IoT news of the week for Feb. 8, 2018 – Stacey on IoT

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Utilities want their own IIoT network: Several utility companies have banded together to create the Utility Broadband Alliance (UBBA) to get some kind of dedicated industrial IoT network designed for grid operations. This proposed network would be wireless and would focus on critical, low-latency elements of transmission and generation. Other tasks, such as smart meters, would still go over existing networks. UBBA’s founding members include Ameren, Burns & McDonnell, Cisco Systems, Encore Networks, Ericsson, Federated Wireless, General Electric, Motorola Solutions, Multi-Tech Systems, National Grid, pdvWireless, Sierra Wireless, and Southern Linc. I’m not in love with this idea, in part because dedicated networks of this ilk tend to be more expensive and I can imagine that railroads, trucking companies, or other businesses might want to create their own dedicated critical communications networks when we already have cellular and a host of other technologies. (Fierce Wireless– Stacey Higginbotham

The government wants YOU to tell them about secure sensors: I am a sucker for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). It’s an organization that tries valiantly to cobble together details about new architectures and then codify those details into something approaching a standard. In emerging areas, its work is invaluable, even if it often comes later in the process. Now, NIST is looking for input on how to define a secure sensor network for building management. It hopes that its efforts here will serve as a building block for sensor networks in general, establish a security architecture to protect a building management system sensor network, figure out how to test the security of such a network, and understand what adding sensors to a building management system means for other aspects of building management security and control. If you have thoughts, please contribute by March 18. (NIST) – Stacey Higginbotham

An API hub for Agtech gets seed (haha) funding: Leaf Agriculture has won $250,000 in seed funding for a big idea. The company is trying to create a hub for companies that want to offer different agriculture data to farmers and food manufacturing companies. Right now, the data collected by a farmer’s combine might help with the harvest, but then it lies fallow as opposed to getting shared with a food company trying to turn that farmer’s wheat into bread. Leaf has gathered more than 50 sources of relevant agricultural data into one place so companies can easily access it. This sort of effort is what is going to help agtech standardize around data to improve crop yields and conserve resources. (Radicle Growth) – Stacey Higginbotham

Samsung adds security features to SmartThings Wifi: The relationship between Samsung and Plume has gotten a little closer, and that’s good news for consumers. Samsung’s SmartThings Wifi product, which uses Plume’s tech, now has Plume’s parental controls and security features. Device administrators can set up unique network profiles for each family member and can configure content restrictions — including the dreaded “time out” feature, a 15- or 30-minute period without connectivity that kids will likely hate. As network routers are the first line of defense against outside actors, it’s good to see Samsung and Plume add such controls, which also include protections from phishing, spam, malware, and botnets. (Samsung) – Kevin Tofel

Smart speaker sales continue to grow as Amazon broadens its lead: In a few years, I suspect most U.S. homes will have at least one smart speaker. Until then, this segment just keeps growing, and Alexa is pulling away. A report from research firm CIRP this week noted that the smart speaker install base through the end of 2018 hit 66 million, up from 37 million a year prior. Even with its low-cost (and often on sale) Google Home Mini, the search giant isn’t making much of a dent in Amazon’s lead: CIRP estimates that 70% of currently installed speakers are made by Amazon, compared to the 24% market share held by Google. Oh, and that high-priced Apple HomePod? It ended 2018 with a meager 6% share of the market, so this is still a two-horse race. (TechCrunch– Kevin Tofel

Nest wants you to know about Nest security: If you own a Nest product, you might have received an email from the company this past week reassuring you that “Nest security has not been breached or compromised.” Nest sent the communication after hearing from customers about product issues, although some Nest owners experienced hacked devices, such as unexpected two-way conversations from people outside of the U.S. I don’t think Nest as a company was hacked, but instead — and this is what the Nest email focused on to encourage a security review — many device owners don’t take advantage of two-factor authorization, or 2FA, in their Nest app. It’s likely that there’s a percentage of owners with weak passwords as well. My advice: Use 2FA with every IoT app you can, don’t use the same passwords on different devices, and make sure those passwords are strong! (Popular Mechanics– Kevin Tofel

Alexa has a new API — for babies!: A new API for developers that launched this week to create Alexa skills is called the Baby Activity API, but parents are the ones who will benefit. How so? Essentially, any skills using this toolset can help a parent track feeding information, diaper-changing times, and infants weight and sleep patterns. This is a smart move by Amazon to extend the usefulness of its Echo products, making it easier to manage all of the important aspects required to take care of a baby. Now can we get an API to do the same for my dog? Norm is very needy. (Amazon) – Kevin Tofel

Do you want Google Home to recognize your mood? You may not, but it could happen. That’s where the Google Assistant is headed if Scott Huffman has his way. Huffman is the VP of engineering for Google Assistant and offered a rare insight to CNET this week on the future of Google Home. The whole story is worth a read, but what jumped at out me was the eventual removal of the “OK Google” wake words, contextual conversation from things you said a day ago, and home robots in the next decade that become our assistants. Where have I heard that before? (CNET– Kevin Tofel



IoT news of the week for Feb. 8, 2018 – Stacey on IoT