Voice AIs are raising competition concerns, EU finds

The European Union has been digging into the competition implications of AI-powered voice assistants and other Internet of Things (IoT) connected technologies for almost a year. Today it’s put out a first report discussing potential concerns that EU lawmakers say will help inform their wider digital policymaking in the coming years.

A major piece of EU legislation introduced at the back of last year is already set to apply ex ante regulations to so-called ‘gatekeeper’ platforms operating in the region, with a list of business practice ‘dos and don’ts’ for powerful, intermediating platforms being baked into the forthcoming pan-EU Digital Services Act.

But if course applications of technology don’t stand still. The bloc’s competition chief, Margrethe Vestager, has also had her eye on voice assistant AI technologies for a while — raising concerns about the challenges being posed for user choice as far back as 2019, when she said her department was “trying to figure out how access to data will change the marketplace”.

The Commission took a concrete step last July when it announced a sectoral inquiry to examine IoT competition concerns in detail.

It’s now published a preliminary report, based on polling more than 200 companies operating in consumer IoT product and services markets (in Europe, Asia and the US) — and is soliciting further feedback on the findings (until September 1) ahead of a final report due in the first half of next year.

Among the main areas of potential competition concern it found are: Exclusivity and tying practices in relation to voice assistants and practices that limit the possibility to use different voice assistants on the same smart device; the intermediating role of voice assistants and mobile OSes between users and the wider device and services market — with the concern being this allows the owners of the platform voice AI to control user relationships, potentially impacting the discoverability and visibility of rival IoT services.

Another concern is around (unequal) access to data. Survey participants suggested that platform and voice assistant operators gain extensive access to user data — including capturing information on user interactions with third-party smart devices and consumer IoT services as a result of the intermediating voice AI.

“The respondents to the sector inquiry consider that this access to and accumulation of large amounts of data would not only give voice assistant providers advantages in relation to the improvement and market position of their general-purpose voice assistants, but also allow them to leverage more easily into adjacent markets,” the Commission writes in a press release.

A similar concern underlies an ongoing EU antitrust investigation into Amazon’s use of third party merchants’ data which it obtains via its ecommerce marketplace (and which the Commission believes could be illegally distorting competition in online retail markets).

Lack of interoperability in the consumer IoT sector is another concern flagged in the report. “In particular, a few providers of voice assistants and operating systems are said to unilaterally control interoperability and integration processes and to be capable of limiting functionalities of third-party smart devices and consumer IoT services, compared to their own,” it says.

There’s nothing very surprising in the above list. But it’s noteworthy that the Commission is trying to get a handle on competitive risks — and start mulling potential remedies — at a point when the adoption of voice assistant AIs is still at a relatively early stage in the region.

In its press release, the Commission notes that usage of voice assistant tech is growing worldwide and expected to double between 2020 and 2024 (from 4.2BN voice AIs to 8.4BN) — although only 11% of EU citizens surveyed last year had already used a voice assistant, per cited Eurostat data.

EU lawmakers have certainly learned lessons from the recent failure of competition policy to keep up with digital developments and rein in a first wave of tech giants. And those giants of course continue to dominate the market for voice AIs now (Amazon with Alexa, Google with its eponymous Assistant and Apple’s Siri). So the risks for competition are crystal clear — and the Commission will be keen to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.

Still, quite how policymakers could look to tackle competitive lock-in around voice AIs — whose USP tends to be their lazy-web, push-button and branded convenience for users — remains to be seen.

One option, enforcing interoperability, could increase complexity in a way that’s negative for usability — and may raise other concerns, such as around the privacy of user data.

Although giving users themselves more say and control over how the consumer tech they own works can certainly be a good idea, at least provided the platform’s presentation of choices isn’t itself manipulative and exploitative.

There are certainly plenty of pitfalls where IoT and competition is concerned — but also potential opportunities for startups and smaller players if proactive regulatory action can ensure that dominant platforms don’t get to set all the defaults once again.

Commenting in a statement, Vestager said: “When we launched this sector inquiry, we were concerned that there might be a risk of gatekeepers emerging in this sector. We were worried that they could use their power to harm competition, to the detriment of developing businesses and consumers. From the first results published today, it appears that many in the sector share our concerns. And fair competition is needed to make the most of the great potential of the Internet of Things for consumers in their daily lives. This analysis will feed into our future enforcement and regulatory action, so we look forward to receiving further feedback from all interested stakeholders in the coming months.”

The full sectoral report can be found here.


#alexa, #amazon, #ambient-intelligence, #artificial-intelligence, #assistant, #digital-competition, #europe, #european-union, #gadgets, #google, #internet-of-things, #iot, #margrethe-vestager, #policy, #privacy, #smart-device, #smart-devices, #technology, #virtual-assistant, #voice-assistant


Huawei officially launches Android alternative HarmonyOS for smartphones

Think you’re living in a hyper-connected world? Huawei’s proprietary HarmonyOS wants to eliminate delays and gaps in user experience when you move from one device onto another by adding interoperability to all devices, regardless of the system that powers them.

Two years after Huawei was added to the U.S. entity list that banned the Chinese telecom giant from accessing U.S. technologies, including core chipsets and Android developer services from Google, Huawei’s alternative smartphone operating system was unveiled.

On Wednesday, Huawei officially launched its proprietary operating system HarmonyOS for mobile phones. The firm began building the operating system in 2016 and made it open-source for tablets, electric vehicles and smartwatches last September. Its flagship devices such as Mate 40 could upgrade to HarmonyOS starting Wednesday, with the operating system gradually rolling out on lower-end models in the coming quarters.

HarmonyOS is not meant to replace Android or iOS, Huawei said. Rather, its application is more far-reaching, powering not just phones and tablets but an increasing number of smart devices. To that end, Huawei has been trying to attract hardware and home appliance manufacturers to join its ecosystem.

To date, more than 500,000 developers are building applications based on HarmonyOS. It’s unclear whether Google, Facebook and other mainstream apps in the West are working on HarmonyOS versions.

Some Chinese tech firms have answered Huawei’s call. Smartphone maker Meizu hinted on its Weibo account that its smart devices might adopt HarmonyOS. Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi, who are much larger players than Meizu, are probably more reluctant to embrace a rival’s operating system.

Huawei’s goal is to collapse all HarmonyOS-powered devices into one single control panel, which can, say, remotely pair the Bluetooth connections of headphones and a TV. A game that is played on a phone can be continued seamlessly on a tablet. A smart soymilk blender can customize a drink based on the health data gleaned from a user’s smartwatch.

Devices that aren’t already on HarmonyOS can also communicate with Huawei devices with a simple plug-in. Photos from a Windows-powered laptop can be saved directly onto a Huawei phone if the computer has the HarmonyOS plug-in installed. That raises the question of whether Android, or even iOS, could, one day, talk to HarmonyOS through a common language.

The HarmonyOS launch arrived days before Apple’s annual developer event scheduled for next week. A recent job posting from Apple mentioned a seemingly new concept, homeOS, which may have to do with Apple’s smart home strategy, as noted by Macrumors.

Huawei denied speculations that HarmonyOS is a derivative of Android and said no single line of code is identical to that of Android. A spokesperson for Huawei declined to say whether the operating system is based on Linux, the kernel that powers Android.

Several tech giants have tried to introduce their own mobile operating systems to no avail. Alibaba built AliOS based on Linux but has long stopped updating it. Samsung flirted with its own Tizen but the operating system is limited to powering a few Internet of Things like smart TVs.

Huawei may have a better shot at drumming up developer interest compared to its predecessors. It’s still one of China’s largest smartphone brands despite losing a chunk of its market after the U.S. government cut it off critical chip suppliers, which could hamper its ability to make cutting-edge phones. HarmonyOS also has a chance to create an alternative for developers who are disgruntled with Android, if Huawei is able to capture their needs.

The U.S. sanctions do not block Huawei from using Android’s open-source software, which major Chinese smartphone makers use to build their third-party Android operating system. But the ban was like a death knell for Huawei’s consumer markets overseas as its phones abroad lost access to Google Play services.

#alibaba, #android, #apple, #asia, #bluetooth, #china, #facebook, #gadgets, #harmonyos, #huawei, #internet-of-things, #linux, #meizu, #microsoft-windows, #mobile, #mobile-linux, #mobile-operating-system, #mobile-phones, #open-source-software, #operating-system, #operating-systems, #smart-devices, #smartphone, #smartphones, #tc, #xiaomi


Esper raises $30M Series B for its IoT DevOps platform

There may be billions of IoT devices in use today, but the tooling around building (and updating) the software for them still leaves a lot to be desired. Esper, which today announced that it has raised a $30 million Series B round, builds the tools to enable developers and engineers to deploy and manage fleets of Android-based edge devices. The round was led by Scale Venture Partners, with participation from Madrona Venture Group, Root Ventures, Ubiquity Ventures and Haystack.

The company argues that there are thousands of device manufacturers who are building these kinds of devices on Android alone, but that scaling and managing these deployments comes with a lot of challenges. The core idea here is that Esper brings to device development the DevOps experience that software developers now expect. The company argues that its tools allow companies to forgo building their own internal DevOps teams and instead use its tooling to scale their Android-based IoT fleets for use cases that range from digital signage and kiosks to custom solutions in healthcare, retail, logistics and more.

“The pandemic has transformed industries like connected fitness, digital health, hospitality, and food delivery, further accelerating the adoption of intelligent edge devices. But with each new use case, better software automation is required,” said Yadhu Gopalan, CEO and co-founder at Esper. “Esper’s mature cloud infrastructure incorporates the functionality cloud developers have come to expect, re-imagined for devices.”

Image Credits: Esper

Mobile device management (MDM) isn’t exactly a new thing, but the Esper team argues that these tools weren’t created for this kind of use case. “MDMs are the solution now in the market. They are made for devices being brought into an environment,” Gopalan said. “The DNA of these solutions is rooted in protecting the enterprise and to deploy applications to them in the network. Our customers are sending devices out into the wild. It’s an entirely different use case and model.”

To address these challenges, Esper offers a range of tools and services that includes a full development stack for developers, cloud-based services for device management and hardware emulators to get started with building custom devices.

“Esper helped us launch our Fusion-connected fitness offering on three different types of hardware in less than six months,” said Chris Merli, founder at Inspire Fitness. “Their full stack connected fitness Android platform helped us test our application on different hardware platforms, configure all our devices over the cloud, and manage our fleet exactly to our specifications. They gave us speed, Android expertise, and trust that our application would provide a delightful experience for our customers.”

The company also offers solutions for running Android on older x86 Windows devices to extend the life of this hardware, too.

“We spent about a year and a half on building out the infrastructure,” said Gopalan. “Definitely. That’s the hard part and that’s really creating a reliable, robust mechanism where customers can trust that the bits will flow to the devices. And you can also roll back if you need to.”

Esper is working with hardware partners to launch devices that come with built-in Esper-support from the get-go.

Esper says it saw 70x revenue growth in the last year, an 8x growth in paying customers and a 15x growth in devices running Esper. Since we don’t know the baseline, those numbers are meaningless, but the investors clearly believe that Esper is on to something. Current customers include the likes of CloudKitchens, Spire Health, Intelity, Ordermark, Inspire Fitness, RomTech and Uber.

#ambient-intelligence, #android, #cloud, #cloud-computing, #developer, #device-management, #enterprise, #esper, #hardware, #healthcare, #internet-of-things, #iot, #madrona-venture-group, #microsoft-windows, #mobile-device-management, #operating-systems, #recent-funding, #retail, #root-ventures, #scale-venture-partners, #smartphones, #software-automation, #software-developers, #startups, #tc, #technology, #uber, #ubiquity-ventures


#Brandneu – 7 junge Startups, die man kennen sollte

deutsche-startups.de präsentiert heute wieder einmal einige junge Startups, die zuletzt, also in den vergangenen Wochen und Monaten an den Start gegangen sind, sowie Firmen, die zuletzt aus dem Stealth-Mode erwacht sind. Übrigens: Noch mehr neue Startups gibt es in unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar.

Das Passauer Startup Pionize kümmert sich um die große Smart Home-Welt. Die Plattform soll Onliner:innen “die langwierige Recherche zum passenden Smart Home-System” erleichtern. Nach einigen Fragen schlägt das Startup seinen Nutzer:innen ein “individualisiertes Smart Hom-System vor”.

