Google, Huawei Latest to Offer OSes for IoT

Google is expected to announce "Brillo" at its I/O event, a week after Huawei unveiled its own LiteOS as part of a larger IoT push.


Google and Huawei Technologies are the latest technology vendors to push an operating system for the rapidly growing Internet of Things.

At the Huawei Network Congress 2015 event last week, Huawei officials unveiled LiteOS, a lightweight operating system that was introduced as part of the company's larger Agile Internet of Things (IoT) Solution, which also includes an IoT gateway and controller.

Google officials reportedly will talk about the search giant's upcoming IoT OS—dubbed "Brillo"—during the Google I/O 2015 conference, which starts May 28 in San Francisco. According to reports in The Information and Fortune, Brillo—with as few as 32 or 64 megabytes of memory—will be able to run in smaller, low-power devices that will make up much of the IoT.

Google and Huawei will join a growing list of tech companies that are rolling out lightweight operating systems for the Internet of Things. For example, chip designer ARM last year unveiled its mbed OS for the IoT, and Microsoft is developing a version of its upcoming Windows 10 for the IoT that officials in March said will offer a single Windows platform for everything from IoT gateways to devices like ATMs and industrial robots.

It's easy to see why Huawei, Google and others are making such aggressive pushes into the Internet of Things. Cisco Systems officials have said that by 2020, there will be more than 50 billion connected devices worldwide—everything from cars and homes appliances to industrial systems, security surveillance solutions and machine-to-machine connections. Huawei officials said the number of connections will hit 100 billion by 2025, with 2 million new sensors being deployed every hour.

Vendors want to get their processors, gateways and operating systems into as many of these devices as possible.

According to unnamed sources, Brillo will be based on Google's Android operating system, which is found in the bulk of smartphones and tablets on the market. However, the OS is designed to run in mobile devices that have at least 512 MB of memory. For connected devices like smart light bulbs, sensors and thermostats—like the connected thermostats made by Google's Nest business—a much smaller, more lightweight OS is needed.

The OS will work with Nest thermostats, but is not being developed by that business, according to the reports.

Google has been rapidly growing its IoT capabilities. It bought Nest early last year for $3.2 billion, and five months later Nest bought in-home video monitoring vendor Dropcam for $555 million. Google last year also bought Revolv, which makes smart-home hubs. In addition, Nest last year was one of the founding members of the Thread Group, an industry consortium working to develop a wireless networking protocol for the IoT.

This isn't Google's first attempt at an operating system for the Internet of Things. In 2011, the company announced Android@Home, but eventually that effort died out. Now Google reportedly will try again with Brillo.

For their part, Huawei officials are promising that LiteOS, at 10KB, will be the most lightweight operating system for the IoT and will be good for everything from smart home devices to wearable tech to connected cars. It will support zero configuration, auto-discovery and auto-networking, and also will be open, enabling developers to build their own IoT products on top of it.

The giant tech company is making the source code for LiteOS available for download.

"Huawei believes that standardizing ICT [information and communications technology] infrastructure will foster the development of Internet applications, including IoT applications," William Xu, chief strategy and marketing officer at Huawei, said during the company's event.