Google announces switch-off date for Android Things

Google Android character waving from inside a fake raspberry pie

Google has put an official expiry date on an ambitious internet of things (IoT) project that failed to catch light: Android Things. In an announcement, the company warned developers wouldn’t be able to create new projects from the platform as of January 2021.

Launched in developer preview in 2016, Android Things is an embedded operating system designed to run low-power IoT devices with as little as 32 MB of memory. The operating system used a protocol called Weave, which Google announced simultaneously with Android Things, to communicate with other devices over Bluetooth Low Energy and Wi-Fi.

The system is a stripped-down version of Android that allows developers to build smart devices that could access Google services, from computer vision to speech processing. When Google released version 1.0 in May 2018, it announced support for system-on-module hardware from NXP, Qualcomm, and MediaTek.

After lackluster adoption, Google announced that it would refocus the Android Things project purely on OEMs producing smart speakers and smart displays in February 2019.

Android Things would become a platform for OEM partners to build devices with Google Assistant built-in, the search giant said, adding it would remove commercial support for the SoM production modules. Non-commercial IoT tinkerers could still use the company's Android Things console to develop systems on that hardware, but Google referred developers to its Cloud IoT Core and Cloud IoT Edge projects for custom hardware solutions.

The latest announcement warns the company will cut the non-commercial Android Things console for new projects beginning on January 5, 2021. Developers can maintain their existing projects using the console through January 5, 2022, it added: "At this point, the console will be turned down completely and all project data will be permanently deleted — including build configurations and factory images."

This also means companies that shipped commercial products using Android Things, other than a group of "specific partners," will no longer get one of the project's most promised features: regular security updates.

When it began, Android Things promised over-the-air updates to keep device software current. This is a perennial problem for IoT devices that frequently suffer from irregular security updates, if they get any at all. All too often, software updates on IoT devices aren't signed, introducing severe security vulnerabilities.

Android Things was supposed to provide security updates for three years, but the company stopped issuing patches for developer system-on-module deployments in August 2019.

Danny Bradbury

Danny Bradbury has been a print journalist specialising in technology since 1989 and a freelance writer since 1994. He has written for national publications on both sides of the Atlantic and has won awards for his investigative cybersecurity journalism work and his arts and culture writing. 

Danny writes about many different technology issues for audiences ranging from consumers through to software developers and CIOs. He also ghostwrites articles for many C-suite business executives in the technology sector and has worked as a presenter for multiple webinars and podcasts.