IoT news of the week for Feb. 16, 2018

Google is buying Xively for $ 50M: Google, which has apparently seen that it needs to step up its IoT cloud game, said it will purchase the Xively IoT platform from LogMeIn for $ 50 million. Xively is a fine IoT platform that always seemed like a strange addendum to LogMeIn. Before LogMeIn bought it, it was known as Pachube, and was the creation of Usman Haque, a forward thinking individual when it came to sensor data monitoring. Xively was a platform-as -a-service offering that managed much of the difficult cloud connections for devices. Combined with hardware kits, the idea was that a developer could get from idea to a working device quickly without having to understand how to connect things and manage them in the cloud. (Google)

Particle brings mesh networking to IoT devices: Most of my IoT projects these days are DIY, or do-it-yourself, efforts. So it’s exciting to see Particle (formerly known as Spark) bring new wireless technology to its small compute boards. Ranging in price from $ 9 to $ 29, the new third-gen Particle boards merge traditional connections—think LTE, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth—with mesh technology so each of the sensor boards can transmit to each other, helping with overall connectivity and data transfer. In other words, not all of your IoT devices need their own internet connection, which can reduce device costs. With Particle’s mesh technology and Thread network support, a non-internet-connected sensor could still transmit its data over the web by using other Particle products on the mesh network, since each is a gateway. Check this video for the full story. (Particle)

Intel-powered drones win Olympic Gold: If you missed the 2018 Winter Olympic opening ceremonies, you missed quite a show. And yet the best performers weren’t even people, but the 1,218 drones with their amazingly choreographed light show, which dazzled. Wired explains how they did it using Intel’s Shooting Star drones. (Wired)

Wearable tech is also on tap for the Winter Olympics: Drones aren’t the only IoT-related things at this year’s Winter Games. Smart clothes and other wearable technology are part of the events, ranging from self-heating jackets with connected apps to speed skating suits that send real-time training data to coaches and skaters. Those sound a little more useful to me than the Halo headsets being used by the U.S. Ski Team: Halo sends energy pulses to a skier’s brain to “prime” their performance. I’ll stick with the warm jacket, thank you. (Gadgets and Wearables)

Another co-founder flies from the Nest: Google’s re-absorption of Nest from Alphabet won’t just impact development teams and supply chain management. The last remaining co-founder of Nest, Matt Rogers, is leaving the team as well. This week, Rogers told CNET that he’ll help the hardware team plan its 2019 roadmap and assist with the re-integration of Nest’s team into Google. After that, though, he’s walking out the door and essentially out of smart home hardware creation. Instead, Rogers plans to focus on Incite.org, a venture firm and labs group he co-founded with Swati Mylavarapu. It’s hard to believe that just six months ago Stacey interviewed Rogers to hear more about Nest’s security products. (CNET)

Faster, more power-efficient encryption at the edge: With recent stories about how much electricity Bitcoin mining gobbles up, it’s nice to see some focus on power efficiency. That’s what MIT has done with a new chip said to increase the speed of public-key encryption on devices by a factor of 500. While the speed is welcome—device encryption processes typically aren’t quick—even better is that the hardware approach reduces the encryption power requirements to just 1/400th of the energy of a software encryption approach. This is important for IoT devices at the edge of a network, which can run on small batteries and therefore need to conserve every milliwatt of power they can. Watch for more ASICs, or application-specific integrated circuits, as our IoT needs continue to expand beyond traditional software solutions. (MIT)

What are the impacts of driverless cars? Let me count the ways: This list of 73 implications of autonomous vehicles is a super read, because it’s one thing to talk about a driverless-car future from the perspective of the technology, but it’s another when you consider the numerous impacts caused by the technology. Think of reductions in traffic policing, for example, a possible decrease in demand for car ownership, or major disruption to the automobile insurance industry. I’m not typically a fan of list-like articles, but this one from Geoff Nesnow is worth an exception to the rule. (Medium)

LimeBike raises $ 70M for real estate companies to offer dockless bikes: When I visited Scottsdale, Arizona over the Christmas holiday, I couldn’t walk more than 100 feet without seeing what looked like a discarded neon green bicycle. Upon closer inspection, I found out these were LimeBikes: cycles used for inexpensive rides with the idea of leaving the bike at your destination. LimeBikes use a connected lock, integrated GPS, and mobile app for the ride. Now, the company has raised another $ 70 million (for a total of $ 132 million) to make it easier to find and store bikes at large, managed real estate properties through dedicated parking spaces. It’s a smart move because it provides centralized accessibility in places where there might be a large number of customers looking for quick and cheap mobility. (Forbes)

