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Google's Android Open Accessory Development Kit

It was only a matter of time before the mighty Google put a toe in the open source hardware waters, and this finally came about yesterday with the release of the Android Open Accessory Development Kit.

The eagle-eyed may recognise that one part of the hardware bears more than a passing resemblance to an Arduino Mega 2560, and the other half of the kit looks not unlike an Arduino shield. Based on precisely this technology, the main board also integrates a USB host controller, thus enabling it to interface with an Android device and without immediately using up its I/O expansion capability. The other half of the ADK hardware being a shield which packs a healthy amount of I/O. Of course, this kit can also make use of a wealth of other Arduino shields.

On the software side it's simply a matter of dropping a few additional libraries into the Arduino development environment for programming the board, and adding the latest Google APIs to the Eclipse IDE for building the corresponding Android application.

In operation the ADK will check the capabilities of a connected Android device and setup communications when able to. The rest is down to whatever you develop for the ADK and for the connected Android device.

This makes perfect sense for Google. Their business is organising people's data, and anything they can do to drive data into and through their ever wider reaching platform helps them achieve this goal. Furthermore, it perfectly complements their Android@Home framework. Google will be in your house, orchestrating your home environment.

It's great to see that at launch Google not only provided the software part of the development kit but all the hardware design files too. Furnished via a Creative Commons license, you can pretty much do as you please with the schematics and PCB layouts etc, provided that you give attribution and you give others the same rights in relation to any derivatives.

The only downside is the reasonably expensive price tag of circa £240. This might not sound like a huge amount, but to anyone familiar with Arduino technology and its price point this is a big deal. However, it's unlikely to be an issue for very long and the only question is whether it takes weeks or months for someone to create a much cheaper clone. Which, given that the schematics, Gerbers, silkscreen, drill and pick and place etc files are all provided, shouldn't be too difficult a task. Will Google care? It's what they want!

Open source (hardware and software!) advocate, Treasurer and Director of the Free and Open Source Silicon Foundation, organiser of Wuthering Bytes technology festival and founder of the Open Source Hardware User Group.

11 May 2011, 20:41