Das junge Startup elvah bietet eine Ladeflatrate für Elektroautos an. “Für unsere Flatrate bezahlst du einen fixen, monatlichen Beitrag – egal wo und wann du lädst”, schreibt die Jungfirma aus Grafschaft, die von Gowrynath Sivaganeshamoorthy, Wilfried Röper, Sören Ziems gegründet wurde.

modelwise entwickelt mit Paitron eine Software für Ingenieure, die der Zielgruppe bei der Automatisierung von Sicherheitsanalysen helfen soll. Dabei setzen die Münchner auf “bestehende Modelle aus Standard-Modellierungsumgebungen”. So soll zusätzlicher Schulungsaufwand vermieden werden.

Das Berliner Startup Taktile, das von Maximilian Eber und Maik Taro Wehmeyer gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als Art Low-Code-Plattform für Machine Learning. “Taktile enables enterprises to easily develop business critical Machine Learning applications”, teilt die Jungfirma in eigener Sache mit.

Sportstandort24 möchte Sportvereine und -unternehmen bei der Digitalisierung ihrer Angebote unterstützen. Die Gründer schreiben: “Mithilfe unserer innovativen Software hat Deine Organisation zum Beispiel zahlreiche Möglichkeiten, detaillierte Sportangebote einzustellen und zu verwalten”.

Das Münchner Startup wryte, das von Philipp Kramer und Matthias Schadhauser gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als “Mitschrift-App mit automatisierter Speicherung”. Zielgruppe der Jungfirma sind Schüler:innen. Dabei organisiert wryte auch die Zuordnung zu Fächern und Heften.

Das Linzer Startup Sophia möchte Beratung “effizient und bequem machen”. Auf dem Marktplatz der Jungfirma finden Nutzer:innen anhand von Themen angeben, nach welcher Expertise sie suchen.Die Terminfindung erfolgt direkt im Anschluss. Der Austausch erfolgt dann über digitale Meeting-Räume.

Tipp: In unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar berichten wir einmal in der Woche über neue Startups. Alle Startups stellen wir in unserem kostenpflichtigen Newsletter kurz und knapp vor und bringen sie so auf den Radar der Startup-Szene. Jetzt unseren Newsletter Startup-Radar sofort abonnieren!

Startup-Jobs: Auf der Suche nach einer neuen Herausforderung? In der unserer Jobbörse findet Ihr Stellenanzeigen von Startups und Unternehmen.

Foto (oben): Shutterstock

#aktuell, #brandneu, #edtech, #elvah, #grafschaft, #internet-of-things, #linz, #meerbusch, #mobility, #modelwise, #munchen, #passau, #pionize, #smart-home, #sophia, #sportstandort24, #startup-radar, #taktile, #wryte


The chip shortage is driving up tech prices–starting with TVs

The chip shortage is driving up tech prices–starting with TVs

Enlarge (credit: Bloomberg | Getty Images)

Televisions, laptops, and tablets have been in high demand during the Covid-19 pandemic, as people worked and learned via Zoom, socialized over Skype, and binged on Netflix to alleviate the lockdown blues. But all that extra screen time also helped set in motion a semiconductor supply crunch that is causing prices for some gadgets to spike—starting with TVs.

In recent months, the price of larger TV models has shot up around 30 percent compared to last summer, according to market research company NPD. The jump is a direct result of the current chip crisis, and underscores that a fix is more complicated than simply ramping up production. It may also be only a matter of time before other gadgets that use the same circuitry—laptops, tablets, and VR headsets among them—experience similar sticker shock.

Some manufacturers have already flagged potential price rises. Asus, a Taiwanese computer maker, said during a quarterly earnings call in March that a shortage of components would mean “price hikes further upstream,” which would likely affect consumers.

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#chip-shortage, #gaming-culture, #internet-of-shit, #internet-of-things, #smart-tvs, #tech


The energy ecosystem should move to make the ‘energy internet’ a reality

As vice president of Innovation at National Grid Partners, I’m responsible for developing initiatives that not only benefit National Grid’s current business but also have the potential to become stand-alone businesses. So I obviously have strong views about the future of the energy industry.

But I don’t have a crystal ball; no one does. To be a good steward of our innovation portfolio, my job isn’t to guess what the right “basket” is for our “eggs.” It’s to optimally allocate our finite eggs across multiple baskets with the greatest collective upside.

Put another way, global and regional trends make it clear that the Next Big Thing isn’t any single thing at all. Instead, the future is about open innovation and integration of elements across the entire energy supply chain. Only with such an open energy ecosystem can we adapt to the highly volatile — some might even say unpredictable — market conditions we face in the energy industry.

Just as the digital internet rewards innovation wherever it serves the market — whether you build a better app or design a cooler smartphone — so too will the energy internet offer greater opportunities across the energy supply chain.

I like to think of this open, innovation-enabling approach as the “energy internet,” and I believe it represents the most important opportunity in the energy sector today.

The internet analogy

Here’s why I find the concept of the energy internet helpful. Before the digital internet (a term I’m using here to encompass all the hardware, software and standards that comprise it), we had multiple silos of technology such as mainframes, PCs, databases, desktop applications and private networks.

As the digital internet evolved, however, the walls between these silos disappeared. You can now utilize any platform on the back end of your digital services, including mainframes, commodity server hardware and virtual machines in the cloud.

You can transport digital payloads across networks that connect to any customer, supplier or partner on the planet with whatever combination of speed, security, capacity and cost you deem most appropriate. That payload can be data, sound or video, and your endpoint can be a desktop browser, smartphone, IoT sensor, security camera or retail kiosk.

This mix-and-match internet created an open digital supply chain that has driven an epochal boom in online innovation. Entrepreneurs and inventors can focus on specific value propositions anywhere across that supply chain rather than having to continually reinvent the supply chain itself.

The energy sector must move in the same direction. We need to be able to treat our various generation modalities like server platforms. We need our transmission grids to be as accessible as our data networks, and we need to be able to deliver energy to any consumption endpoint just as flexibly. We need to encourage innovation at those endpoints, too — just as the tech sector did.

Just as the digital internet rewards innovation wherever it serves the market — whether you build a better app or design a cooler smartphone — so too will the energy internet offer greater opportunities across the energy supply chain.

The 5D future

So what is the energy internet? As a foundation, let’s start with a model that takes the existing industry talk of digitalization, decentralization and decarbonization a few steps further:

Digitalization: Innovation depends on information about demand, supply, efficiency, trends and events. That data must be accurate, complete, timely and sharable. Digitalization efforts such as IoE, open energy, and what many refer to as the “smart grid” are instrumental because they ensure innovators have the insights they need to continuously improve the physics, logistics and economics of energy delivery.

Decentralization: The internet changed the world in part because it took the power of computing out of a few centralized data centers and distributed it wherever it made sense. The energy internet will do likewise. Digitalization supports decentralization by letting assets be integrated into an open energy supply chain. But decentralization is much more than just the integration of existing assets — it’s the proliferation of new assets wherever they’re needed.

Decarbonization: Decarbonization is, of course, the whole point of the exercise. We must move to greener supply chains built on decentralized infrastructure that leverage energy supply everywhere to meet energy demand anywhere. The market is demanding it and regulators are requiring it. The energy internet is therefore more than just an investment opportunity — it’s an existential imperative.

Democratization: Much of the innovation associated with the internet arose from the fact that, in addition to decentralizing technology physically, it also democratized technology demographically. Democratization is about putting power (literally, in this case) into the hands of the people. Vastly increasing the number of minds and hands tackling the energy industry’s challenges will also accelerate innovation and enhance our ability to respond to market dynamics.

Diversity: As I asserted above, no one has a crystal ball. So anyone investing in innovation at scale should diversify — not just to mitigate risk and optimize returns, but as an enablement strategy. After all, if we truly believe the energy internet (or Grid 2.0, if you prefer that term) will require that all the elements of the energy supply chain work together, we must diversify our innovation initiatives across those elements to promote interoperability and integration.

That’s how the digital internet was built. Standards bodies played an important role, but those standards and their implementations were driven by industry players like Microsoft and Cisco — as well as top VCs — who ensured the ecosystem’s success by driving integration across the supply chain.

We must take the same approach with the energy internet. Those with the power and influence to do so must help ensure we aggressively advance integration across the energy supply chain as a whole, even as we improve the individual elements. To this end, National Grid last year kicked off a new industry group called the NextGrid Alliance, which includes senior executives from more than 60 utilities across the world.

Finally, we believe it’s essential to diversify thinking within the energy ecosystem as well. National Grid has sounded alarms about the serious underrepresentation of women in the energy industry and of female undergraduates in STEM programs. On the flip side, research by Deloitte has found diverse teams are 20% more innovative. More than 60% of my own team at NGP are women, and that breadth of perspective has helped National Grid capture powerful insights into companywide innovation efforts.

More winning, less predicting

The concept of the energy internet isn’t some abstract future ideal. We’re already seeing specific examples of how it will transform the market:

Green transnationalism: The energy internet is on its way to becoming as global as the digital internet. The U.K., for instance, is now receiving wind-generated power from Norway and Denmark. This ability to leverage decentralized energy supply across borders will have significant benefits for national economies and create new opportunities for energy arbitrage.

EV charging models: Pumping electricity isn’t like pumping gas, nor should it be. With the right combination of innovation in smart metering and fast-charging end-point design, the energy internet will create new opportunities at office buildings, residential complexes and other places where cars plus convenience can equal cash.

Disaster mitigation: Recent events in Texas have highlighted the negative consequences of not having an energy internet. Responsible utilities and government agencies must embrace digitization and interoperability to more effectively troubleshoot infrastructure and better safeguard communities.

These are just a few of the myriad ways in which an open, any-to-any energy internet will promote innovation, stimulate competition and generate big wins. No one can predict exactly what those big wins will be, but there will surely be many, and they will accrue to the benefit of all.

That’s why even without a crystal ball, we should all commit ourselves to digitalization, decentralization, decarbonization, democratization and diversity. In so doing, we’ll build the energy internet together, and enable a fair, affordable and clean energy future.

#column, #electricity, #emerging-technologies, #energy, #energy-industry, #greentech, #internet-of-things, #national-grid-partners, #opinion, #smart-grid, #tc


#Interview – “Wir haben von Anfang an auf Kundenfeedback gesetzt”

Das Unternehmen tink, das 2016 von Marius Lissautzki und Julian Hueck gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als Vergleichs- und Beratungsplattform für Smart Home-Produkte. Im vergangenen Jahr erwirtschaftete die Jungfirma einen Umsatz in Höhe von 66 Millionen Euro. In diesem Jahr sind über 100 Millionen geplant. Cadence Growth Capital, Rocket Internet und SevenVentures investierten kürzlich 40 Millionen Euro in tink.

“Mit dem Investment möchten wir unser internationales Wachstum massiv vorantreiben. Unser Ziel ist es, tink als führende europäische Smart-Home-Plattform zu etablieren und bis spätestens 2023 in allen Kernmärkten Europas präsent zu sein. Zudem möchten wir unser Angebot um viele weitere relevante Services erweitern, wozu unter anderem Energieverträge oder Versicherungslösungen gehören”, sagt Mitgründer Hueck zu den weiteren Pläne des Startups.

Im Interview mit deutsche-startups.de spricht der tink-Macher zudem über Berührungsängste, Industriepartner und Bäume.

Wie würdest Du Deiner Großmutter tink erklären?
Wir helfen dabei, das Zuhause vieler Menschen sicherer, komfortabler und energiesparender zu gestalten. Durch unsere Hilfe müssen Heizungen beispielsweise nicht mehr manuell hoch- und runtergedreht werden und man kann direkt vom Sessel aus sehen, wer an der Haustür geklingelt hat. Natürlich stehen wir unseren Kunden auch gerne beratend zur Seite und unterstützen bei der Installation und Anwendung, sodass auch ältere oder technisch unversierte Menschen keine Berührungsängste vor neuen, digitalen Produkten haben müssen.

