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This week's IoT news
 
 
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Stacey Knows Things
 
 
 
 
 
Dell plans an open source IoT stack
 
 
by Stacey Higginbotham
 
I was at Dell's giant user event on Wednesday to see what the computer company had to say about the internet of things. Much of the talk onstage was a rehash of how connected devices must talk to a server, which is good for Dell. Also, these devices need security (good for Dell's RSA business) and data analytics.

I was hoping Dell executives would delve into how distributed computing might truly become more distributed, with devices that do more talking to each other as opposed to back to a server or even one of Dell's popular gateway boxes. That didn't happen.
 
 
 
Dell's Project Fuse wants to open source software to handle the needs found in the second row from the bottom. Bringing data into a database, sending immediate commands back if needed, normalizing metadata and device provisioning.
 
 
But I did uncover something worthwhile at the event. I meet with Jason Shepherd, director of IoT strategy and partnerships with Dell, who told me about its efforts to bring a modular set of building blocks to the industrial internet. It's called Project Fuse, and Dell plans to make the effort open source.

Dell is working with 30 other "big name" companies that Shepherd didn't name to create a layer of technologies that will sit between the many different messaging protocols used by today's sensor networks and the cloud and analytics layer (see photo). 

To me, this looks like it could cause problems for some of the middleware software vendors that currently do a lot of the heavy lifting for clients trying to integrate various systems, but Shepherd says some of them are on board because a platform like Project Fuse means they don't have to build each client's integration from scratch.

From my perspective, that's where a lot of companies think the margins are, but if we want the industrial internet to ever become something that can scale it has to be cheaper. A modular, open software stack can help accomplish that.

Making a core tech stack reusable and open source does make it cheaper. For Dell, this means it can sell more of its established server, data analytics and security products. Less certain is where this fits in with other open source gateway efforts such as Project Kura, or the newly announced Project Kapua from the Eclipse Foundation. 

Project Kura is an open source code base that is designed to sit on gateway boxes and help organize the transfer of information between sensors and the cloud, one of the key functions that Project Fuse seems to be taking care of as well. Shepherd says the Dell effort is more "flexible" for Dell's enterprise customers.

Dell plans to rename Fuse (that's its code name) and announce the project later this year with some sort of beta version launching in the first quarter of 2017. Keep an eye on this one.
 
 
 
 
ARM TechCon is next week! (sponsored)
 
 

A historic and high-tech mountain climb with wearables, the future of IoT and how mobile technologies are revolutionizing the stadium experience. These presentations are all on tap for ARM TechCon 2016, Oct. 25-27. Join thousands of engineers and developers at the Santa Clara Convention Center to get these insights and more plus training on next-generation design. Attendees get access to 9 technical tracks, three days of ARM technology training, expert keynotes and two days of exhibits. Visit armtechcon.com to register today.
 
 
 
Luminous Ventures built a carpet that can communicate
 
 
One of the pleasures of covering technology is seeing different versions of the future in day-to-day reporting. I had such a moment when speaking with digital signage company Four Winds Interactive, after seeing a demonstration video they provided of their entry floor.

Their carpet, made by Philips spin-out Luminous Ventures, can be programmed to greet people, share messages or even help people find their way around the building. 
 
 

Luminous Ventures makes the carpet by taking a grid of LED panels, recessing them half and inch into the floor, and then placing a special type of carpet over it. Ana Bertsch, VP Product Management at Four Winds Interactive, said an area of  63-by-17 inches starts at $8,000. But she said the "wow factor" of having clients come in to see a personalized greeting was worth it.

The receptionist at Four Winds uses an API from Luminous Ventures and changes the message using a web-based dashboard. 

Corporations spend a lot of money making their lobbies fancy, and compared with marble or the cost of a painting, lighted carpet may be a bargain. 

Bargain or not, it's certainly an impressive focal point for greeting a guest in a lobby, or perhaps even outside someone's hotel room. Roy Scheepens, head of business development for Luminous Ventures, says that airports or other public buildings might use the carpets for helping people find their way.

Four Winds also installed the carpet outside its largest conference room so people can see if there's a meeting booked and who might be in it.  The company has connected the system to its Microsoft's conference room scheduling software. So when someone inputs a meeting it pulls it into the carpet outside the conference room.

The technology was developed over five years in Europe and launched about two years ago. The challenge today is installing the lights under the specialized carpet, but tomorrow's challenge will be integrating LEDs directly into a carpet. 

For Four Winds, the carpet is also a showcase of what it thinks might be an important component of next generation digital signage. Bertsch says that people's initial reactions are almost always the same. They see the message and then look up searching for a projector. When they can't figure out where the lights are coming from they ask what's going on. When they find out about the carpet, they want to figure out how they can use it.

So keep your eyes on the ground. You may see the future. 
 
