Here’s a news brief of what happened in IoT this week. Get this in your inbox every Friday morning when you subscribe to the newsletter.
Here’s why Ring Protect is safe and easy to install: Remember earlier this month when Ring announced a $199 security bundle called Protect? It turns out that not only is this Ring’s first security product, but it’s also the first to market using both Z-Wave Security 2 (S2) and Z-Wave SmartStart tech. The S2 framework secures data between the Ring Protect base station, sensors, keypad and the cloud while SmartStart provides pre-configuration to make installation easier for consumers that buy the system. (Sigma Designs)
Alexa could be more like a simple light switch: Although I haven’t read or heard about this feature yet, I’m already liking the sound of it. There’s a support page on Amazon’s website explaining how to add an Echo to a device group in the Alexa app. Why does that matter? Because if there’s an Echo in the group, you don’t have to say the name of the group with voice commands. Ideally, you’d say “Alexa, lights on” if she’s in the same room as a group of smart bulbs and she’ll turn them on just like a light switch. That’s great, since multiple users in a smart home may not know device or group names. The current Alexa app doesn’t yet support this (I tried) so I suspect it will roll out in tandem with the new Echo Plus product next week. We’ll see!
Alexa skills will make Amazon more coin: Speaking to, I mean of, Alexa, Amazon is looking to turn Alexa Skills into a broader monetization platform. The company is working with Sony Pictures Television, which makes the popular Jeopardy! skill, as a preview for other third-party skill developers. And the approach is an interesting one: If you’re not an Amazon Prime subscriber, you’ll pay $1.99 a month for the skill, which provides six Double Jeopardy clues a day. But if you’re a Prime member, you don’t pay for the skill. Amazon wins either way: Through skill subscriptions or through the nudge to get more Prime subscribers. I’ll take “Clever Cloud Companies for $600”, Alex. (TechCrunch)
DIY smart homes are confusing and that’s OK with home pros: We’ve discussed the dizzying array of protocols, radios and digital assistants numerous times on our podcast. And that’s likely to continue as these products and platforms continue to evolve. It’s also potentially good news for home builders and integrators that want to offer connected devices in homes: More product confusion could lead to homeowners giving up on the DIY route to rely on others for expertise. (CEPro)
Delphi doubles its autonomous driving staff for $400M: As we race towards self-driving cars, more small startups are getting gobbled up by the traditional auto tech companies. This week, Delphi, which makes electronics systems and components for vehicles, spent $400M upfront (along with the potential of $50M more in future earn-outs) to buy nuTonomy, a 2013 start-up that has a full autonomous driving (AD) software stack that Delphi will integrate to its own efforts. Surprisingly — at least to me — nuTonomy has about the same number of engineers and staff working on Level 1 AD as Delphi, so this will double Delphi’s personnel resources in this area, which expects to have 60 autonomous cars on the roads by year end. Given the fast pace of companies such as Waymo, Tesla and Uber, Delphi needs to step on the gas if it wants car manufacturers to buy its AD systems. (Delphi)
Online activities will impact your Citizen Score in China: This is a bit “Total Recall”-ish to me but in 2020, all Chinese citizens will be participating in the Social Credit System, which will measure their trustworthiness. The scores will range from 350 to 900, similar to a traditional credit score. Some criteria is expected: paying bills on time, fulfilling contractual obligations, and verification of personal data such as phone number or address. But other criteria relates to a citizen’s behavior, including online activities in social media — don’t be too negative or you might get dinged — as well as purchases and how you spend your time. Good scores provide benefits such as low or no down-payments for large purchases. Currently, the scoring is optional for Chinese citizens but 2020 is the Year of the Mandatory Rat: Everyone will participate. (Wired)
Machines can “self heal” thanks to Industrial IoT data: This seems more like smart prevention of machinery defects rather than self-healing but it’s still a good use of IoT. Ford and a few European manufacturers are looking into a research project called SelSus. The idea behind SelSus is to calculate if and when machinery — on a production line, for example — will break or sustain some other damage based on sensor data and good old math. Any potential issues could initiate a repair or replacement part order to prevent a breakdown. (Network World)
Welcome to my smart home!: If you missed it earlier this week, I provided a run-down of what smart devices are in my current home. I had more in my prior house — smart solar panels on the roof that provided real-time production data, for example — but after downsizing to a townhouse, I’ve also downsized the smarts in my home. There’s still plenty here and more on the way: A Z-Wave garage door sensor that retrofits into my old opener just arrived and will be installed soon. (StaceyOnIot)
Is your robot vacuum spying on you?: Theoretically, it could have if you bought an LG Hom-Bot. We talked about this robotic floor cleaner a few episodes back on the podcast, noting that it had some home security features. Namely, an integrated webcam on the vacuum can stream live video to a companion app, or be set up for guard duty. Sounds good until it gets exploited, and that’s exactly what CheckPoint did. Don’t panic if you have a Hom-Bot: CheckPoint notified LG of the vulnerability, which could have affected hundreds of thousands of Hom-Bots based on sales figures. LG patched its software in September and no known hacks took place. I still wouldn’t dance around the vacuum in my skivvies though. (CheckPoint)