Internet of Things News of the Week, April 28 2017

Amazon is working to keep developers happy with the Alexa platform.

It’s a big week for IoT middleware: This week Dell unveiled EdgeX Foundry, an IoT middleware product that will be run through the Linux Foundation. I covered this back when it was Project Fuse and again this week on the podcast. The goal is to create a framework for connecting devices that won’t require everyone to rewrite integrations each time they are connected to a new service or another device. A few days after the EdgeX Foundry project launched, The Eclipse Foundation introduced a new version of its Kura IoT middleware that rivals the EdgeX effort. We may not get clear standards, but the next layer up might get less messy.  (EdgeX Foundry, Eclipse Foundation)

Cloudflare wants to secure your connected devices: Securing connected devices is hard so Cloudflare, a company that helped create a viable security model for cloud-based architectures, has dived in. Cloudflare this week launched Orbit, a service that creates “the equivalent of a VPN” between a device and the cloud. When a device is compromised Cloudflare will block it from malicious actors. The downside is that this is for device manufacturers to install on their products going forward, which means there are still hordes of dangerous devices out there. (Wired)

Scaling infrastructure for IoT requires new thinking: Mark Thiele crunched the numbers on the estimated number of servers required to support IoT devices and came up with 400 million new servers by 2020! This seems like an impossible number. It would require 4,000 new data centers each consuming 50 megawatts of power. He doesn’t discuss what needs to change, but everyone should read his breakdown of the problem. (LinkedIn)

This may be a new architecture for IoT: I’ve been wanting to write about functional programming, AWS Lambda and why serverless computing matters for the internet of things for quite some time. The idea is that instead of keeping an Amazon instance constantly running in case of a job, a service like Amazon’s Lambda spins up only when needed. Using a smidgen of compute to send an alert when a motion sensor is activated makes more sense in a severless architecture.  For a nice overview of this read the blog by Redmonk’s James Governor. (RedMonk)

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Amazon Echo or Google Home? For developers, the answer is the Echo for now with Google Home coming later if it’s successful. But Amazon is making a big effort to keep its development process as easy as possible to ensure developers keep flocking to the platform. It’s clearly taking a page from Apple’s success with the iPhone, where high-quality apps kept users happy on the platform, even as Android hardware improved.  (The Information)

Comcast’s Xfinity home is a hit: In its first quarter financial call Thursday, Comcast said it had 1 million subscribers to its home automation and security platform, twice the number it had back in August 2015 when it last reported the data. Now it appears Comcast is breaking out the Xfinity home data for investors as it becomes a larger part of its business. This growth may be organic but could be aided by its purchase of iControl, which finally closed during the quarter. Meanwhile, other ISPs have not fared as well offering similar home automation and security products. Comcast’s biggest rival in this field is, which supports more than 5 million subscribers. (Comcast)

Focus on the outcomes, not the code: When it comes to policing bias in our algorithms Microsoft argues that it’s the results that matter, not code transparency. I tend to agree. The way current machine learning works, computer scientists allocate weights to certain inputs to influence the code. Too much focus on one input and not enough on another is what leads to mistakes such as Google Photos labeling a black person as a gorilla. The challenge will be making companies share those inputs and keeping track as they change. (Quartz)

What is Hajime? This mysterious botnet is somewhat similar to Mirai because it breaks into unsecured connected devices, but instead of establishing a botnet to attack other networks, Hajime establishes a command and control network by disabling certain firewalls and opening ports. Then it just sits there. (ZDNet)

Remember the lack of security in healthcare? I wrote about the topic last week, and I imagine you’ll see me do it again soon. But if you want more information, check out the coverage of Josh Corman of I Am The Calvary speaking at a Boston event. Pay close attention to the lifespan of the currently infected devices. (Threatpost)

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

Internet of Things news of the week, April 21, 2017

Google Home now supports multiple users.

This week’s top Internet of Things news includes Google Home, Germany and security, Microsoft beefing up its IoT offerings and more.

