Target’s answer to the Amazon Dash button is here: Meet Project Fetch, a set of household objects that are connected to the internet and self-aware enough to realize when they need to be restocked. Target has designed a toilet paper roll, a soap dispenser, and a paper towel holder with connected smarts that detect when they are about to be empty and can predictively order refills. I actually showed off this project back in October, after a visit to the Target Open House in San Francisco. This is a no-brainer for Target, but it’s also a big shift for consumers, because those who buy into a delivery mechanism like this have to weigh the cost of convenience of never running out of toilet paper against the cost of the actual price per roll. As consumers, are we ready for that? (Indiegogo)
Microsoft teams up with C3: Fresh on the heels of C3 signing a deal to provide a sensor analytics platform to 3M, it has now announced a partnership with Microsoft. What’s interesting here is that C3 had a relationship with Amazon Web Services and is now making Microsoft’s Azure its preferred platform. Given C3’s base of industrial IoT clients, this makes sense. Microsoft has had the lead here for a while, and frankly has a strong product offering for big enterprise customers that rivals what Amazon can offer. (eWeek)
Here comes the dumb pipe battle again: Telecom companies apparently see the fights of the internet’s past playing out in the future of connected cars. AT&T and Verizon want to offer more than data for connected cars, while automakers and web companies also want their share. I feel for the telcos, but if the automakers really want to keep them out, they just have to learn from the telcos’ mistakes the last time around and stop trying to gate off consumers and corral them into crappy proprietary apps and services. Instead, they have to embrace open ecosystems and build things people actually value. This was tough for the telcos and will likely be tough for the automakers. Incumbents have too much to lose. (Bloomberg)
Apple’s HomePod isn’t selling well: Apple has lowered its sales targets for HomePods and cut orders to suppliers that provide parts for the company’s smart speaker. This isn’t really a surprise, given that the voice-activated speaker market was created by Amazon, which has touted an open ecosystem and offers a digital assistant that is far more capable than Siri. Apple, meanwhile, has tried to use the HomePod to tie customers closer to its own services. This wouldn’t be such a big problem if people didn’t find Apple’s services so limited. Ironically, Amazon has learned by following in Apple’s footsteps. Apple sold the iPhone in part because it was the home of all the cool apps people were building; Amazon’s selling Alexa the same way. There are now more than 10,000 skills that work with Amazon’s smart speaker. (Bloomberg)
Digital transformation and competitive sports: Most of y’all have read or at least heard of “Moneyball,” Michael Lewis’s book about how the Oakland Athletics used data to pull a poor team to victory. As players use radios in their uniforms, sensors in their balls, and video analytics for gathering stats, the raft of information available is (literally) changing the game. Over at Wired, they’re looking at how the NFL is trying to balance technological insights with human insights to keep football sporting. As the NFL opens up access to player data to all teams, the concern is that as coaches adapt, it will change the way the game is played. For a look at how that happens, check out Slate’s reporting on how women’s basketball is changing after coaches and players got access to data on other teams. (Wired, Slate)
Want a trillion connected devices? Look to Google: Google is an ad behemoth and tech powerhouse, but one of its crucial innovations was the realization that in the online world, manufacturing and production expenses were in servers and networking pipes. To boost profits, increase efficiencies, and all of those other things that businesses do as a matter of course required custom-designed hardware, code, and infrastructure. Back when it took one person to manage a dozen servers, Google realized it had to get that one person to manage 500 servers, or 1,000, or even 5,000. Machines scale. For the internet of things, companies should think like Google and try to recognize where they can boost efficiencies. My hunch is that a decentralized infrastructure model will emerge. To get there — and once we’re there, to manage it — we’re going to have to let the machines run themselves, something Google is pioneering with the use of AI and automation to manage its network traffic. (Light Reading)
GE’s Current teams up with Morgan Stanley: Current, a GE business that provides connected lighting and energy management to reduce energy usage for customers including Intel and Simon Properties, said it will work with Morgan Stanley to improve energy efficiency in 600 Morgan Stanley Wealth Management offices. The financial firm will install Current’s LED retrofit product in its offices and if that goes well, may also install a product that wirelessly integrates with building sensors and devices to manage occupancy, daylighting, scheduling, thermostats, and plug loads. This is all part of the effort to offer lighting and energy management as a service — a topic I covered a few weeks back.
The big lesson from Facebook’s data scandal as it applies to IoT: Even if you somehow missed Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifying before Congress this week, you should go read this article, which tries to make an important distinction about Facebook’s data gathering and what that distinction means for users. Facebook repeatedly says users own their data, but that is only the data that users offer to Facebook by posting or participating in the platform. There’s a second aspect to this data -— the collection of data about you gleaned through other parties — that is then analyzed and dumped into different advertiser buckets. Those inferences can be invasive and wrong, but a user has absolutely no control over them; sometimes a user doesn’t even have an inkling that such data exists. Facebook isn’t the only guilty party in this dance of different types of data. Many companies are selling connected devices or convincing you to download apps so they can take the data you offer (location, ambient temperature in your home, etc.) and repackage it in the form of various demographic profiles. Using this to better target ads is annoying, but if you consider that these same demographic profiles can be used to price insurance or determine what you see on social networks, that’s scary. It’s basically invisible stereotyping applied to more and more aspects of your life at a scale that only computers can achieve. (The Atlantic)
Amazon now owns Ring: Also, the base doorbell version is now $100. (TechCrunch)
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