Mozilla updates its Project Things open source IoT gateway

Mozilla has issued an update to its Project Things open source decentralised IoT gateway first announced back in July.

The main part of Project Things is the Linux-based ‘Things Gateway’ software which enables a Raspberry Pi to be set up as a home automation gateway. In the latest version (0.3) of the software — a new rules engine, improved voice support, and a tutorial has been added to help newbies get started.

Other major new features include:

  • Microphone support for issuing voice commands

  • Rules engine for setting ‘If this, then that’ logic for device interaction

  • Floor-plan view to lay out devices on a map of the home

  • Additional device type support, such as smart plugs, dimmable and colored lights, multi-level switches and sensors, and “virtual” devices

  • New add-on system for supporting protocols and devices

  • New system for safely authorizing third-party applications (using OAuth)

The floor-plan view is particularly interesting to allow users to see a layout of their devices around their home on a virtual map.

Today’s additions make it possible for a consumer to build their own smart hub with only basic knowledge instead of having to pay for expensive, pre-built hubs from major manufacturers.

While the Things Gateway is designed to be used with the Pi 3, other models are compatible. The stack can even run on pretty much any Linux-based desktop, laptop, or hacker board.

You can find out more about Project Things and how to get started here.

What are your thoughts on the latest Project Things update? Let us know in the comments.

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Amazon trying to make smart home simpler with updates, says IHS Markit

With Amazon announcing several new Alexa-related products and integrations, it is part of their plan to make the smart home simpler, according to Blake Kozak, principal analyst at IHS Markit.

While admitting the updates will be ‘disappointing for enthusiasts’ being aimed at a less tech-savvy market, the moves do relate to their competition in the space, including SmartThings and Sonos, added Kozak.

“In the short-term, although Sonos is expected to release a digital assistant agnostic speaker (one that uses Apple Siri, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa) and Google is expected to come out with a less expensive alternative to Google Home and announce additional partnerships, this likely won’t be enough to supplant Amazon over the next 12 months – which can currently control about 24 million smart home devices,” wrote Kozak, adding that number was approximately nine million more devices than the nearest competitor.

The latest product offerings include the redesigned Echo, Echo Plus, Echo Spot and Echo Connect.

The new redesigned Amazon Echo is a $ 99 hands-free speaker which now comes with an improved audio fidelity, thanks to the second-generation far field voice recognition ability. This comes in a more compact fabric covered form factor and interchangeable cosmetic shells. Amazon is offering buyers a $ 50 discount if they buy three Echo products at once.

The Echo Plus comes with a price tag of $ 149, and is a blend of the original Echo form factor with a ZigBee smart home hub, with a bundled Philips Hue light bulb. According to IHS Markit, The Echo Plus is an important development in its class. This is because earlier the user required the native app for setup and in some cases he/she should know the brand of the voice-controlled device, in order to control it with voice commands. But now, the user will just have to give a simple command without the need of the ‘special’ code or a brand name.

The Echo Spot ($ 129) is an eye-catching combination of the Dot and the Echo Show. It has a circular 2.5” video screen combined with small form factor. And yes, the screen is capable of video calls and displaying video clips.

Lastly, the new Echo Connect ($ 35) accessory allows Echo owners to connect their device to a landline to enable speakerphone calling functionality.

You can read the full note here.

Picture credit: Amazon

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Updates to Azure Time Series Insights simplify analysis of IoT data

The unprecedented volume of data generated by the Internet of Things (IoT) has made analysis of time-series data a powerful way to gain actionable insights into business performance. This type of analytics can help companies uncover hidden trends, conduct root-cause analyses, and quickly validate IoT solutions.

Yet collecting, managing, visualizing, and analyzing time-series data at scale and in near-real time is a tall order for even the most capable of companies. That’s because sensors and connected devices can generate billions of data points every day, and businesses lack a centralized view of data and the ability to perform a unified query. Combining and visualizing disparate data types—in particular, time-series data and reference data—is daunting because organizations typically use multiple, non-integrated tools and techniques.

Microsoft is addressing these challenges in a new update to the public preview of Azure Time Series Insights, a managed cloud service that provides a global view of IoT-scale data with real-time visibility into time-series data across all locations. Updates to Time Series Insights include:

  • Streamlined management of time-series data in the Azure Portal.
  • Documentation on reference data API that makes it easier to combine time-series data with more static reference and historical data—and build custom solutions.
  • A dynamic search span that allows businesses to customize and run repeatable queries using a single template, as well as use relative time spans in queries.
  • A new feature that surfaces statistically significant patterns and enables users to quickly perform root-cause analyses and post-mortem investigations.
  • Several new usability improvements to time navigation that help streamline triage and diagnosis.
  • A time brush tool that makes it easier to move between time ranges when diagnosing sensor data.
  • Updates to the JSON data interchange format that add the ability to import multi-content JSON payloads.
A GIF showing patterns in the Time Series Insights stats tab and addition of a pattern as a new term.

