IoT News of the week for Jan. 26, 2018

Awesome paper on hacking sensors and what it means: I love human ingenuity, not only for building things up, but also because we can figure out novel ways to take things apart. Unfortunately this poses security risks as we combine our physical and IT infrastructures. Yes, security is a mess, but there is an underappreciated weak link in MEMS. MEMS are microelectromechanical systems, or put simply, an analog sensor on top of a digital circuit. Their job is to take signals from the real world and translate it for the digital one. This linkage provides all kinds of opportunities, from disrupting accelerometers with sound waves to reverse engineering the hardware’s signals to track a person, machine, or something else. If you have time, this issue has a TON of great IoT content. (Communications of the ACM)

Apple’s moves on health are exciting: I have so far been unimpressed with Apple’s smart home efforts, but its use of HealthKit and ResearchKit and its efforts to turn the Apple Watch into a quasi-medical device fascinate me. Apple’s closed ecosystem and refusal to give up control meld well in a world where HIPPA regulations can paralyze innovation around information sharing. And yet physicians, patients and even insurers would like a holistic view of a patient without spending hours digging around an incomplete electronic health record. Currently we’re loading more and more responsibility onto the patient for their health care, which means Apple’s consumer background could serve it well as we try to modernize our medicine. (Bloomberg)

Speaking of Apple… I love predicting the future as much as anyone, and I strongly agree with this analyst’s piece arguing that the Apple Watch is a bridge to the future. Even my colleague, Kevin, sees the watch as a way to move to voice anywhere. If you liked my story in September 2016 on how Airpods represent the next generation of computing, then you’ll probably want to read this piece, which goes far deeper into that concept. I will say I’m not sure about the AR glasses bit. My hunch is eye tracking that brings content to the nearest screen in the home or office will win out. (Above Avalon)

Siemens sees consolidation coming in industrial IoT: Much like we have massive platforms built around consumer data in Google, Facebook, and Amazon, the industrial world will see its own consolidation of factory automation platforms. To prepare, Siemens is creating partnerships with big IT players such as Amazon Web Services. The Siemens executive quoted in the article expects there to be only a few big players, which makes life interesting for Emerson, Honeywell, Rockwell Automation, Johnson Controls, and others in that field. (Reuters)

Arundo Analytics raises $ 25M to offer machine learning to big industry: Connecting sensors to the internet means companies can grab lots of data and put it on the cloud. But the real value is taking that data in the cloud and doing something with it. Arundo Analytics has built a machine learning platform for oil and gas, mining, and utilities companies so they can get smarter about their data analytics. Now the phrase “machine learning platform” can mean a lot of different things, so I’m not clear on exactly how much of a competitive advantage Arundo Analytics has or what advantage it offers. Especially since many of these industries already have their own data scientists and spend a lot of effort extracting the most value from the data they have. Heck, BP has a supercomputer in its Houston offices. These may be heavy industries, but they aren’t technologically inept. (Arundo)

Excellent myth-busting on LoRa: The current thinking is that the internet of things will require long-range (LoRa) low-power networks, and several technologies have tried to solve that problem. Senet’s LoRa radios offer just one of many solutions, but they have the caught the eye of big ISPs such as Comcast and Orange. They’ve also been picked up by large industrial clients interested in setting up wireless networks in warehouses, mines, and in remote places. Learn all about the tech with this quick and not-too-technical article. (Electronic Design)

This is the privacy article to share with Luddites: Most of this article focuses on surveillance from cameras, but as we add more sensors, we’re going to expand the “picture” in ways that will become even more intrusive. Either way, when people ask how IoT threatens their privacy, this is a good place to send them. (National Geographic)

Amazon Go is what shopping should be: Or at least this is what my friend Chris Albrecht says after his experience at the first Amazon store, which features cameras tracking what you buy instead of asking you to use a cashier and a checkout lane. (The Spoon)

Researchers in China have developed a low-power machine-learning chip: This story focuses on China’s development as a technology powerhouse, a trend that’s been coming for almost a decade. China came out of nowhere and landed on the Top 500 list of supercomputers, for example. Its R&D investments and patent filings have also been trending up. But this chip sounds amazing. Called Thinker, it offers dynamic processing and memory capabilities optimized for building neural networks and can run for a year on eight AA batteries. Imagine putting that on the edge of an industrial or smart home network. You could power that in a light switch. It changes the game. (MIT Technology Review)

Time to nerd out on databases, y’all: Time series databases are a big deal in the internet of things. Basically, these data sets include a number and the time that number was generated. So it might measure temperature, vibration, open/close, or any number of other things. GE’s Predix has a proprietary time series database, and other open-source efforts have also emerged. But this article dives deep into an increasingly popular time series database called Timescale, explaining the scaling problem it solves and how it does so. This won’t appeal to everyone, but if you build IoT systems, you should probably check it out. (The Next Platform)

