Here’s what made news in IOT this week.
Samsung is making SmartThings hardware again: In a surprise move, Samsung announced a hub for its SmartThings smart home system that also ties heavily back into Samsung’s Galaxy products. As Kevin notes, this is a shift, but it’s also an attempt for Samsung to be more like Apple. (Stacey on IoT)
Powercast signs deal with Kyocera for battery-free shelf labels: A few weeks back I wrote about how the combination of energy harvesting tech, low power Bluetooth (or other connectivity) and over-the-air wireless power transmission could enable billions of sensors, especially in retail settings. Well, this deal between Powercast, which provides OTA wireless power devices, and Kyocera would allow Powercast transmitters to harvest wireless energy to power electronic shelf labels. (Powercast)
Labrador Systems accessibility robot is one to watch: We heard about Labrador’s Retriever robot last year at CES and this year, the company is back with a demonstration of its robot working with Amazon’s Echo Show device so a user could give verbal commands to the Retriever and so the user gets access to a camera and display. The Retriever robot is like a side table on wheels that can roll up to a person carrying necessary items. There is an ecosystem of related products that can allow the Retriever to work with a fridge or other products to fetch food or drinks. The robot is designed to work in a clinical or group home setting, where the cost of the robot and specialized equipment make sense. Having a robot handling basic fetching and carrying can help offset the lack of caregivers available to care for seniors and those needing extra help. (Labrador)
Amazon updates Sidewalk Network with LoRa devices: Amazon has added four new devices to its low power wide area Sidewalk Network, and in an interview with me Tanuj Mohan, Amazon’s GM and CTO for Sidewalk, said it would open up the network to developers in the first half of 2023. At CES Amazon announced four new companies using its Sidewalk Network, and for the first time, these companies are using LoRa connectivity. Amazon’s Sidewalk Network can handle both Bluetooth and LoRa radios, but until now the two companies making Sidewalk-enabled products (Tile and Level Locks) used Bluetooth. The new devices coming this year are leak and freeze sensors from Meshify, a gas leak sensor for utilities from New Cosmos USA Inc., a modem for solar inverters from Deviceroy and sensors from Browan. The devices aren’t the typical consumer fare, but that’s because Amazon wants Sidewalk to connect devices that don’t need a lot of bandwidth, but would benefit from a cheap connection to share snippets of information. Mohan says that most of the coverage is provided by consumers’ Amazon Echo devices in the field, and that right now coverage maps aren’t available because Amazon is worried about privacy. He did say that Amazon has coverage in most major metro areas. (Amazon)
TDK to acquire TinyML player Qeexo: TDK, which makes a variety of sensors and electronics components, plans to acquire Qeexo, a startup that builds no-code machine learning models designed to run on constrained devices. I profiled Qeexo back in 2020 after seeing an impressive demo and hearing several sources in the chip community rave about the tech. Financials were not disclosed, and the deal is contingent on approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS). (TDK)
We’re getting serious about IoT security: I know we’re seeing ever more attacks on our connected infrastructure, but I am optimistic that electronics vendors, industries, and the government are at least now taking security seriously and working on regulations, laws, and technical solutions to help build more resilience and security into our infrastructure and devices. This is likely leading to the ambitious predictions by ABI Research that state the secure MCU market will grow to $2.2 billion by 2026. MCUs are microcontrollers, the constrained chips inside IoT devices, and we’ve seen the cost of secure chips drops even as programs to make it easier to implement security on devices have risen. There is still plenty of insecure gear out there, but it’s going to get better. (EETimes)
This is a good report on sensor technology: I love sensors because they help define how computers can interpret the world. New sensing tech opens up new avenues of innovation and cheaper sensors make new functionality accessible for more devices. LiDar used to be expensive and reserved for cars and expensive robots, but now it’s cheap enough to put on a vacuum cleaner. That’s why this report about new sensing technology is worth a glance. It talks about the growth in new biosensors (we saw some cool new sensors at CES that can detect the gases given off by ripe fruit, for example) as well as noting that four new sensors are connected with every new IoT device that comes online. Go check it out. (IoT Analytics)