Hat sich das Konzept, das Geschäftsmodell, in den vergangenen Jahren irgendwie verändert?
Wir wollten schon immer Menschen für digitale Anwendungen in ihrem Zuhause begeistern. Daran hat sich seit der Gründung von tink nichts geändert. Über die Jahre hinweg haben wir aber gemerkt, wie wichtig der Austausch mit unseren Kunden ist und wieviel wir durch sie lernen können. Durch sie wissen wir, was wirklich hilft. Dieses Wissen unterstützt uns dabei, unsere Mission erfolgreich im Massenmarkt zu etablieren. Deswegen setzen wir mittlerweile sehr stark auf individuelle Beratungen und Lösungen, die Hardware, Software und Dienstleistungen vereinen. Denn Kunden suchen Lösungen für ihren Alltag und nicht nur einzelne Produkte.

Wie genau funktioniert euer Geschäftsmodell?
Wir verstehen uns als zentrale Plattform, die Premium Hardware Brands, passende Software- Ökosysteme und relevante Dienstleistungen für unterschiedliche Use Cases rund um das vernetzte Zuhause anbietet. Bei unserem Geschäftsmodell handelt es sich um ein B2C-Commerce-Plattform-Modell. Hinzu kommt ein stark wachsendes Geschäft mit Industriepartnern, das zukünftig weiter ausgebaut werden soll. Bei Vattenfall und Generali betreiben wir beispielsweise unsere schon jetzt Plattform co-branded auf deren Websites und bieten exklusive und passende Angebote für ihre Kunden an. Dadurch können sich unsere Industriepartner gezielt vom Wettbewerb differenzieren und ihr Kernangebot mit unseren Leistungen zu neuen Lösungen kombinieren.

Die Corona-Krise traf die Startup-Szene zuletzt teilweise hart. Wie habt ihr die Auswirkungen gespürt?
Die Corona-Krise hat sich auf unser Business eher positiv als negativ ausgewirkt – und das sogar nachhaltig. Zum einen hat Covid-19 vielen neuen Kundengruppen die Vorteile der Digitalisierung näher gebracht und dadurch den Smart-Home-Trend beschleunigt. Zum anderen steht das eigene Zuhause jetzt noch mehr im Mittelpunkt als vor dem Start der Corona-Pandemie. Immer mehr Haushalte beschäftigen sich damit, ihr Zuhause über sinnvolle Technologien sicherer, komfortabler und energieeffizienter zu gestalten.

Cadence Growth Capital und Co. investierten gerade 40 Millionen in tink. Wofür braucht ihr so viel Geld?
Mit dem Investment möchten wir unser internationales Wachstum massiv vorantreiben. Unser Ziel ist es, tink als führende europäische Smart-Home-Plattform zu etablieren und bis spätestens 2023 in allen Kernmärkten Europas präsent zu sein. Zudem möchten wir unser Angebot um viele weitere relevante Services erweitern, wozu unter anderem Energieverträge oder Versicherungslösungen gehören. Darüber hinaus haben wir uns zum Ziel gesetzt, neue Anwendungsfelder zu erschließen und innovative Lösungen in unser Angebotsportfolio aufzunehmen. Hierzu gehören beispielsweise Angebote in den Bereichen Küche oder dezentrale Energieerzeugung und E-Mobility-Lösungen.

Wie ist überhaupt die Idee zu tink entstanden?
Marius ist während seiner Zeit in den USA zum ersten Mal mit Smart-Home-Lösungen in Kontakt gekommen und war von dem Nutzen und der Einfachheit der Anwendungen sofort begeistert und überzeugt. Zurück in Deutschland war ziemlich schnell klar, dass eine Plattform fehlt, die dem Konsumenten sowohl die Vorteile eines vernetzten Zuhauses schildert, Kunden bei der Auswahl der Lösung berät als auch ihrer Anwendung begleitet und mehr als nur Einzelprodukte vertreibt. Eine Plattform, die echte Lösungen anbietet bzw. die Hardware, Software und Services sinnvoll miteinander verknüpft, gab es zu diesem Zeitpunkt nicht – auch weltweit betrachtet. Dieser umfassende Ansatz ist auch heute noch ein Alleinstellungsmerkmal von tink.

Wie hat sich tink seit der Gründung entwickelt?
Wir sind sehr froh und dankbar, dass unsere Kunden und der Markt unseren Ansatz wertschätzt. Dieses Ansehen spiegelt sich nicht nur in unserem jährlichen Wachstum von mehr als 100 Prozent wider, sondern auch in der außergewöhnlichen Kundentreue, die wir in den letzten Jahren verzeichnen konnten, und dem sukzessiven Smarter-Werden des Zuhauses unserer Kunden, die schrittweise eine Anwendung nach der nächsten hinzubuchen. Der Smart-Home-Markt steckt noch in den Kinderschuhen und formt sich gerade erst zu einem Massenmarkt heraus. In den nächsten Jahren wird sich daraus aber ein Multi-Milliarden-Markt entwickeln.

Nun aber einmal Butter bei die Fische: Wie groß ist tink inzwischen?
Seit unserer Gründung im Jahr 2016 konnten wir bereits mehr als 700.000 Kunden für unsere IoT-Commerce-Plattform gewinnen. In unserem Unternehmen arbeiten inzwischen 100 Mitarbeiter und wir haben 2020 einen Umsatz von 66 Millionen Euro erzielt. Auf dem aktuellen Wachstumspfad werden wir dieses Jahr die Umsatzmarke von 100 Millionen Euro überschreiten und durch unser Angebot die weltweite CO2-Produktion stetig senken. Denn allein durch die Haushalte, die wir im Jahr 2020 für smarte Heizungslösungen gewinnen konnten, konnten CO2-Einsparungen, die dem Pflanzen von vier Millionen Bäumen gleichkommen, erzielt werden.

Blicke bitte einmal zurück: Was ist in den vergangenen Jahren so richtig schief gegangen?
Bei unserem Launch im Jahr 2016 hatten wir ein paar kleine Probleme mit unserer IT- Plattform. Wir konnten den Bug aber schnell ausfindig machen. Sie funktioniert seitdem einwandfrei und Interessierte können auf einfache und schnelle Art und Weise tink-Kunden werden und unsere smarten Produkte anwenden.

Und wo hat Ihr bisher alles richtig gemacht?
Wir haben von Anfang an auf Kundenfeedback gesetzt, welches unglaublich wichtig für die Weiterentwicklung unserer Plattform und unserer Produktpalette ist. Unsere Ideen-Pipeline wird dadurch kontinuierlich größer. Grundsätzlich zeigt aber vor allem die bisher Bilderbuch- artige Entwicklung unseres Businesses, dass wir den Nerv der Zeit getroffen haben und die Ideen-Umsetzung von unseren Kunden sehr wertgeschätzt wird. Ausschlaggebend für diesen Erfolg ist natürlich unser großartiges Team.

Wo steht tink in einem Jahr?
In den nächsten Monaten werden wir unsere Plattform in einigen weiteren europäischen Kernmärkten launchen und unserem Business dadurch einen gewaltigen Push verleihen. Außerdem werden wir verstärkt relevante Services in unsere Lösungen integrieren und neue Anwendungsfelder, inklusive des e-Mobility-Bereichs, erschließen und nutzbar machen.
Durch das enorme Wachstum im jetzigen Geschäft und diese drei Wachstumsdimensionen wird tink in zwölf Monaten mehr als eine Millionen Haushalte gewonnen haben und Umsatz- technisch im dreistelligen Millionenbereich angekommen sein.

Startup-Jobs: Auf der Suche nach einer neuen Herausforderung? In der unserer Jobbörse findet Ihr Stellenanzeigen von Startups und Unternehmen.

Foto (oben): tink

#aktuell, #internet-of-things, #interview, #smart-home, #tink


Window Snyder’s new startup Thistle Technologies raises $2.5M seed to secure IoT devices

The Internet of Things has a security problem. The past decade has seen wave after wave of new internet-connected devices, from sensors through to webcams and smart home tech, often manufactured in bulk but with little — if any — consideration to security. Worse, many device manufacturers make no effort to fix security flaws, while others simply leave out the software update mechanisms needed to deliver patches altogether.

That sets up an entire swath of insecure and unpatchable devices to fail, and destined to be thrown out when they break down or are invariably hacked.

Security veteran Window Snyder thinks there is a better way. Her new startup, Thistle Technologies, is backed with $2.5 million in seed funding from True Ventures with the goal of helping IoT manufacturers reliably and securely deliver software updates to their devices.

Snyder founded Thistle last year, and named it after the flowering plant with sharp prickles designed to deter animals from eating them. “It’s a defense mechanism,” Snyder told TechCrunch, a name that’s fitting for a defensive technology company. The startup aims to help device manufacturers without the personnel or resources to integrate update mechanisms into their device’s software in order to receive security updates and better defend against security threats.

“We’re building the means so that they don’t have to do it themselves. They want to spend the time building customer-facing features anyway,” said Snyder. Prior to founding Thistle, Snyder worked in senior cybersecurity positions at Apple, Intel, and Microsoft, and also served as chief security officer at Mozilla, Square, and Fastly.

Thistle lands on the security scene at a time when IoT needs it most. Botnet operators are known to scan the internet for devices with weak default passwords and hijack their internet connections to pummel victims with floods of internet traffic, knocking entire websites and networks offline. In 2016, a record-breaking distributed denial-of-service attack launched by the Mirai botnet on internet infrastructure giant Dyn knocked some of the biggest websites — Shopify, SoundCloud, Spotify, Twitter — offline for hours. Mirai had ensnared thousands of IoT devices into its network at the time of the attack.

Other malicious hackers target IoT devices as a way to get a foot into a victim’s network, allowing them to launch attacks or plant malware from the inside.

Since device manufacturers have done little to solve their security problems among themselves, lawmakers are looking at legislating to curb some of the more egregious security mistakes made by default manufacturers, like using default — and often unchangeable — passwords and selling devices with no way to deliver security updates.

California paved the way after passing an IoT security law in 2018, with the U.K. following shortly after in 2019. The U.S. has no federal law governing basic IoT security standards.

Snyder said the push to introduce IoT cybersecurity laws could be “an easy way for folks to get into compliance” without having to hire fleets of security engineers. Having an update mechanism in place also helps to keeps the IoT devices around for longer — potentially for years longer — simply by being able to push fixes and new features.

“To build the infrastructure that’s going to allow you to continue to make those devices resilient and deliver new functionality through software, that’s an incredible opportunity for these device manufacturers. And so I’m building a security infrastructure company to support that security needs,” she said.

With the seed round in the bank, Snyder said the company is focused on hiring device and back-end engineers, product managers, and building new partnerships with device manufacturers.

Phil Black, co-founder of True Ventures — Thistle’s seed round investor — described the company as “an astute and natural next step in security technologies.” He added: “Window has so many of the qualities we look for in founders. She has deep domain expertise, is highly respected within the security community, and she’s driven by a deep passion to evolve her industry.”

#apple, #bank, #botnet, #california, #co-founder, #computer-security, #computing, #cybercrime, #cyberwarfare, #dyn, #fastly, #intel, #internet-of-things, #internet-traffic, #malware, #microsoft, #mirai, #science-and-technology, #security, #shopify, #soundcloud, #spotify, #startups, #technology, #true-ventures, #united-kingdom, #united-states


UK’s IoT ‘security by design’ law will cover smartphones too

Smartphones will be included in the scope of a planned “security by design” U.K. law aimed at beefing up the security of consumer devices, the government said today.

It made the announcement in its response to a consultation on legislative plans aimed at tackling some of the most lax security practices long-associated with the Internet of Things (IoT).

The government introduced a security code of practice for IoT device manufacturers back in 2018 — but the forthcoming legislation is intended to build on that with a set of legally binding requirements.

A draft law was aired by ministers in 2019 — with the government focused on IoT devices, such as webcams and baby monitors, which have often been associated with the most egregious device security practices.

Its plan now is for virtually all smart devices to be covered by legally binding security requirements, with the government pointing to research from consumer group “Which?” that found that a third of people kept their last phone for four years, while some brands only offer security updates for just over two years.

The forthcoming legislation will require smartphone and device makers like Apple and Samsung to inform customers of the duration of time for which a device will receive software updates at the point of sale.

It will also ban manufacturers from using universal default passwords (such as “password” or “admin”), which are often preset in a device’s factory settings and easily guessable — making them meaningless in security terms.

California already passed legislation banning such passwords in 2018 with the law coming into force last year.

