back to article Stony-faced Google drags Android Things behind the cowshed. Two shots ring out

Google is discontinuing its Android Things IoT platform for non-commercial users. The Chocolate Factory will not allow the creation of new projects after 5 January and the entire platform will be nuked the following year. This means that all project data – from device images to build configurations – will be permanently …

  1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

    Has anybody produced a successful IoT platform ?

    It seems to me that the description is too wide - no one platform fits all, and the solutions range from home-grown to Linux to some other proprietary platform.

    A framework that needs a Pi 3 upwards is strongly into the top tier of products.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      It is a wide description, but that's kinda necessary when we don't know quite what it will turn into. It's akin to using the vague term 'storage solution' when you know you haven't done enough research on whether boxes, bags or shelves will be the best way of keeping things safe and tidy in your particular situation.

      It's also worth noting that originally IoT didn't mean things on the internet, but it meant the idea of all real objects being addressable. These days IoT is often taken to mean 'home automation'.

      1. Triggerfish

        The wide description bit is very apt, the field and it's uses are so wide. I do not even think of IOT in home automation. Rather in terms of industrial sensors, smart building tech, retail tech and so on.

        1. 0laf Silver badge
          FAIL

          I dislike smart things

          toally agree with idea that the focus of IOT should be on industrial sensors and systems.

          For domestic use, unless you have additional support needs, I just don't think 'smart' is worth either the price or the loss of privacy you must pay to use them.

          Far too many of these mainstream products just get dumped in order to either save cash for the supplier or to milk the customer. i.e. Sonos.

          And for me 'smart' mre often than not means frustrating to me. Devices that take an age to do a simple task, or fail because some process sit stuck in a looop or are more occupied with mining my data than doing the function I paid money to have done.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I dislike smart things

            > For domestic use, unless you have additional support needs, I just don't think 'smart' is worth either the price or the loss of privacy you must pay to use them.

            Are you suggesting that either of those are intrinsic qualities of an IoT solution?

            They are not. The loss of privacy (security breaches excluded) is a result of a certain marketing and business strategy. It is quite possible to have IoT solutions with the substantially the same or better privacy characteristics as your 405 MHz garage door opener.

            Thing is, what we see today should not be called Internet of Things. It should be called Star Topology of Things.

            If it needs a purpose-built "cloud" server anywhere in the system, you better stay away from it. If the "cloud" server is closed and proprietary, run like you're on fire.

            I have used XMPP and MQTT for IoT applications. Provided that the devices can be pointed to the server of your choice, and provided that the server does not have to treat your devices differently from any other client, you get equivalent privacy as using email (from none to pretty good, depending on your setup) while getting all the benefits of portability and being protected against sudden death syndrome (that's when your vendor goes under, instantly taking all your devices to the grave with them as they pull the plug on their "cloud" server).

            1. vincent himpe

              Re: I dislike smart things

              Z-wave is the solution

              - no central command and control server, especially not a shady one in farawayistan that may go bellyup when the company goes defunct.

              - intelligence and routing happens in the node.

              - no 50 million transistors and 5 gigabyte of code to turn on a lightbulb which nobody understands anymore

              - no enrolling in the network without a physical operation ( mechanical button press)

              Gen 1 had some issues with a vulnerability due to firmware downgrading. Gen II solved that.

              My biggest worry about those things like SONOFF and others is that, if the c&c goes down your system is dead. Or, if someone hacks the c7C server they can play blinkenlights with your stuff...

              Not possible with a z-wave system. unless you are physically in radio range of my network, and you have and enrolled device you can't do diddly squat. To enroll your device, i need to press a button. which ain't gonna happen as i don't trust you.

              1. dajames Silver badge

                Re: I dislike smart things

                My biggest worry about those things like SONOFF and others is that, if the c&c goes down your system is dead. Or, if someone hacks the c7C server they can play blinkenlights with your stuff...

                The SONOFF devices are at least hackable/reflashable so that you can run software that you control via (if you need it at all) a server that you control. The free and open Tasmota firmware looks pretty good (though I haven't played with it yet).

                I'd be more worried that the hardware seems a little cheaply made for something that has to handle mains voltages and non-trivial current.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: I dislike smart things

                Z-wave is (or until recently, was) a proprietary protocol. ZigBee is an open standard and technologically more modern as well.

                With that said, it would be wrong to interpret locally interconnected devices as an internet of things. LoRaWAN devices on the other hand, because of their range and capabilities, can however be thought of as first-class IoT citizens.

    2. Povl H. Pedersen

      Sure

      The ESP-01 .. ESP32 series of boards are a fantastic IoT platform.

      Typically used with Arduino, since there is nothing out there that just blows it away.

      IoT is not big boards like the Pi. It is small boards, limited RAM, limited CPU (the ESP8266 is 80MHHz though).

      We do not need anything like Android for that. Not sure if something minix/Linux like would even work. For the slow CPUs (Arduino), interrupts are used for data, not context switch, and for timing, every single CPU cycle counts. Just like the old days.

      1. bpfh
        WTF?

        Re: Sure

        This!

        IoT for me is a simple network connected / network aware device... actually having a full blown Android based OS and associated overhead is.... overkill?

      2. ibmalone Silver badge

        Re: Sure

        Indeed, "low-power compute boards" followed by "Raspberry Pi 3B" causes a bit of cognitive dissonance. If it can run a graphical desktop and libreoffice then calling it low-power is quite a stretch.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sure

        > IoT is not big boards like the Pi.

        I disagree with that. IoT is the whole spectrum of things being interconnected, from the tiniest of sensors to your HAL-9000 Chinese knock-off.

        The one requirement IMO would be IP capability of some description, which can be achieved via a network module; such as the Espressif products that you mention, which have either a WiFi stack (8266) or WiFi + Ethernet PHY (ESP32). If you haven't got IP capability then you may have a network of things (most likely sensors), but not an internet of things. In practice, a higher-level standard (TCP/UDP/ICMP/…) will also be required.

        > Typically used with Arduino, since there is nothing out there that just blows it away.

        Arduino is a popular hobbyist platform. It is great for getting people into electronics and for some quick, cheap and dirty prototyping, and it has even been used (successfully in some cases) for some MVPs or very low production count products, but at industrial scale you will want to integrate the MCUs directly into your own boards.

    3. Williamjames111100

      I don't remember this but for coding differently their is a platform. You have to code a single and will provide you all kind of apps. IOS< Android etc.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    >> to me that the description is too wide

    Indeed, as defined (and abused) a successful IoT platform would replace the internet.

    I mean, isn't everything on the internet a "thing"

  3. Mage Silver badge
    Alert

    A thought

    For years people made Routers, TVs and other things like eReaders just with Linux. Sony strangely went from Linux to Android for the PRS eink readers, even though the main point of Android is the touch GUI and the Java like Android apps on a VM. Sony's PRS305 and PRS505 had better more reliable software than the Android versions, starting with PRS-T1, nor did it save the product. Problem was Sony's idea was to make money from the bookstore. That's really only ever worked for Amazon.

    Some stuff used VxWorks instead of Linux.

    TVs adopted Android TV, to allow Android apps, but otherwise give a worse user experience and of course lack of privacy.

    1) Anything with Internet and Thing in the name or description is a bad idea. Adding Android too seems daft. Any arbitrary gadget with any OS and an comms API can be controlled from iOS, Android, MacOS, Linux and Windows pretty trivially. Having Android on it makes no difference.

    2) Is there any point to Android other than on OLED/LCD touch screen phones and tablets?

    I've wondered does Google pay TV makers and eink reader makers and auto systems money to use Android, or is it just some manager in a company thinks it's a better idea than vanilla Linux?

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Re: A thought

      I've wondered does Google pay TV makers and eink reader makers and auto systems money to use Android, or is it just some manager in a company thinks it's a better idea than vanilla Linux?

      I'm sure the answer is "Size of app ecosystem" more than anything else. Put Android on something and there's this (probably dilussional) idea that All Android Apps will work, that that will appeal to customers, and the product will have a market advantage. Never seen it work yet...

      Another aspect is that there's a lot of Android app developers.

      I think it's interesting that QNX is doing very well in the auto market. I reckon that the car companies have worked out that no one wants to install apps on their car, and so there's no need for the car to support Android or Apple apps (especially when you've put carplay and the android equivalent on). Whereas the super smooth fluidic UIs that you can do in a proper RTOS like QNX really are a distinguishing quality feature feature that Android can't really match.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: A thought

        It maybe because the SoC vendors release android binary blobs, and not Linux drivers. This alone would make it easier for Sony to use Android over Linux.

      2. Ian 55

        Re: A thought

        Oh, I'd say that lots of people would like to install apps on their car.

        It's just a good idea not to let them.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: A thought

      "Is there any point to Android other than on OLED/LCD touch screen phones and tablets?"

      Yes. The reasons differ depending on what you're building, but there are a couple good ones. One is app portability if people other than you are going to write apps for the thing. This could be library services or ebook stores which write an Android app that runs on an ereader and supports their format or can download from their service. If all the ereaders use the same interface, they only have to write the app once. The ereaders likely don't, which is why there aren't that many apps like that, but it's a similar model with streaming video on smart TVs.

      For TVs, a general smart TV platform is more likely to get support than a specific one. For example, one of my family members has been asking for my assistance because they've lost access to a television channel on their old satellite system and they want it back. They have a smart TV running some probably awful proprietary system and they also have another proprietary streamer stick which they can use. Neither of these does apps, so I've been attempting to look up whether either has a manufacturer-supplied app for something carrying the channel concerned. With something running a generalized platform like Android TV which can receive apps from people other than the manufacturer, the likelihood that there is something of use is higher. Certainly not guaranteed, but nobody's waiting on the Samsung television feature department to fix a smart TV eight years old.

      Another benefit (this one for the manufacturer, not for you) is that Android has a bunch of developers and existing libraries. Linux does too, but for devices using a single screen and basic user interface, the Android developers are already familiar using Android's tools to write apps with that type of interface.

      These don't make Android a requirement. A general Linux-based open TV or ereader platform would work well too. But we don't have those. Well, I think Kodi is kind of like an open smart TV platform but as I recall it has trouble with a lot of streaming services because of DRM problems. Nothing is perfect, and in this landscape often nothing is very good, but some things are less bad than others and Android can sometimes get things to the less bad point.

    3. HildyJ Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: A thought

      For an eink reader, I'd pay extra for Android if I could install Firefox for browsing (and to sync with my other devices), Libby for borrowing ebooks from the library, Dropbox for cloud storage, and FX File Explorer to view and organize my files on the reader and in the cloud.

      OTOH, the ability to play Fortnight on the microwave while it heats my leftovers is something that only sounds good to a marketing department.

      1. david bates

        Re: A thought

        My Kobo runs an ancient version of Android (much cut down, and no Googlyness), and comes with a browser. Browsing on an eInk screen is NOT a joyous experience.

        It does mean that if I'm desperate I can do all he heavy lifting of getting books on my mobile, file up a web server, and get books onto the Kobo using HTML...but the eInk screen is slow, and the processor is slow....its not fun.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A thought

      > Anything with Internet and Thing in the name or description is a bad idea

      Why?

      > Any arbitrary gadget with any OS and an comms API can be controlled from […]

      Why do you suggest an OS is needed at all?

      > or is it just some manager in a company thinks it's a better idea than vanilla Linux?

      In this context, Android is more or less a competitor to Qt. Google has more clout and offers a higher level (i.e., much more bloated) platform. For the type of products that you mention (TVs, etc.), a system like Android is a good fit, as essentially your job is reduced to doing a bit of integration as opposed to full blown design. The problem is that Android is what it is: a proprietary product controlled by a cancerous company.

  4. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    "I've wondered does Google pay TV makers and eink reader makers and auto systems money to use Android, or is it just some manager in a company thinks it's a better idea than vanilla Linux?"

    I don't know, but I think it's usually some manager. I think in fantasy-land, they see all those apps that are on the phone, and think Hey! Look at all those free apps, wouldn't it be nice to have some of those on the eink reader or (god forbid) auto system. (Of course, the answer to that question is "no, it wouldn't be nice", and secondly that a lot of those free apps are not going to be free when they are being commercially embedded into your product, as opposed to an individual downloading them through Play Store.)

    As for this Android IoT thing... in addition to Linux, and (I guess if you're twisted) that Win10 IoT thing or whatever, I would guess (given the product getting the axe is apparently slimmed down Android) you could probably get some variant of LineageOS (formerly CyanogenMod) on there. (In general, they specialize in porting newer android versions to phones that the phone developer has dropped support for... so, lazycorp only shipped Android 7 for your phone? Here, put on LineageOS equivalent to Android 9, enjoy! So I assume, if there was any demand whatsoever, they could probably ship the Android iot-style version too.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I guess an advantage of TVs running Android is that the TV owner knows there will be an app available for their choice of streaming service, be it Netflicks or HBO or whatever. The alternative looks messy, with each streaming service having to maintain support for TVs from Sony, Samsung, LG et al.

      Of course, the streaming services *could* get together and create a single app (per platform) that handled subscriptions to multiple services, but where's the fun in that?

      Personally my Chromecast does its job well - even Amazon support it now. Using a phone app to search for TV programmes before casting it to the big screen is easier than any TV remote control I've used.

      Dumb TV + inexpensive, versatile dongle.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. IGotOut Silver badge

      Simple, the couldn't get Apple certified, so the went for the bargain basket.

  5. jake Silver badge

    Note for prospective farmers:

    We don't shoot things behind the cowshed, because it upsets the cows. The last thing you want is for your cows to be upset ... it'll affect the flavo(u)r of the meat and/or the taste/quality/quantity of the milk, depending on what you are raising them for. Even if they are just pets (damn yuppies & greens get into everything these days), it makes 'em ornery ... which you don't want in a critter that outweighs you by 1000 lbs or more.

    As a side-note, if it takes two shots you are doing it wrong.

    1. bleedinglibertarian

      Re: Note for prospective farmers:

      In the EU, that would be two shots and 2 smacks with the hammer before shooting them. EU requires stunning critters before killing them. They aren't too smart there.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Note for prospective farmers:

        Why the downvotes?

