This week's IoT news
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Stacey Knows Things
Ring has hired most of Zonoff's former employees
by Stacey Higginbotham

Ring, the maker of a video doorbell, has scooped up almost the entire staff of Zonoff, a smart home integration provider. Ring extended offers to all of the Zonoff employees at the beginning of this month after acquisition talks with Honeywell fell through.


Jamie Siminoff, the CEO of Ring says, "For Ring as a company, this is an amazing opportunity. Ring, for the last four to five years has been focused on our products, and we haven't spread our wings into other integrations and other products. Now we're finally in a position and place where integrations are more important and can be handled."


Ring in January raised $109 million in a Series D round of funding.

Soon you will see the Ring doorbell and other outdoor security products integrated with more services after the company hired what is essentially the entire staff of Zonoff.

With the almost-80-person team from Zonoff signing on, Siminoff says they can now handle those integrations. He expects the former Zonoff employees will handle other product tasks as well. Ring employs about 1,000 people, and suddenly bringing on almost 80 will take some effort.


But it wasn't something he could say no to. He says that he had looked at Zonoff as a potential acquisition, but when he saw which other companies were interested, he knew that it wasn't going to make sense to bid against deeper pockets. Zonoff had been seeking a buyer for the last nine months according to sources who have looked at the company or who were approached with the deal. One source told me the price was around $40 million.


But when the planned acquisition by Honeywell fell through, Siminoff was happy to try to salvage something. He said Zonoff's then-CEO Mike Harris called him and the next night Siminoff took a red-eye flight to Philadelphia to start making offers.


"We got a call that everyone was let go and 12 hours later we started the paperwork," Siminoff says.


Everyone who worked at Zonoff was offered a job on March 2 and almost all of them have accepted. So while this team is still looking for office space and needs computers and all of the other essentials of a brand new Philadelphia-area office for Ring, these people do have a seamless transition from one job to another.


When asked about Zonoff, Mike Harris, the former CEO, declined to comment, but he did confirm that he now is part of a new division of Ring that will be based outside of Philadelphia. Emails to Zonoff's investors were not returned.


However, sources close to and at Zonoff told me Zonoff had been struggling with one of its largest strategic investors, ADT, after it went private in 2016. ADT's buyer, Apollo Global Management, was more focused on the security side of the business rather than the smart home. Many of the likely acquirers would end up competing with ADT.


ADT and Honeywell did not respond to requests for comment.


There is interest in the type of work that Zonoff does. Home automation is becoming a must-have for internet service providers, security companies, retailers and even insurance firms.


For example, iControl, a company that provided a home automation platform for cable companies, recently sold. Comcast bought a portion of the business for its own security and home automation service, Xfinity Home, and also to provide similar services to other cable companies. purchased the other chunk of iControl's business so it can add home automation to its security offerings. Even earlier, Samsung bought SmartThings while Flex bought the Wink hub and software out of bankruptcy.  Like these providers, Zonoff had the experience making disparate products work together. Unlike some of them, it did so in a way that normal users could understand from the very beginning.


Now that Ring has that team, I expect a lot from its plans to integrate with other devices in the home and perhaps expect it to go even further.

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This week Intel said it would spend another small fortune buying a chip company, Kevin discusses uses for LIDAR outside of connected cars and the Ring doorbell is embroiled in a security SNAFU. At SXSW this week, I learned about the IoT Design Manifesto and have some thoughts. Kevin discusses a new security flaw that deals with the physical side of cyber-physical systems and my SmartThings and Lutron integration still doesn’t work.
The Ring doorbell has a security challenge. 

But the best part of this week’s show is my interview with Phoebe Wilkinson, a partner with Hogan Lovells. Wilkinson helps manufacturers defend themselves against class action lawsuits. We discuss what aspects of connected products might be ripe for a future lawsuit and how companies can defend themselves. We also talk about how warranties are going to have to change for connected products. We may also see a revamp of how data opt-ins are handled. Listen up. You’ll learn something.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Phoebe Wilkinson, a partner with Hogan Lovells
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Whirlpool has filed to make a connected microwave
With the rush for every company to have an IoT strategy, the FCC is a hotbed of interesting applications, such as this one filed by Whirlpool to make a microwave that connects to your cell phone via Wi-Fi. It has the ability to remotely start and stop the machine, and even could have a "Sabbath mode" that prevents the microwave's operation during Saturdays. However, for those worried about using the microwave to spy on you, well, it doesn't have a camera. Thanks to Mike Wolf's smart kitchen blog for the tip.
An FCC application for Whirlpool's connected microwave
News of the week
Should governments view personal data collection policies in antitrust cases? In an age where machine learning will lead to improved services, the amount of data a company has may determine how well it can compete.  This blog post asks how regulators will view these troves of data and how companies plan to communicate their usage of data to consumers. I thought it was a nice tie to my article last week about how we need to rethink regulation for a digital era. (SASB blog)