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Google’s Home gets personal: An update allows the Google Home to recognize the person speaking to it and can deliver a personalized response. This tweak in software adds another layer of context that will help deliver better responses and could lead to essential services such as voice-based authentication.  Amazon’s Echo can’t do this yet, but I’m sure engineers in Seattle are working on it.  (Network World)

Google’s voice gets out of beta: The speech recognition engine Google’s Assistant uses to understand what people are saying is now available to all. Google opened up access to its Google Cloud Speech API this week, creating a competitor to Amazon’s Alexa Voice Services. This should please developers who have told me that Google had been difficult to work with on the voice front compared with Amazon. (Google)

Your next competitor may surprise you: This story is about insurance firms trying to boost their digital credibility as they face new sources of competition. The competition isn’t from other insurers, but from companies like Google or auto makers who now have their own sources of data about cars, accidents and road conditions. Armed with that data they can undercut traditional insurers if they so choose. (The Drum)

Keep an eye on Germany: Germany is serious about IoT device security. The country’s telecommunication regulatory agency, which in February classified a hackable connected doll as an espionage device, has decided it could fine parents who don’t destroy the doll to the tune of $ 25,000. The same agency last year banned a toy panda that had an unsecured camera in its head. With bans and the potential for fines, I’ll be looking to see how companies respond to better enforcement for IoT security. (The Consumerist)

IBM and Harman built an Alexa: IBM has jammed its Watson cognitive computing smarts into Harman’s speakers with the idea of letting people control lights, TVs and communications equipment inside hotel rooms, conference rooms and even in hospitals. While Amazon and Google focus on the home, it appears that IBM and Harman, which is now a subsidiary of Samsung, are looking to the enterprise and businesses. (IBM)

Why aren’t smart TVs smarter? This overview of the state of smart TVs left me bummed. When Samsung bought SmartThings back in 2015 the hope was that Samsung TVs would get SmartThings inside. Some features are part of connected Samsung TVs but the ability to control ZigBee and Z-wave devices aren’t, and so far a dongle that would add those features is delayed. Your TV isn’t a smart home hub yet. (CNET)

Your old-line industry isn’t organized for the IoT: This article focused on getting automotive companies to think in terms of the entire connected car ecosystem should be required reading for all businesses as they try to figure out how to sprinkle some IoT on their business model. Ignore the datafication jargon, and focus on the core idea. When you connect to the internet of things, you’re going to have to reshape your business processes. (ComputerWorld)

Microsoft beefs up its IoT products: As I talked about above, Microsoft launched a new software as a service offering called IoT Central for folks who don’t want to manage their own IoT cloud. It also announced several other products perfect for the internet of things community, such as a time series database, a new pre-configured Azure offering for connected factories and an on-device stream analytics offering that seamlessly ties back to the Azure cloud. There’s more on provisioning (this is a huge pain point for companies and especially systems integrators) and some hardware security efforts over at the company’s blog post. (Microsoft)

AWS CEO says IoT is real: Andy Jassey, the CEO of Amazon’s cloud business, is a believer in the internet of things. At an AWS event in San Francisco he apparently said “of all the buzzwords everybody has talked about, the one that has delivered fastest on its promises is IoT and connected devices.”  (Geekwire)

Taser has this IoT business model down: Several stories have covered the offer by Taser to outfit police departments with body cameras for a year at no charge. This story explains why Taser is keen to do that, and in the process offers up a credible business model that several connected device companies are trying to follow. The idea is to give away cheaper hardware, lock people in with the camera management software and access to those images to profit. Most connected camera companies for consumers have similar plans, where access to clips after a certain period of time costs money. I’d love to know what adoption of those cloud video storage subscriptions looks like. (NPR)

Verizon’s IoT news is pretty dull: Verizon reported earnings this week and all eyes were on its incredible loss of subscribers while it delayed launching an unlimited data plan. It did talk about building out deeper fiber networks for next generation technologies including fixed wireless broadband and smart cities and telematics efforts. However, much of the investor focus was on wireless. Verizon said its telematics revenue was $ 214 million in the first quarter, and that its IoT revenue, including telematics, was up approximately 17% in the first quarter. (Verizon)

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

IoT weekly round-up: Thursday 20th April 2017

Welcome to the IoT weekly round-up. Unsurprisingly, this week is full of Facebook news from the two-day F8 event on 18-19 April, the most interesting of which is the possibility that one day we will be able to publish emails, tweets and messages directly from our thoughts. Read on for the latest.

A flood of announcements at Facebook’s F8 event

In the main, the F8 developer conference showcased Facebook’s ability to process information and feedback in the virtual and haptic worlds. Announcements included updates to Facebook Analytics, Facebook Login and Account Kit. Workplace continues to grow and Messenger now supports QR codes alongside group bots and a bot discovery tab. Oh, and there’s also the new Creative Effects studio, which layers real life with virtual art and messages.

