This is all rather exciting – it seems I am in a position to answer the question on everyone’s lips – I know the secret wireless protocol that was used in Google’s recent Android@Home demonstration…
I don’t know about you, but I am becoming ever-more impressed with all of the cool things that the folks at Google are doing. I remember when Google first appeared on the scene as an alternative search engine that just seemed to be so much better thought-out than the competition.
And then they started to come out with all sorts of cool things, like Google Earth and Google Sky. More recently, of course, they launched the Android operating system. I LOVE my Droid Incredible smartphone and all of the incredibly things it can do. For example, I must have spent hours using the Google Sky Map for Android. You just point your phone at the sky to see annotations associated with the stars, planets, constellations, and more…
And Google Goggles – what a brilliant idea! You just point your phone at an object and snap a picture, which is uploaded to the Google servers where incredibly sophisticated image recognition software determines what you are looking at and tells you all about it. I use this app all the time in bookstores to check out the reviews of whatever tome happens to catch my eye.
All of which brings us to Android@Home, which was announced at the recent Google I/O Conference. This took place May 10-11, 2011, in San Francisco and was attended by 5,500+ web, mobile, and enterprise developers.
A few days ago I was watching the Day One Keynote Presentation on YouTube. About 43 minutes into the presentation they started talking about something called Android@Home. The idea is that, in the not-so-distant future, the entire home will be seen as a network of accessories that can be discovered and communicated with by Android Apps running on an Android device like a smartphone or a tablet computer.
Of course the idea of home automation has been around for a long time, so what makes this so different? Well, two things really. The first is that it’s backed by Google and (according to a recent article) Android recently crossed its 100 millionth activation and is now seeing 400,000 new devices being activated each and every day. The second is the availability of a low-power wireless protocol that will allow very low-cost connectivity with anything electrical in the home – lights, alarm clocks, thermostats, dishwashers…
But what is the wireless protocol in question? For some reason no one seems to be talking. For example, in a recent Technology Insight post titled Google's Android@Home and the Impact on the Home Automation Market that appeared on the ABI Research website, author Sam Lucero, Practice Director, M2M Connectivity refers to “The as-yet-to-be-named wireless protocol announced along with the Framework…”
Well I’ve discovered who it is…
Whenever I have any questions about anything to do with wireless “stuff”, I call the folks I know at a company called Synapse Wireless. These guys have developed an incredibly clever low-cost, low-power wireless protocol called SNAP. As an aside, I just read an article that said:
Synapse’s technology, SNAP, was possibly the most overlooked actor in the Hollywood blockbuster film Tron: Legacy. Tron, noted for its stunning visuals, used SNAP to control the lighting of the actors’ signature suits.
I was amazed to read this – I had no idea that SNAP had been used in this latest Tron film, but it really shouldn’t have surprised me that much. There are so many cool things about SNAP that I don’t know where to start – also we don’t have the time to cover it in detail here. Suffice it to say that this is a fully-functional mesh network that has a very small memory footprint and that runs on affordable low-power microcontrollers. Also that SNAP applications are created on your host computer in the Python scripting language, compiled into “byte code,” and then loaded “over-the-air” into the target device. Also that the applications are executed by a Python virtual machine running on the target device, which means they can run on any supported microcontroller without the need for recompilation. Also that… but we digress…
Usually when I have a question like “What do you think Google are using as the wireless protocol in Android@Home?” the folks at Synapse would be brimming with ideas, so I was a tad surprised by the general meandering mumblings and not-so-subtle attempts to lead me to talk about something else.
Call me “slow” if you wish, but it took me quite a while before light eventually dawned and I said: “It’s you, isn’t it?” This was followed by more mumbling from their end. Eventually I decided to take the bull by the horns and called Synapse CEO Wade Patterson. When I asked if he could confirm or deny that SNAP was the protocol in question, there was a long, thoughtful pause; then Wade said “Well, I’m not going to deny it.”
This all makes so much sense when you come to think about it, not the least that the guys and gals at Google are heavily into Python and use it to create applications and glue a lot of stuff together. In fact, Python is the primary language used to allow developers to hook into Google’s app engine. Also, the guy who invented Python – Guido van Rossum – now works at Google. So the combination of SNAP and Android@Home is really a match made in heaven.
I tell you, I feel like an investigative reporter who has cracked a big story… this really is all rather exciting… I’d like to tell my dear old mom, but then I would have to explain what I mean by things like Google, Android, and wireless protocol, so perhaps it’s best not to mention it to her (grin).
Hmm, after reading these comments from pc mag article  it is more and more likely that Synapse Wireless just saw an opportunity for free publicity and that is why they didn't deny or confirm when you asked them.
According to Eric Holland, vice president of electrical engineering at Lighting Science, Android@Home will use a new version of a wireless network developed by Google. It will eventually be open sourced, Holland added.
"Google reached out to us, but we were already working on something similar," Holland said. Wireless Science plans five products, including internal lamps and external lighting fixtures that use the technology. They will ship by the end of the year, Holland said.
So either Eric Holland is being fed false information or you came to wrong conclusion. Both scenarios are possible.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.