Misty wants a robot in every house: You’re likely familiar with Sphero, the company that makes a small, $ 100 robotic ball. You may not, however, know about Misty Robotics, which spun out of Sphero for a different market. Misty is targeted for a developer edition release this month at a cost of $ 1,500. The idea is that a more feature-packed and easily programmable robot could lead to less of a toy and more of a functional assistant based on what developers create with Misty. Using dual treads, Misty can roam around your home either autonomously or programmatically. And she has far more smarts than a Sphero, thanks to a pair of Qualcomm Snapdragon chips (found in most smartphones), a light sensor for mapping, digital camera, microphone, speakers, and USB ports. And a 4.3-inch touchscreen shows Misty’s “emotions” based on information or activities. Using either Blocky or Javascript along with Misty APIs, she looks relatively easy to program. Perhaps Misty is on tap for my next project! (Fast Company)

Another day, another botnet. Where’s the fix?: I doubt we’ll ever see the end of botnet attacks on devices, but we do need to see the end of infected devices that may never get patched. The Satori botnet infected 100,000 devices in just half a day back in December, and plenty of device makers did what they’re supposed to do and provided patches to address the issue. Dasan isn’t one of those device makers, though. More than 40,000 Dasan-built routers are still exploitable by Satori and the company reportedly still hasn’t responded to a December advisory explaining that its routers infected by Satori allow for unauthorized remote code execution. The public needs to continue putting pressure on device makers that don’t take quick action in case of security challenges. Keep voting with your dollars in the meantime. (Ars Technica)

HomePod’s smarts are in the speaker engineering, not in Siri: This is a bit of a personal plug since I reviewed Apple’s HomePod earlier this week. Most of the early reviews were based on the HomePod experience through a combination of Apple briefings and personal use. I found most of those to be less critical (and filled with far more positive superlatives) than reviewers who, like us, simply bought our own HomePod. Maybe it’s just me, but I wasn’t as blown away by the sound as early reviewers. And I find it difficult to give Siri a pass when she’s smarter on the iPad and iPhone than she is inside HomePod. (StaceyOnIoT)

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

IoT Podcast: Apple’s HomePod and chip news galore

An Intel NUC board beloved by the Industrial IoT.

Get out the guacamole, because you’re going to hear a lot about chips on this week’s Internet of Things Podcast! ARM announced a new architecture for machine learning called Trillium and said it would license an object detection design and one that could handle some basic training at the edge. Amazon, too, is building a chip for its edge devices and machine learning will certainly have a part to play.

Also on this week’s podcast, Stacey and Kevin cover Intel’s smart glasses, Kevin’s opinions on the Apple HomePod and Google’s new IoT hire. They also answer a listener’s question about using different profiles with the Amazon Echo.

The guest this week is Alexandros Marinos, who is the CEO of Resin.io. He discusses the popular hardware platforms for prototyping, the industrial IoT and an up-and-coming platform that is breaking out because of interest in machine learning. He also talks about the similarities and differences between servers and connected devices as it relates to building software to manage them. You’ll learn that servers are like cattle, not like pets.

Listen here:

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

IoT news of the week for Feb. 9, 2018

Nest was absorbed into Google: We discussed this on the podcast this week, but it’s worth mentioning heretoo. At best, the decision to bring Nest into Google will make for easier and faster hardware design. At worst, it’s an admission that Nest can’t stand alone as its own company in Alphabet’s “Other Bets” category. Nest has sold a relatively skimpy 11 million devices (compare that with Amazon’s estimated 31 million Echo devices in just a few years) and has been slow to produce more world-changing gadgets. (CNET)

What about your Nest data? A big question after the news broke that Nest would be absorbed by Google was, what will happen to users’ Nest data? When Google acquired Nest in 2014, it made a big deal of keeping the two companies’ data separate. When I asked that question, Matt Flegal, a Nest spokesman, said via email, “Today’s announcement does not change the way Nest uses data under its Privacy Statement.

“In short, Nest users’ data will continue to be used for the limited purposes described in our Privacy Statement like providing, developing, and improving Nest services and products. As we develop future plans and future product integrations, we will be transparent with users about the benefits of those integrations, any changes to the handling of data, and the choices available to consumers in connection with those changes.”

