Android’s Coming Home

A string of well-known companies will introduce a range of Android-powered household gadgets before the end of the year.

The devices will fall into three basic categories: home control devices, media control devices and home phones, says Bill Brown, Touch Revolution’s vice president of marketing. All the gadgets will feature touch-screens in sizes ranging from 4.3 to 10 inches, support Android as an operating system, and connect to the Web through wi-fi or wired ethernet. Depending on their purpose, they will sport bases (for perching on a desk or kitchen counter) or have a flat, tablet shape for handheld use or for embedding in a wall.

The new devices capitalize on Android’s strength as an open operating system with sophisticated communications features. The home control devices are designed to talk to major household systems, such as lights, locks, security and heating/ventilation/air conditioning (HVAC). The media devices play a similar unifying role in the entertainment realm, allowing users to program their digital video recorders (DVRs), remotely control their stereo systems, and view TV listings directly on the gadget’s screen.

Touch Revolution is calling the third category of products, “smart phones for the home.” These cordless phones, meant for indoors use only, will communicate via radio waves like typical home phones or through voice-over-Internet-protocol (VoIP) on wi-fi.

Each device can be programmed to do more. A home phone might act like a digital photo frame, for instance, given the right software. As Android devices, they will be able to access the same applications written for Android cellphones unless the companies marketing them limit that feature.

Expect to see most of the products before the end of the year, in the U.S. and elsewhere. Brown says Touch Revolution is working with “companies with major brands” on upcoming launches. Touch Revolution provides the touch screens and Android features, encapsulated in a module. Its partners then customize the hardware and software, if they choose, and bring the product to market.

Why use Android at all? Brown says its partners liked the operating system’s ease of use, openness and touch-centric features. They also regarded it as a bargain since Google is distributing it for free.

Though just 17 months old, Touch Revolution boasts some flashy credentials. Founder and Chief Executive Mark Hamblin spent more than five years at Apple eventually rising to senior product design engineer. While there, he worked on both the iPhone and iPod touch, according to Brown.

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