Under the incoming U.K. law, manufacturers will additionally be required to provide a public point of contact to make it simpler for anyone to report a vulnerability.

The government said it will introduce legislation as soon as parliamentary time allows.

Commenting in a statement, digital infrastructure minister Matt Warman added: “Our phones and smart devices can be a gold mine for hackers looking to steal data, yet a great number still run older software with holes in their security systems.

“We are changing the law to ensure shoppers know how long products are supported with vital security updates before they buy and are making devices harder to break into by banning easily guessable default passwords.

“The reforms, backed by tech associations around the world, will torpedo the efforts of online criminals and boost our mission to build back safer from the pandemic.”

A DCMS spokesman confirmed that laptops, PCs and tablets with no cellular connection will not be covered by the law, nor will secondhand products. Although he added that the intention is for the scope to be adaptive, to ensure the law can keep pace with new threats that may emerge around devices.

#california, #computer-security, #cryptography, #europe, #gadgets, #internet-of-things, #iot, #mobile, #password, #security, #smart-devices, #smartphones, #united-kingdom


Medtronic partners with cybersecurity startup Sternum to protect its pacemakers from hackers

If you think cyberattacks are scary, what if those attacks were directed at your cardiac pacemaker? Medtronic, a medical device company, has been in hot water over the last couple of years because its pacemakers were getting hacked through their internet-based software updating systems. But in a new partnership with Sternum, an IoT cybersecurity startup based in Israel, Medtronic has focused on resolving the issue.

The problem was not with the medical devices themselves, but with the remote systems used to update the devices. Medtronic’s previous solution was to disconnect the devices from the internet, which in and of itself can cause other issues to arise.

“Medtronic was looking for a long-term solution that can help them with future developments,” said Natali Tshuva, Sternum’s founder and CEO. The company has already secured about 100,000 Medtronic devices.

Sternum’s solution allows medical devices to protect themselves in real-time. 

“There’s this endless race against vulnerability, so when a company discovers a vulnerability, they need to issue an update, but updating can be very difficult in the medical space, and until the update happens, the devices are vulnerable,” Tshuva told TechCrunch. “Therefore, we created an autonomous security that operates from within the device that can protect it without the need to update and patch vulnerabilities,” 

However, it is easier to protect new devices than to go back and protect legacy devices. Over the years hackers have gotten more and more sophisticated, so medical device companies have had to figure out how to protect the devices that are already out there.  

 “The market already has millions — perhaps billions — of medical devices connected, and that could be a security and management nightmare,” Tshuva added.

In addition to potentially doing harm to an individual, hackers have been taking advantage of device vulnerability as the gateway of choice into a hospital’s network, possibly causing a breach that can affect many more people. Tshuva explained that hospital networks are secured from the inside out, but devices that connect to the networks but are not protected can create a way in.

In fact, health systems have been known to experience the most data breaches out of any sector, accounting for 79% of all reported breaches in 2020. And in the first 10 months of last year, we saw a 45% increase in cyberattacks on health systems, according to data by Health IT Security.

In addition to Sternum’s partnership with Medtronic, the company also launched this week an IoT platform that allows, “devices to protect themselves, even when they are not connected to the internet,” Tshuva said.

Sternum, which raised about $10 million to date, also offers cybersecurity for IoT devices outside of healthcare, and according to Tshuva, the company focuses on areas that are “mission-critical.” Examples include railroad infrastructure sensors and management systems, and power grids.

Tshuva, who grew up in Israel, holds a master’s in computer science and worked for the Israeli Defense Force’s 8200 unit — similar to the U.S.’s National Security Alliance — said she always wanted to make an impact in the medical field. “I looked to combine the medical space with my life, and I realized I could have an impact on remote care devices,” she said.

#computer-security, #cyberattack, #cybercrime, #cybersecurity-startup, #health-systems, #healthcare, #internet-of-things, #israel, #malware, #medical-device, #medtronic, #science-and-technology, #sternum, #tc, #technology


100 million more IoT devices are exposed—and they won’t be the last

100 million more IoT devices are exposed—and they won’t be the last

Enlarge (credit: Elena Lacey)

Over the last few years, researchers have found a shocking number of vulnerabilities in seemingly basic code that underpins how devices communicate with the Internet. Now a new set of nine such vulnerabilities are exposing an estimated 100 million devices worldwide, including an array of Internet-of-things products and IT management servers. The larger question researchers are scrambling to answer, though, is how to spur substantive changes—and implement effective defenses—as more and more of these types of vulnerabilities pile up.

Dubbed Name:Wreck, the newly disclosed flaws are in four ubiquitous TCP/IP stacks, code that integrates network communication protocols to establish connections between devices and the Internet. The vulnerabilities, present in operating systems like the open source project FreeBSD, as well as Nucleus NET from the industrial control firm Siemens, all relate to how these stacks implement the “Domain Name System” Internet phone book. They all would allow an attacker to either crash a device and take it offline or gain control of it remotely. Both of these attacks could potentially wreak havoc in a network, especially in critical infrastructure, health care, or manufacturing settings where infiltrating a connected device or IT server can disrupt a whole system or serve as a valuable jumping-off point for burrowing deeper into a victim’s network.

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#biz-it, #internet-of-things, #iot, #namewreck, #tcp-ip


#Brandneu – 9 neue Startups aus dem wunderschönen Hamburg

deutsche-startups.de präsentiert heute wieder einmal einige junge Startups, die zuletzt, also in den vergangenen Wochen und Monaten an den Start gegangen sind, sowie Firmen, die zuletzt aus dem Stealth-Mode erwacht sind. Übrigens: Noch mehr neue Startups gibt es jede Woche in unserem kostenpflichtigen Newsletter Startup-Radar.

Die Hamburger Jungfirma Hamburg Cauliflower kümmert sich um Kundenfeedback. Das Team möchte seinen Nutzern helfen, ohne Vorkenntnisse im Bereich Data Science und vor allem ohne großen Aufwand wichtige Informationen aus Online-Textdaten herauszulesen.

Die Hamburger Jungfirma Zeitgeist positioniert sich als “Second Hand Shop”. Der Pitch der Hanseaten ist simpel: “Wir wollen eine Alternative zu Fast Fashion sein. Daher bieten wir unseren Kund*Innen ein differenziertes Angebot und verantwortungsbewusstes Shopping-Erlebnis”.

Immo Rente
Das Hamburger PropTech Immo Rente ist im Segment Immobilienverrentungen (Leibrente, Teilverkauf, Immobiliendarlehen), einem kleinen Boomsegment, unterwegs. Zielgruppe sind Menschen, die älter als 65 Jahre sind und noch zu Lebzeiten vom Wert ihrer selbstgenutzten Immobilie profitieren möchten.

Das Hamburger Startup Leadbase positioniert sich als “Digital Event Showroom”. Über die Plattform ist es möglich, ein Unternehmen und seine Produkte zu präsentieren und so in direktem Kontakt mit seinem Kunden so kommen. Die Jungfirma wird von Edgar Dyck und Rene Sulski geführt.

Das Hamburger Startup Smartmark bietet eine smarte Regattaboje an. Diese mit zwei Elektromotoren angetriebene Bahnmarke lässt sich per Tablet steuern und hält dabei die festgelegte Position – und zwar ohne den Einsatz eines Ankers. So soll das Einrichten einer Regattabahn zum Kinderspiel werden.

Future Stories
Das Hamburger Startup Future Stories möchte “Plastikmüll aus allen Badezimmern verbannen”. Dafür setzen die Hanseaten auf Duschgel und Handseife aus Pulver, das jeder Zuhause anrühren kann. Gegründet wurde die Jungfirma von etepetete-Gründer Carsten Wille, Mark Lübcke und Martina Ponath.

Bei Teppana dreht sich alles um Teppiche. “Mit unseren zweiteiligen Teppich-System ermöglichen wir Teppiche in jeder Größe in der Waschmaschine zu waschen – ein wahrer Problemlöser für junge Familien und Haustierbesitzer”, teilt das junge Hamburger Startup in eigner Sache mit.

Bei craftsoles finden Onliner handgefertigte orthopädische Einlagen. Das Startup, ein Ableger von meevo, einem Online-Sanitätshaus, schickt die benötigten Sets zur Vermessung dabei zu den Kunden. Danach fertigt das craftsoles-Team die Einlagen und schickt diese zum Kunden. 

You Candy
Das Hamburger Startup You Candy setzt auf leckere Fruchtgummis mit Zusatz! You Candy kombiniert nämlich klassische Fruchtgummis mit angesagten Nahrungsergänzungsmitteln. Die Hanseaten nennen dies “Genuss mit Schutz, Schönheit und Gesundheit”.

Tipp: In unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar berichten wir einmal in der Woche über neue Startups. Alle Startups stellen wir in unserem kostenpflichtigen Newsletter kurz und knapp vor und bringen sie so auf den Radar der Startup-Szene. Jetzt unseren Newsletter Startup-Radar sofort abonnieren!

Startup-Jobs: Auf der Suche nach einer neuen Herausforderung? In der unserer Jobbörse findet Ihr Stellenanzeigen von Startups und Unternehmen.

Foto (oben): Shutterstock

#aktuell, #beauty, #brandneu, #cauliflower, #craftsoles, #food, #future-stories, #hamburg, #immo-rente, #internet-of-things, #leadbase, #proptech, #second-hand, #smartmark, #startup-radar, #teppana, #wellness, #you-candy, #zeitgeist


#Brandneu – 8 neue Startups, die eine große Zukunft vor sich haben

deutsche-startups.de präsentiert heute wieder einmal einige junge Startups, die zuletzt, also in den vergangenen Wochen und Monaten an den Start gegangen sind, sowie Firmen, die zuletzt aus dem Stealth-Mode erwacht sind. Übrigens: Noch mehr neue Startups gibt es in unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar.

Das Leaders21-Team möchte Führungskräften moderne Methoden beibringen. Hinter dem Startup stecken Runtastic-Macher Florian Gschwandtner und Thomas Kleindessner. Zum Start geht es um Trainings, 1-zu-1-Coaching und Beratung – später folgt dann eine digitale Lern- und Community-Plattform.

Bei Ghostifyed können Musiker Songs kaufen. “Sobald ein Song verkauft wird, werden alle Urheberrechte an den Käufer abgetreten. Dieser hat somit freie Handhabe über den gekauften Titel, ohne dass der eigentliche Produzent mit Namen genannt wird”, teilt das Startup aus Kiel, das von Dennis Zolk gegründet wurde, mit.

Bei SeaTable, hinter dem die Brüder Christoph und Ralf Dyllick-Brenzinger stecken, dreht sich alles um die Verarbeitung von Informationen. “SeaTable ist die neue flexible Art im Team an Aufgaben, Projekten oder Ideen zu arbeiten. Es sieht aus wie Excel, hat aber so viel mehr zu bieten”, schreiben die Gründer.

Das Team von myFoodDoctor setzt auf Ernährungstherapie per App. Das Startup fragt zunächst die Ernährungsgewohnheiten ab und schlägt dann eine Auswahl an gesunden und leckeren Ernährungsalternativen vor. Mitgründer und Initiator von myFoodDoctor ist Ernährungsdoc Matthias Riedl.

Gouna aus Potsdam entwickelt ein System, um die Gesundheitsdaten von landwirtschaftlichen Nutztieren zu messen und zu analysieren. Die Nutzer können die Gesundheitswerte Ihrer Tiere jederzeit abrufen. Ein Warnsystem informiert zudem frühzeitig über krankhafte Veränderungen. Die Gründer sind: Saskia Strutzke, Daniel Fiske und Lucas Schnackenberg.

Das junge Startup Poacher kümmert sich um das Scouting im Amateurfußball. Über die App des Startups sollen Vereine und Spieler zueinander finden. Die Gründer Marcel Andrijanic, Noel Below, Oliver Ioannou und Yannik Jaeschke schreiben dazu: “Endlich gibt es den digitalen Fußball-Transfermarkt auch von der Regionalliga bis zur Kreisklasse”.

Das junge Unternehmen bygg.AI entwickelt ein System, mit dem Hausbesitzer Schäden an der Gebäudehülle und anderer “schadensanfälliger Bereiche rechtzeitig ermitteln und lokalisieren können”. Zudem sorgt das Startup für die Vernetzung mit Handwerksbetrieben, die die Schäden beheben können.

