IoT news of the week for Nov. 3, 2017
Ayla raises $ 60 million: The seven-year-old platform as a service company, which helps businesses bring their devices online, has raised $ 60 million in funding from Sunsea Telecommunications Co. Ltd. and Run Liang Tai Fund. The money wasn’t needed according to Dave Friedman, Ayla’s CEO, but it is welcome as Ayla embarks on a joint venture with Sunsea in China called Ayla Sunsea. The two companies will sell Ayla’s IoT platform to Chinese customers. This is the traditional path to market for U.S. companies investing in China.
IoT and the myth of perfect information: I encounter this concept a lot in my reporting, when someone breaks down the promise of artificial intelligence, ubiquitous sensors and usually the blockchain to come up with a theory about how computers will one day be able to see and share all relevant bits of data and convert that into meaning. When this happens we’ll have utterly transparent supply chains, the most efficient agriculture, perfectly tunable manufacturing processes or whatever other efficiency is your jam. I call this the myth of perfect information, and we often get sucked into it as we predict the connected future.
However, I think several things are standing in our way to this path of complete information transparency. Technical challenges such as eliminating glitches, solving latency and maintaining security will stand in the way for a while. And long after those are gone, I think we’ll see business impediments in the form of mistrust among partners and regulatory hurdles. This world also spells the end of arbitrage, which feels like the end of many sophisticated financial instruments. If you have thoughts on this, I’d love to hear them. Related tweet stream is here.
Teaforia shuts down: The maker of a $ 1,000 tea-making machine has shut down. This will inevitably lead to comparisons to Juicero, another high-end kitchen startup. But not all expensive hardware is destined to fail. This article explores what makes a connected kitchen gadget successful. Most of the knowledge can be applied to hardware startups of all kinds. (The Spoon)
This is an insane use for Nest cameras: The story is a bit dated, but the use case is still crazy. A company called Cognition Builders basically uses Nest cameras to spy on you around your home and critique your parenting in real-time. Yeah, it’s like a super pricey Mary Poppins yelling at you or your kids when you don’t meet the recommended rules of the program. And the program? It’s designed to help parents learn how to manage unruly children. Other than the horror that some people will pay $ 80K or more for this is the cool realization that connected devices are already enabling new businesses. (The Cut)
Saildrones are pretty cool: Water quality sensors don’t have to be buoys. They could instead look a lot like a giant American Girl windsurfing toy outfitted with 16 sensors. These devices float unmanned across the roughest seas, with a 20-foot high carbon-fiber sail. They aren’t cheap but they can apparently be operated at a cost of 5% of a manned research ship, which is what they replace. Generally, like we saw in technology circles, when the cost of doing something goes down by a factor of 10 we see adoption. With IoT and machine learning we’re going to see that equation play out across more and more places. That reduction in costs will be coupled with more and more data, hopefully enabling us to spend the savings on fixing some seemingly intractable problems. (CNN)
China’s surveillance state appears again: Last week we discussed China’s new citizen score, and now we turn to the companies making the ubiquitous surveillance of Chinese citizens possible. In some cases, the companies are based in the U.S. Come for the story, but stay for the video on a filmmaker who created a film based on surveillance footage. (Wall Street Journal)
Here’s a new security worry for hospitals and patients: We have discussed malware on MRIs, hacked infusion pumps and hacked pacemakers, but this is a new one for me. Security researchers have shown that devices made by Boston Scientific that pull cardiac data from patients encrypt the data as it travels to the device but not once it’s on the device. I’m less worried about my Social Security number and heartbeat data getting stolen by someone who has physical access to the device (after all, in some hospitals they could just pick up my chart) but the issue is what happens when that device is trashed. The researchers bought their devices on an auction site for used medical equipment and found patient data, suggesting that not all hospitals wipe the drives of these machines before disposing of them. Let’s get some basic security training here, please. (Gov Info Security)
Don’t become a hardware company: That’s the takeaway in this post mortem about the closure of Doppler Labs, a company that was building Bluetooth headphones that would enhance and customize a listener’s audio. With the loss of the headphone jack it’s going to be tougher for external headphone companies to tap into the phone’s computing power and contextual sensors to get the data they need to make better sounding headphones than Apple or Google. They’ll also be hard-pressed to offer services such as real-time translation. (The Verge)
Software is eating the world, but hardware still matters: Every company may strive to be a software company, but when we’re discussing technology that’s supposed to last for years (or even decades) the hardware matters too. Case in point is our cars, and specifically Tesla’s journey to make true self-driving cars. It seems that the current Teslas won’t have enough computing power, which may necessitate a switch. In smaller devices such hardware upgrades can also happen, such as the rush of vendors who had to release new hardware to provide HomeKit compatibility. The point is that hardware still matters and you likely can’t future-proof it for the lifetime of many of the products we’re making connected. (Forbes)
How to update edge devices without spending so much on bandwidth: As edge computing becomes more and more popular, we’re going to see architectures and services develop to help reduce costs and latency for data transfer, over-the-air updates, processing and more. This blog post describes how to de-duplicate files that are already loaded on a device or server at the edge so only new updates can be sent. The code shows how to do that using a specific CDN, but the idea is a fascinating one, especially as memory to store updates becomes constrained on edge devices. (Fastly blog)
More than a decade later telehealth may be happening: I remember sitting in an auditorium in 2006 watching Paul Otellini, the then-CEO of Intel, share his vision of healthcare delivered remotely using computers and the internet. The rationale was sound and the technology viable, but the regulatory and social environment wasn’t there. Now, in my own city of Austin, schools are using telehealth to share nurses across the district and now the FTC is weighing in to allow the Veterans’ Administration to use telehealth as well. Its moment may have arrived. (FTC)