Facebook investigates typing directly from your brain to minimize smartphone distraction

Apparently, the answer to dealing with distracting smartphones isn’t simply to put them away and do something else, it’s to develop technology that means you can ‘think’ your messages into being without having to type them. It might be fun to point out that South Park got there first, predicting a similar system called ‘Sh*tter’ in the episode ‘Let Go, Let Gov’. Anyway, it seems that this brain-computer interface technology isn’t that far away, and already exists in a rudimentary form. Facebook, who have a team of 60 machine learning and neural prosthetics experts looking into the feasibility of such a system, highlighted the example of a test subject whose pea-sized brain implant allowed her to comprehend a vocabulary of up to nine words that she could hear through her skin. If the brain implant isn’t for you, you might prefer the alternative: developing a brain-computer interface with sensors that can measure brain activity and decode the signals associated with language in real time. Then again, you might prefer to type your messages instead.

Self-driving Olli is a Best Auto Mobility Product finalist

Olli, the self-driving shuttle bus developed by Local Motors with IBM is a finalist in the 2017 TU-Automotive Awards, within the Best Auto Mobility Product category. Over 400 nominations were received from various segments of the connected car industry. Great news, Olli!

NBA team has AR basketball game for its scoreboard

NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers have launched an Augmented Reality game that you can play while you’re at a real basketball game. The app opens to your camera and overlays an AR basketball net, complete with ball, which the player can attempt to flick into the net. The Cavaliers aim to put the graphic up on the main scoreboard during home playoff games, so that fans can virtually shoot hoops from their seats in the stands.

AeroMobil accepts pre-orders for its first flying car

If you have lots and lots of money, you can now pre-order AeroMobil’s ‘first edition’ flying car, which was unveiled earlier this week. It won’t ship until 2020, but until then there are some truly mouth-watering pictures and descriptions to ogle. The AeroMobil transforms from car mode to air mode in less than three minutes and can do around 224mph during flight.

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Internet of Things News of the Week, April 14 2017

Burger King upset Google with an ad that activated Google Home devices.

Here’s a weekly roundup of important and interesting IOT news. Get this summary in your inbox every Friday when you subscribe to my newsletter.

Alexa’s hardware for all: Amazon has teamed up with chip makers to create a reference design for the far field microphone array that is inside the Amazon Echo. Combine this with Alexa Voice Services, and it’s clear that Amazon is hoping to put Alexa into as many devices as possible. This makes it easier for Alexa-enabled hardware, but I’m not entirely sure I need everything in my home capable of summoning Alexa. From Amazon’s perspective, though, this makes its voice platform the UI of the future. The one everyone will expect to talk to and train themselves to interact with. (Amazon)

IT and automation are going to change the workforce: We know this. The question is how. A new report from the National Academy of Sciences offers a cogent viewpoint on what comes next for the workforce. It also adds several new questions that deserve research if we really want to understand the impact of not just AI and robotics, but also what on-demand work and the internet of things means for the future of employment. It may not make you happier, but it will make you smarter. Fair warning, this is 198 pages, but it’s an easy read. (National Academies Press)

Burger King’s Whopper of a mistake: Burger King’s ad agency got creative with a 15-second ad spot that decided that instead of describing the Whopper it would ask people’s Google Home’s or Google Assistants to do it for them. The spot called out “Okay Google What is a Whopper burger”  and hoped to activate user’s Google Assistants to provide the answer. Outrage ensued, Google disabled the ad’s ability to activate the device (presumably by matching it to the ad’s sound clip) and Burger King got a lot of free publicity. The IoT is going to take the concept of guerrilla marketing to new levels.  (The Verge)

When AI goes wrong: Before you buy into the AI hype, read through these failures of artificial intelligence brought down by human tampering, bad training data or programmer bias. And then consider how you want to design your AI rollout. (Harvard Business Review)

IoT can help the planet: Food waste is a big deal, and this roundup offers a startup called Zest Labs that is using sensors and connectivity to curb the problem. (Huffington Post)