Check out the Visa CEO talking about payments and IoT:  His vision is that your devices will be able to make payments using a form of digital credential. What I wonder is how that credential relates to me. For example, if it’s my fridge ordering milk on my behalf, would it charge me or my roommate, if I had one? Could you create a shared account for a house and split costs? Would you want to? The challenge in many of these shared device situations is that the security, management, and payment options are still designed for one user.  (CNBC)

I have so many questions about Mark Benioff’s digital personal assistant. (CNBC)

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Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

IoT news of the week for Jan. 19, 2018

10 good industrial IoT predictions: This article not only offers 10 really good predictions but it also offers some accountability in the form of assessing last year’s predictions. Many of the predictions — such as AI and analytics becoming more popular — feel pretty obvious, but my favorite is that consumer devices will violate General Data Protection Regulation provisions. The provisions, which require companies to protect EU citizens’ data, go into effect in May throughout the EU. The fines are impressive and the rules are complex, so expect a lot of chatter about the topic and at least a few lawsuits testing the rules. (IoT Analytics)

Dell backs another industrial IoT security startup: A startup called VDOO just raised $ 13 million from several investors, including 83North (formerly Greylock IL), Dell Technology Capital, and the former CEO of EMC, Joe Tucci. Unlike many IoT security efforts that aim to go into a network and protect devices in them, VDOO is trying to help device makers secure their devices from the get-go. The company provides software and then a certification program. VDOO offers a way of assessing security risks on a per-device basis based on each device’s role in an enterprise as well as its risk factors. It can then implement the right procedures for the device. As an approach it makes sense, although the marketing effort to get device buyers to insist on having the certification will be tough.

C3 Raises $ 100 million: Tom Siebel’s company has raised another chunk of change and added a few more buzzwords to its press releases. The company, which started out offering a cloud service and software for energy management and analytics, added IoT to its marketing a few years ago, and now it’s focusing on AI and IoT.  The round was led by TPG Growth. More impressive than the funding is the news that TPG has more than 100 million sensors and devices under management on its software platform.

Will smart home products get cheaper or more expensive? One big trend I see happening in 2018 is that many familiar connected devices such as cameras and video doorbells will drop in price as higher-quality, low-cost Chinese goods hit the market. I saw many of the vendors at CES last year and this year. Boosting quality has become more and more important for these companies, which I think will drive U.S. consumer acceptance. However, there is a different trend that could push up prices for smart home products. Namely, the new crop of chips and features available for appliance makers and device manufacturers. These chips let companies put cameras on fridges or high-quality machine learning in ovens. The result is new features, but also higher manufacturing costs. That leads to more expensive devices. I think both trends will likely occur in tandem, as companies realize that to make a smart device it has to actually have smarts, not just a connection to the internet and an app. For products that get the mix right, new chips will lead to more value and let them justify the higher prices. For those that don’t see the value, they can buy the cheaper gear or pass on the smart home entirely.  (The Information)

Kinsa proves IoT’s value: Kinsa makes a smart thermometer that can be used to create heat maps for disease outbreaks. The company not only sells the devices in big-box stores, but it has several pilot programs where it hands out free thermostats to parents in a particular school so it can detect outbreaks (kids are little germ factories). For a deep dive into Kinsa’s beginning, check out CEO Inder Singh’s guest appearance a few years back on the podcast. For now, check out Singh in the New York Times disputing CDC numbers based on real-time analysis of fevers monitored using the company’s thermometer.  (NYT)

Let’s hear it for digital lighting: Transitioning to LEDs not only saves energy, but can offer improvements in a variety of places, such as humans’ sleep/wake cycles and better plant yields. But it also can be tuned to mitigate the affect of nighttime lighting on wildlife. (MIT Technology Review)

A new model for IoT security: I’m always on the search for new ways to attack the issue of security as we connect millions of devices to our networks. We need a new way of thinking about security, and this article illustrates one of the options out there. It combines automation — which is necessary for scale — with a protective approach, which is critical given that patches are a sub-optimal solution. (Wired)

How to pay for ambient intelligence: At this stage of the internet of things, the industry has added connectivity and remote control. In the last year, we’ve used voice as a means to interact with connected devices in a more user-friendly way, but we haven’t actually added much in the way of intelligence. This article covers one of the reasons that hasn’t happened yet. Ambient intelligence will require information from many different players and then coordinated action, but right now we don’t have ways to reasonably pay for that, which stymies development. Expect more on this topic this year. (Light Reading)

Alexa gets a personality: There are two cool things in this article. The first is that the Amazon team behind Alexa is trying to let its AI develop preferences and a personality on her own. The second is a comment from a Twitter follower that suggests Amazon could implement advertising on Alexa through her personal preferences. Perhaps when you ask Alexa what her favorite movie is the answer will be sold to the highest bidder. (TechCrunch)

Don’t give up on beacons yet: Beacons came into the tech world in 2014 after Apple made the ability to read data from bluetooth beacons part of iOS. But so far, beacons that broadcast bits of data based on a user’s location have stalled. This article digs into what we need to make beacons viable, and explains why that matters. Essentially beacons offer a convenient way to give fine-grained location context to smart buildings. This could enable wayfinding, location-aware services, and more. (Semiconductor Engineering)

Good takeaways from CES from a hardware investor: Benjamin Joffe is one of the heads of the HAX hardware accelerator and an expert on China, hardware manufacturing, and startups. His thoughts on CES are well worth reading to get some perspective about the big trends for the coming year — namely the rise of China as a provider of quality connected goods. (Medium)

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Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

IoT News of the week for Jan. 12, 2018

CES 2018 was a show all about IoT.

