Absolut Opens Its Own Internet Of Things Lab To Develop Connected Bottles

What Happened
Absolut has opened an R&D lab in Stockholm to develop connected devices and packaging for the popular vodka brand, tapping into the ongoing trend of “Internet of Things.” For example, Absolut is reportedly looking to develop some connected bottles that can either automatically order a new bottle once it is finished, or be linked to other connected devices to control the lights and stereos in the room.

What Brands Need To Do
Absolut’s decision to build an innovation hub dedicated to connected devices signals the alcohol brand’s determination in leveraging IoT tech to engage with consumers in innovative ways. For brands looking to tap into IoT trend, now is the time to think about how your product can become connected, which may help transform physical products into digital touch points that inspire brand loyalty, while also providing valuable data to learn more about your customers.

Source: Digiday

Beware Of The Privacy Threats Posed By IoT Devices

Read original story on: New York Times

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Tuesday reported that Internet-connected devices presented “serious data security and privacy risks”, urging companies to make data protection a top priority. The announcement came just after Verizon’s supercookie—embedded unique user identifiers that are undeletable—made headlines last week for the privacy threats it poses for customers.

In both cases, the main security and privacy threats originate from non-consented access to and sale of personal data by third-party devices or apps. As estimated by Gartner Research, around 4.9 billion connected devices for consumers, enterprises, and utilities will be in use this year, generating a vast amount of personal and company data that need to be properly protected and regulated.

Update 1/30/2014: NYT reports that Verizon Wireless has decided to make a major revision to allow users to completely opt-out of its “supercookies”.

IBM Unveils The Blockchain Of Everything

IBM has released a proof of concept for blockchain-powered Internet of Things devices called ADEPT, short for Autonomous Decentralized Peer-To-Peer Telemetry. The system design is fully distributed, secure, and open source. Primarily based on the blockchain, which is the protocol that underpins BitCoin and the other cryptocurrencies, ADEPT also incorporates Ethereum for smart contracts, TeleHash for fast, secure, peer-to-peer messaging, and BitTorrent for file sharing. The company is teaming up with Samsung, which will presumably help test and implement the system into their products.

“Imagine a world where a smart washer is able to detect a component failing, can check from the blockchain if the component is in warranty, place a service order with a contracted service provider, and the service provider can independently verify the warranty claim – again from the blockchain – and all this, autonomously.”

The distributed design allows IoT devices, which might have a useful life of ten years or more, to avoid using a cloud service with ongoing financial costs that would likely require selling user data to be sustainable. It also eliminates single points of failure—for example, a hacker would not be able to compromise a manufacturer’s update server to instruct every device to transfer cryptocurrency maliciously because there is no central server, and quarantining bad actors is built in.

Event Recap: Fall 2014 IoT Fair

The evolution of the IoT has transformed the way people interact with physical objects in their everyday life, and how these objects interact with other devices like sensors, smartphones, and tablets. The Fall 2014 Internet of Things (IoT) Fair was a great way to experience products from both established and early stage companies. Each company demonstrated their solution, trade-show style, to roughly 500 enthusiastic IoTers. The companies spanned across several categories, but these stood out:
  • Basic6 gives users a cloud-based infrastructure for real-time monitoring, deployment, and management of IoT devices.
  • Kinsa uses a smartphone-enabled thermometer to monitor symptoms and track illness for users and their doctors.
  • Ottomate reduces a home’s electrical cost through its self-programming home automation system.
  • Octopart allows engineers and part buyers to easily access part information, design, manufacturing, and cost through its search engine.
  • Bluesmart gives travelers the ability to locate, lock, and weigh their suitcase directly from their smartphone.

As consumers get more comfortable using smart devices we expect more such platforms to enter the market.


Wink Aims To Unite Smart Home Appliances

With plenty of connected home appliance currently on the market, competing IoT connectivity standards hurt their further popularization. Wink is a small New York startup with products—a hub box, a mountable control center, and a corresponding app—that aim to fix the fragmented home automation and tie together devices across competing standards: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Zigbee. It is not the first company to attempt doing so, but what makes Wink stand out is the wide array of big-name partnerships that includes Honeywell, GE, and Philips.

Tech Wreck: Do You Need A Hug?

