Yes, Brillo is Google's HomeKit, and it's just as ambitious

Google is positioning Android as a legitimate platform for the Internet of Things.

Ry Crist Senior Editor / Reviews - Labs
Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a writer, a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, broadband and home networking.
Expertise Smart home technology and wireless connectivity Credentials
  • 10 years product testing experience with the CNET Home team
Ry Crist
3 min read

Josh Miller/CNET

A smart home needs a foundation, and Google wants the job of making it. That much was clear at Google I/O 2015, when the tech giant introduced Brillo, its operating system for the Internet of Things.

Baked right into Android M and derived from the base layers of Android's code, Brillo is designed to unify smart home controls on your Android device without requiring much of its horsepower. With Brillo, Google is positioning Android as a legitimate smart-home platform, with unified rules and protocols that developers can start to build from.

Watch this: Google makes Internet of Things platform 'Brillo' official

That sounds a lot like what Apple's trying to accomplish with HomeKit, an iOS-based smart-home framework that the company announced last year.

Josh Miller/CNET

Both Brillo and HomeKit aim to center the smart-home experience in your smart device, and the success of both will largely depend on how developers and third-party manufacturers make use of them. To that end, both Apple and Google require device certification for HomeKit and Brillo compatibility -- MFi certification for HomeKit compatibility, and on Google's end, certification with Weave, Google's new IoT software aimed at creating common code between phone, device, and the cloud.

Watch this: Google gets your smart-home devices talking with Weave

The end result for consumers should be similar, too. Both protocols are promising voice controls for your gadgets, for instance, and both should be able to group devices together for more basic, room-by-room connected home control.

More advanced, device-specific settings will likely remain in those devices' own dedicated apps, though it isn't totally clear where those lines are being drawn just yet. We've heard rumors of a dedicated HomeKit app in iOS 9 -- if true, we'll have to wait and see just how deep its controls go. On the Google side of things, Brillo's emphasis on leaving a minimal footprint makes it unlikely that we'll see a dedicated app on the front end, but that could change between now and Q3 of 2015, when Brillo is expected to make its debut.

We'll also wait and see how hub-centric the two platforms are, if at all. According to reports, HomeKit will require an Apple TV to control your devices with voice commands from beyond the home. On Google's end, it only seems logical to center things around the Nest Learning Thermostat , which the company acquired last year for $3.2 billion. It goes without saying that Apple wants you to buy an Apple TV and Google wants you to buy a Nest -- to what degree the two will marry each into their respective smart-home ambitions in order to help make the pitch remains to be seen.

The two platforms also hinge on users updating their devices to take advantage of them. That might give Apple a distinct edge, as iOS has traditionally seen much faster adoption rates than the more fragmented world of Android.

A more obvious advantage for Apple might be that HomeKit has been in development since last year, giving developers a head start at bringing it to life. Still, it's been a slower rollout than expected, and a reportedly more challenging one than Apple had anticipated. That might represent opportunity for Google if it can indeed get Brillo and Weave up and running with developers by year's end, but it also highlights the inherent magnitude of the task. Holding up the smart home is an awfully big job.