SOTI extends Android Enterprise on Zebra devices

Over the past decade, SOTI and Zebra have had a long partnership working together to meet the enterprise mobility needs of organisations worldwide.

In 2013, Motorola Solutions announced the end of development of their Mobility Services Platforms (MSP) management solution, and selected SOTI MobiControl as the approved EMM solution for their devices. Why? Because SOTI’s industry-leading ability to manage Windows Mobile/CE and Android devices is unmatched; and as Motorola Solutions introduced their first Android devices, SOTI MobiControl naturally was the first EMM solution to support them as their partner of choice, says Shash Anand, vice president, Strategic Alliances at SOTI.

When Motorola Solutions’ Enterprise Business was acquired by Zebra Technologies in 2014, SOTI continued this strong partnership with Zebra—and SOTI MobiControl is still the only EMM solution that Zebra officially resells.

Today, SOTI once again solidifies this decade-long partnership through the release of an update to the SOTI MobiControl Android Enterprise agent that includes support for Zebra management capabilities including:

Provisioning of Mobility Extensions (Mx) to manage Zebra device-specific settings
Over-the-air (OTA) deployment of Zebra operating system (OS) updates
SOTI MobiControl agent persistence when a Zebra device is enterprise reset

For any IT Director/Manager tasked with the responsibility to maintain Android devices across the enterprise, this release is game-changing: it marks the first time any Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) solution is able to support OS updates and agent persistence on Zebra Android devices managed using Android Enterprise capabilities.

What does this mean for organisations?

Since Google first introduced Android Enterprise (formerly known as Android for Work) in February of 2015 as a framework for standardizing the management of Android devices, it has quickly become the preferred method for many organizations to manage their Android devices.

Android Enterprise’s broad management capabilities, including the ability to separate personal and work data on personally-enabled devices and integration with Google Play services for app distribution, were able to address the majority of the management and security requirements of organizations. But for many organisations, the majority was not enough.

Organizations that rely on business-critical mobility have business-critical line-of-business (LOB) apps running on work devices such as those offered by Zebra. Imagine being a retailer who uses an app on a handheld that scans for prices. What if that app stopped working after an update to the device’s OS? The downtime and loss of business could be significant.

When many of your core business tasks are dependent on mobile technology, the ability to control OS updates and automatically retain management of all devices (some possibly unmanned) after OS updates becomes paramount.

Currently, such capabilities are not available through Android Enterprise. With the latest update to its Android Enterprise agent, SOTI MobiControl becomes the first EMM solution in the industry to bridge this gap on Zebra Android devices.

Which Zebra devices can take advantage of the new enhancements to the SOTI MobiControl Android Enterprise agent?

Most Zebra devices outfitted with Android N or greater running the SOTI MobiControl Android Enterprise agent 13.4, build 1485 or higher will support the new features. The agent is available on Google Play and can be download from SOTI’s OEM downloads page by selecting “Android Enterprise” in the Manufacturer drop-down list.

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Google pushes Android Things to Developer Preview 6

Google pushes Android Things to DP6

Search and cloud computing giant Google has launched the developer preview version 6 (DP6) of its Android Things offering.

Billed as an IoT platform, Google’s Android Things is intended to provide developers with a way to build connected devices for many consumer, retail and industrial applications, from smart locks to sensor control systems. 

The latest developer preview of the platform (DP6) irons out some bugs and offers a selection of new features.

Internet of Business has been tracking Android Things since its launch this time last year, and understands that Google intends to position this technology as a means of coding device applications with functions including video and audio processing.

Plans also include the option to enable on-board machine learning using TensorFlow, an open-source software library for machine intelligence.

Read more: Google launches Android Things, a new IoT platform for developers

Launching a launcher

According to Wayne Piekarski, Google developer advocate for IoT, DP6 includes a new ‘IoT launcher’ that allows the user to see the current state of a device and change settings using a touchscreen or USB input devices.

