google i/o 2016

Google I/O: Talking IoT without calling it IoT

Colin Chong Blog

With this year’s edition of I/O now passed, it’s time to take a brief look back. Over the past decade, I/O has represented a platform for Google to launch it’s top initiatives. Google I/O 2016 was markedly different in it’s approach. There were announcements for future releases instead of actual launches. There was no new hardware to show off. Instead, what has become the “Burning Man” of tech conferences was used to talk about the future of AI and the continued pervasiveness of Google.

Sometimes it can easy to forget about just how big Google is. It’s not Tony Stark’s Jarvis, but Google Assistant will represent how most of the world will experience personalized machine learning. Whether it’s through voice on their smartphones, in the open with Google Home, or through new messaging app Allo, it’s a given that the voice of Google will become an ever-present part of 100’s of millions of lives. But to fulfill it’s mission of fulfilling the everyday tasks of users, Google will need to go further than ever before. With hundreds of integrations for apps and services, Google’s next frontier is the physical world. The IoT doesn’t have to always be talked about as the “Internet of Things”, and it shouldn’t be. It’s not a useful term for the people buying or using the products, despite the actual applications being truly valuable.

Home and auto are clear cut IoT niches, but a closer look at I/O reveals further IoT tie-ins. While Nest didn’t receive any keynote mentions or sessions itself, there was a showcase of “Works with Nest” devices along with OpenThread demos in the sandbox. In a year devoid of hardware giveaways, those that attended sessions on the Physical Web were let in on Eddystone beacons handouts. The Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) device may not be widely adopted today, but may help Google grow the web’s physical device infrastructure in a way few other channels can. Combined with Progressive Web Apps and further interoperability (iBeacon already included), there is a potential future where the browser becomes the gateway to IoT. With retail eCommerce as a primary use case, two-tap checkouts are now possible with anything nearby.

Or perhaps Google’s tip to Amazon goes beyond just the Echo hardware. Like Amazon’s Alexa, Google may invite developers to integrate Google Assistant into a host of new devices. Combined with Project Tango, Google’s Augmented Reality (AR) initiative, it might only be a matter of time before people will ask for something and then have it magically materialize right before their eyes.

As every analyst reports, the Internet of Things will be massive. But we already knew that. The web will continue to grow. More connections will be made. As usual, the question I/O leaves you with is: what will you build?