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Why Android@Home Could Be Bigger Than Google Glass


Forget space-age goggles. We just want to turn on the air conditioner before we get home.

"We wanna go one step further and really broaden the concept of what exactly is an Android accessory. We'd like to think of your entire home as an accessory -- or better yet, as a network of accessories -- and think of Android as the operating system for your home. We call this vision Android@Home."

And with that, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) kicked off a demonstration of what promised to be its grand foray into home automation. After it showed off lights, speakers, and central hubs that "discover, connect, and communicate" with one another, it seemed that Google's I/O Conference in May 2011 had given us a glimpse of the House of Tomorrow that Tex Avery promised us back in 1949. And to prove this was no Apple TV (NASDAQ:AAPL) hobby, the company teased its first Android@Home accessory -- wirelessly controllable LED light bulbs from the manufacturer LightingScience -- would be released by the end of that year.

As you're already aware, that never happened. In fact, Android@Home has barely been mentioned in the two years since it was demoed. That thrilling prospect of turning on your air conditioner from the road would have to be left to a different company.

However, last month, a tiny clue emerged hinting that Android@Home hasn't completely flatlined. Buried in the system configuration files of the 4.2.2 update to the Android OS are mentions of both mesh networking and Android@Home, which means this year's I/O Conference may see the return of the Android@Home connectivity. android@home-android at home

And if it makes good on that promise this time, it could blow Google Glass out of the water.

As exciting as wearable technology is -- not counting the ho-hum reaction analysts have given the yet-to-be-released Apple iWatch -- the average consumer has more use in remotely controlling their home's utilities than viewing the world through RoboCop's eyes. Already, we're beginning to see toe-dipping products, like Belkin's WeMo line and the Apple-affiliated Nest thermostat, and big names like Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) are buying up home automation startups in preparation for the big wireless home push.

Like wearable technology, there's no doubt that home automation is the future, but there's already a big problem in the way: There's no clear leader to establish the standard. Everything from video cassettes to the NFC wallet app on your phone has been at the mercy of competing standards, which dissuades companies from jumping headlong into R&D. It's the Catch-22 of Silicon Valley: No one wants to develop a product before that product is well into development. And given the delay of something as simple as swiping your phone at a kiosk to pay for a Coke at Duane Reade, it's no surprise that a wholly modular service -- whose success depends on a multitude of devices from a wide variety of manufactures -- would see two years' worth of red tape.

However, look at where Android was in May 2011 and look at where it is now. At that very same I/O Conference, Google was touting its next version of Honeycomb and could only preview the logo to Ice Cream Sandwich. Since then, between Android's adoption rates, the voice commands of Google Now, and the glimpse of Google Glass' hands-free operation, Android@Home has a far, far better consumer landscape in which to debut.

The world wants home automation. It wants to switch on the washing machine after it's left the house. It wants the music to follow when entering a different room. It wants to remotely dim the lights like digital-age Don Juan. And given the last two years, Google has the clout and consumer reach to not only make that happen but also set the standard that others may follow.

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