CES 2016: These Smart Wireless Earplugs Will Send You To Sleep

There’s no shortage of wireless headphones and earplugs at this year’s CES, but Hush’s smart earplugs stands out for its unique function. Instead of focusing on great sound quality or customizable shapes, Hush is designed to block out the noise by crooning sleep-inducing sounds into your ears and help you fall asleep.

Users can choose the sleep sounds of their choice via Hush’s smartphone app and load it onto the smart earplugs, which helps to preserve the phone’s battery. It will also recognize the alarm you set on your phone and play it to wake you up on time. As more and more everyday devices become connected with the smartphone and gain new functionality, we expect to see more smart gadgets like this infiltrate our daily life.

For more of the Lab’s CES coverage, click here.

Header image courtesy of Hush Technology’s Website


CES 2016: Samsung’s Keynote On Its IoT Solutions

This morning, the Lab attended Samsung’s keynote address to hear what Dr. WP Hong, President of Samsung SDS, have to say about Samsung’s IoT solutions. Here are some highlights from his keynote.

Devices In Sync With Real Life

Samsung is set on bringing connectivity to every facet of the modern life, showcasing a slew of IoT devices it has: its new smart fridge “Family Hub Refrigerator” in the kitchen, the new quantum dot display SUHD smart TV in the living room, a smart car integration through a partnership with BMW, and a new powerful bio-processor for fitness trackers we wear. All these new devices are aimed to serve one purpose – sync up modern consumers’ daily life no matter where they are. The company even partnered with Ascott to develop “the Internet of Real Estate,” where all connected devices in the same building will be centrally connected to create the smart buildings of the future.

Open Platform And “IoTivity”

Dr. Hong stressed at the beginning of the keynote about Samsung’s belief in the benefits of an open IoT platform and its commitment in giving the consumers more control with true interoperability among its devices (or as Dr. Wong calls it, “IoTivity”). To that end, Samsung is working closely with Microsoft to make sure its new 2-in-1 tablet Samsung TabPro S, which runs Windows 10, is capable of controlling the smart home devices plugged into its IoT platform with Cortana.

IoT Brings New Security Challenges

With a wide-ranging IoT devices and an open platform come some great security challenges. To solve those new security issues, Samsung developed Samsung Knox, a security protocol built into its IoT platform, which banks like Goldman Sachs is already using to create new security measures for their enterprise IoT devices. Moreover, it has also developed a set of Security Solutions for its smart TVs to ensure the data transferring between smart home devices and smart TVs is safe and secure.


For more of the Lab’s CES coverage, click here.

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

Amazon Echo Pushes Into Traditional Retail Nationwide

What Happened
More than a year after its debut, Amazon Echo is finally coming to third-party physical retail stores for the first time. Amazon’s smart speaker will be available at Staples, The Home Depot, Sears, Fred Meyer and various other big box and electronics stores. Amazon plans to make it available in more than 3,000 retail locations across the U.S. in time for holiday shopping.

Market Impact
Making the Echo widely available in traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores signals Amazon’s confidence in pushing its leading product in the smart home to the mass market. The expanded shelf presence in turn can help familiarize consumers with connected devices like Echo, propelling the smart home market forward.


Source: GeekWire

Verizon Plans New Wireless Network Exclusively for Connected Devices

What Happened
Does the Internet of Things need a cellular network of its own? Verizon seems to think so. The nation’s largest wireless service provider announced on Wednesday that it is building a new 4G LTE network core specifically designed for connected devices that only require occasional internet access for small amounts of data. Currently, each connected device is treated as just another mobile device when plugged into the existing cellular core networks, which isn’t very cost effective regardless of carrier.

Market Impact
The high minimum monthly fee remains a major barrier to mass adoption of connected devices. Therefore, Verizon’s initiative to cut the cost for low-data-usage devices is a step in the right direction for the development of the IoT market. Lower the monthly fee should help encourage further proliferation of connected devices and enable more everyday devices to come online.


Source: Re/Code

MasterCard To Turn Everyday Gadgets Into Credit Cards

What Happened
Soon you may be paying for a dinner with your car key. Earlier this week, MasterCard announced it is launching a new program that aims to add contactless payment capabilities to everyday gadgets. MasterCard has already gotten some tech partners on board to create some prototypes, which include a key fob made by GM, a ring from Ringly, and a wristband from Nymi, all with MasterCard’s wireless payments tech built in.

What Brands Need To Do
As more and more devices become connected, MasterCard is smart to start experimenting with connected devices and develop payment solutions that are independent of smartphones. As mobile payment continues to evolve, brands need to keep up with changing consumer purchasing behavior and start integrating value offers and loyalty programs into a growing array of emerging payment solutions.