Every now and then, some innovator in the tech scene will come up with an idea that makes everyone wonder if technology has gone too far. This week, it’s The Hug, the dumbest smart-thing we have seen this month.

Created by Finnish start-up Caktus Inc. and currently on Kickstarter, The Hug is a two-part connected device that helps users stay properly hydrated. It includes a sensor band that wraps around your water bottle to track your liquid consumption, and an accompanying iOS app that sends you notifications when your hydration levels are low.

Noble as their efforts are, the geniuses behind The Hug forgot two simple facts in their pursuit of the Water Bottle 2.0. First and foremost, water intake is such a basic physiological need that everyone can recognize thirst without constant external nudges. Even worse, The Hug is simply too impractical to use: normal people typically use different vessels as their locations change throughout the day. Even though The Hug claims to fit “most existing bottles”, it’d still be a major hassle to carry a sensor around every day, put it on every time you decide to drink, and wait for the app to sync up and recalibrate, all before you could just lift up that cup and hydrate your body.

The Hug is just one of the many well-intentioned ideas that got carried away in the tide of Internet of Things. The health-related “value” it supposedly offers is disproportional to the effort it requires, which ultimately renders this product useless. At the end of the day, we all need to calm down, and ask ourselves: do we really need The Hug, or do we just need a hug?

Update: Their Kickstart campaign has failed. Hope everyone there is getting a hug.

How The Internet Of Things Industry Is Really Making Money

Even though most Internet of Things (IoT) companies are currently focused on developing and selling connected hubs and platforms, the real business lies in selling services. As SmartThings’ recent partnership with Cross Country Home Services highlights, the profit for the connected platform lies in the service of timely, convenient home maintenance, facilitated by connecting homeowners with the warranty provider’s network of 150,000 contractors. Moreover, as homes get more connected, the massive amounts of data the sensors produce could reveal the flaws in generically set home insurance plans, potentially upending the whole home insurance industry.

Nest And Samsung To Introduce New IoT Network Protocol

Not long after the announcement of OIC, Samsung is now joining Google’s Nest Labs and six other manufacturers to launch a new wireless network called Thread for smart home automation. This new IP-based IoT network protocol doesn’t rely on Bluetooth, and will be made compatible out of the gate with 250 products, allowing smart gadgets to talk to each other. With Apple’s HomeKit, the aforementioned OIC, and other generic Bluetooth networks, the state of IoT network protocols seems to be getting a bit messy, which is understandable since the market is still in an early stage. For the sake of truly integrated IoT network, however, sooner or later the tech giants will have to figure out which one works the best and settle the matter. Until then, stay tuned for new developments.

Samsung and Other Tech Companies To Streamline Connectivity For IoT

Unfazed by the recent news that $6.3 million-worthy Samsung devices were stolen in Brazil, Samsung is moving on with its commitment to make 2014 “the year of Internet of Things”. It has reportedly joined forces with five other tech companies, including Intel and Dell, to define interoperability standards, dubbed the Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC). Curiously absent from the alliance is Apple, who is probably working to protect its closed eco-system anyway. But we have to wonder, would that still keep up with the billions of devices expected to arrive with Internet connectivity in the next few years?

For more info on IoT, check out our previous IPG Lab Internet of Things Week coverage.

MWC 2014: SAP’s Vending Machine with iBeacon, NFC, and Facial Detection

Check out SAP’s futuristic vending machine in the video below, on display at Mobile World Congress.  It slickly implements pretty much every innovative technology you could ask for including an iBeacon, NFC reader, facial detection (powered by Intel), social media integration and more.

SAP envisions people signing up for loyalty programs tied to a network of these machines, allowing you to earn rewards, pull up your favorite selections on any device, and even buy and send gifts to friends in the program directly from the machine. I was given $10 an a free account, and as you can see from the video the machine addressed me by name when I swiped in via NFC.  If were using an iPhone, the iBeacon could push me an offer or message once I was withing range.

There are about 1,000 of these vending machines in the US now.   SAP is also improving the supply chain side of the equation but collecting data on which sodas are most popular on each individual machine to ensure that companies don’t miss out on sales by running out of product, or carrying the wrong product.  Customers can even request that new beverages be added to the machine in the future if they don’t see what they want.

Sign me up.