However, I’d keep an eye on my terms of service if I were you, because that could change down the road. But then what would a consumer do? Uninstall their thermostat? Replace their many smoke detectors? Ugh.

Let’s talk about this Intel “edge” processor: This week, Intel  made a huge deal of this new system on a chip being built “for the edge.” I’ve expressed my frustration with the trend of calling everything “the edge” in the past, but Intel’s efforts seem particularly egregious. This is nothing but a massive server chip designed for telecommunications firms. The edge features Intel is touting are basically that this product would work well in servers living at the edge of the telco network. Telcos are betting big on their ability to convince corporate and enterprise customers that their networks can offer edge computing, and that will require much fatter computing power than the current industrial IoT or enterprise IoT gateway boxes, but I’m hard-pressed to consider that the edge. (Intel)

FreeRTOS and embedded OSes: With the internet of things, the mysterious and fragmented world of embedded operating systems is consolidating so as to become more accessible to developers. This article explores what role Amazon wants to play in that transition with its acquisition of the FreeRTOS embedded operating system. (Embedded Computing Design)

How to handle the aftermath of an industrial security breach: Last last year we covered the Triton exploit, which compromised an oil and gas refinery thanks to a vulnerability in equipment from Schneider Electric. Schneider, as part of the steps it took after the attack, uploaded the exploit to a public repository of viruses and malware, where it was promptly copied. Now folks are concerned that the exploit could be recreated and are arguing that Schneider’s decision to upload the code was wrong. Schneider argues that this is a common reaction to an exploit. The whole article takes a look at cybersecurity practices I had never considered and showcases how different the industrial and IT worlds are. (Automation World)

Containers for IoT: This fellow has built a container architecture for the internet of things based on the same kernel that runs the popular Docker container software. The IoT version is called Eliot. If you want to understand more about the benefits of containers for IoT, then check out this profile of Resin.io from a few weeks back. (Medium)

Spain’s big bets on smarter cars: Telefonica and Huawei have built a 5G-based vehicle-to-vehicle communications network test bed in Madrid where the two firms have a 5G Joint Innovation lab. There, they plan to test 5G-based V2V technology for remote driving, fleet platooning, and other benefits of networked cars. Also in Spain, Orange Spain and Spanish automaker SEAT have signed an agreement to  improve the passenger experience, bringing smart home options to car users and building some kind of loyalty program to encourage users to adopt the new technology. (Telegeography)

Connected devices should focus on usage, not purchase: This HBR article delves into the perspectives top-performing consumer brands have on their customers. Do they think of them as buyers of the product, or focus on them as users? In the first case, the emphasis is on prompting a buying decision, while in the second, the focus is on creating an experience that leads to continued use and advocacy for the brand. My contention is that connected devices should focus on the latter. (Harvard Business Review)

The EFF is suing to break DRM on connected devices: DRM on connected devices can be used to keep owners of said products from updating their software, repairing their devices, and generally doing anything the manufacturer doesn’t like. It’s a big issue and getting bigger as we buy more connected products. Hence the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s efforts. (EFF)

FTC’s PrivacyCon event is coming! If you care as much about privacy as I do, perhaps you want to visit Washington, D.C. on Feb. 28th to attend the Federal Trade Commission’s annual event discussing the topic. It will be webcast, too! (FTC)

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

IoT news of the week for Feb. 2, 2017

Will the new FTC be less into privacy? The new members of the Federal Trade Commission are more experienced with antitrust than with privacy enforcement, which is making attorneys who monitor the agency concerned that those members will be less focused on enforcing privacy regulations. This is somewhat dismaying, considering that the FTC back in 2013 saw the deluge of freely available consumer data from connected devices and proposed in 2015 that Congress write new laws about it. It has also been proactive in enforcing some basic IoT security practices, suing companies that advertised secure devices even if they did not follow basic practices like forcing a password change after a user has set up the product. As more connected devices come online and suck up consumer data, a less vigilant FTC would be a shame. (Law360)

Do we need our own digital twin? The digital twin concept comes from NASA’s space program in which the idea was to create a digital simulacrum of the shuttle for testing purposes. Other industries, from Formula One racing to industrial manufacturing, have followed suit, building digital models of their highly specialized and sensitive equipment. But does that mean we should — or could — build a digital twin of our own human bodies? This article asks if we could use it to show the effects of our life choices or diagnose illness. My contention is that while the idea is interesting, we’re only discovering the complexities associated with our bodies. For example, it’s becoming clear that any medically useful version would need to account for our highly individual, complex, and changing microbiomes. So maybe the question isn’t yet should we create a digital twin, but can we create a digital twin? (IoT for All)

