IoT news of the week for May 18, 2018
Google plays hardball with hardware partners: This story actually focuses on Sonos playing hardball with Google over patents, with Sonos making an implicit threat to sue Google over patent infringement, but it also notes that Google has tried to demand that hardware partners not work with Amazon’s Alexa if they want to have the ability to also control Google Assistant. That’s terrible for consumers and one more indication that the tech giants see their digital assistants as the way to continue walling off the smart home from open competition. (The Information)
Beam Dental raised another round: It’s awesome to see a company that you’ve covered for years make it onto a larger stage. Such is the case with Beam Dental, which I first wrote about in 2012 when it made a connected toothbrush. The toothbrush was a trojan horse or a failure, depending on your viewpoint; the company now uses it as part of a lower-cost dental insurance program that it’s developed. Beam uses data from the toothbrush to ensure regular brushing habits and sends new brushes, floss, and toothpaste every few months to keep its customers brushing. Some people might view this as coercive or even creepy, but the fact is that regular brushing and regular preventive care can lower the incidence of major tooth problems, so it make sense — so much sense that the company has raised $ 22.2 million led by Kleiner Perkins. (CNBC)
AT&T’s new AWS cellular button: If you have a remote site and a pressing need to to trigger an AWS lambda function with one click, then this $ 30 button might be for you. Through a partnerships with AT&T, AWS is giving its Dash button cellular connectivity on AT&T’s LTE M network. A button press might send a note to a spreadsheet indicating that a worker has checked a remote site, log a tech’s home visits, or indicate that your mailman has dropped off the mail. Amazon also offers a Wi-Fi button, so this might be overkill for many in-office or in-home use cases. The most interesting part of this button is that cellular service is included, which may mean that AT&T’s willing to experiment with pricing plans that aren’t based on the amount of data consumed. (AT&T)
Kevin’s thoughts on the Wi-Fi Alliance’s EasyMesh: I’ve written thousands of words on Wi-Fi in this newsletter, including a few on the lack of a mesh Wi-Fi standard that would enable routers and bridges of different systems to work together. This week, the Wi-Fi alliance finally addressed the lack of a mesh networking standard, but didn’t deal with interoperability for a lot of the other features vendors are cramming into Wi-Fi routers. Kevin also noticed that Eero, a startup that pioneered this space, isn’t involved in the new standard. (StaceyonIoT).
This is a good warning for smart cities data: When cities contract out IT services and digitization efforts, they can find themselves losing control of an essential tool that they could be using to improve their operations and build better services: their data. An article about how a company that processed food stamp data cut off a startup’s access to that data shows how confusion over who owns data can bog down innovation (and even hinder a city’s ability to police bad actors). Additionally, if cities do collect data, it’s up to them to make decisions about its use and to police those accessing it. This is likely going to become a cost that citizens underwrite through their taxes — that is, if they want streamlined city services and a focus on privacy. (Medium)
Intel launches a tool to make computer vision more accessible for IoT: Computer vision has rapidly moved to battery-powered and wired devices in homes, offices, and cities. It may be a camera in a store or on a streetlight, but whatever it is, there’s a consensus that the video recordings should be processed locally, as opposed to in the cloud. With this in mind, Intel has launched a set of software tools that let a company build image recognition models that can run on a variety of different Intel-based chips. It means that models can now run on a beefed-up quad-core in a data center and be easily adapted for a low-power Atom chip that controls a gateway device inside a retail store. Dubbed Open VINO (Visual Inference & Neural Network Optimization), these tools make it easier for companies to adapt their AI models for a variety of devices and uses.
A data-driven culture clash: One of the promises of the internet of things is it could bring us closer to having a perfect understanding of business operations and create just-in-time supply chains that are perfectly optimized and more efficient than ever before. However, if this is the goal, it’s probably wise to remember that currently people are still involved in the supplying of goods to the end customer and sometimes a person’s opinions and feelings can have an equally large impact on business success. This write-up of a business case study on the Amazon Whole Foods merger explores that very divide, and offers up an alternative management theory to help. (Inc.)
ISO’s new privacy standard: The International Standards Organization (ISO) plans to develop international guidelines to ensure consumer privacy is embedded into the design of a product or service, and held a meeting of privacy experts to kick off the standard-setting. The goal of the standard will be to make sure that consumer privacy protections are designed into devices and services as well as maintained throughout the life of the product. The new ISO project committee can be found here: ISO/PC 317. (SC Media)
Philips Lighting has changed its name to Signify: However, it will continue using the Philips brand name for commercial and residential lighting products, so a light bulb company by any other name still makes the same light bulbs. (lighTED)
How a robot teaches itself to dress a human: This is a fascinating story that offers insights into how a robot learns to handle a task. In this case, researchers at Georgia Tech University taught a robot how to dress humans by training it in a simulation (I wrote about the importance of that last week) and letting it understand how the force it applies to clothing and a person helps or hinders its efforts to put clothing on that person. Now if only it would put discarded clothes in the hamper. (Tech Xplore)
This is actually a pretty cool-looking device: The Lynq tracker helps you find people without a cell phone or GPS. It only works outside, though, so yes to finding your kids at Disneyland but no to finding them inside the shopping mall. (Indiegogo)
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