Google’s Operating System for the Internet of Things: “Brillo”

Me in Front of the Huge Google I/O Wall Sign

Me in Front of the Huge Google I/O Wall Sign

In 2014, I was fortunate enough to get a ticket into the annual Google I/O Conference, a much coveted ticket to say the least! It’s Google’s only conference each year and it’s extremely difficult – almost impossible – to get into (unless you know someone, which was my case). Thanks again, Lynn Langit!

Before I get started on the topic of Google’s Operating System for the IoT, I’d like to explain just a little of my experience at Google I/O 2014, to give those of you a taste of what it’s like if you’ve never been there.

Being used to Microsoft conferences (with the attendance to one other type of conference under my belt at that time, the  unsurpassable Augmented World Expo 2014 (AWE) which is something you should never, ever miss!) I experienced total corporate culture shock! I/O is a bit like AWE but showing “some” of the Wearables, Smart Glasses, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and the Internet of Things (IoT) that you’d see at AWE but specific only to Google. Google however has all of their other products and services, YouTube, Twitter, Project Tango, their Self-Driving Cars, Robots, and everything Googly. But what stood out to me was it was more like a party atmosphere rather than a stoic “go-to-learn-and-network” event. For example, rather than a 5-star restaurant/lounge setting for the conference’s “Party Night for Attendees” typical of Microsoft, Google had a 60’s  Rock & Roll party in a huge park in the middle of San Francisco! I finally experienced Woodstock, complete with people on beds in the park!

Google I/O's Party 2014, all to the tunes of Janis Joplin & Jimmy Hendrix

All to the tunes of Janis Joplin & Jimmy Hendrix!

All to the tunes of Janis Joplin & Jimmy Hendrix!

And then just to show you one of the cool exhibits, Googlers have “a thing” about Rubrik’s Cubes just like I do, so I was fascinated by their Rubrik’s Cube Contest exhibit:

Awesome morphing Rubrik's Cube

Awesome morphing Rubrik’s Cube

So now that you’ve got a taste of how fun Google I/O is, let’s get onto the main topic. I wasn’t fortunate enough to attend I/O 2015, but there were many incredible announcements (as usual). Below you see then Google Senior Vice President Sundar Pichai (who is now Google’s CEO – read this great article here about him) announcing that Google has created an operating system for the Internet of Things, called “Brillo”. You can watch that part of the keynote below, which also is a great example of use cases for IoT:

Brillo supoports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Energy, and is designed for devices that have as little as 32MB or 64MG of RAM, leaving a very small footprint. It’s derived from Android with minimal system requirements, has a wide range of hardware platforms and silicon vendors, and it’s easy to secure.

Gossip about Google’s interest in IoT began with its’ acquisition of Nest for 3.2B. One of Nest’s flagship products was its’ “Nest Learning Thermostat” that was supposed to learn the home temperature preferences of its’ users. Two of Nest’s cofounders, Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers, are former Apple employees. Nest’s products, however, were notoriously buggy. Below you can watch a video of the frustration people had with “Nest Protect”, their Fire/CO Alarm (you might want to turn off the volume or just stop it once you get the gist of the bugginess):

If you click on this link, you can see Matt Rogers discussing home automation.

The reason that Google has made an operating system in the cloud to connect the multitude of devices and be able to talk to each other is a huge step in the advancement of IoT, which has been estimated to be a market worth $19 trillion.

So as you saw in Sundar’s keynote video a few paragraphs above, Brillo doesn’t stand alone. There are three basic parts, as shown in the image below:

The three essential parts to making IoT seamless

The three essential parts to making IoT seamless

*Note: the above photo (partial) and most others below in this post are courtesy of Google’s web properties or articles on Brillo from The Verge, Gizmodo, Forbes and YouTube*

“Weave” is the communication layer that allows devices to talk to each other, the cloud, and other Android devices. It has a standardized schema for communicating between these things, and with Nest it can have alternating connectivity via threads for low power connectivity.

The Weave Communication Schema

The Weave Communication Schema

Weave gives a common language between lights, doors, whatever IoT sensors/Brillo devices you can think of to understand each other’s language and to then communicate to the cloud and your Android devices. All of this can be controlled from a centralized device administration center via a web console where devices can be provisioned, etc. Weave exposes APIs to developers so they can customize what is done, such as your phone talking to your oven even via voice. Support is available for iOS as well as Android. And the Weave IoT protocol is compatible with Nest, so interoperability with devices from other manufacturers is possible.

Google wants to use Brillo to refine the IoT user interface so that the user experience will be consistent. No matter what device you have as a control hub, it will look the same to everyone.

Consistent User Experience Across Devices

Consistent User Experience Across Devices

Brillo goes into Developer Preview in Q3 of 2015, documentation on Weave will be released throughout the year, and the full stack will be ready to go by Q4 of 2015.

To find out more, go to

IoT for Everyone

IoT for Everyone



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