        I know nothing about farming but I understand what he says about stunning the beasts is correct (this pisses off some literalistic shokhetim and a few of their Muslim counterparts, who insist that sacrificing an animal that's just been stunned is the same as killing a sick animal).

        The only thing is that to my knowledge some sort of overvolted cattle prod is used rather than mechanical means.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Note for prospective farmers:

          "Why the downvotes?"

          Perceived lèse-majesté ... The downvoters are the same folks who constantly gripe about Americans, and how we do things, but if anyone has the damn gall to even HINT that anything happening in Europe (especially the UK) is the wrong way to go about it, they are all over it like flies on shit. Wear the downvotes in this situation like a badge of hono(u)r, you've struck a nerve that they would rather not have exposed.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Note for prospective farmers:

            No, I gave him a downvote for injecting politics - the EU - where it is tired and unwelcome.

            But thanks for proposing your racist theory, you disgusting, thick bigot.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Note for prospective farmers:

              > No, I gave him a downvote for injecting politics

              I didn't see politics anywhere. A bit jumpy, aren't we?

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Note for prospective farmers:

            > The downvoters are the same folks who constantly gripe about Americans, and how we do things

            That's not true. I didn't downvote him and couldn't see a reason why.

            > if anyone has the damn gall to even HINT that anything happening in Europe (especially the UK) is the wrong way to go about it

            That's a strange logic. Personally, I cannot stand septics but given that I am not one and I do not live or even travel there, what you chaps do is generally speaking none of my business (I really don't understand why Europeans get so worked up about US politics; yes, they have a certain clout in the global arena, but not all of US politics has a global impact). OTOH, local / EU politics *do* have a direct and immediate impact on me so I'm amongst the first to criticise when I feel something is wrong. Which is very often.

            (I'm the bloke who asked the question, not the author of the original comment, btw)

    2. quxinot Silver badge

      Re: Note for prospective farmers:

      Why are you shooting cows for meat? If they're producing milk, you don't shoot them!

      Steers for meat, sure.

      1. jake Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Note for prospective farmers:

        Damn nit-picking pedants. There's one in every crowd.

        Note, however, that I wasn't talking about shooting cows. I was talking about shooting "things" behind that shed (or not shooting things behind that shed, rather ...). And I used the term "cow" generically. But you are quite right. Steers are much tastier than cows.

        Have a beer with that steak. Belted Galloway. Breakfast of champions.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Note for prospective farmers:

      Oh great, now Linux bore Jake is an expert on culling cattle now!

      Do you honestly think anybody believes your bullshit?

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. tcmonkey

    Anyone know how this affects Google's Nest Hub line (and other manufacturer's clones of it)? These use Android Things as a base to run the Assistant application(s). Not that I really care about these devices, but I smell a possibility for easier custom firmware.

    1. Welliesorter

      I don't think that's completely true.

      I believe the third party devices use Android Things but Google's own use another proprietory OS.

      You can be forgiven for not knowing the difference because the user interface is close to identical and they often get feature updates within a few weeks of each other, Netflix compatibility being an obvious exception.

      It's a good question though, especially for anyone who, like me, bought a load of Lenovo smart displays to enable technologically-challenged family members to make video calls during lockdown.

      Another thing that Google has quietly killed off is the ability to make free phone calls from these devices in the UK.

  7. Warm Braw Silver badge

    Google doesn't say much about continuity

    Never has, never will...

    1. DJV Silver badge

      Re: Google doesn't say much about continuity

      Absolutely, and here's the proof: https://killedbygoogle.com/

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google decides making money off selling is spyware devices....

    ...is better than letting people build their own.

    Colour me surprised.

  9. trist

    The problem is.....

    When you lay a wire it costs x. When you add a comprelx mirco that runs linux and needs 64M+DRAM then you are dishing out x * 4. So why would you want to spend x when you can spend x/4 with a battery and zigbee or or BLE and use < 1M?

    1. DJV Silver badge

      Re: Comprelx mircos

      Yeah, I tried those as well - never understood what they were talking about, though.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: The problem is.....

      Parser Error Message: Unable to traverse source.

  10. Abominator

    Once again, never use a Google product. They will just kill it and leave you high and dry.

  11. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    For those who haven't seen it

    https://killedbygoogle.com/

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You misfiled this

    Why is it under "Internet of Things" and not under "Stuff Google killed this week"?

  13. Zakspade

    "Beyond that, it seems like the best option is to switch to another platform with long-term support."

    Frankly, if Long Term Support is expected/required, I'd advocate NEVER touching Google in the first place.

    But then, what do I know. I've barely a billion, oops, million, no, thousand, still no, hundred Dollars to my name.

  14. stringParameter

    In years to come, to Google something will have two meanings:

    1. To type something into a search engine

    2. To cancel something.

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