Introducing computational design: For the last few years, design has been the cool kid that every company and VC paid some sort of homage to. After my umpteenth conversation with a CEO who spent 10 minutes explaining his company's decision to use a matte white plastic as opposed to glossy, I felt like some of those people had missed the big picture. Design isn't just about beauty. It's about utility, and some of those matte plastic boxes had painfully difficult apps associated with them. If you agree, then this report is for you. John Maeda's team has explained different types of design, categorized them and done so in a beautiful report that could actually help create user-friendly products and processes. (Design in Tech report

Evrythng has raised $24.8 million: I spend a lot of time thinking about connected packaging (I'm obsessed with streamlining the grocery shopping effort) so the funding for Evrythng is worth noting. The company has deals with several big packaging firms to provide all the infrastructure they need to help their customers track products en route and once they are in the hands of consumers.  (VentureBeat)

How Intel's Mobileye buy sets it up to be a winner in a pack of losers: First, if you missed it, Intel is spending $15.3 billion to buy Mobileye, a chip company that makes the vision processing module for self-driving cars. I was excited because it shows how Intel's broadening its architecture strategy (finally!) beyond x86. It's also thinking about bringing computer vision and AI to battery-constrained devices. But Ben Thompson puts the deal in the context of the larger shifts happening in the automotive world and makes a convincing case that Intel is assembling everything it needs to team up with the big auto makers. The real question is whether that's going to be the team that wins in the future transportation world. (Stratechery) supports 5 million smart homes: In its latest financial report, said it now has 5 million homes under management. The company also said it expects total revenue in 2017 in the range of $322 million to $325.5 million, including anticipated hardware and other revenue for the year in the range of $91 million to $93 million.  In 2016 that hardware and other category totaled $87.6 million. I was a bit surprised at the estimates for hardware not increasing by much since this will include the Piper acquisition. (

First European homebuilder chooses HomeKit: I may be frustrated with my HomeKit setup, but builders like it. Weberhaus, a German company that makes pre-fab housing, will offer HomeKit compatible smart homes. It joins builders such as Lennar and KB Home in signing on to Apple's young smart home standard. (WeberHaus)

AT&T is eager for 5G: Ma Bell plans to roll out 5G networks across its footprint by the end of 2018 and will do so with an early, non-certified version of the standard. The 5G networks can be used in both wired and wireless networks, and AT&T seems interested in both. In fixed wireless settings, 5G can deliver multigigabit speeds and could replace or augment wired networks. In mobile wireless settings, 5G will help with the ever-growing demand for data. (WirelessWeek)

We may need to rethink our sidewalk and street strategies: This profile of connected bike sharing company LimeBike caught my eye because the company outfits its bikes with GPS and 3G so it can rent bikes to people without a kiosk. It's a cool idea to think you can look on an app, locate the nearest bike and hop on, but the article points out that cities are rightly concerned with people just leaving bikes in the middle of sidewalks and blocking paths. If we become a truly on-demand society for not just transportation, but perhaps even things like power tools or children's toys, then should cities or companies be thinking about safe storage on every block?  (TechCrunch)

AI shouldn't be a black box: If the military can demand accountability in algorithms that might lead to a decision to target someone with a drone, I think it's probably fair to demand to understand how algorithms that are underwriting insurance, controlling cars and even determining who gets bail make their calls. (MIT Technology Review)

Your car has a supercomputer now: Or it will soon. Bosch and Nvidia are working together to create a computer capable of making all of the calculations required by an autonomous car. This space is getting crowded. Basically, Bosch has the sensor smarts, while Nvidia has the processing power for computer vision. (Ars Technica)

Does anyone remember Weightless? The Weightless standard was created about five years ago with the goal of offering a low power wide area network for IoT devices. The idea was that Weightless sensors in bridges or roads might be able to convey tiny bits of data about the health of the infrastructure. They would be relatively cheap and last a long time. Since then, other LPWAN efforts such as SigFox, LoRa and others have gotten a lot more attention. But at Embedded World, a company was showing off Weightless modules for those that are interested. (Electronics Weekly)

Watch out, Swatch! Swatch plans to make a smartwatch using its own proprietary OS because apparently, the challenge in smartwatches isn't that people aren't sure how much computing they want to do on their wrists, but that people just don't like the existing operating systems. Meanwhile, an analyst firm says the smartwatch market will hit $10 billion by 2018, which isn't really a lot considering that Apple sold $54 billion worth of iPhones in the last three months of last year. (Apple's fiscal first quarter of 2017.) (Reuters)

Stacey Higginbotham's weekly Internet of
Things news update and analysis.