Google took a major step in its efforts to mainstream wearable devices -- besides unleashing Google Glass on the world, that is.
The company announced on July 2 that it released Google Play Services 5.0. The latest version of the software development kit, which allows developers to tightly integrate Google services like Maps and Google+ into their own apps, now features support for wearable devices.
"Google Play services 5.0 introduces a set of APIs that make it easier to communicate with your apps running on Android wearables," announced the company in a blog post. "The APIs provide an automatically synchronized, persistent data store and a low-latency messaging interface that let you sync data, exchange control messages, and transfer assets."
The company's guide to building wearable apps describes them as "fundamentally the same as apps built for other devices using the Android SDK, but differ greatly in design and usability and the amount of functionality provided."
For starters, a timeout period is enforced. After a period of inactivity, the device goes to sleep. When re-awakened, it is forced to display the "Wear home screen," not the app that was running before the device entered the sleep state. Google also cautions that apps intended for wearables "are relatively small in size and functionality" and that best practices dictate that companion handheld devices like smartphones should do most the heavy lifting.
Incidentally, apps aren't downloaded directly to wearables but are bundled inside a wearable app. "When users install the handheld app, the system automatically installs the wearable app," states Google. The restriction is lifted for development purposes, however.
Finally, wearable apps cannot access a handful of otherwise standard Android APIs, including android.print and android.hardware.usb.
The move comes after the company demoed the upcoming Moto 360 smartwatch at last week's Google I/O conference in San Francisco. The Android Wear compatible device features a round, touch-enabled face, voice control and access to data services provided by a paired Android device.
Google Play Services 5.0 also arrives as the industry gears up for brisk wearables adoption in the enterprise. ABI Research recently forecast that the market for enterprise wearables would reach $18 billion by 2019, after expanding at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 56.1 percent.
And Data from Nielsen suggests that corporations will want to prepare for the impact those devices will have on their networks and cellular data plans. In a study, Nielsen discovered that the average wearable device user consumed 9.49 GB of data per month, nearly twice that of the typical Android user (5.61 GB of data per month).
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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