AnDevCon—the Android Developer Conference—was an excellent event for developers looking to support tablets and phones. And there were a number of talks on embedded and dedicated device development as well. Yet the only things on the expo floor that used Android in non-phone, non-tablet applications were the RBOTs, robots powered by Android tablets, and the NVIDIA Shield, a gaming device.
We were somewhat perplexed, as we’ve been steadily predicting the forthcoming Android embedded revolution. And yet, the stream of devices not falling under the category of phone or tablet that run Android is more of a trickle.
Sure, there are companies out there releasing Android hardware. There are in-seat systems for airplanes, and plenty of oddly shaped tablet-like devices that could easily be mistaken for a laptop. But the flashlight, the toaster, the television running Android were nowhere to be seen.
Again, we realize these things are out there, but we’re just not seeing a torrent of activity in the embedded Android market.
But we think KitKat will change this. Thanks to the Android team’s efforts to reign in RAM usage, the 4.4 version of Android will be more viable in devices with less than 1GB of RAM. That’s a major sticking point for embedded devices, as less RAM means less cost per device.
KitKat is also adding support for a number of things that will make embedded development more enticing. This includes support for IR reading and writing, a better file system manager, and the ability to mimic a near-field communications card. These capabilities will make it possible to build inventory devices, security equipment, and file-aware purpose-built devices.
We’re expecting great things, KitKat.