IoT News of the Week – Insteon is BACK! – June 10, 2022 – Stacey on IoT

Graphic showing Internet of Things news

Graphic showing Internet of Things news

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Insteon is back, baby! Users of the Insteon smart home hub were surprised earlier this week when their hubs turned on and their cloud-based integrations suddenly started working after almost two months of silence. It turns out a group of Insteon users purchased the Insteon assets, and the new company headed by Ken Fairbanks plans to make a go of the business. (Stacey on IoT— Stacey Higginbotham

For a more detailed take on Ken Fairbanks and Insteon check out this post: Richard Gunther is a fellow smart home podcaster and hardcore Insteon user, and he provides an insider’s perspective to the deal. And he sounds hopeful while also explaining all of the things that need to happen to make this work. (Digital Media Zone— Stacey Higginbotham

The Eclipse Foundation makes Sparkplug for MQTT a little more reliable: The Eclipse Foundation — home of the Sparkplug project, which ensures that platforms that use the MQTT messaging protocol can share their data without a lot of integration work — has created a formal certification program. The program will actively test vendor gateways and devices to make sure they actually are Sparkplug compatible, which seems pretty basic, but is actually essential if we ever want to get to a plug-and-play IoT. (Arc Advisory— Stacey Higginbotham

Renesas to buy Reality Analytics Inc. for edge-based machine learning: Chipmaker Renesas, which makes several popular chips for the IoT (as well as everything else) has agreed to purchase an AI tools company called Reality Analytics Inc. (Reality AI). The deal will let device makers add AI to Renesas chips more easily, and help boost the company’s software and tools portfolio. Because you can’t just sell chips anymore. I noted this deal, which is an undisclosed all-cash transaction mostly because it ties into my theme of adding more smarts to low-performance chips at the edge. (Renesas— Stacey Higginbotham

Comcast’s Notion launches professional monitoring: Notion, a Comcast subsidiary that makes multifunction sensors and software that can help a user monitor their home from break-ins, leaks, temperature changes, and more, has launched a professional monitoring offering. The service costs $10 a month and adds features such as emergency services alerting if, say, the Notion sensors detect a fire alarm and you can’t be reached; group text messaging for alerts; and 24/7 professional monitoring. This is a pretty compelling offering for the DIY home monitoring company, because Notion’s sensors are much less difficult to install than even a traditional DIY security system. Notion sensors are multifunctional, so users just put one wherever they think they need it and program its behavior. Later, they can move it if they so choose. It obviously isn’t going to compete with a camera-loaded system or something professionally installed, but it’s a good option for certain segments of the market, such as renters or those that aren’t as worried about burglaries as they are about leaks or random stupidity like someone leaving a door open. It also follows on the trend of charging for some kind of smart home service. Security is currently the easiest sell. (Notion) — Stacey Higginbotham 

A little bit about 8-bit microcontrollers: Way back in the early days of the internet of things, I wrote about how the IoT would help us sell more chips, but those chips would likely be cheap MCUs. I was only half right. The IoT has driven higher-performance computing into more places and also brought more low-performance 8-bit MCUs into new devices that have historically had zero smarts. Think of it as the Jevon’s paradox of cheap chips. (Embedded— Stacey Higginbotham

My teen years were wasted: What were you doing during high school? I was acting in high school theater productions and working at a grocery store. But this teen from Spain is building a constellation of 250-gram satellites for the IoT and launching them into space. (Nature— Stacey Higginbotham

There’s no privacy-preserving way to create data-rich applications: This write-up of a paper is awesome. It points out that companies promising applications built on scads of user data while also promising to preserve privacy are selling us a lie because there simply isn’t a way to preserve user privacy while collecting a lot of data and trying to use that data to build algorithms. If companies encrypt user data, then they can’t use it to build out algorithms, and if they collect a ton of user data and anonymize it, the data can often be de-anonymized pretty quickly. They recommend going a lot slower when trying to build data-driven applications and assessing their potential for harm, misuse, and even security breaches. Personally, I feel like we aren’t going to be able to stop tech firms from collecting and trying to build massive databases to sell to others, but we should have laws that let users see their data and correct it if it is wrong. I also thing we need regular audits of such databases, even if they are private, to ensure that they aren’t unfairly harming a group of people. (TechXplore— Stacey Higginbotham

Apple reverses course on iPads as HomeKit hubs: Amid all of the good HomeKit news out of WWDC, there’s also some bad news. With iOS 16 expected in the fall, iPads will no longer work as HomeKit hubs. That means you’ll need either an Apple TV or HomePod for your HomeKit smart home in the near future. To be fair, I think this change makes sense. As we get closer to Matter devices, homes will need hubs that are always connected to power. And Apple can’t guarantee that iPad owners will leave their tablets plugged in. Frankly, I always wondered why Apple allowed a traditionally mobile device to be a HomeKit hub in the first place. Either way, if an iPad is the brains behind your HomeKit home, it’s time for a brain transplant. (9to5 Mac— Kevin C. Tofel

Cute companion Arduino robot, anyone? This little Arduino project is best understood by watching the linked video, but I’ll do my best to explain it. Using a Nikola Vision board, an Arduino, and some custom Python code, Hackster.io’s Alex Glow built this cute companion robot. The project doesn’t look too complex, but it’s impressive. The robot can scan QR codes or take photos, and has some personality, with a digital eyeball that looks around. I kind of want one! (Arduino— Kevin C. Tofel

Meta closes the Facebook portal: Well here’s a news item that doesn’t surprise me at all. Meta will reportedly stop making its Portal smart displays for consumers as it focuses on business use cases for the product. I’ve used all of the Portal products and they barely qualified as smart displays to me. Yes, there was serviceable Alexa support, video chat over Messenger and other services, plus games and streaming entertainment. But the products never impressed me because it felt like Meta was just trying to be part of a product segment where other, better products existed. And I’m not sure I wanted Meta to know too much about my smart home in the first place. (The Verge— Kevin C. Tofel*

*Disclosure: Kevin has previously done some paid consulting for Facebook/Meta in this space.

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