Comcast Ventures invests in Plume: Plume, a Wi-Fi startup with a big vision for delivering Wi-Fi as a service, has raised an additional $ 37.5 million from investors including Comcast Ventures. Plume’s Wi-Fi units plug into a wall and work with cloud-based software to optimize the quality of Wi-Fi in users’ homes. When I spoke to CEO Fahri Diner a year or so ago, his idea was to eventually charge services providers or end users to ensure better connectivity in homes. Thus, Comcast’s investment feels very logical.  (Axios)

Secure your stuff in 10 painful steps: IoT device security is so hard that it’s tough to fit in a handy infographic. That’s the lesson I took away from this Level 3 slide trying to tell people how to secure their stuff. With steps like “review the terms of service and data sharing policies for each device” and “contact your ISP to upgrade your router to the latest security setting”, these steps feel like something you could spend the rest of your life doing. (Level 3)

Samsung Bixby isn’t going to ship on time: Samsung has said it would launch Bixby, Samsung’s answer to Siri, with the upcoming Galaxy 8 phone. Now the plan has changed. Some Bixby bits will be part of the new handset at launch, but not the voice assistant aspect of it. Maybe building a credible voice assistant to handle tasks on the phone is harder than Samsung thought. (Axios)

The FDA is eyeing medical device security: Hospitals are often targets of ransomware attacks, but between electronic patient records and connected medical devices, the surface area of attack is now larger and the implications of a breach are life threatening. From hacked insulin pumps to hackers changing patient’s allergy data in their records, the FDA is working with device makers and other agencies on a response to the increasingly threatening environment.  (The Hill)

Connected cars will change your life by 2025: A new study from Bosch anticipates that even though most cars will not be self-driving, their connectivity will change various aspects of our lives within the next eight years. The report is thin on details, but it cites improved parking, safer cars and the use of more direct routes as benefits of this shift. (Bosch)

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

IoT weekly round-up, Thursday 13th April 2017

Welcome to the IoT weekly round-up, the latest news from the connected world. This week, there’s more on Waymo’s suit against Uber for alleged patent infiltration, Samsung delays its voice assistant Bixby until the spring, and Apple are pushing reset on the Mac Pro.

Samsung delays its Siri equivalent

Samsung has confirmed that its voice-powered assistant, Bixby, will be delayed. The Bixby solution was unveiled last month and slated to debut on the new S8 and S8+ devices, which will now ship without it. Google’s voice assistant will be available instead as a standard part of the Android operating system. If you can wait until the spring, you’ll be able to get the full Bixby as an update.

Apple to re-think Mac Pro

Apple revealed that it will be working on a new machine to replace the Mac Pro they introduced in 2013. As the Mac user base gets close to 100 million users, Apple are re-thinking the entire system and releasing a new external display. The old Mac Pro design will get a performance upgrade and remain on sale this year, so no need to panic if you’ve just bought one.

Waymo sues Uber and Otto

Waymo, the self-driving tech unit belonging to Google, is suing Uber and Otto for misappropriating trade secrets. Uber has admitted its self-driving vehicles are still using commercially available LiDAR systems, which it claims differ from Waymo’s LiDAR. Google have alleged that Anthony Levandowski, an engineer formerly employed by Google, downloaded 14,000 documents from a database containing information on self-driving technology onto a personal device. Get the full picture from TechCrunch’s helpful timeline.

Apple launches Clips – a simple video editing app

Apple has launched a social video editing app known as Clips which uses voice to tech technology to add captions to video in real time. The app allows users to put together short videos, with added emojis, music, captions and filters, and share the result on social networks. The unavoidably Snapchat-ish app is a simple solution aimed at those who don’t fancy Final Cut or iMovie.

Amazon Cash means no more bank cards

Amazon Cash – a service allowing consumers to shop without using their bank cards – launched last week. The tool allows users to apply cash to their online Amazon account by showing a barcode at participating stores, including CVS Pharmacy, Speedway, Sheetz, Kum & Go, D&W Fresh Market, Family Fare Supermarkets and VG’s Grocery. Users can add between $ 15 and $ 500 in one transaction.

Google’s AI challenges China’s top Go player

Google is seeking to pit its AI technology against China’s top Go player, Ke Jie. It plans to play a best-of-three match against Ke Jie and other human opponents in Wuzhen, China, later this month. Google’s AlphaGo software was developed by DeepMind, a British computer company bought by Google in 2014. Last year, the program, which learns through self-play, beat one of South Korea’s top Go players in a landmark 4-1 victory.

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