IoT could remake the way we think about broadband

John Deere farm equipment needs broadband too.

Amid the gadgets at CES I had a profound moment where my thinking abruptly changed. In a conversation with John Deere about 5G one of the participants mentioned that for the last year the company had been trying to work with regulatory agencies to change the way they think about the value of spectrum that provides broadband in rural areas.

Traditionally, licensed wireless spectrum is valued based on the number of people in a given area covered by those airwaves. The formula is expressed as a dollar per megahertz per pop. This means cellular spectrum in rural areas is often cheaper than in urban areas, and there are fewer incentives to push fast wired broadband to those areas.

John Deere wants to add something new to the mix to encourage Washington to promote investment in faster wireless service in rural areas.

John Deere has been adding “smart” features to its industrial farming equipment for over a decade. As computing and broadband speeds have improved, it’s adding more and more capabilities. With the acquisition last year of Blue River Technologies, it now has the ability to use computer vision on tractors to recognize weeds.

With this technology, for certain crops John Deere equipment can identify individual weeds in a row of crops and zap it with a shot of weedkiller. Through precision agriculture enabled by computers, every plant in a field can get the loving care that my father-in-law’s three tomato plants get. That boosts yields and helps address some of the big demographic challenges facing the world’s food supply.

But to boost crop yields John Deere needs connectivity. In rural areas connectivity can be hard to come by, which is why John Deere is thinking about how to get regulators to think about the value of wireless broadband by more than the traditional licensed spectrum valuation formulas.

By getting regulators to focus on more than just people, it could encourage regulators to develop programs that push fast broadband even in remote areas. Currently, rural areas can be black holes of limited connectivity. And by encouraging carriers to view rural spectrum as more valuable, farms might get better coverage.

So instead of people, regulators should think about tractors. Or wind turbines that could be repaired with the aid of a local technician and augmented reality. Or any number of devices that could be made more productive with the addition of broadband-enabled technology.

“There’s no question that the internet of things will change the value of spectrum,” says Glenn Lurie, the CEO of Synchronoss. As President and CEO of AT&T’s mobility consumer operations Lurie handled the IoT for years. When I asked him this week about valuing spectrum in rural areas with an eye for the internet of things, he was adamant that connectivity could provide value, but skeptical that the way spectrum was valued would ever change.

Jan Geldmacher, president of Sprint Business, was even more skeptical. He was concerned that if we changed the way we looked at spectrum’s value, it might disadvantage rural areas because carriers would see the cost of rural airwaves rise.

But spectrum valuations aren’t the only tool available to regulators. If they could think beyond people when determining grant recipients, or build programs that advance rural connectivity, that could work.

With 5G wireless, the ability to provide gigabit wireless access to a fixed location such as a farm becomes possible (as long as there’s a fiber connection somewhere that can take traffic to the rest of the internet). Because developments in precision agriculture or using augmented reality to fix remote pipelines or wind turbines is now a possibility, it does seem short-sighted to focus solely on people when thinking about the value of our nation’s airwaves or broadband. Sure, a person’s phone calls are important, but so is delivering a bushel of organic corn or even offering telemedicine in a remote hospital.

It’s time to start thinking of machines as a market for broadband. Not just people.

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

US consumers concerned about lack of standardisation in driverless car legislation

Driverless cars are on their way, whatever speed they arrive, but according to a new study many US citizens are still concerned about various aspects of their safety.

The study from Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, which polled 1,005 adults living in the US, found more than three quarters opposed disconnection of vehicle controls such as steering wheels and brake pedals, while the vast majority saw concern with more general cybersecurity and safety legislation.

73% of those polled said they support the development of safety standards for new features related to the operation of driverless cars, while 81% said they supported cybersecurity rules to protect driverless cars from being hacked.

This is put alongside the Senate AV Start Act and the House Self Drive Act, two pieces of impending legislation which the report asserts do not do enough in these areas. Regarding safety standards, the report says, only ‘voluntary guidelines’ are issued for now, while both Acts have a demand that a ‘plan’ exists for cybersecurity, but no minimum requirements. “These poll numbers should be a bright, flashing hazard light to members of congress considering legislation that will set policy on driverless cars for years to come,” the press materials roared.

Other measures were given fierce approval from consumers. 84% said they supported uniform rules from the US Department of Transportation to ensure human drivers are alert in case they need to take control of the driverless car.