Four industrial sensors to consider: This is pretty nerdy, but I’m obsessed with sensors because when applied in new ways they can open up new experiences or insights. These four range from a high-temperature accelerometer to an ultrasonic sensor that can be used to measure liquids and powders. When they become interesting is when you take them out of their industrial context and apply them in a home. For example, an ultrasonic sensor might be put into a plastic container to sense how much flour or liquid is left inside. As it gets closer to empty, maybe it’s time to signal for a restock. (Embedded Computing Design)

Microsoft Azure boosted earnings! Amazon’s Web Services is still the cloud of choice for startups and many IoT platform companies, but you can’t ignore the pull of Microsoft Azure when it comes to attracting big enterprise clients. Among the enterprise and industrial IoT companies I talk to, most have their operations and data on Microsoft Azure. With the company’s second quarter financials (for fiscal 2018) reported this week, that becomes very clear; Microsoft saw a 98% leap in its cloud revenue from Azure from the previous quarter. How much is that, exactly, in hard dollars? We don’t know, because Microsoft doesn’t break out its Azure sales. However, it’s clearly doing something right. CEO Satya Nadella even gave a shout-out to the intelligent edge in the company’s earnings call. (MarketWatch)

More IoT for the construction business: At CES, Nate Williams, an EIR at Kleiner, told me he was interested in how the IoT can improve the construction sector. Well, here’s a cool startup that uses LIDAR and robots to monitor progress at a construction site each day and makes sure things are built to spec. Doxel monitors sites to ensure the humans building the project are following the plan and sticking to the timeline. As someone who has personally dealt with delays on home construction, I can only imagine how behind things can get on larger projects. Doxel will scan the site each day and let you know when, for example, someone just installed a beam in the wrong place to support the cantilevered deck you planned to add later. Finding out sooner is better than later. (IEEE Spectrum)

Should we worry about Satori? After the Mirai botnet exposed the dangers of having hard-coded passwords and a zombie horde of connected Linux-based boxes that could be harnessed to take down websites with denial-of-service attacks, security researchers have been down on IoT devices. But in most cases, IoT devices don’t have enough processing power to interest botnet creators because they aren’t that smart, or have limited access to the internet. So when I read about Satori, a botnet that’s attacked ARC-based devices that can include thermostats, I wondered if this was really the second coming of Mirai. It looks like its ability to infect set-top boxes and other devices that have more processing power might make it troublesome, although it is still only at about 40,000 devices. It takes advantage of devices still using default passwords, so change yours today. (MIT Technology Review)

Connect at your own risk: How often do you link your phone to your rental car while traveling? If you do, then you’re at risk for the maps data you request, your phone’s identity, and other elements to become part of the car’s stored record of user data. That’s because most rental agencies don’t have a way to clear previous drivers’ records from their cars. This may seem small, but think about all the times you put in your Netflix credentials at an AirBnB or any number of other times you make bits of your digital persona available. (Privacy International)

Suvie stores and then cooks your food on demand: I have a soft spot for kitchen gadgets and this one has me intrigued. The Suvie, which will go live next week on Kickstarter, offers a steam oven, broiler, sous vide functionality, and pasta/rice cooker. It can also keep food cool until it’s time to start cooking. It’s the food itself that gives me pause. The Suvie comes with meals that are optimized for the device, which means it’s closer to the Tovala oven than my beloved June oven. (The Spoon)

We can’t automate without people (and compassion): This story does a deep dive into what happened after Australia let an AI spot fraud and waste in its benefits program. The goal was to claw back misspent money, and the government threw algorithms at the problem of discovering waste and fraud. It then sent those who were flagged into an automated system with too few humans, making life a misery for folks already down on their luck. Bureaucracy is already tough to navigate. Adding an AI black box to the mix isn’t going to help.  (Logic)

Are you using your smartphone less? Over at our web site, Kevin writes about how he’s using his smartphone less because he’s using his watch and voice more. Plus, he detailed a fun project that he built using a LIFX bulb to track the ups and downs of his favorite cryptocurrency. (StaceyonIoT)

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

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