A GIF showing patterns in the Time Series Insights stats tab and addition of a pattern as a new term.

One company that’s benefiting from Microsoft’s IoT solutions is EcoLab, a leading provider of water and energy services that is creating a system to help its industrial customers reduce water use. Leveraging the Azure IoT Suite, EcoLab has combined approximately 10TB of time-series data like water use with sales and other data to help visualize and identify patterns. Azure has helped the company address an inherent IoT challenge: The ability to combine and analyze time-series data from operations processes around the world.

Microsoft will continue to update and add functionality to Time Series Insights while in public preview. To find out more about how we are building the leading platform for analyzing time-series data, read our blog post announcing new Time Series Insights capabilities. You can also register for our upcoming webinar, “Quickly unlock insights hidden in your time series data,” on September 19, 2017 from 10:00-11:00 a.m. PDT .

The post Updates to Azure Time Series Insights simplify analysis of IoT data appeared first on Internet of Things.

Internet of Things

NVIDIA to power smart cities and self-driving cars with latest updates

NVIDIA’s platform for building artificial intelligence-based smart cities ‘Metropolis’ has been adopted by Alibaba and Huawei, which now includes the NVIDIA DeepStream software development kit (SDK) in general availability.

Both the Chinese tech giants have joined more than 50 of the world’s leading organisations that are already using the platform.

Metropolis is an edge-to-cloud video platform that includes tools, technologies and support to build smarter, faster AI-powered applications for everything from traffic and parking management to law enforcement and city services.

As NVIDIA says, the company will take the advantage of more than one billion video cameras that will be installed in the cities by 2020, which will help solve multiple problems. The DeepStream SDK simplifies the development of scalable intelligent video analytics powered by deep learning for AI cities and hyperscale data centres. It can also be used by developers to process, understand and categorise video frames in real-time and meet the most demanding throughput and latency requirements.

The company is planning to bring in more of the world’s best AI firms with a new partner programme designed to expedite the development of new products on the Metropolis platform.

In addition, NVIDIA is also investing $ 52 million in a Chinese self-driving start-up JingChi, along with a group of investors led by Qiming Venutre.

JingChi uses NVIDIA GPUs and NVIDIA DRIVE PX 2 to develop its autonomous cars. The investment will allow the start-up to quickly scale up its R&D teams in Beijing and Sunnyvale, California, strengthen the deployment of a fully Level 4 autonomous driving test fleet in China by the end of 2017. The NVIDIA DRIVE PX AI platform is important for developing and deploying deep learning capabilities for the company, and other autonomous vehicle projects currently running across the world.

Jeff Herbst, NVIDIA’s vice president of Business Development, said: “AI is reshaping the transportation industry and startups in China and around the world are playing a big part in that. JingChi is making impressive progress on its vision for harnessing deep learning for autonomous driving and we’re dedicated to supporting their important work.”

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Nest goes after Ring and home security players with latest updates

Nest, the Alphabet-owned smart home automation provider, has issued a variety of roadmap and product updates around home security.

Among the products, as part of an overall home security solution, is a secure alarm system, an outdoor security camera, as well as a video doorbell system.

The move is the “next phase” of Nest’s strategy to “create the thoughtful home,” in the words of CEO Marwan Fawaz. “Today we’re disrupting yet another product industry: home security,” he said in a statement. “By building product experiences our customers love, Nest has experienced more than 60% growth on devices shipped in recent years and continues to expand to millions of homes around the world.”

The company cites a survey from Nationwide in 2013 which found 43% of people who own alarm systems never arm them, and according to Matt Rogers, Nest founder and chief product officer, this served as inspiration to change the market in the same way Nest has tried to change the smart thermostat market.

Nest Secure is therefore marketed as the ‘first alarm system that is actually enjoyable to live with’, as the company puts it. Through a variety of different products, from Detect, a sensor that detects both motion and open or close movement, to Tag, a fob that will allow users to arm and disarm Secure without a passcode, the product aims to relate to different routines various members of the home will have.

With Nest Hello on the other hand, the target in the company’s sights appears to be Ring, the Santa Monica-based company which provides security cameras, accessories, and – of course – video doorbells. Nest Hello can “detect a person, then send an alert and a snapshot, even if that person doesn’t ring the bell,” the company said.

Pricing for the Nest Secure starter pack, including Nest Guard, two Nest Detects and two Nest Tags, will be at the recommended retail price of $ 499. You can read the full announcements here.

Picture credit: Nest

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