performing a job or a function for us. Now while smartphones and laptops are key to the internet they kind of connect to the internet because we’re using them as tools. But an IoT device is something that’s more autonomous it stays on its own doing data gathering and doing tasks that we’ve assigned to do without very much human interaction.
So take the example of a weather station maybe it out in a field somewhere and its taking different sensor readings and it is sending those back up into the cloud for analysis. Now that doesn’t just mean weather stations, we can talk about home automation, we can talk about home security, we can talk about smart cities, we can talk about sort of factories and power plants and all these kind of things that have kind of autonomous aspects to them. And they’re using the internet to send up the data to monitor what’s going on.
So it’s really its sensors that are then sending up data into the cloud where we then analyze the information. Now, of course, we haven’t really even come to fully understand all the different areas of which this idea of connected devices can work in our in our live streetlamps, cars, fridges, refrigerators. You know everything we can think of can be connected to the internet if it can do a useful task.
Now to build those products there has to be an element of computing power inside those devices. So that’s why you need a computer, a chip and you need an operating system and it needs to have internet connectivity.
So Google has released android things with the idea that they are going to want would you use the technology built on Android, the knowledge they have of androids, and always they have of java to build IoT devices.
Now, of course, it has to have a hardware component because it talked about devices here and what google Dinah, they’ve supported three boards from the start and there are more boards coming on the way. And those three boards are the Intel Edison which obviously an Intel x86 chip. We’ve got the X nxp Pico which is an arm cortex a7 based chip. And we’ve got the raspberry pi 3 which uses a quad-core cortex a53 chip at 64-bit.
So as you can see here we’ve got support for Intel processors and for arm processors, we’ve got 32-bit support and 64-bit support all the devices come with at least half a gigabyte of memory and were running at 500 megahertz or 1 gigahertz. Now that’s quite different to the other types of IoT kits that we have. Which are ones that are running on microcontrollers?
Now microcontrollers run at very different speeds I run that maybe only 96 megahertz or forty-eight megahertz. They might only have maybe a 256 k of ram, 128 k or ram. A very much smaller power requirement, much smaller hardware requirements.
Now android things can’t run on those because Android is of course based on Linux. And Linux is a fully multitasking operating system with virtual memory support which means you need a complicated MMU memory management unit. And you only find those in things like the cortex a series and Intel x86 series.
Now, this option to go with Android rather than with a microcontroller type of design could be a great benefit because we have such great powerful computers in our IoT devices. Maybe things like voice recognition and maybe facial recognition and maybe kind of picture detection and some level of AI could happen in the IoT devices which would be very useful because we have such power there. But at the same time, it does raise the full of the entry level do I really need a chord core sort of one gigahertz processor in my fridge.
So you know there is this kind of disk you know Google specifically aiming for one type part of the market with android things and it’s missing out on a whole other part of the market. Now whether that’s a good idea or a bad idea only time will tell.