Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Android and Embedded Linux - Can't we just live together in peace?

I was watching my news feed today and ran across this article. It is an interesting discussion about whether Android can challenge Embedded Linux as an operating system for embedded devices.

Can Android Challenge Embedded Linux

I can easily see areas where Embedded Linux will continue to have a strong hold. As the article mentions, if you have a single purpose built device, why use something as flexible as Android?

However, there are two points I think are still important that weren't mentioned in the article.
  1. Developers - Any one who has had the task of hiring good Embedded Linux Engineers can tell you that it can be a difficult market. Getting good Android (mostly Java) developers can be easier.
  2. Extensibility - If you aren't building a single purpose built device, then choosing a good application framework is absolutely critical. Android is a pretty good application framework.
In essence it comes down to what you are trying to do with your device. If it's a purpose built golf ball cleaning machine, you are pretty safe not using a high level application framework like Android. If your golf ball cleaning machine has a fancy UI that lets you choose just how your golf balls are washed, dried, and teed up for you, then maybe Android would be your OS of choice.

In the grand scheme of things though, my pick is to use Embedded Linux as your OS and if you have need of a higher level application framework, then pick Android. Best of both worlds - it's not an either/or.


  1. Hi Casey,

    didn't find a better to contact you - I was wondering if you knew of any "ready" or "almost ready" hardware for headless android.
    I am thinking of a few ideas for which having a small device packed with all the sensors and connectivity options that a smartphone has in a very small space is needed. I did a search of what is available under arduino, RPi and the such, but the amount of space needed to replicate all the sensor and connectivity goodies makes those solutions unfeasible. I reckon that a device without screen won't pass the android requirements but maybe you know of manufacturers who do that as special purpose devices?

    1. lo di lavoro,

      I am not aware of anything that meets your description at this point. Perhaps another reader will reply if they know of something. Best of luck with our project.