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Google Introduces LoWPAN Support on Android Things

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Android Things 6.1 will include support for configuring and managing LoWPAN networks, thus effectively enabling Android Things devices to act as edge nodes, says Google.

LoWPAN is the acronym of Low-Power Wireless Personal Area Networks, a set of recommendations aimed to make it possible for low-power, limited form-factor devices to exchange data wirelessly through a Personal Area Network. Specifically, LoWPAN covers devices that use radio frequency to communicate and cannot afford the cost of integrating WiFi or Bluetooth. This is particularly the case of home appliances such as door locks and window sensors, as well as industrial sensors, wearable for payments and medical purpose, etc.

Support for LoWPAN in Android Things comes in the form of a new API that allows to configure and manage networks, including the following tasks:

  • Scan for nearby LoWPAN networks.
  • Join a specific LoWPAN network.
  • Create a new LoWPAN network.
  • Monitor connectivity and state changes.

Specifically, Android Things addresses Thread networks. Thread is a secure, fault-tolerant, low-power protocol to manage mesh networks and is backed by a number of big companies, such as Alphabet, Samsung, ARM, and others. The implementation of Thread is provided by OpenThread, Nest’s open-source implementation of the networking protocol. OpenThread is written in C++ and is touted as OS and platform agnostic and currently supports two radio platforms, the Nordic Semiconductor nRF52840, and Zolertia Firefly.

According to Google, the possibility for devices to communicate directly with other peer devices is key to enable edge computing, which leverages edge nodes to perform processing tasks close to where the data source is. Edge computing helps reduce latency for critical applications and promises to deal with the huge amount of data that IoT devices can produce.

LoWPAN is part of Android Things Developer Preview 6.1.

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