“Settings such as configuring the WiFi, finding the build ID, and checking for updates is now something that can be done interactively, making it even easier to get started,” he said.

Android users have become increasingly used to the notion of ‘launchers’, by virtue of the success of Google’s ‘Now’ launcher for Android. A launcher can perhaps be best described as a software ‘overlay’ designed to provide a new core graphical user interface (GUI) in a defined functionality style.

Read more: Sophos unveils Android Things and Windows 10 IoT device management capabilities

More granular IoT controls

Android Things uses the open-source SwiftShader library, a CPU-based implementation of the OpenGL ES application programming interface (API). Google executives say this enables common OpenGL support across all platforms, even those with no GPU hardware.

“New APIs have been added to Android Things that control the configuration of the local device and device updates. UpdateManager gives developers control over when updates and reboots can be performed, ensuring the device is available for the user when needed,” Piekarski explained. “DeviceManager controls factory reset, reboot, and device locales. APIs are also provided for settings such as ScreenManager to control the screen and TimeManager to control the clock and timezone.”

So developer-centric from the start  – yes. But what Google has done in this latest round of updates is to give more defined pointers on what type of core functionality controls are needed in IoT devices and offer more guidelines to developers on the kind of IoT programming that Google says it champions.

Read more: Volvo teams up with Google to put Android into connected cars

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Internet of Business

Cyanogen switches gear from Android to self-driving cars

Cyanogen, once famous for Android ROMs, has switched gear and will now focus on the next big thing — self-driving cars.

If you’re tech-savvy (and you’re a reader of ours, so you obviously are…) then you’ve likely heard of Cyanogen. The company started its journey building custom Android ROMs for the many tinkerers on the Android platform.

A year ago, Cyanogen changed its name to Cyngn and discontinued building Android ROMs to focus on a “modular” OS which is easier for manufacturers to integrate (after all, the company has first-hand experience of what Android OEMs have to go through…)

Nothing ever seemed to come of the project, and it seems the company — like most of us — has come to concede that smartphones will remain dominated by iOS and Android. Like Microsoft, it seems that Cyngn is giving up on smartphone operating systems and looking to what’s next.

Axios found references and job listings on Cyngn’s website that point towards its new interest in developing self-driving technology. The job adverts reveal the company wants people able to create and run autonomous system software, as well as mapping and perception systems across facilities in Singapore and Palo Alto.

Unlike the smartphone market, there is no definitive leader in self-driving technology and it’s a ripe opportunity. Cyngn is certainly not alone, however, and will face some fierce competition from automotive titans and tech giants including Apple, Waymo, Comma.ai, NVIDIA, Drive.ai, and Nutonomy.

Nevertheless, we look forward to seeing what Cyngn can offer, and we’ll be sure to follow the company as they embark on their next journey. We’ll keep you updated.

What are your thoughts on the company’s move into self-driving technology? Let us know in the comments.

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Microsoft Cortana can control your smart home on iOS and Android

In our recent video chat discussing smart speakers, we talked about Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri. Who’s missing? Cortana!

That will change soon, however. Harmon Kardon previously announced its Invoke smart speaker (shown above) powered by Microsoft’s digital assistant. The Invoke is expected to cost $ 199.95 when it becomes available this month: It will answer your queries, allow you to set reminders and also control your smart home devices. But you can also use your PC or your phone to do these things, and I’m not talking about Windows Phone, which is semi-officially a dead platform.

Last week, Windows Central reported that Microsoft added a Connected Home function for Cortana in Windows 10. On a hunch, I wondered if the same feature was added to Microsoft’s Cortana mobile app and sure enough, it’s there for both iOS and Android.

I downloaded Cortana for iOS on my iPhone and navigated to Cortana’s Notebook. This is where Microsoft’s digital assistant learns about your interests and also where you can link external data sources such as Skills. That’s where I found the Connected Home option.

It’s a bit limited right now, only allowing Cortana users to connect the app to Wink, Insteon, Nest, SmartThings and Philips Hue. I went through the connection process with Wink and Nest, which is similar to how it works with other apps. With Wink, for example, Cortana asks you to sign in to your Wink account and then authorize Wink to work with the app.