 
 
HPE Helion (sponsored)
 
 

From the edge of your network to the core of your datacenter, HPE can help you connect and secure your digital world. Realize the potential of the internet-of-things with HPE, the IT for IoT.
 
 
 

The second version of the Wink hub, complete with an Ethernet connection, Bluetooth and a $99 price tag, is out and I've started testing it. In this week's show, I share good news for folks who have existing Wink gear, along with my take on the new, richer color Philips Hue bulbs. For those seeking the latest in thermostats, we discuss the new and cheaper Ecobee Lite, the Honeywell Lyric T5 for $149 and Nest’s need to the lower its pricing. We also discussed the new Eco nomenclature. Kevin Tofel shared his impressions on Google Assistant so far, and we’re all still waiting for Google Home.

 

 
 
 
The Honeywell Lyric T5 is one of two thermostats that could put price pressure on the Nest. 
 
 

After that, Michael Wolf, creator of the Smart Kitchen Summit and host of The Smart Home Show, talked with me about his vision of the connected kitchen, some of the latest gadgets on offer for that segment and food waste. In the show I mention my anti-food waste recipes, so here they are for y’all (Minestrone and Weeknight Curry). Just chuck your old produce in one of these and feel virtuous.

 
 
 
 
Picture this
 
 
What is a personal assistant for?
 
Although the chart below is only based on 180 people, I found it interesting when compared to this Medium post that asks if consumers can get beyond tapping their smartphones and actually turn to voice-activate personal assistants. So far, we don't, possibly because the efforts to do so on our phones often fail. But in the home with a device like the Amazon Echo, things change. It appears users turn to it mostly for defined tasks such as listening to music or turning on smart lights. The real question as the author of that Medium post implies, is whether or not we are willing to give away our privacy for higher levels of assistance. Or is the current state of affairs modeled to new experiences (like turning on connected lights) enough?
 
 
 
After playing songs on Spotify, my favorite command might be asking for the weather or what is on my calendar for the day. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
News of the week
 
 
Le who? This week, LeEco, a Chinese hardware and video streaming company, created a plethora of products for the U.S. market including phones, a car, a TV and an Android-powered bike. It also launched a content offering to compete with Netflix or Hulu. What I didn't see, and what I expected after the company hired IoT superstar Rob Chandhok, was something related to the internet of things. And sure, all these devices it announced are connected, but I don't feel like LeEco is a major IoT player just yet. (Wired)

Is a Tesla a car or a service? Elon Musk says all new Teslas will come with the hardware to enable true self-driving capabilities, but those future drivers/riders can't use the self-driving feature for revenue-generating ride share programs such as Lyft or Uber. They can only be used as part of Tesla's future self-driving car ride sharing network. Is this going to be enforceable? I have no idea, but like Amazon deleting books off of Kindles after purchase, this is a case where a onece-physical product has become more like a service. Can our notions of ownership and laws change to meet this? (Ars Technica)

The third stack's the charm?  I love technology stacks and now the Eclipse Foundation has created one for the internet of things. It has actually created three built for different classes of devices and use cases. See what you think. (The Eclipse Foundation)



The IoT means never making a choice again: Trust marketers to take something useful, like using connected devices to tackle mundane tasks and turning it into a dystopian vision of a world. The latest vision is one where devices know what you want and brands bid to deliver that customized product or experience to you without you having to think about it or even state a preference. While I do believe that AI informed by ubiquitous connected sensors will augment our decision making, I don't think this is quite the future we're heading toward. I'm hoping by reading this today, we can avoid it. (One to One Media)

Gadget, heal thyself: Yes, we have heard plenty about securing the internet of things. This story explains that we could be approaching a moment when researchers develop gadgets and networks that can detect if they are compromised and patch themselves. The proof was a DARPA security challenge held back in August. Its findings are proving to be newsworthy today in the wake of a variety of attacks on IoT devices. (NYT)

Metadata is really powerful y'all: Metadata, the information about a phone call, social media post or anything that isn't the actual message transmitted, was the subject of much concern a few years back when Snowden shared that the NSA was doing bulk metadata collection. That concern has died down but the use of metadata hasn't. Baltimore police were using metadata gathered from social media posts to track and stop protesters. Why should IoT folks care? Every device you bring into your life adds a bit more granularity to the data and metadata that can fill in a complete picture about you. That's why the debate over data ownership and privacy is so essential. (The Verge)

The best smart home devices: I appreciate CNET's smart home coverage because they install everything they review, which not everyone does. The site has a running list of good gadgets for the smart home, and it's a pretty good list. I'd probably swap out the Nest thermostat for an Ecobee and the Nest camera for a Netatmo Welcome, but I like the other picks. (CNET)
 
 
 
 
 
Stacey Higginbotham's weekly Internet of
Things news update and analysis.