Yet this measure is a particularly interesting one given recent advancements from automotive vendors. Last week General Motors said it had submitted a petition to the US Department of Transportation to commence operating fully autonomous cars in a new service scheduled for 2019. In other words, the new vehicles, named Cruise AV, will have no steering wheels or pedals.

You can read the full report here (pdf).

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Thinking out loud – Timo’s thoughts about Blockchain

Timo Gessmann

Timo Gessmann is the director of the Bosch IoT Lab – a cooperation between the University of St. Gallen, ETH Zürich, and Bosch.

In my current role at the Bosch IoT Lab, I am responsible for exploring new IoT product ideas & business fields including blockchain technology.

Thought #1

What I really like about Blockchain is the potential for enabling users and IoT devices to do P2P “value” exchange.

Thought #2

What drives me nuts about Blockchain is the hype about ICOs and trading crypto-currencies.

Thought #3

Blockchain is not just about FinTech applications, it has the potential to be a key technology in the IoT by generating a trusted link between the physical and digital world – a so-called digital twin.

The post Thinking out loud – Timo’s thoughts about Blockchain appeared first on Bosch ConnectedWorld Blog.

Bosch ConnectedWorld Blog

#TheGrubbCast Episode 2: Talking with Viptela’s Khalid Raza About Software Defined Wide Area Networking

Cisco’s Innovation Strategy In this episode of #TheGrubbCast, I set the stage by talking about Cisco’s Five-Way Strategy for innovation – Build, Buy, Partner, Invest, Co-Develop. Build refers to Cisco’s 19,000+ engineers and $ 6.3B investment in Research & Development – but of course no one company can invent everything. That brings us to… Buy – […]
IoT – Cisco Blog

Leak detection: 4 startups worried about water

The Buoy system tracks your water use and provides a remote valve shut off function for $ 799.

Leak detection sensors have been around for years, but most have limited sensing capability. If the sensor isn’t where the puddle is, the leak goes undetected. Some leak sensors have tried to address this with corded “tails” that extend beyond the sensor but can also detect water. I like those better, but the best leak detection isn’t a smattering of sensors. Instead, it’s a smarter water meter.

With that in mind, several companies have formed to try to help consumers and insurers avoid one of the costliest aspects of home ownership — undetected leaks. At CES next week, several startups will launch or show off new products aimed at the DIY homeowner that are worth a look.

All of them allow for remote shut off of the water valve if a leak is detected. Some even do that automatically. Most offer algorithmic leak detection, which means that water doesn’t have to hit a sensor for a leak to be detected. Instead these systems monitor the water usage of the home looking for anomalies or above average water usage by specific devices. Toilets are a big culprit.

Toilets that run all the time can waste hundreds of gallons of water each day in a home, which adds up over time. For example Phyn, one of the startups in this space, determined during a beta test that just over half of leaks are caused by toilets that run constantly. Other common culprits are sprinkler heads and faucets.

Phyn is probably the most well known of these startups to this newsletter’s readers because I covered the creation of the company in 2016. Phyn is a joint venture between Belkin and Uponor. Uponor makes plumbing and heating supplies. Phyn’s product uses Wi-Fi and sensors that determine how water flows throughout the home and when those flows deviate from the norm. It has been in beta in a few hundred homes for over a year, and will sell for $ 849 plus installation.

Flo is another startup in this space, offering a $ 500 device that will ship in February. The Flo device screws onto the home’s main water line and tracks the water flowing through the pipes. It also sends out proactive tests to try to detect slow leaks, something that Phyn says it can also detect.

The Guardian by Elexa is a bit different because for $ 400 you get a motor that screws onto your water shut off valve to turn it if a problem is detected. Also included are sensors that you scatter around the home to monitor for overflows or moisture. This is not my favorite approach since sensor placement will determine if your leak gets detected or not. Of course, even the best algorithmic leak detection sensors won’t help in the case of roof leaks or some of the other ways water can destroy a home.

Finally, there’s Buoy, which is $ 800. Buoy also installs on the main water line and uses algorithms to determine what’s using water in your home and what’s normal. On its website, the company also gives the example of a running toilet wasting water.

All of these startups are hoping consumer panic about leaks helps drive sales, but the real test will be insurance providers. Already insurers are testing these devices and we’ll likely see discounts if a consumer installs one of these in her home, or even certain policies that might cut premiums but force such a device on the user. If it can detect a slow leak, I’d be all in. Those are expensive!

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis