Google reportedly developing 'Brillo,' an OS for the Internet of Things

The lightweight version of mobile operating system Android would help smart devices communicate better with each other, according to a report in The Information.

Google is said to be developing an operating system to run Internet-connected devices in the home. James Martin/CNET

To help all manner of smart devices communicate better with each other, Google is reportedly developing "Brillo," an operating system for the Internet of Things.

A lightweight version of Google's mobile operating system, Android, Brillo is targeted at low-power devices with 32 or 64MB of RAM, according to a report on website The Information. Google is expected to launch the code for the new operating system next week at Google I/O, the company's conference for software developers, sources have told Fortune.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Many device manufacturers have been making big bets on the Internet of Things, the concept of using sensors and other technologies to hook just about anything you can think of into the Internet. Analyst firm Gartner predicts the number of networked devices will surge to 26 billion units by 2020 from about 900 million in 2009, turning formerly "dumb" objects into smart ones that can communicate with each other. IDC reckons the IoT market will hit $3.04 trillion that same year.

A single operating system for smart-home devices could prove very useful for device manufacturers, as something like Brillo could eliminate compatibility issues between various smart-device brands. Consumers could shop confidently, knowing that their Brillo-backed smart toaster will communicate with the Brillo-backed smart lightbulb, in much the same way that the Dropcam network camera can collaborate with the Nest Learning Thermostat .

Brillo would be an important push for Google, too: while companies might compete over price, design and the hardware inside their smart appliances, the underlying operating system would remain static -- and powered, in this case, by Google.

Competitors aren't likely to take this news lying down. At a conference in China on Wednesday, Huawei announced LiteOS, aimed at providing the "infrastructure companies need to build out connectivity in their devices." And earlier this month, Samsung introduced the Artik line of hardware, which is aimed at unifying wearables and other smart devices with open software and Samsung hardware.

The tech-industry magnates behind the Open Interconnect Consortium or the AllSeen Alliance -- efforts to develop standards and certification for devices involved in the Internet of Things -- also aren't likely to sit idly by as Google attempts to install itself as the de facto backbone of tomorrow's connected smart home.

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