Die App Flatify richtet sich an alle, die in einer WG leben. Und darum geht es: “In jedem Haushalt gibt es immer die gleichen Probleme: Wird der Reinigungsplan eingehalten? Was sind die kommenden Termine? Wer hat was bezahlt? Mit Flatify wollten wir einen Überblick über all diese Themen schaffen”.

Tipp: In unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar berichten wir einmal in der Woche über neue Startups. Alle Startups stellen wir in unserem kostenpflichtigen Newsletter kurz und knapp vor und bringen sie so auf den Radar der Startup-Szene. Jetzt unseren Newsletter Startup-Radar sofort abonnieren!

Startup-Jobs: Auf der Suche nach einer neuen Herausforderung? In der unserer Jobbörse findet Ihr Stellenanzeigen von Startups und Unternehmen.

Foto (oben): Shutterstock

#agtech, #aktuell, #appen, #bergisch-gladbach, #brandneu, #bygg-ai, #e-health, #e-learning, #flatify, #ghostifyed, #gouna, #internet-of-things, #karlsruhe, #kiel, #leaders21, #mainz, #musik, #myfooddoctor, #poacher, #potsdam, #proptech, #seatable, #soccertech, #sport, #startup-radar


Ubiquiti breach puts countless cloud-based devices at risk of takeover

Stylized image of rows of padlocks.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Network devices-maker Ubiquiti has been covering up the severity of a data breach that puts customers’ hardware at risk of unauthorized access, KrebsOnSecurity has reported, citing an unnamed whistleblower inside the company.

In January, the maker of routers, Internet-connected cameras, and other networked devices, disclosed what it said was “unauthorized access to certain of our information technology systems hosted by a third-party cloud provider.” The notice said that, while there was no evidence the intruders accessed user data, the company couldn’t rule out the possibility that they obtained users’ names, email addresses, cryptographically hashed passwords, addresses, and phone numbers. Ubiquiti recommended users change their passwords and enable two-factor authentication.

Device passwords stored in the cloud

Tuesday’s report from KrebsOnSecurity cited a security professional at Ubiquiti who helped the company respond to the two-month breach beginning in December 2020. The individual said the breach was much worse than Ubiquiti let on and that executives were minimizing the severity to protect the company’s stock price.

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#biz-it, #data-breaches, #internet-of-things, #iot, #routers, #tech, #ubiquit


IoT satellite network startup Hiber secures €26M in funding round led by EU’s innovation agency

European satellite and communications startup, Hiber BV has secured €26 million in EU and private investment to expand its IoT satellite network.  The funding comes from the European Innovation Council Fund (EIC Fund), the EU’s innovation agency, which has a €278 million Innovation Fund. The EIC co-invested with an innovation credit provided by the Dutch government and existing shareholders. Other investors include Finch Capital, Netherlands Enterprise Agency and Hartenlust Group. Hiber’s satellite constellation tracks and monitors machines and devices in harder-to-reach places.

At the same time co-founder of Hiber, Laurens Groenendijk, is to step aside as managing director to turn his attention to “other investment initiatives” the company said in a statement. Steven Kroonsberg joins as CFO. Roel Jansen joins as CCO. Groenendijk has been Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer at Treatwell as well as a serial investor.

Coen Janssen, Chief Strategy Officer and co-founder of Hiber, commented: “The €26 million funding is fantastic validation for Hiber’s success and a major boost for the European ‘New Space’ sector. It is a key step in realizing our aim of making the Internet of Things really simple and available for everyone in remote and developing regions of the world.”

In particular, because it can reach out-of-the-way areas, Hiber’s network may be able to reduce losses in food production and leakages from oil wells.

Nicklas Bergman, European Innovation Council Fund Committee Member, commented: “I am glad to announce the EIC Fund support to this highly innovative company aiming at creating a European champion in the satellite Internet of Things sector. This equity financing will help Hiber to enable affordable and ubiquitous connectivity for the IoT solutions.”

Elia Montanari, Head of Management and Control at the European Space Agency, commented: “This major success has been supported at European level by collaboration of major EU bodies (EIC, EIB, ESA) fostering the Space Value Chain”.

#articles, #cfo, #chief-executive-officer, #esa, #europe, #european-innovation-council, #european-investment-bank, #european-space-agency, #european-union, #finch-capital, #food-production, #innovation, #internet-of-things, #iot, #satellite-constellation, #satellite-internet, #tc


Will the pandemic spur a smart rebirth for cities?

Cities traditionally have been bustling hubs where people live, work and play. When the pandemic hit, some people fled major metropolitan markets for smaller towns — raising questions about the future validity of cities. It’s true that we’re still months away from broader reopenings and herd immunity via current vaccination efforts.

However, those who predicted that COVID-19 would destroy major urban communities might want to stop shorting the resilience of these municipalities and start going long on what the post-pandemic future looks like.   

U.N. forecasts show that by 2030, two-thirds of the world’s population will reside in cities, communities that are the epicenters of culture, innovation, wealth, education and tourism, to mention just a few benefits. They are not only worth saving — they’re also ripe for rebirth, precisely why many municipal leaders in the U.S. anticipate the Biden administration will allocate substantial monetary resources to rebuilding legacy infrastructure (and doing so in a way that prioritizes equitable access). 

With this emphasis on inclusivity and social innovation, the tech community has the ability to address a range of lifestyle and well-being issues: infrastructure, transportation and mobility, law enforcement, environmental monitoring, and energy allocation.

In this time of reset for cities, what smart city technologies will transform how we live our lives? What kinds of technology will make the biggest impact on cities in the next 12 months? Which smart cities are ahead of the curve? 

To unpack these questions and more, we conducted the SmartCityX Survey of industry experts — including smart city investors, corporate and municipal thought leaders, members of academia, and startups on the front lines of urban innovation — to help provide valuable insights into where we’re heading. Below you’ll find some key takeaways:

Infrastructure is the most crucial issue for cities

Critical infrastructure topped the list of most prominent issues facing today’s cities, followed closely by traffic and transportation. Cisco may have left the party too soon, but others, including countless startups, are lining up and capitalizing on future growth opportunities in the space. A couple of recent data points that support this trend — particularly as it relates to infrastructure rebuilding, IoT and open toolkits to connect fragmented technologies — include the following:  

“Smart Infrastructure is paramount to Smart City success. It’s crucial that this infrastructure be ‘architected’ as opposed to just connected. This is the only way to truly achieve seamless interoperability while ensuring scalability, reliability, security and privacy. Technology companies that offer robust architectural components and/or platforms stand to deliver tremendous stakeholder value and outsized returns to investors.” – Sue Stash, – — General Partner, Pandemic Impact Fund

What’s driving change in cities?

When asked what will accelerate innovation and change in cities, an overwhelming majority cited COVID-19 as the primary factor, followed by remote work, which has accelerated the adoption of online collaboration tools and forced legacy companies to complete multi-year digital transformation projects in a matter of months. The biggest opportunity is to build cities back better and smarter, focusing on new infrastructures that do more with less, and for most of us, that begins and ends at home.

#column, #covid-19, #ec-column, #ec-food-climate-and-sustainability, #ec-future-of-work, #ec-real-estate-and-proptech, #greentech, #internet-of-things, #smart-city, #tc, #transportation, #urban-infrastructure


#Brandneu – 7 neue Startups, die jeder auf der Agenda haben sollte

deutsche-startups.de präsentiert heute wieder einmal einige junge Startups, die zuletzt, also in den vergangenen Wochen und Monaten an den Start gegangen sind, sowie Firmen, die zuletzt aus dem Stealth-Mode erwacht sind. Übrigens: Noch mehr neue Startups gibt es in unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar.

appose aus Heidelberg positioniert sich als “faire und transparente Lösung in der Personalvermittlung”. Konkret geht es dabei um Talentmanagement, Workforce Management und Freelancer Staffing. “Die Plattform revolutioniert, wie Menschen mit all ihren Talenten zufriedener zusammenarbeiten”, verspricht das Unternehmen.

Hinter Learnu verbirgt sich eine App für digitales Lernen. Zielgruppe sind Schüler der Stufen 5 bis 13. “Die App bietet Lernenden mit zehntausenden Hausaufgaben und Lerndokumenten fächerübergreifend Hilfestellung. Mit Filtern und einer Suchfunktion finden Schüler schnell das Passende”, versprechen die Gründer.

Mimetik, das von Ievgenii Tsokalo gegründet wurde, kümmert sich um die Mensch-Maschinen-Kommunikation. “No need of keyboard, mouse, joystick, or tablet. Seamlessly embedded in a textile glove it does not interfere with the work process, but guides the user through intuitive feedback”, teilt das Startup mit.

Bei clockin handelt es sich um eine App für mobile Zeiterfassung und Auftragsdokumentation. “Direkt an das clockin Büro-Center angeschlossen, liegen die erfassten Arbeitszeiten, aber auch Kundenunterschriften und Fotos zur Auftragsdokumentation in Echtzeit im Büro des Kunden vor”, teilt das Startup mit.

Bei Talk’n’Job dreht sich alles um “Voice-Bewerbungen”. Unternehmen können Ihre Stellenanzeigen über Talk’n’Job mit einem Link, Shortlink oder QR-Code ausstatten und Bewerber auf ein “Voice Chat Interview” hinweisen. Das Startup liefert diese Interviews dann ins Dashboard seiner Kunden.

digiblue aus Köln entwickelt smarte IoT-Lösungen.Dabei stehen Themen wie Temperaturmonitoring, Raumluftqualität und Füllstände im Vordergrund. “Durch den Einsatz von modernsten NB-IoT Radarsensoren können aktuelle Füllstände ohne Arbeitsaufwand digital erfasst und überwacht werden”, berichtet das Startup.

RRive aus Koblenz möchte Fahrer:innen und Mitfahrer:innen in Echtzeit miteinander verbinden. Und so soll RRive funktionieren: “Dank unseres durchdachten Systems musst du keine aufwendigen Inserate erstellen. Öffne einfach die RRive App, gib dein Ziel ein und fahre los”.

Tipp: In unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar berichten wir einmal in der Woche über neue Startups. Alle Startups stellen wir in unserem kostenpflichtigen Newsletter kurz und knapp vor und bringen sie so auf den Radar der Startup-Szene. Jetzt unseren Newsletter Startup-Radar sofort abonnieren!

Startup-Jobs: Auf der Suche nach einer neuen Herausforderung? In der unserer Jobbörse findet Ihr Stellenanzeigen von Startups und Unternehmen.

Foto (oben): Shutterstock

#ahlen, #aktuell, #appose-learnu, #brandneu, #clockin, #digiblue, #dresden, #e-learning, #edtech, #heidelberg, #hr, #internet-of-things, #koblenz, #koln, #mimetik, #mobility, #monheim-am-rhein, #munster, #rrive, #talknjob


Cricut fully abandons plans to make device owners pay subscription fee

A Cricut maker in its natural habitat: a carefully staged table full of miscellaneous crafting bits.

Enlarge / A Cricut maker in its natural habitat: a carefully staged table full of miscellaneous crafting bits. (credit: Cricut)

Crafting device-maker Cricut has completely abandoned a plan to start requiring all device owners to pay a monthly subscription fee following a week of sustained public blowback.

Cricut makes cutting machines for precise detail work used by millions of home crafters. The machines work much like printers, but in the inverse: you put a pattern into the software, send it to the device, and the machine slices your design into paper, vinyl, fabric, or a hundred other materials. Users who owned the machines have always been able to import as many of their own designs into the software, Design Maker, as they wish.

Last week, however, Cricut announced it was imposing a $7.99 monthly subscription fee for anyone who wished to upload more than a handful of patterns into Design Maker in a given calendar month. The subscription would apply not only to new users, but also to the millions of consumers who already laid out hundreds of dollars for a Cricut device and all its attendant accessories.

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#cricut, #internet-of-shit, #internet-of-things, #policy, #subscription-fees, #tech


Cricut retroactively adds subscription fee to millions of devices

Star Wars characters Darth Vader and Boba Fett.

Enlarge / Cricut is neither the first nor last internet-connected device to alter the deal after the fact and tell you to pray it doesn’t alter it further. (credit: Aurich Lawson | Lucasfilm)

Yet another company that makes Internet-connected devices is drawing the wrath of customers by demanding a monthly subscription fee long after users have already sunk hundreds of dollars into its products. This time around, the company is Cricut, which just told customers they’ll lose the ability to upload more than a few patterns per month unless they start paying up.

What’s Cricut?

Cricut makes crafting machines that, basically, make precise detail work possible for millions of users. It’s like the inverse of a printer: instead of putting your design onto paper, it slices your design into paper, card stock, vinyl, fabric, or other materials. The devices and accessory kits are sold far and wide in specialty craft and fabric stores such as Michaels or Jo-Ann, as well by mainstream retailers such as Walmart, Target, and Amazon. The devices, depending on model, sell at base prices of $179 and up, not counting the costs of required tools, accessories, and refills.

You control the machines by using a program called Design Space, on your phone or computer. The principle hasn’t changed since home desktop publishing software hit in the 1990s. You put a pattern in Design Space and the Cricut cuts the pattern into the material you’ve loaded into it. Users can access a vast library of patterns and templates through Design Space, some of which are free while others cost anywhere from a few cents to several dollars each.

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#cricut, #federal-trade-commission, #ftc, #internet-of-shit, #internet-of-things, #policy, #tech


#Brandneu – 7 neue Startups, die sich jeder unbedingt ansehen sollte

deutsche-startups.de präsentiert heute wieder einmal einige junge Startups, die zuletzt, also in den vergangenen Wochen und Monaten an den Start gegangen sind, sowie Firmen, die zuletzt aus dem Stealth-Mode erwacht sind. Übrigens: Noch mehr neue Startups gibt es in unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar.

Mit Bootify können Java-Entwickler ihren nächsten “Spring Boot Prototypen” erstellen. “In dem Online-Tool wird einfach das Datenbankschema angelegt, Optionen wie Absicherung mit JWT ausgewählt und der generierte Quellcode steht zum Review und Download zur Verfügung”, schreibt Gründer Thomas Surmann.

Mit Hilfe von Willma können passionierte Online-Shopper ihre Paketsendungen bündeln lassen und sie in Empfang nehmen, wann es ihnen passt. Das Startup verspricht: “Du verpasst nie wieder ein Paket und erhältst es auf Knopfdruck direkt nach Hause geliefert”.

agyleOS setzt auf eine Software rund um das Thema Agile Working. Auf der Website heißt es: “We believe that agyleOS will help all companies that want to build and run agile organizations in a sustainable way – hundreds of thousands of companies worldwide”.

Das Berliner Startup melita.io treibt den Ausbau eines IoT-Netzes auf LoRaWAN-Basis (Long Range Wide Area Network) voran. LoRaWAN-Netzwerke können über ein einzelnes Gateway oder eine Basisstation oftmals ganze Städte und mehrere hundert Quadratkilometer abdecken.

Das Berliner Startup Si:cross entwickelt eine SaaS-Lösung für die unternehmensinterne Kommunikation. Dabei setzt das Gründerteam auf Micro-Podcasts. Mitarbeiter:innen sollen so zu “aktiven Geschichtenerzähler:innen und mobilen Lernenden” werden.

Das Berliner ClimateTech climateers kämpft – wie derzeit viele Startups – gegen den Klimawandel. “The app is designed to empower individuals, working together in groups, to reduce their personal carbon emissions, by illustrating the carbon impact of simple daily choices”, teilt die Jungfirma mit.

Die Grace-Gründer Nina Wegert und Kirishan Selvarajah, die seit etlichen Jahren haltbare Rosen verkaufen, starten mit Floristy einen Flash-Lieferdienst für Blumen. Die Berliner nennen es “Last-Mile Flower Delivery Service”. Floristy liefert innerhalb von 90 Minuten oder zum Wunschtermin bis an die Haustür der Kunden.

Tipp: In unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar berichten wir einmal in der Woche über neue Startups. Alle Startups stellen wir in unserem kostenpflichtigen Newsletter kurz und knapp vor und bringen sie so auf den Radar der Startup-Szene. Jetzt unseren Newsletter Startup-Radar sofort abonnieren!

Startup-Jobs: Auf der Suche nach einer neuen Herausforderung? In der unserer Jobbörse findet Ihr Stellenanzeigen von Startups und Unternehmen.

Foto (oben): Shutterstock

#agyleos, #aktuell, #audio, #berlin, #bootify, #brandneu, #climateers, #climatetech, #floristy, #internet-of-things, #logistik, #melita-io, #podcast, #sicross, #startup-radar, #willma


NASA will use Fitbits to help prevent spread of COVID-19 to astronauts and employees

NASA will provide 1,000 of its employees, including 150 astronauts, with Fitbit devices in a pilot program designed to see if they can help supplement efforts to keep these mission-critical personnel healthy ahead of key space missions. The program will see NASA employees outfitted with a wearable, and provided access to a daily check-in app they can use to log potential symptoms, as well as their body temperature and other key health metrics, which could potentially help spot developing cases.

NASA has already been taking measures to isolate astronauts and to limit or prevent the spread of COVID-19 across its facilities, which are located across the U.S. It has of course followed local guidelines and requirements regarding COVID-19 protections, but it also introduced its own level-based system last year and implemented remote work protocols for many employees wherever possible. On the astronaut side, it has also beefed up existing isolation and sequestration procedures that are already quite strict in order to guarantee that its spacefarers don’t get sick before they’re set to make a trip to the International Space Station.

The new Fitbit program is designed to supplement those existing measure, providing tracked health metrics including resting heart rate and heart rate variability, as well as respiratory rate, changes in all of which all of which have been linked to COVID-19. Those stats, along with the self-reported metrics logged by users themselves, including any reports of potential symptoms, will be used by the app to provide individuals in the program with guidance about whether they should go into work, or stay home and take additional measures to find out if they have COVID-19.

Fitbit is already engaged in studies to determine whether or not its wearable devices and the metrics they log can be useful in providing early COVID-19 detection. Regardless of those results, self-reporting as well as the baseline health metrics that the app logs from its devices are already likely to be handy in providing a supplement to existing self-assessment measures regarding the level of risk you pose to others if you’re feeling off, which is the primary purpose of this program with NASA.

#aerospace, #astronaut, #biotech, #clothing, #covid-19, #fitbit, #health, #internet-of-things, #nasa, #space, #tc, #united-states, #wearable-devices, #wearable-technology


SecuriThings snares $14M Series A to keep edge devices under control

Managing IoT devices in a large organization can be a messy proposition, especially when many of them aren’t even managed directly by IT and often involve integrating with a number of third-party systems. SecuriThings wants to help with a platform of services to bring that all under control, and today the startup announced a $14 million Series A.

Aleph led the round with participation from existing investor Firstime VC and a number of unnamed angels. The company has raised a total of $17 million, according to Crunchbase data.

Roy Dagan, company CEO and co-founder says that he sees organizations with many different connected devices running on a network and it’s difficult to manage. “We enable organizations to manage IoT devices securely at scale in a consolidated and cost efficient manner,” Dagan told me.

This could include devices like security cameras along with access control systems and building management systems involving thousands — or in some instances, tens of thousands — of devices.”The technology we build, we integrate with management systems, and then we deploy our capabilities which are focused on the edge devices. So that’s how we also find the devices, and then we have these different capabilities running on the edge devices or fetching information from the edge devices,” Dagan explained.

SecuriThings Horizon - Screenshot - Device view

Image Credits: SecuriThings

The company has formed partnerships with a number of key device manufacturers including Microsoft, Convergint Technologies and Johnson Controls, among others. They work with a range of industries including airports, casinos and large corporate campuses.

Aaron Rosenson, general partner at lead investor Aleph, says the company is solving a big problem managing the myriad devices inside large organizations. “Until SecuriThings came along, there were these massive enterprise software categories of automation, orchestration and observability just waiting to be built for IoT,” Rosenson said in a statement. He says that SecuiThings is pulling that all together for its customers.

The company was founded in 2016 originally with the idea of being an IoT security company, and while they still are involved in securing these devices, their ability to communicate with them gives IT much greater visibility and insight and the ability to update and manage them.

Today, the company has 30 employees, and with the new investment it will be doubling that number by the end of the year. While Dagan didn’t cite specific customer numbers, he did say they have dozens of customers with deal sizes of between five and seven figures.

#aleph, #edge-devices, #enterprise, #funding, #internet-of-things, #recent-funding, #securithings, #security, #startups, #tc


Google to offer heart and respiratory rate measurements using just your smartphone’s camera

Google is introducing features that will allow users to take vital health measurements using just the camera they already have on their smartphone, expanding health and fitness features typically only available on dedicated wearables to a whole new group of people. Beginning next month, and available initially on Google Pixel phones exclusively (but with plans to offer it for other Android devices in future), users will be able to measure both their heart rate and their respiratory rate using just their device’s camera.

Typically, taking these measurements has required specialized hardware, including red or green light-based heart rate monitors like those found on the Apple Watch or on fitness trackers like those made by Google-acquired Fitbit. Google’s hardware and software teams, including the Google Health unit led by Director of Health Technologies Schwetak Patel, have managed to develop computer vision-based methods for taking these measurements using only smartphone cameras, which it says can produce results that are comparable to clinical-grade measurement hardware (it has produced a study to validate these results, which it’s making available in pre-print format while it seeks peer review through an academic journal).

For respiratory rate, the technology relies on a technique known as ‘optical flow,’ which monitors movements in a person’s chest as they breathe and uses that to determine their breathing rate. In its clinical validation study, which covered both typical individuals in good health, and people with existing respiratory conditions, Google’s data indicates that it’s accurate to within 1 breath per minute across all participants.

For heart rate, Google is initially using the camera to detect “subtle color changes” in a user’s finger tip, which provide an indicator about when oxygenated blood flows from your heart through to the rest of your body. The company’s validation data (again, still subject to external review) has shown accuracy within 2% margin of error, on average, across people with a range of different skin types. Google is also working on making this same technology work using color changes in a person’s face, it says, though that work is still in the exploratory phase.

Google is going to make these measurement features available to users within the next month, it says, via the Google Fit app, and initially on currently available Pixel devices made by the company itself. The plan is then to expand the features to different Android devices running Android 6 or later, sometime “in the coming months.”

Image Credits: Google

“My team has been working on ways that we can unlock the potential of everyday smart devices,” Patel said in a press briefing regarding the new features. This would include smart devices in the home, or a mobile phone, and how we leverage the sensors that are starting to become more and more ubiquitous within those devices, to support health and wellness.”

Patel, who is also a computer science professor at the University of Washington and who has been recognized with an ACM Prize in Computing Award for his work in digital health, said that the availability of powerful sensors in ubiquitous consumer devices, combined with advances in AI, have meant that daily health monitoring can be much more accessible than ever before.

“I really think that’s going to be a really important area moving forward given that if you think about health care, the journey just doesn’t end at the hospital, the four walls of the hospital,” he said. “It’s really this continuous journey, as you’re living your daily life, and being able to give you feedback and be able to measure your general wellness is an important thing.”

It’s worth noting that Google is explicit about these features being intended for use in a person’s own tracking of their general wellbeing – meaning it’s not meant as a diagnostic or medical tool. That’s pretty standard for these kinds of features, since few of these companies want to take of the task of getting full FDA medical-grade device certification for tools that are meant for general consumer use. To that end, Google Fit also doesn’t provide any guidance or advise based on the results of these measurements; instead, the app provides a general disclaimer that the results aren’t intended for medical use, and also offers up some very high-level description of why you’d even want to track these stats at all.

Many of the existing dedicated wellness and health tracking products on the market, like the Oura ring, for instance, provide more guidance and actionable insight based on the measurements it takes. Google seems intent on steering well clear of that line with these features, instead leaving the use of this information fully within the hands of users. That said, it could be a valuable resource to share with your physician, particularly if you’re concerned about potential health issues already, in place of other less convenient and available continuous health monitoring.

Patek said that Google is interested in potentially exploring how sensor fusion could further enhance tracking capabilities on existing devices, and in response to a question about potentially offering this on iPhones, he said that while the focus is currently on Android, they ultimate goal is indeed to get it “to as many people as possible.”

