Open Source HW Platform, wings of Google
At their recent ‘Google I/O 2011’ developers conference on May 10 in San Francisco Google announced the creation of a new Android ‘Accessory’ standard. As a leader in ‘open-source’ it’s quite fitting they choose the ‘Arduino’ open-source hardware platform as the basis for their ‘Android Open Accessory Development Kit’.
The evolutionary growth paths of Android and Arduino are strikingly similar, no surprise given their shared ‘open source’ philosophy. Both have achieved success on their own, but now the pair can offer potential even greater than the sum of its parts.
Since appearing on the scene about five years ago, the Arduino platform has taken off with a bandwagon of more than 100 suppliers serving an installed base said to exceed 300,000 boards. Meanwhile, according to Google, the number of devices using the Android OS already exceeds 100 million and continues to grow by an astonishing 400,000 units per day.
It’s not hard to imagine the combination of Android and Arduino will fuel market-enabling innovation. Now Arduino developers will have the ability to leverage connection to any Android phone or tablet as in all manner of embedded applications. At the same time, Android device manufacturers all stand to gain by piggybacking on the popularity of a growing stable of Arduino-based add-ons.
And when it comes to Android ‘Accessories’ we’re not just talking about a keyboard or speaker dock. At the developers conference Google also announced their ‘Android@Home’ initiative that brings smart meters, appliances, lighting and other home electronics into the mix. And leading MCU supplier Microchip has introduced their own Android Accessory Development Kit targeting applications as diverse as credit card terminals, glucose meters, automotive audio and GPS.
The roots of open-source hardware and software may be academia and hobbyists, but as Android and now Arduino have proven, the migration into ‘real’ applications is well under way. There’s a reason major MCU suppliers such as TI (BeagleBoard) and ARM & NXP (mbed) are pursuing their own open hardware initiatives.
As an ecosystem of connected devices, the Internet itself is the ultimate open-source platform. You’ve probably heard the forecasts there will be 100 billion Internet connected devices in the years to come. Now developers have real technology they need to deliver on the promise of an ‘Internet of Things’.
Y.B. Lee, CEO of WIZnet (2011.06.01)