Once I set these up, I spoke to Cortana to control connected devices in my house and she acquiesced. Well, most of the time. Like my Google Home, Cortana can’t “see” the Z-Wave front door lock paired with my Wink. And for some reason, even though I have my Nest account connected, I can’t get Cortana to do anything with my Nest Cam yet.

But for lighting control — including for rooms or groups and for dimming — she’s up to the task. You may have better luck if you use SmartThings, Insteon or Philips Hue. There’s no audio in the above screen recording from one of my tests, but it will give you a quick idea of what types of smart home commands work and what other information Cortana can provide.

The Connected Home section of the Notebook is pretty bare bones in Cortana too. For example, if I open the Home Control settings of the Google Home app, I can see a list of all my connected devices.

Cortana doesn’t show actual devices yet: She just displays the five supported connected home services and says “Connected”. Hopefully Microsoft expands this in the near future to actually show what devices are connected and controllable. Note that after I used Cortana for iOS, I installed it on my Galaxy S8+ and saw a nifty feature: Because I had already connected my Wink and Nest accounts to Cortana on iOS, they were already connected on Android. Thank Microsoft’s cloud sync for that simplicity. And on Android, you can set Cortana to be the default digital assistant app; not so on iOS because…. Apple.

As a general digital assistant, I prefer Cortana over Siri for the same reason I lean towards Google Assistant over Alexa: I get better information when asking about different things. Chalk that up to Cortana having what I think is a better knowledge graph than Siri or Alexa. And of course, if you’re in Microsoft’s ecosystem, Cortana is excellent at getting your next appointment, sending messages and more.

But as more people work to make their home smart, Microsoft has more to do. One semi-expensive Cortana powered speaker isn’t going to cut it. Part of the reason Amazon has got Alexa in so many homes is because it offers a range of devices for different budgets. I’m willing to bet that Amazon has sold more Echo Dots than the more expensive, full sized Amazon Echo that’s more than three times the price of Dot. Put another way: If you want to have multiple rooms in your home for smart device control, why spend $ 180 or more per room when you can have that for much less?

Still, this is a positive step for Microsoft. Getting smart home smarts in Cortana on a Windows 10 computer makes sense due to how many people use PCs.  But that solution only works when someone is at the PC and the PC is powered on, so it’s limited. Adding Cortana to potentially hundreds of millions of smartphones is a better play until Microsoft can get more partners to build Cortana-powered speakers in a range of price points.

Even so, for now Cortana smart home control on iOS and Android seems a bit limited when compared to Alexa, Google Assistant and even Siri. So I won’t be using this as a full time voice interface for my home just yet. At this point, Microsoft needs Cortana more than I do.

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

Connected Cars Smarten Up With Android

Connected Cars Smarten Up With Android

Renesas is making it possible to use Android for automotive applications with the launch of its ‘R-Car reference package for Android’ for its R-Car automotive system-on-chips (SoCs). This package supports Android 8.0, the latest version of Google’s Android OS which includes support for functions required in automotive systems.

The combination of the Android 8.0 OS with Renesas’ robust and highly secure automotive SoC simplifies development of automotive Android platforms.

The new reference package comprises the R-Car reference board and an extension board as hardware environment, and the board support package (BSP) as software support.

The solution, says Renesas, is beneficial for software developers who have no experience with automotive systems and also for those without Android development experience.

Renesas noted that the Android platform has been a choice worldwide for smartphones. Its use has also been progressing in other embedded processing applications.

Fortunately, the latest Android 8.0 is configured, for the first time, with a framework for automotive application support as a standard component, making it possible to use Android 8.0 for automotive applications.

This means that high-level cloud services for smartphones will now be available in vehicles, and is expected to spur the development of new cloud-based services for cars.

The R-Car Reference Package for Android will be available from October 2017.

For further details, click here.

 

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