#android, #apple, #biotech, #computing, #fda, #fitbit, #google, #google-health, #health, #internet-of-things, #physician, #science-and-technology, #smart-devices, #smartphone, #smartphones, #tc, #technology, #university-of-washington


Internet of Cars: A driver-side primer on IoT implementation

Billions of devices are currently connected to the Internet of Things (IoT), and researchers are predicting tremendous growth in the coming decade.

One of the most exciting, challenging and potentially lucrative areas of the IoT is the automotive sector. The car is a major component of most people’s daily lives, and a “smart” car could do a lot to save people time and money.

At the same time, the “Internet of Cars” carries with it dystopian visions of increased ad noise and security threats. It’s worth considering for a moment what these scenarios look like — good and bad — and how consumers can educate themselves to ensure that the cars of the future are driving in the right direction.

The car is a major component of most people’s daily lives, and a “smart” car could do a lot to save people time and money.

The promises and problems of connected cars

Imagine if your car was able to call your mechanic when the engine was showing signs of trouble. Imagine if the mechanic could read a data report from your engine and order the required parts ahead of time. Imagine if the data on those parts could be aggregated to warn of the need for any mass recalls? What if your car could communicate with other cars around it in a traffic jam, and the cars could all work together to space out and ease congestion?

What if your car could pay automatically at parking garages and drive-throughs? Anyone that owns a car is familiar with all these pain points, and the prospect of a new system that erases these spots of friction would be a welcome development.

But how can we ensure that all of this new data from our smart cars will be handled in a secure and private way? It seems likely, as car manufacturers work quickly to bring their products online, that tech giants will be the first partners to help implement the Internet of Cars. This might be cause for concern amongst consumers who are growing tired of their data being sold or hacked. The big tech companies aren’t inherently evil, but their basic business models are structured in such a way that consumer privacy and security are not the main priorities.

It’s not hard to imagine how the Internet of Cars could move in a much darker direction: Advertisements with real-time location data updating constantly on your windshield, personal data such as your driving habits stored on central servers, and a myriad of new vulnerabilities for hackers to exploit. How do we bring cars online so that friction in our lives is smoothed down without introducing a unique set of new problems?

Data security must be the foundation of the IoC

Of course Big Tech companies will be eager to offer connectivity for drivers, but it’s most likely going to come at the price of giving personal data over to Big Tech servers. This brings with it, as always, two major problems. The first is that centralized data represents a honeypot for hackers. No matter the strength of the security system, hackers realize that once they break through, they have access to the whole pot. The second problem is that the value of all that data is simply too lucrative for the owner to ignore. The data will always be sold, regardless of all the lip service promising to make it anonymous.

The IoT represents a new layer of IT integration in our lives; it will be at least as much of a game-changer as the internet was originally. Even with the advancement of the mobile internet brought about by smartphones, internet implementations have, until now, basically been carried out through clunky interfaces like screens, keyboards and mouses. The IoT is going to bring a new level of sophistication to how and where we interface online, but this also means a new level of intrusion into our physical reality. In the case of cars, we can be rightly wary that this new development might be problematic, but it doesn’t have to be.

Distributed ledger technology (DLT) represents a path forward for the Internet of Cars, because it builds data security and privacy into the foundations of any connected devices. Any model of DLT includes some basic concepts such that data is carried on a decentralized network of computers and servers. It also means that data is stored permanently, and that new entries of any data are subject to a mathematical verification. DLT is a fundamentally different way to handle massive amounts of data. DLTs have proven to be extremely resilient to attacks, and the data on these networks is nearly impossible to collect and sell.

Picking the right tool for the job

There are millions of internet-connected cars already on the road, albeit mostly with crude subscription services for music and weather apps. With further advances, connection will be much more encompassing, with the average connected car having up to 200 sensors installed, each recording a point of data, minute by minute. The numbers quickly become staggering, and in emergency situations, the need for data agility is apparent. Picture driving on a highway in medium traffic.

If someone’s tire blows out half a mile ahead, this information could be quickly conveyed to surrounding cars, warning of the potential for emergency braking. Any DLT solution would have to include a very nimble verification process for all these new packets of information to be brought into and carried by the network.

Additionally, because of the computational complexity involved, almost all DLTs today charge a fee for each new transaction brought into the network. In fact, the fee is an integral part of the structure of many of these computational models. This is obviously not going to be workable in a system like urban traffic that would be generating billions of “transactions” every day. The truth is that decentralized data networks were never designed to handle these kinds of massive use-case scenarios. Blockchain, for example, is very elegant at censorship-resistance in a network, and this has proven valuable in certain financial use cases.

But a DLT that expects a little money every time a car’s air conditioning reports its output is simply unusable for that application. Any DLT that’s going to give us a high level of security and real-time connectivity will also have to be feeless.

Security, speed and ease of adaptability through a no-fee structure are the three critical points for any network backing up the Internet of Cars. DLTs are clearly the most secure option, but they must also provide scalability and a feeless structure.

The example of being able to pay automatically for a parking garage visit might seem like a trite convenience. In actuality, if we can implement these types of small transactions properly from the beginning, then the hurdles we will jump in solving the complexity and volume of the car traffic data environment will go a long way to creating a safe, consumer-friendly Internet of Things in general.

When thinking about a completely connected physical environment, the alternatives to scalable, fee-less DLT are frankly scary.

#ambient-intelligence, #automotive, #column, #computer-security, #connected-car, #dlt, #emerging-technologies, #internet-of-things, #mobile-internet, #opinion, #privacy, #security, #transportation


OpenSensors secures $4M for air-monitoring platform which allows offices to be more Covid-safe

Today, the acute asthma attack of primary school-aged girl in February 2013 was ruled by a UK court to be due to air pollution. It is thought to be the first ruling of its kind in the world. Only a year after Ella Kissi-Debrah died, another mother also became concerned about the effects of air quality on her daughter’s asthma and decided to do something about it.

Today, Yodit Stanton has secured $4m in seed funding for her air monitoring startup OpenSensors, in a Seed round led by Crane Venture Partners and other unnamed investors. The startup previously bootstrapped the company prior to the round, supported by customer revenues.

OpenSensors, uses sensors to monitor air quality and light intensity, but it’s the data platform that is the real ‘special source’. The startup’s technology works to reveal workplace and workforce conditions and patterns. It competes with companies like Condecco and Workplace Fabric, but takes a more ‘360 degree’ approach.

It now has more than 30 customers with complex real estate operations across North America, Ireland, UK and Europe, in industries such as Insurance, Finance, Tech and more.



Building costs are the 2nd highest expense for organizations, with office costs over £20bn per year in the UK, but even in normal, pre-pandemic times, half of that office space is unused at any point during the day and only reaches 55% peak utilization. Buildings also represent 36% of global energy usage & 39% of CO2 emissions. OpenSensors tracks humidity, CO2 levels, and more to guide on the optimal capacity to reduce viral transmission, thus enabling companies to return their workforces to offices safely.

Stanton commented: “How we work and live are changing faster than we could have ever anticipated. There is a real opportunity for humanity to rethink how we use the physical world with sustainability in mind as well as making the design of workplaces better for people using them.”

Scott Sage, Partner at Crane Venture Partners said: “With data insights, real-world usage and known customer references, OpenSensors has all the ingredients to become a trusted advisor and solutions provider throughout COVID-19 and the immediate recovery, as well as supporting the shift towards more flexible working that COVID-19 has accelerated.”

Speaking exclusively to TechCrunch, Stanton, who also founded and runs the UK’s Women In Data event, said: “Initially it just started as a fun hobby project. I was playing around with IoT as in my daughter has asthma, so I was monitoring air quality up in our neighborhood to try to see if I can correlate the particulates spikes and so forth with her asthma attacks. I released it as a project for my community to monitor air quality. But it became, I guess a real thing when people asked if I could manage their buildings.”

She said that low humidity encourages virus transmission: “So you really have to aim for around 40% humidity within an indoor environment and dry air also affects your immune system as an individual.”

This means that monitoring air quality has become a huge issue for companies. So it unsurprising that VCs are now backing air-quality startups like OpenSensors.

#advisor, #air-pollution, #articles, #asthma, #crane-venture-partners, #europe, #internet-of-things, #ireland, #north-america, #partner, #pollution, #stanton, #tc, #united-kingdom


Infogrid raises $15.5M from Northzone to retrofit buildings with ‘smart’ IoT

Infogrid, an IoT startup which can retrofit an existing building to make it ‘smart’, has raised $15.5 million. The Series A funding round was led by Northzone with participation from JLL Spark, Concrete VC, The Venture Collective, Jigsaw VC, an unarmed real estate investment group, and an unnamed large international asset owner, although one report speculated that it is Starwood Capital, the property-focused investor.

Infogrid’s platform combines IoT sensors with proprietary AI analysis and has had some success re-vamping facilities management (FM) for some of the world’s largest FM providers, such as global banks, supermarkets, restaurant chains, and the NHS. Infogrid also has an ‘impact-style’ mission to enable businesses to reduce the environmental and social cost of their buildings while simultaneously benefitting their bottom line and asset values.

Infogrid’s system can detect when refrigerated products are being kept outside the required temperature range, measure air quality and check for virus risk indicators such as legionnaires’ disease in water pipes.

William Cowell de Gruchy, founder/CEO and a former British Army officer, said in a statement: “Until now, the lack of viable and scalable technology has meant that facilities management is one of the last industries to be enhanced by digitization, despite covering the world’s largest asset class. Infogrid’s end-to-end smart building system finally arms organizations with insight to take control and take action. This new era of insight and automation will bring about a positive impact on the efficiencies of businesses, the wellbeing of employees, and the environmental footprint of buildings.”

Jeppe Zink, Partner at Northzone added: “With the world undergoing the largest wave of urban growth in history, the built environment already generates 39% of annual global carbon emissions. We were instantly drawn to Infogrid for its ability to future-proof buildings in the long-term.”

#ambient-intelligence, #articles, #artificial-intelligence, #british-army, #europe, #facilities-management, #internet-of-things, #jeppe-zink, #nhs, #officer, #port, #science-and-technology, #tc


Can artificial intelligence give elephants a winning edge?

Images of elephants roaming the African plains are imprinted on all of our minds and something easily recognized as a symbol of Africa. But the future of elephants today is uncertain. An elephant is currently being killed by poachers every 15 minutes, and humans, who love watching them so much, have declared war on their species. Most people are not poachers, ivory collectors or intentionally harming wildlife, but silence or indifference to the battle at hand is as deadly.

You can choose to read this article, feel bad for a moment and then move on to your next email and start your day.

Or, perhaps you will pause and think: Our opportunities to help save wildlife, especially elephants, are right in front of us and grow every day. And some of these opportunities are rooted in machine learning (ML) and the magical outcome we fondly call AI.

Open-source developers are giving elephants a neural edge

Six months ago, amid a COVID-infused world, Hackster.io, a large open-source community owned by Avnet, and Smart Parks, a Dutch-based organization focused on wildlife conservation, reached out to tech industry leaders, including Microsoft, u-blox and Taoglas, Nordic Semiconductors, Western Digital and Edge Impulse with an idea to fund the R&D, manufacturing and shipping of 10 of the most advanced elephant tracking collars ever built.

These modern tracking collars are designed to deploy advanced machine-learning (ML) algorithms with the most extended battery life ever delivered for similar devices and a networking range more expansive than ever seen before. To make this vision even more audacious, they called to fully open-source and freely share the outcome of this effort via OpenCollar.io, a conservation organization championing open-source tracking collar hardware and software for environmental and wildlife monitoring projects.

Our opportunities to help save wildlife — especially elephants — are right in front of us and grow every day.

The tracker, ElephantEdge, would be built by specialist engineering firm Irnas, with the Hackster community coming together to make fully deployable ML models by Edge Impulse and telemetry dashboards by Avnet that will run the newly built hardware. Such an ambitious project was never attempted before, and many doubted that such a collaborative and innovative project could be pulled off.

Creating the world’s best elephant-tracking device

Only they pulled it off. Brilliantly. The new ElephantEdge tracker is considered the most advanced of its kind, with eight years of battery life and hundreds of miles worth of LoRaWAN networking repeaters range, running TinyML models that will provide park rangers with a better understanding of elephant acoustics, motion, location, environmental anomalies and more. The tracker can communicate with an array of sensors, connected by LoRaWAN technology to park rangers’ phones and laptops.

This gives rangers a more accurate image and location to track than earlier systems that captured and reported on pictures of all wildlife, which ran down the trackers’ battery life. The advanced ML software that runs on these trackers is built explicitly for elephants and developed by the Hackster.io community in a public design challenge.

“Elephants are the gardeners of the ecosystems as their roaming in itself creates space for other species to thrive. Our ElephantEdge project brings in people from all over the world to create the best technology vital for the survival of these gentle giants. Every day they are threatened by habitat destruction and poaching. This innovation and partnerships allow us to gain more insight into their behavior so we can improve protection,” said Smart Parks co-founder Tim van Dam.

Open-source, community-powered, conservation-AI at work

With hardware built by Irnas and Smart Parks, the community was busy building the algorithms to make it sing. Software developer and data scientist Swapnil Verma and Mausam Jain in the U.K. and Japan created Elephant AI. Using Edge Impulse, the team developed two ML models that will tap the tracker’s onboard sensors and provide critical information for park rangers.

The first community-led project, called Human Presence Detection, will alert park rangers of poaching risk using audio sampling to detect human presence in areas where humans are not supposed to be. This algorithm uses audio sensors to record sound and sight while sending it over the LoRaWAN network directly to a ranger’s phone to create an immediate alert.

The second model they named “Elephant Activity Monitoring.” It detects general elephant activity, taking time-series input from the tracker’s accelerometer to spot and make sense of running, sleeping and grazing to provide conservation specialists with the critical information they need to protect the elephants.

Another brilliant community development came from the other side of the world. Sara Olsson, a Swedish software engineer who has a passion for the national world, created a TinyML and IoT monitoring dashboard to help park rangers with conservation efforts.

With little resources and support, Sara built a full telemetry dashboard combined with ML algorithms to monitor camera traps and watering holes, while reducing network traffic by processing data on the collar and considerably saving battery life. To validate her hypothesis, she used 1,155 data models and 311 tests!

Sara Olsson's TinyML and IoT monitoring dashboard

Sara Olsson’s TinyML and IoT monitoring dashboard. Image Credits: Sara Olsson

She completed her work in the Edge Impulse studio, creating the models and testing them with camera traps streams from Africam using an OpenMV camera from her home’s comfort.

Technology for good works, but human behavior must change

Project ElephantEdge is an example of how commercial and public interest can converge and result in a collaborative sustainability effort to advance wildlife conservation efforts. The new collar can generate critical data and equip park rangers with better data to make urgent life-saving decisions about protecting their territories. By the end of 2021, at least ten elephants will be sporting the new collars in selected parks across Africa, in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund and Vulcan’s EarthRanger, unleashing a new wave of conservation, learning and defending.

Naturally, this is great, the technology works, and it’s helping elephants like never before. But in reality, the root cause of the problem runs much more profound. Humans must change their relationship to the natural world for proper elephant habitat and population revival to occur.

“The threat to elephants is greater than it’s ever been,” said Richard Leakey, a leading palaeoanthropologist and conservationist scholar. The main argument for allowing trophy or ivory hunting is that it raises money for conservation and local communities. However, a recent report revealed that only 3% of Africa’s hunting revenue trickles down to communities in hunting areas. Animals don’t need to die to make money for the communities you live around.

With great technology, collaboration and a commitment to address the underlying cultural conditions and the ivory trade that leads to most elephant deaths, there’s a real chance to save these singular creatures.

#africa, #artificial-intelligence, #column, #developer, #greentech, #internet-of-things, #machine-learning, #science, #western-digital, #world-wildlife-fund


Verizon partners with Apple to launch 5G Fleet Swap

Apple and Verizon today announced a new partnership that will make it easier for their business partners to go all-in on 5G. Fleet Swap, as the program is called, allows businesses to trade in their entire fleet of smartphones — no matter whether they are currently a Verizon customer or not — and move to the iPhone 12 with no upfront cost and either zero cost (for the iPhone 12 mini) or a low monthly cost.

(Disclaimer: Verizon is TechCrunch’s corporate parent. The company has zero input into our editorial decisions.)

In addition, Verizon also today announced its first two major indoor 5G ultra wideband services for its enterprise customers. General Motors and Honeywell are the first customers here, with General Motors enabling the technology at its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Center, the company’s all-electric vehicle plant. To some degree, this goes to show how carriers are positioning 5G ultra wideband as more of an enterprise feature than the lower-bandwidth versions of 5G.

“I think about how 5G [ultra wide band] is really filling a need for capacity and for capability. It’s built for industrial commercial use cases. It’s built on millimeter wave spectrum and it’s really built for enterprise,” Verizon Business CEO Tami Erwin told me.

It’s important to note that these two projects are not private 5G networks. Verizon is also in that business and plans to launch those more broadly in the future.

“No matter where you are on your digital transformation journey, the ability to put the power of 5G Ultra Wideband in all of your employees’ hands right now with a powerful iPhone 12 model, the best smartphone for business, is not just an investment for growth, it’s what will set a business’s future trajectory as technology continues to advance,” Erwin said in today’s announcement.

As for 5G Fleet Swap, the idea here is obviously to get more businesses on Verizon’s 5G network and, for Apple, to quickly get more iPhone 12s into the enterprise. Apple clearly believes that 5G can provide some benefits to enterprises — and maybe more so than to consumers — thanks to its low latency for AR applications, for example.

“The iPhone 12 lineup is the best for business, with an all-new design, advanced 5G experience, industry-leading security and A14 Bionic, the fastest chip ever in a smartphone,” said Susan Prescott, Apple’s vice president of Markets, Apps and Services. “Paired with Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband going indoors and 5G Fleet Swap, an all-new device offer for enterprise, it’s now easier than ever for businesses to build transformational mobile apps that take advantage of the powerful iPhone 12 lineup and 5G.”

In addition, the company is highlighting the iPhone’s secure enclave as a major security benefit for enterprises. And while other handset manufacturers launch devices that are specifically meant to be rugged, Apple argues that its devices are already rugged enough by design and that there’s a big third-party ecosystem to ruggedize its devices.

#5g, #5g-network, #apple, #detroit, #general-motors, #hardware, #honeywell, #internet-of-things, #iphone, #mobile, #mobile-phones, #smartphone, #smartphones, #susan-prescott, #tc, #telecommunications, #ultra-wideband, #verizon, #verizon-communications, #verizon-media, #verizon-media-group


Which emerging technologies are enterprise companies getting serious about in 2020?

Startups need to live in the future. They create roadmaps, build products and continually upgrade them with an eye on next year — or even a few years out.

Big companies, often the target customers for startups, live in a much more near-term world. They buy technologies that can solve problems they know about today, rather than those they may face a couple bends down the road. In other words, they’re driving a Dodge, and most tech entrepreneurs are driving a DeLorean equipped with a flux-capacitor.

That situation can lead to a huge waste of time for startups that want to sell to enterprise customers: a business development black hole. Startups are talking about technology shifts and customer demands that the executives inside the large company — even if they have “innovation,” “IT,” or “emerging technology” in their titles — just don’t see as an urgent priority yet, or can’t sell to their colleagues.

How do you avoid the aforementioned black hole? Some recent research that my company, Innovation Leader, conducted in collaboration with KPMG LLP, suggests a constructive approach.

Rather than asking large companies about which technologies they were experimenting with, we created four buckets, based on what you might call “commitment level.” (Our survey had 211 respondents, 62% of them in North America and 59% at companies with greater than $1 billion in annual revenue.) We asked survey respondents to assess a list of 16 technologies, from advanced analytics to quantum computing, and put each one into one of these four buckets. We conducted the survey at the tail end of Q3 2020.

Respondents in the first group were “not exploring or investing” — in other words, “we don’t care about this right now.” The top technology there was quantum computing.

Bucket #2 was the second-lowest commitment level: “learning and exploring.” At this stage, a startup gets to educate its prospective corporate customer about an emerging technology — but nabbing a purchase commitment is still quite a few exits down the highway. It can be constructive to begin building relationships when a company is at this stage, but your sales staff shouldn’t start calculating their commissions just yet.

Here are the top five things that fell into the “learning and exploring” cohort, in ranked order:

  1. Blockchain.
  2. Augmented reality/mixed reality.
  3. Virtual reality.
  4. AI/machine learning.
  5. Wearable devices.

Technologies in the third group, “investing or piloting,” may represent the sweet spot for startups. At this stage, the corporate customer has already discovered some internal problem or use case that the technology might address. They may have shaken loose some early funding. They may have departments internally, or test sites externally, where they know they can conduct pilots. Often, they’re assessing what established tech vendors like Microsoft, Oracle and Cisco can provide — and they may find their solutions wanting.

Here’s what our survey respondents put into the “investing or piloting” bucket, in ranked order:

  1. Advanced analytics.
  2. AI/machine learning.
  3. Collaboration tools and software.
  4. Cloud infrastructure and services.
  5. Internet of things/new sensors.

By the time a technology is placed into the fourth category, which we dubbed “in-market or accelerating investment,” it may be too late for a startup to find a foothold. There’s already a clear understanding of at least some of the use cases or problems that need solving, and return-on-investment metrics have been established. But some providers have already been chosen, based on successful pilots and you may need to dislodge someone that the enterprise is already working with. It can happen, but the headwinds are strong.

Here’s what the survey respondents placed into the “in-market or accelerating investment” bucket, in ranked order:

#column, #corporate-venture-capital, #enterprise, #entrepreneurship, #internet-of-things, #mobile-technologies, #private-equity, #startups, #tc


Qualcomm Ventures invests in four 5G startups

Qualcomm Ventures, Qualcomm’s investment arm, today announced four new strategic investments in 5G-related startups. These companies are private mobile network specialist Celona, mobile network automation platform Cellwize, the edge computing platform Azion and Pensando, another edge computing platform that combines its software stack with custom hardware.

The overall goal here is obviously to help jumpstart 5G use cases in the enterprise and — by extension — for consumers by investing in a wide range of companies that can build the necessary infrastructure to enable these.

“We invest globally in the wireless mobile ecosystem, with a goal of expanding our base of customers and partners — and one of the areas we’re particularly excited about is the area of 5G,” Quinn Li, a Senior VP at Qualcomm and the global head of Qualcomm Ventures, told me. “Within 5G, there are three buckets of areas we look to invest in: one is in use cases, second is in network transformation, third is applying 5G technology in enterprises.”

So far, Qualcomm Ventures has invested over $170 million in the 5G ecosystem, including this new batch. The firm did not disclose how much it invested in these four new startups, though.

Overall, this new set of companies touches upon the core areas Qualcomm Ventures is looking at, Li explained. Celona, for example, aims to make it as easy for enterprises to deploy private cellular infrastructure as it is to deploy Wi-Fi today.

“They built this platform with a cloud-based controller that leverages the available spectrum — CBRS — to be able to take the cellular technology, whether it’s LTE or 5G, into enterprises,” Li explained. “And then these enterprise use cases could be in manufacturing settings could be in schools, could be to be in hospitals, or it could be on campus for universities.”

Cellwize, meanwhile, helps automate wireless networks to make them more flexible and manageable, in part by using machine learning to tune the network based on the data it collects. One of the main investment theses for this fund, Li told me, is that wireless technology will become increasingly software-defined and Cellwize fits right into this trend. The potential customer here isn’t necessarily an individual enterprise, though, but wireless and mobile operators.

Edge computing, where Azion and Pensando play, is obviously also a hot category right now and when where 5G has some obvious advantages, so it’s maybe no surprise that Qualcomm Ventures is putting a bit of a focus on these today with its investments in Azion and Pensando.

“As we move forward, [you will] see a lot of the compute moving from the cloud into the edge of the network, which allows for processing happening at the edge of the network, which allows for low latency applications to run much faster and much more efficiently,” Li said.

In total, Qualcomm Ventures has deployed $1.5 billion and made 360 investments since its launch in 2000. Some of the more successful companies the firm has invested in include unicorns like Zoom, Cloudflare, Xiaomi, Cruise Automation and Fitbit.

#5g, #computing, #enterprise, #internet-of-things, #machine-learning, #mobile-technology, #qualcomm, #qualcomm-ventures, #quinn-li, #recent-funding, #startups, #telecommunications, #wireless, #wireless-networks, #wireless-technology