Source: The Verge

You Can Now Ask Siri To Lock Your Door (With New August Smart Locks)

What Happened
Soon you won’t need to bother getting up from your coach after binge-watching Netflix to lock your front door – you can just ask Siri to do it for you. August, maker of the first iPhone-controlled locks, recently announced a second-gen smart lock that is Apple HomeKit enabled through a new Broadcom chip, allowing iOS users to use Siri to lock and unlock the door remotely. Moreover, the San Francisco-based company also unveiled a new doorbell equipped with a video camera.

What Brands Need To Do
This new Siri-enabled smart lock is one of the new  examples of integrating voice command into connected home devices. Starting with Amazon’s smart speaker Echo launched last year, to Apple’s updated Apple TV with support for Siri, voice-activated command is quickly being integrated into everyday consumer products. This changes the way brands typically gets their messages delivered via visuals. Therefore, brands should consider developing a communication strategy for the audio-only platforms and explore building voice-powered experiences to reach consumers at home in the near future.


Source: Engadget

Salesforce Launches IoT Platform To Gather Data From Everywhere

What Happened
Last month, popular CRM solution provider Salesforce announced its entry into the Internet of Things (IoT) market with IoT Cloud, a platform designed to help businesses connect with and respond to their customers using connected devices. Powered by the company’s new real-time processing engine Thunder, Salesforce aims to process huge amounts of IoT device data, while helping businesses build customer profiles and provide better customer experience based on the data acquired. Similarly, last week, Amazon also launched its own IoT platform to support the growing market of connected devices, posing a formidable competitor for Salesforce.

What Brands Need To Do
The new IoT platform from Salesforce provides a platform for connected device makers to help their clients better monitor and respond to their customers, while Amazon’s new platform allows connected device makers to tap into Amazon cloud services for voice interaction with Alexa or data processing on EC2. Brands can benefit from IoT data through partnerships with a device maker to tap into the capabilities these platforms boast. For example, a bread brand may learn valuable insights on breakfast preferences from connected toasters, just as auto brands can utilize data from connected cars to better serve their customers.


Source: Marketing Land

Nest Expands IoT Protocol To Third-Party Devices

What Happened
Earlier today, Google’s Nest Labs introduced a new device-to-device communications protocol called Nest Weave for its low-energy IoT protocol Thread, which was first announced in July. Initial launch partners include P&G, GE, Hunter Douglas, Philips Hue, iHome, and Lutron Electronics. Nest Weave, which can work without Wi-Fi, is a proprietary application protocol that Nest has been using within its own products. Now with this expansion, Nest Weave will use Thread to allow third-party devices to communicate with Nest products.

What Brands Need To Do
By extending the reach of its Nest devices to third-party devices, Google is looking to take the lead in the nascent market of connected home devices and create a holistic ecosystem that plays by its rules. Recently, some new connected home devices, exemplified by Amazon’s Echo, signal the vast possibility for brand integration in the smart home space. Therefore, brands looking to reach consumers at home should take advantage of this new IoT communication protocol, and start learning how to navigate a more unified and interoperable experience within the connected home.


Header image credit: promotional image from Nest

Source: VentureBeat

Event Recap: NJ Tech Meetup #64

On September 16, the Media Lab crossed the Hudson River to attend the 64th NJ Tech Meetup in Hoboken, New Jersey. This month’s meet up featured Kevin Ryan, founder of Gilt, Business Insider, MongoDB, and other tech startups. Mr. Ryan shared his experiences as founder and CEO of multiple companies. He spoke about the tech bubble burst at the turn of the century, during which he was faced with difficult layoffs but somehow maintained his optimism.

Mr. Ryan also shared some interesting statistics about his own ventures. According to him, 34 former employees of Doubleclick have gone on to become CEOs. On another note, Business Insider has never spent a single dollar in advertising, rather counting on audiences to embrace good products when they see them. Mr. Ryan also stated that he considers Jeff Bezos to be the most impressive CEO in the world, (although many former Amazon employees may disagree with his sentiment.)

Other entrepreneurs (vying to be the next Kevin Ryan) pitched their startups during the event. The first was Ceros, a cloud-based software for creating interactive, dynamic content. The studio includes drag-and-drop assets within templates for users to build experiences in HTML5 without needing to code. Once completed, the content is immediately published and can be embedded across the web. Ceros also provides real-time performance data and feedback on which elements of the content consumers are interacting with. This platform has obvious marketing implications as brands can build their own content quickly and without having to hire a specialist.

Next up to the podium was Vognition, a natural language voice control for connected devices. Vognition’s representative informed the audience that it is not a standalone solution rather, a component to be implemented into a complete voice recognition system. Conversational UI is a crowded space, and Vognition seems to be leaning on its ability to recognize normal speech as its differentiator.

The last company to present was Livnlist, a messaging app to help coordinate plans with friends. Although the layout and solution were both interesting and appealing, this platform currently offers limited marketing opportunities.

There continues to be interesting and exciting tech coming out of New Jersey and the NJ Tech meetup represents only a microcosm of the ingenuity that is emerging from the state.


Header image courtesy of NJ Tech Meetup