Instead of the traditional news format, I’m going to offer you a list of small items I learned at CES.

Comcast goes big on the smart home: Comcast has made smart home services available to all of its homes that have its most advanced router that acts as a smart home hub as well as a broadband modem. This means that 15 million homes now have automation capabilities on top of their broadband service, plus capabilities that Comcast bought when it acquired Stringify. That’s mainstream!

Comcast also bets on security: Comcast is also launching a security service this year that looks super compelling from an IoT perspective. The back end provider will be Cujo, the maker of an IoT security box. However, Comcast is adding a software layer on top to make the process of setting up the Cujo network security system easier. Features like network traffic monitoring, quarantining devices that have security flaws and more, will be part of the service.

All about Ring’s news: AT CES a lot of people were talking about Ring. It acquired Mr. Beams, a wireless lighting company, and showed off motion sensors that could trigger the new lights. Ring is also close to settling its lawsuit with ADT according to several sources. Ring didn’t respond to requests for comment. Speaking of Ring’s lawsuits, here is a copy of the patent infringement suit filed by Skybell against Ring.

Samsung’s SmartThings is a hidden hero of CES: SmartThings has replaced ADT’s proprietary back end with the SmartThings’ Cloud. ADT’s automation and monitoring system now run on the cloud that supports all of Samsung’s connected devices and services. What’s really interesting is that offering a cheaper monitoring solution using SmartThings’ devices and cloud is more profitable for ADT according to Alex Hawkinson, CEO of SmartThings.

The runaway bride: Schlage was the buyer who had stepped back from acquiring Otto, the maker of the $ 700 smart lock. In a blog post, Sam Jadallah, the founder of Otto blamed the terms of a proposed acquisition deal for leaving Otto unable to raise enough capital to keep going. He didn’t name the company, but enough people at CES did. Schlage said it doesn’t comment on rumors and speculation.

The most open light switch ever:  LeGrand, the maker of high-end switches and outlets, has decided to go all-in on Thread and the OCF to create as open a platform as possible for the smart home. LeGrand uses Thread radios or Wi-Fi radios in its gear and then relies on the SmartThings cloud to connect its stuff to other smart devices. It’s also going to offer a connected light switch that carries software by a company called Ivani that can detect people in a room by measuring their effect on radio waves. If this sounds similar to what Cognitive Objects, the maker of the Aura security system does, you’re right.

Sprint is unsure about NB-IoT: I chatted briefly with Jan Geldmacher, president of Sprint and asked about NB-IoT V. Cat M1. He told me that the carrier is focused on M1 for now, in part because NB-IoT doesn’t have voice capability.

Yonomi raised $ 5 million: Yonomi, which has provided a software-based smart home integration service, has raised $ 5 million with most of that money coming from Gentex, a maker of automotive equipment. While consumers see Yonomi as a way to make integrations easier, manufacturers look at Yonomi’s back-end cloud software as a way to reduce the ongoing costs of operating a connected device. For more details on Yonomi’s other business, see this story from last year.

I really like Google’s new display option: One of the big Google Assistant stories at CES was the ability to add a display to Google’s Assistant, which meant that there were a lot of Echo Show-like devices that could speak to Google. My favorite was from Lenovo, because it sounded good and looked good. It costs $ 249 for the larger version and features an elegant, bamboo integrated stand.

Sears is doing smart tech support: Amid the hype of AR and VR Sears is taking a more practical approach to helping its techs and now customers repair their appliances. For the last few years, Sears has offered TechAssist, a program that lets appliance repair techs take a video of a problem and get help from a remote colleague who knows how to handle the problem. Later this year, Sears is bringing a variation of the program to consumers with Tech Talk. Customers whose appliances break have the option of calling out a repair tech or they can call a hotline to try to diagnose and fix the problem themselves. Sears will let customers do a live video chat over the phone that helps them diagnose the problem. Then a technician can be dispatched or Sears will ship the part to the customer and they can call the video chat once it arrives to try to fix it themselves. I love this option for saving on service calls, but also for those situations where your dryer breaks and you wait for days to get a repair tech out only to find out the problem is so bad you’d be better off buying a new appliance. Soon you will be able to call in and find that out.

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Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis