Amazon Dash – this genuinely deserves the ‘Internet of Things’ tag

The Internet of Things hype continues unabated, with companies allegedly hiring Chief IoT officers, though a quick search on the Indeed website failed to throw up any ads. However, today I came across a news item that genuinely deserves a bit of hype. While all sorts of technologies and products get pitched as an IoT play, Amazon’s Dash service is a genuine internet of things application. In a nutshell this service allows companies to use Amazon as a fulfilment service … Read more…

What’s behind Musk’s OpenAI Initiative?

For my first blog post of 2016, I thought it time to take a cursory look at OpenAI, the non-for-profit organisation being set up by serial entrepreneur Elon Musk. This aims to provide a non-commercial basis for furthering research into Artificial Intelligence, publishing and widely disseminating the output of research carried. To this end, $1 billion worth of funding has been pledged (or ‘donated’) by a number of Silicon Valley luminaries, including PayPal’s Peter Thiel and Y Combinator’s Sam Altman. Silicon Valley … Read more…

Talk to me – The role of Voice Control in the Smart Home

A recent Smart Home report on what features are most desired by users showed that in addition to self-adjusting thermostats, remote locking of burglar alarms and other such staples, one of the features that users really want is a master remote for all services. This is an expression of the frustration with the morass of incompatibility between smart devices.  Very few systems talk to each other in a meaningful way and it is clear that the fragmentation of standards and systems continues to cause … Read more…

Google OnHub – the router is now cylindrical

Following Amazon’s echo media device, Google have just unveiled an equally-cylindrical device, their all-singing, all-dancing WiFi router, built by home networking specialists TP-Link. Now I am a bit confused about this. Designed to be attractive and pretty enough placed anywhere in the home, Google seem to have forgotten that the location of WiFi routers are dictated by where the Internet cable enters the home. However, Google make big claims about its wireless performance, apparently sporting 13 antennas, emphasising the speed and range benefits it … Read more…

Qualcomm and Samsung in new IoT chip product announcements

This has been a busy couple of weeks in terms of Internet of Things technology announcements. In particular, two titans from the mobile space, Samsung Electronics and Qualcomm are attempting to catch up with Intel with processors aimed at all manufacturers of ‘things’. Qualcomm announces two new products for its $1 billion IoT segment Qualcomm are making a very strong push in its “Internet of Everything” as its smartphone technology portfolio which is no longer benefiting from growth rates it was previously accustomed … Read more…

Comparing the Cloud giants – Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure

Last month saw a number of number of the tech giants provide their most recent quarterly earnings. For both Amazon and Microsoft, their cloud activities gained a lot of headlines and column-inches in both the technical and business press. Although adopting different growth and technology strategy, their cloud computing offerings represent a significant engine of growth going forward, and is becoming an area of ever-more intense competition. Here we take a brief look at how they compare and what the … Read more…

The march of the Smart Home – big numbers ahead!

There is no shortage of forecasts on the market growth for connected devices, and last week BI Intelligence, an analyst firm added their half-penny’s worth to the mix. According to their analysis, the market for connected home devices is set to grow from around 400m units in 2015 to 1,800m units 2019, a compound annual growth in excess of 65%, far exceeding smartphones and tablets, whose time in the limelight as the darlings of the tech world is on the … Read more…

Tesla’s Powerwall – A residential energy game changer?

With hindsight, this week’s announcement by Tesla that it would move into the home energy storage market was so obvious, that that the only question should have been why was there any surprise at all. For a while, Elon Musk, PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX tech entrepreneur had been saying that Tesla would unveil a new major product, and that it would not be a car. And so it turned out that Tesla will be launching a residential battery called PowerWall, in two variants with different storage … Read more…

Will the promise of the Smart Home finally be realised as standards converge?

We have already seen how the connected home market is overwhelmed by a morass of incompatible and competing standards, and products made by different manufacturers are unlikely to work together unless they use high-level APIs such as Google’s “Works with Nest”. In the dumb home, interoperability was taken for granted. An incandescent bulb would work with any switch and thermostats were readily interchangeable. The addition of complex app & web based interfaces, the foundation of ‘smart’ systems has created a multitude … Read more…

Facebook extends its platform through messaging and ‘things’

I am playing catch-up with the news from Facebook F8 developer conference, but looking at some of the (excellent) press reports, a couple of things stand out as being of interest as providing pointers as to where Facebook is heading. 1. Messaging as a Platform One of the announcements that got most coverage was the release of an API to allow third-parties to integrate their apps and experiences into Facebook. To the cynical (a grouping I sometimes find myself associated with), this … Read more…

Please welcome the Wireless IoT Forum

It is a new week (well, nearly) so it must be time for a new Internet of Things consortium or standards initiative. Please welcome the Wireless IOT Forum which is being established with William Webb, President of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) as its head. Wireless IoT Forum launches to drive Internet of Things development This blog has already addressed the multitude of standards in the Internet of Things space. In fairness this new grouping aims to bring … Read more…

IBM – $3billion in IoT and Weather Company tie-up

While there is nothing particularly exceptional about an Internet of Things – related announcement, this one is pretty big, at least in dollar terms. IBM has announced this morning that it will create a new Internet of Things business, consolidating its existing activities in its Smarter Planet and Smarter Cities initiatives. The numbers are quite striking – $4 billion to be invested over three years, and 2000 consultants, developers and researchers assigned to it. The key capabilities IBM will bring … Read more…

The battle for the mobile wallet heats up

It was easy to be distracted by the wondrous devices on display at the Mobile World Congress a couple of weeks ago, with smartphone vendors scrambling over each other with new device launches. However, some of the more significant announcements were not about phones or networks, but about the rapidly-shifting mobile payments landscape. Google shifts gear Google have made two major payments-announcements over the past month or so. First they bought Softcard (formerly called Isis) from AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon and … Read more…

ARM, IBM and Freescale in new IoT partnership

In the quest to get mindshare of the maker movement, ARM and IBM yesterday announced an Internet of Things starter kit based on an ARM Cortex M4 powered board, connected to the IBM BlueMix cloud service. ARM’s aim, similar to a previous initiative by Intel covered on this site is to help migrate the IoT enthusiasts who may be the founders of the next big thing away from Arduino towards ARM-based development platforms that can then be easily productised. Intel’s Edison-based development … Read more…

Amazon still king of the Cloud, though Microsoft is catching up

You can’t go far in reading the tech press before coming across the term ‘cloud’, a term that causes no end of confusion. In the enterprise IT world, the public cloud refers to the setup where IT applications and capabilities are provided to a company by an external provider via Internet connections on a shared infrastructure. This means that the company can benefit from shared economies of scale as other customers use the same infrastructure, and the same scale also provides the … Read more…

Samsung buys LoopPay. A tactical acquisition?

Yesterday, Samsung announced that it acquired LoopPay, a mobile payments technology company, in a move that was widely reported as allowing Samsung to “build a viable Apple Pay competitor”. Samsung takes aim at Apple Pay with LoopPay acquisition The key differentiating feature of LoopPay is that unlike Apple Pay it does not use Near Field Communication (NFC) technology to speak to the point of sale terminal, but instead relies on its own proprietary technology that emits a magnetic field to simulate … Read more…

British Gas acquires AlertMe – A smart home leader

AlertMe, the Cambridge-based company behind the technology that powers the Hive Active Heating system sold by British Gas has just been acquired by British Gas itself. Originally holding an investment of around 20%, British Gas has now bought the entire outfit for around $100m. As AlertMe only has two large customers, British Gas itself and Lowe, in the US, it is unclear whether British Gas aims to use the platform and technology for its own energy customer base. However in a press release, Mary … Read more…

UK gives go-ahead for use of White Space spectrum

Radio spectrum, the lifeblood of any wireless or cellular service is a scarce resource, the pressures on which continue to grow in line with our hunger for mobile data. It is therefore not surprising that carriers and regulators are seeking ways to squeeze out better usage out of the available airwaves. The most recent step forward is the UK communications regulator Ofcom to allow wireless communications in so-called White Space spectrum. This is “prime-site” spectrum in the 470-790MHz range which has excellent … Read more…

IoT Network Sigfox secures $115 additional funding

Sigfox, the low-power wide area network being deployed by Arqiva in the UK secured a new round of funding to drive its international expansion. As discussed in a previous post, Sigfox allows devices to remain in contact with a network for several years using normal AA-style batteries, and represents a much lower cost alternative to cellular networks for applications such as metering. This makes it quite interesting that NTT Docomo, Telefonica and SK Telecom are amongst its investors, clearing seeking to … Read more…

Amazon rethinks mobile payments strategy

Only six months after launch, Amazon has appeared to have pulled its beta Amazon Wallet app, in the wake of a raft of poor reviews, having averaged 3.1 stars on the Google Play store. This product could only use Amazon vouchers and credit as a means of payment, and was consequently not well received by users, who did not see the point of it. Pointedly, all its main competitors seem to have more comprehensive products and strategies in this space – Apple Pay accepts … Read more…

UK regulator Ofcom launches initial 5G consultation

It has been barely 2 years since the 800MHz and 2600MHz bands were assigned in the UK for use by 4G services, and Ofcom, the UK communications regulator has already kicked off the process for assigning spectrum to be used by as-yet unknown 5G technology. Perhaps stung by criticism that the UK was a laggard in assigning 4G spectrum. However, the spectrum being considered is at 6GHz, and many home WiFi users will attest to, very high frequency spectrum does not … Read more…

Google in talks to buy SoftCard

SoftCard, the struggling mobile payments joint venture in the US between AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile is apparently in the eyes of Google as it seeks to counter the success of Apple Pay in the US. Be interesting to see what this means for other carrier payment joint-ventures, such as Weve in the UK. The Wall Street Journey covers the essentials of this story well. Google Is in Talks to Buy Mobile-Payments Service Softcard null  

CES 2015 – Internet of Things goes Mainstream

Reviewing the various round-ups on what was big at CES, most agree that the Internet of Things was pretty high up the agenda of the companies attending, and was the underlying theme for the event. Not that this is a reliable predictor – don’t forget that 2012 was the year that supposed saw 3D TV come of age. The Absentees It is perhaps worth starting with a reminder of the notable absentees, Apple, Google and Microsoft, the three industry’s largest platform and … Read more…

CES 2015 – Blackberry’s Three-Pronged IoT Strategy

In the first of a series of posts on noteworthy announcements at this year’s CES, we look at what Blackberry have been talking about. In November, we discussed the prospects of Project Ion, Blackberry’s umbrella Internet of Things play, where we talked up the applicability of Blackberry’s core expertise in embedded systems, mobile messaging and security to the world of connected ‘things’. Well, this week, John Chen, Blackberry’s CEO has been filling in the gaps, and it has been getting … Read more…

FTC warns of privacy risks of ubiquitous connectivity

The need for means for managing user privacy as more and more devices become connected is a topic that has been raised a number of times on this blog. This week, at CES, someone slightly more influential, the chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission, Edith Ramirez raised these very concerns. While highlighting all the wonderful benefits the Internet of Things can bring, she highlighted the risks of ubiquitous data collection, the impact of unintended uses of data and the increased security risks will … Read more…

Connectivity in the Smart Home. Thread or Bluetooth Smart?

This blog has already explored the multitude of standards currently being used as the basis for connecting sensors, object and all sorts of things  to the Internet and to each other. Nowhere is this problem more acute than in the area of home automation, where the lack of widely adopted standards results in systems that don’t talk to each other, and worse, in systems that quickly become obsolete and cease to be supported by their manufacturers. The situation where the home … Read more…

Microsoft surprise many by accepting bitcoin payments

This week Microsoft announced that it was opening up to accept Bitcoin payments for its Xbox Live platform and Windows and Windows Phone stores through an integration with BitPay, a firm that provides bitcoin payment processing. Initially, bitcoin will be used to top-up Microsoft accounts, rather than to pay directly for a service or payment. Nevertheless, this move makes sense for Microsoft and aligns well with the younger demographic of Xbox Live. It definitely adds a serious dose of credibility … Read more…

Square processes $100m in a single day

Square, the US-based payments company best known for its mobile point-of-sale system has just announced that it has processed more than $100million worth of transactions in a single day. Probably the fact that the upcoming holiday season makes this the busiest time of year for consumer spending has some impact. This comes hot on the heels of a couple of significant partnership announcements made last month. First is a partnership with Snapchat to send money between friends, clearly addressing the … Read more…

Intel – From Edison launch to Google Glass

Last week, I was introduced in person to Intel’s latest creation aimed at the maker movement – the low-power, small-format Edison chip. In a hands-on event in Shoreditch, London organised by Intel, I got to explore capabilities of the tiny computer, not much bigger than an SD memory card. It is clearly a very capable device, providing x86 compatibility to a wide range of products, and as such provides an alternative to Arduino and Raspberry Pi products. However this is not … Read more…

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