IoT news of the week for June 8, 2018
Attention coffee shop browsers, Wi-Fi may get better: The Wi-Fi Alliance has created a new certification called Enhanced Open that basically enables public Wi-Fi networks to allow people to browse securely without signing in. The tech is based on Opportunistic Wireless Encryption, and gives each user a unique individual encryption that protects the data transmitted between the user’s device and the Wi-Fi network. As anyone who has ever tried hopping onto a public Wi-Fi network using a phone or even a Kindle knows, such sign-ons can be glitchy. This should make life a bit easier, especially as we put more and more connected devices out there that don’t have either screens or keyboards. (Wi-Fi Alliance)
Avnet signs deal with Relayr: Avnet has signed a deal with industrial IoT platform provider Relayr. Avnet will use Relayr to create an easy-to-implement industrial IoT platform for customers that includes the necessary hardware, software and cloud services. The partnership is an example of two big trends in the industrial and enterprise IoT space. First, the large distributers are moving rapidly to become systems integrators even as some of their hardware providers are trying to take on the same role. Two, that IoT deployments are still too complex for customers, which means there’s a lot of value in deep partnerships among industry players to offer something that just works. (Electronics 360)
What is XCOM? Three Qualcomm executives, including the former CEO and the son of Qualcomm’s founder, have created a new wireless company called XCOM. Paul Jacobs, Qualcomm’s former CEO and son of Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs; Derek Aberle, the former head of Qualcomm’s licensing division; and Matthew Grob, the company’s former CTO; have created the startup and funded it. XCOM isn’t yet saying exactly what it’s doing, but job listings indicate that it will have something to do with cellular and Wi-Fi. And yes, there’s a 5G angle here as well. (XCOM)
Hailo raised $ 12.5 million for a deep learning chip: Machine learning at the edge is super hot, and Israeli startup Hailo hopes to capitalize on that with a new deep learning processor designed for embedded systems. The company is building chips that can can handle things like computer vision or voice processing more efficiently than today’s options. There’s not a lot of detail provided, except that chips will be sampling in 2019 and that the first target market is cars. The release also mentions wearables and connected devices, but without data on how power-hungry this chip is, I’m not sure how far out on the “edge” it will operate. There are tons of players here already, though, from Nvidia’s Jetson boards to Intel’s Movidius products. And at the super power-constrained end of the market, ARM is coming in with a new architecture that others can take advantage of. (TechCrunch)
Finally, retailers stop selling hackable teddy bears: In March of 2017, security researchers showed off a way to hack into connected teddy bears and talk to kids. Hackers could leave messages that would be sent to the bears and kids could replay them at will. The bears, designed to help parents feel closer to their kids, were used as an example of the sad state of IoT security. However, it has taken more than a year for retailers to stop selling the products, which finally happened this week. Basically, Mozilla checked to see if the bears’ security flaws had been fixed and since they hadn’t, the subsequent outcry prompted Walmart, Amazon, and Target to stop selling them. So let’s please build a security framework for connected devices, and to ensure that companies comply with it, commit to audits. Retailers might be a good place to start if the government or industry doesn’t want to get involved. (Tom’s Hardware)
Meanwhile, in other hacks: NPR did a story on a hacked baby monitor, which has become almost a genre cliche at this point, but at no point did they explain how this woman’s monitor was hacked. She had changed the default passwords, so this no-name baby monitor maker apparently had something else wrong with it. I wish I knew what it was, because that would provide a much better public service than scaring folks away from connected baby monitors. (NPR)
Read the fine print, y’all: I’m almost done reading all of my GDPR notices. I also try to read the full privacy and terms of service documents for my connected devices, but this story about Samsung SmartThings’ app and its data-sharing practices caught me by surprise. A privacy group called Which? bought thousands of dollars of connected gear and monitored where those devices sent data. The group also read the privacy notices attached to those devices. The shocker was not that the Samsung Smart TV was sharing all kinds of data, but that, as per its terms of service, the SmartThings hub allows aggregated information to be shared with “advertisers and/or merchant partners.” Ugh. (The Guardian)
Or don’t read the fine print because privacy policies are tilted against you anyhow: Over at Medium, they’ve created a special section devoted to data gathering and technological privacy. One of the articles considers the concept of user privacy agreements, framing them as coercive instruments that give users the illusion of control. But the idea of a user controlling their own privacy is a fallacy that we need to dump if we’re every going to make proper strides in the world of data sharing that we currently live in. Instead of thinking we actually control the use of our data, we should accept that all we can do is look for companies we can trust with our data. It’s thought-provoking and also a bit frustrating to imagine how we’ll get out of this mess. (Medium)
Payments via wearables are here: Mastercard and Visa teamed up with chipmaker NFC to launch a wallet designed for wearables. The first taker in this program is Montblanc, which has designed accessories such as NFC-compatible watch bands. I still don’t pay for much with my phone, but I was excited when I got the ability to buy things with my connected ring a few years back. Having more options sounds great, but I think we have a long way to go when it comes to educating consumers and retailers about the possibilities and making the process as frictionless (and secure) as possible. (NFC Today)
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