Google wants to mimic Android’s success on smartphones and tablets in the emerging wearables market. To this end it is launching a set of developer tools which make it easier for manufactures to run the OS on wearable devices. While talking at the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference over the weekend, Sundar Pichai, Google’s SVP of Android and Chrome, said that Google will release a developer SDK designed to make it easier for OEMs to create wearable devices that use Android.
A key component to the new SDK is a new layer which will create a standard way for Android to collect data from sensors. One of the attractions of wearables is that lots of different types of data can be collected often via sensors that aren’t traditionally found on smartphones or tablets. By creating a standardized way for the sensors to send their data to Android it means that the OS becomes sensor agnostic while providing a uniform way for that data to be read. “We want to develop a set of common protocols by which they can work together,” said Pichai, “they need a mesh layer and they need a data layer by which they can all come together.”
Google hopes the new SDK will enabled developers to create many types of wearable devices.
This move comes at a critical time for Android with regards to wearables. At MWC 2014 Samsung unveiled its latest wearable devices, the Gear 2 and the Gear Fit, both of which run Tizen, an alternative open source Linux based mobile operating system, rather than Android. By standardizing sensor collection OEMs can now opt for Android instead of alternative OSes.
By wearables Google means more than just smartwatches and fitness bands. “When we say wearables, we are thinking much more broadly,” said Sundar. Google hopes the new SDK will enabled developers to create many types of wearable devices. Sundar even suggested a future with “smart jackets” that are loaded with sensors and powered by Android.
Google will release the new SDK in about two weeks time and is looking for “plenty of feedback” from developers. During the conference Sundar Pichai didn’t say anything about any wearables which Google itself may release but instead emphasized that Google sees Android being used for wearables “at a platform level.” Of course the release of an SDK could be the prelude to one or more Google designed wearables including the often rumored Google Smartwatch.