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IoT news of the week for May 14, 2021

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Two good stories on the Colonial Pipeline hack: The big cybersecurity news this week was a ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline Co., which controls a pipeline that sends jet fuel, gas, and heating oil along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. The pipeline is back up and running, but was shut down after the ransomware attack because the company couldn’t tell how bad the damage was. While hackers did not attack the pipeline itself, it was a wake-up call (or rather, another call) for the people who are supposed to be responsible for securing our nation’s infrastructure. The first story is about the group that perpetrated the attack; the second one explains why pipeline cybersecurity is such a mess. (Krebs on SecurityNextGov)

Jeeva announces a chip that harvests energy from RF: Jeeva, a semiconductor company has launched Parsair, a low-power data chip for the IoT. The Parsair silicon converts reflected wireless radio signals to data, enabling the chip to stream continuous data without requiring much electricity. Jeeva’s press materials say the chip supports data rates up to 1,000 kbps and has a range up to 100 meters. Harnessing existing RF is definitely a hot topic in low-power silicon and academia, so I’ll have to check it out. (Jeeva)

Snap AV is going public (and it isn’t using a SPAC): Snap AV makes home automation equipment, purchasing Control4 back in 2019. Earlier this month it said it planned to acquire Access Networks, a company providing networking gear for home automation. The company filed to go public via a confidential listing process on May 12. (CEPro)

Mars will use Microsoft’s cloud for its digital transformation: The candy and pet food maker has extended its contract with Microsoft to use its Azure cloud services as well as the Azure Digital Twins IoT platform to build digital twins for its manufacturing operations. The digital twins will help Mars both reduce its carbon footprint and increase productivity; the company plans to expand the use of digital twins and simulations across all of its manufacturing operations. I’d love to talk to them in a year to see how it’s going. (Microsoft)

Digital Twins are for concrete, too! Mars may be using digital twins for candy, but Gammon Construction is using sensors and a digital twin (really just an algorithmic model that’s fed data from a sensor placed in curing concrete) to help construction companies speed up their concrete pours. This case study shows how data generated from sensors inside the drying concrete, when combined with historical data, current temperatures, and a nifty dashboard, help construction firms understand when the concrete is cured enough to move onto the next step in a building’s construction. This technology has been available for years (a friend of mine operates a company that does this), but it’s nice to see an actual case study along with more attention being paid to the potential savings of both time and money. (New Civil Engineer)

Motorola will work with GuRu Technologies for medium-range wireless charging: Wireless charging already exists, but it requires a magnetic base or charging pad, and the device being charged has to connect directly to said base or pad. With that in mind, Lenovo subsidiary Motorola has signed a deal with a startup called GuRu to commercialize wireless charge over distances of 10 feet — no pads, and no contact, required. GuRu, WiTricity, Energous, and Ossia have all been hitting my inbox recently with wireless power news, so expect more on this front. (CNET)

Ambiq releases reference design to give battery-powered devices a voice interface: Low-power chip company Ambiq has released a hardware kit that enables always-on voice control using one or two mics on a Bluetooth-connected and battery-powered device. Ambiq says the kit will let developers build in wake-word detection and run on batteries for a year. Ambiq expects to release a more powerful version of the hardware kit, one that can support more microphones, in the third quarter. The hardware could be used for talking directly to a device such as a door lock or a remote control. (EEJournal)

This Home Assistant blog needs more perspective: This week, popular DIY platform Home Assistant published a blog post explaining why it doesn’t offer an external API that enables companies to build Home Assistant integrations. Home Assistant polishes the data coming from users’ devices that are attached to Home Assistant in real time as opposed to a feed, according to the post, because it doesn’t want to lock customers into Home Assistant and also because it wants people to be able to use the software for years to come. At its core, an API is a service that provides formatted data to anyone via the API feed. But building an API isn’t like leaving a door to an office unlocked so anyone can walk in and get the data; it’s more like paying a clerk to man the door and take requests. But while interfacing with a clerk is a nicer experience compared with rooting around for the item you want and hoping it comes in the format you need, it’s also expensive, and requires maintenance. If the company can’t pay the clerk, everything you built to communicate with the clerk breaks. If the location of the item you need inside the office changes, the company has to remember to tell the clerk so he can still find it when your service asks for it. Home Assistant doesn’t want to put a clerk between its service and its customers, but you can see why some customers might want one. (Home Assistant)

The EU thinks e-waste recycling is a matter of national security: This is a really fascinating way to think about the tons of e-waste that developed nations generate every year. Instead of shipping the toxic and rare metals that are inside our electronics, the EU is looking at them as a potential source of raw materials that might become more difficult to get going forward to get thanks to geopolitics. For example, certain metals are only mined in China, or parts of Africa that might be beholden to China. If China doesn’t want to ship any of those raw materials to other countries for making advanced semiconductors or batteries, then what are those countries going to do? The EU’s response is that its member countries should invest in gathering and recycling those materials before the situation comes to pass. It’s not an insane idea. Even if geopolitics doesn’t halt supplies, eventually we may not want to pay the price China or other countries want to charge — either for the raw materials or their eventual disposal. (

The post IoT news of the week for May 14, 2021 appeared first on Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis.

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

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