Cloud

How Google Cloud Platform supports IoT development

At the 2016 Google Cloud Platform Next conference, Google's Preston Holmes explained how Google's IoT efforts are tied into its Cloud Platform.

Google's Preston Holmes at GCP Next 2016.
Image: Conner Forrest/TechRepublic

When considering Google Cloud Platform, most people will think about how companies are building out websites and backend infrastructure. However, Google is increasingly targeting another kind of development on its platform—IoT.

On Wednesday, at the Google Cloud Platform Next conference, Google's head of IoT solutions, Preston Holmes, lead a breakout session explaining how Google approached IoT development and how it wants to support the infrastructure.

SEE: The Power of IoT and Big Data (Tech Pro Research)

Holmes began by giving his working definition of IoT. While there's no definitive definition of IoT just yet, he said, "IoT is a period of transformation." And, once all these devices get connected, they will no longer be the IoT, they will simply be what we use in our everyday, connected lives.

The goal for most companies, and Google is no exception, is to collect and use the data that these smart things produce. And, IoT is the set of technologies that are the means to that end.

People have been held back from experimenting with IoT because of the complexity involved, Holmes said. For starters, you have to choose a hardware provider, whether you're going to run an OS, and if so which one, among many other nuances.

To break it down, Holmes said IoT architecture is made up of three core components:

  1. Device
  2. Gateway
  3. Cloud

IoT devices are composed of both hardware and software. Each device provides four foundational pieces of data:

  1. Metadata, or data about the data.
  2. State, or the condition of the device.
  3. Commands indicate an action to be taken by a device.
  4. Telemetry, which is environmental data around the device.

Because of the centrality of the device in an IoT deployment, device management becomes critical. Key functions of device management are network provisioning, device registration, device authorization, fleet operations, and software updates. Google handles device management through its Brillo and Weave products, platform partners, and open source.

Brillo is an IoT OS that is maintained by Google, based on the Android kernel. It offers analytics, OTA updates, Weave integration, and telemetry data. Adoption of Brillo could end up being beneficial for the greater Android ecosystem, due to the connectivity implications.

Weave is Google's open communications platform for IoT. It is focused on standardizing device commands, and helps ease user interaction with the devices from mobile devices. It also provides integration with Google services.

Jeff Chen, product manager for Brillo and Weave, said that Google built the two products, which it debuted at the 2015 I/O developer conference, for three reasons:

  1. Help device makers build for IoT
  2. Create open ecosystems
  3. Create opportunity for services

To address the gateway component, Google has partnered with companies like Intel to better connect devices to the Google Cloud Platform. Devices like Google's open Eddystone beacon benefit from a strong gateway component.

SEE: Google Cloud Platform signs up enterprise giants, how does it compare to AWS? (TechRepublic)

Google also wants to better extend connectivity to IoT platforms through a new partnership with IoT platform Particle, making it easier to pipe data from any Particle-connected device to the Google Cloud Platform. They've started by attaching Particle devices to bikes on Google campuses to better understand their usage.

Connectivity also includes protocols. A Google Cloud platform partner, Agosto, has been working on building a custom MQTT broker on Google Computer Engine. It allows developers to scale their offering out from a pilot test to production more easily.

Holmes also touched on how Google is focusing on security on Google Cloud Platform, and how that extends down to the device level in IoT deployments as well. Holmes said it is crucial to protect the data both when it is being collected and while it is in the cloud.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Amid updates to its Google Cloud Platform at the 2016 Next conference, Google took some time to address the IoT community. Much of Google's IoT ventures will likely be tied to its Cloud Platform.
  2. Brillo, Google's IoT OS, and Weave, its IoT communications platform are key aspects of Google strategy and are built on the Android kernel. Large scale adoption could be beneficial for the Android ecosystem.
  3. Google has new partnerships with Intel, Agosto, and Particle to better drive IoT connectivity and security. A strong partner network will be necessary for Google to continue innovating in IoT.

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About

Conner Forrest is News Editor for TechRepublic. He covers startups and enterprise technology and is passionate about the convergence of tech and culture.

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