This story was first published in the Aug. 19 issue of my weekly newsletter.
Company behind Helium network acquires 5G biz: Nova Labs, the company that helped create the Helium decentralized IoT network, has acquired FreedomFi, its partner in building out a decentralized 5G network. The deal comes as Nova Labs faces a lot of questions about the viability of its business model and the success of the Helium network in the wake of rapid drops in cryptocurrency prices. I have my own doubts about the market’s desire for a decentralized 5G network solution. Most companies that want to connect using 5G need low latency and are sending large amounts of data. Both of those demands indicate that connectivity is an important part of their business. In that case, those customers would want to have guarantees of quality of service that a decentralized network simply can’t provide. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong. (Nova Labs)
Samsung is thinking about e-waste: I think a lot about e-waste, in part because my job requires me to test out so many devices that inevitably get returned or stop working and then get sent to a dump. As we add computing to more everyday objects, we shorten their useful life and create a mess of waste products that are full of heavy metals that can’t be easily recycled. So I was glad to see Samsung discussing not just how much recycled plastic it uses in making devices, but also considering how the electronics it puts in those plastics are eliminated. It has created drop-off centers with major electronics stores and repair stores to take in old devices and says it has recycled more than 100 million pounds of e-waste per year in the U.S. annually. I’d like to see more research done around making electronics easier to disassemble for metal reclamation, but I appreciate that Samsung is at least publicizing the issue. (Waste 360)
GM’s plan will alienate customers: This story is really puzzling. GM is making its OnStar service mandatory on all of the vehicles it sells. It’s charging customers $1,500 for the three years when they buy the car. Along with OnStar, buyers get an electronic key fob, remote diagnostics, unlimited data, Wi-Fi hotspots, and access to the OnStar Guardian app. But those features are only included for the first three years. Basically, GM is forcing buyers to take these services and setting the price for them at $1,500 while also ensuring confusion and frustration three years down the road when those services stop and GM asks the buyer for more money. This is a terrible way to engage with customers over a subscription. A better way is to place the OnStar electronics and hardware into the vehicle and charge the necessary fee for them, then add an optional subscription for a set annual rate. I’m worried we’re going to see a clawback of features such as over-the-air updates, remote key fob control, and heated seats turn into subscriptions a few years after users buy a vehicle. All that will do is piss consumers off, and no amount of recurring revenue streams seems worth that angst. (The Register)
Is anyone using Amazon Alexa’s Halo fitness band? If you are, then you might be chuffed to learn that your heart rate as tracked by the Halo band can now appear on other Bluetooth-connected devices. Partners include NordicTrack and Clmbr; if users connect their bands to those devices, they can see their current heart rate on their machines while working out. This could be useful; I wish my Fitbit could share this information with my rower. (CNET)
Stop plugging in unknown USB drives, y’all: Over half of the threats designed to target industrial networks are built for removable USB drives, reports Honeywell in the fourth edition of its Cybersecurity USB Threat Report. That’s up 20% from the year prior. These attacks work, and it’s much easier to get an employee to plug in an infected USB than gain physical access to a secure facility. Apparently, people can’t stop picking up sticks with tantalizing labels such as “executive salaries” or “reorganization plan” and plugging them in. (Honeywell)
Good analysis of two recent connectivity deals: This analyst sees an East-West split in two recent M&A deals. He posits that Semtech buying Sierra Wireless and the creation of a new connectivity division between Telit and Thales’ cellular assets indicate demand for LoRaWAN in Western countries while NB-IoT reigns in China and other nations in East Asia.
(Enterprise IoT Insights)
Introducing lighter 5G for the IoT: Earlier this summer the standards body in charge of the cellular 5G standard froze the latest release of that standard designed for sending less data over 5G networks. Dubbed 5G reduced capability (RedCap) the standard makes it possible to build less complicated (smaller and less expensive) devices that will consume less power than a traditional 5G radio. It also limits data capacity but keeps it around the speeds associated with LTE Cat M. It’s a big shift and addresses many of the use cases that had been keeping 5G out of factories on equipment sensors and even programmable logic controllers. For a really nice overview check out these articles. (Enterprise IoT Insights, Omdia)
Do we really need a $349 connected toaster? No. (TechCrunch)