- iot news week - IoT News of the week for May 11, 2018 – Stacey on IoT


Was your Nest password stolen? Apparently the smart company is notifying users that their Nest password may be after it detected that a password breach from another site was affecting users of its site. It’s encouraging those users to change their passwords and to add two-factor authentication to help protect their accounts. Since Nest is in the security business now, this makes tremendous sense. I don’t want someone hacking my cameras, my alarm system, or my Nest door lock. Nest is actually one of the few smart companies to ask users to apply two-factor authentication, and I applaud it for taking the step. If it wants to go a step further, I’d love to see it promote two-factor and make something that is a bit inconvenient for users more palatable by offering a free month of cloud storage or some other incentive. When MailChimp gave me 10 percent off to enable two-factor, that’s when I decided it was worth it. Meanwhile, all other smart device companies, get your two-factor on. (Internet Society)

Unlock Schlage and August locks with Alexa: Schlage (a sponsor of the show) now allows users to unlock their Schlage Connect and Schlage Sense locks with Alexa as long as they speak the correct unlock code. After three failed tries, you lose your chance to unlock the door. August also released a new function for its locks and Alexa this week, allowing someone who has the August doorbell to view the person at their front door on the Echo Show and then tell Alexa to unlock the door. This, too, requires a PIN code. Although I would worry that with a spoken code your visitor might hear it and then feel free to unlock the door at their own convenience. Voice isn’t great for everything. (Endgadget)

Alexa took on the smart home and now it’s taking on health: Amazon has created a health and wellness team to design experiences for Alexa, according to a scoop from CNBC. The goal is to “make Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant more useful in the health-care field.” The article says the group hopes to tackle health issues associated with diabetes, newborns, and aging. I have often wished for a tool on Alexa that could diagnose my kid’s cough, so that might be something I’d get. (CNBC)

A few thoughts from Microsoft Build: This week I was in Seattle at Microsoft Build, where I was hoping for some new case studies, but mostly got a wide-sweeping product for the of things. I covered Microsoft’s strategy in this week’s podcast (above) and in a few stories I wrote at the event. (StaceyonIoT)

I didn’t like the Cortana and Alexa integration: I saw the demo and my worst fears about the future of interaction with my voice assistant were realized. (StaceyonIoT)

So about Android Things: Google this week conducted Google I/O and also launched its IoT operating system, Android Things. Kevin shared his thoughts on the platform and discussed its limitations, such as a mere three years of free security and patch support. The code would allow someone to build a smart home hub using Google’s software, but I’m not convinced there are a huge number of developers who will find this a compelling option for their projects. (StaceyonIoT)

This seems like a useful resource for AWS developers and their bosses: The author breaks down the different tools you have to master to build an IoT product using Amazon Services. This is not a technical document, rather more of a good map offering a lay of the so you can orient yourself before diving into technical documentation. It would also be helpful for managers or those who have to talk to the folks building IoT products on AWS. (Medium)

A caveat on Google’s scary Duplex product: Google this week showed off an effort called Duplex, which has trained an AI to mimic a human voice and speech patterns so it can negotiate to get information from humans on behalf of a client. In the examples, Google Assistant called a hairdresser to make an appointment and a Chinese restaurant to make a reservation. The voice was uncanny, and people were both awed and freaked out. However at the bottom of the Google blog post discussing Duplex, Kevin noticed the following caveat:

“The Google Duplex system is capable of carrying out sophisticated conversations and it completes the majority of its tasks fully autonomously, without human involvement. The system has a self-monitoring capability, which allows it to recognize the tasks it cannot complete autonomously (e.g., scheduling an unusually complex appointment). In these cases, it signals to a human operator, who can complete the task.”

Facebook a few years back had created a similar human/AI hybrid it called M. Facebook users could call on M to handle party planning, gift-giving, and other complicated tasks. But M seemed to rely more on humans than a computer, and Facebook shut down the assistant portion of M. So the question is, how far has Google advanced AI when it comes to negotiating complex verbal tasks? (Google)

Who’s controlling your Alexa? Researchers have found that they can insert inaudible messages in songs and white noise that can trigger digital assistants and get them to take action. The trick could force Alexa to open a malicious web site or order Siri to switch a phone to airplane mode. There aren’t any rules in the U.S. making these actions illegal, but if a group figures out how to broadcast such attacks it could lead to harms for users who could lose control of their phones or home devices. (NYT)

Sprinkle some blockchain on it: Helium, a five-year-old startup that began making a proprietary wireless technology for sensors and then evolved into a hardware and software platform for the internet of things has now come out as a blockchain startup. Actually it’s using the blockchain to exchange payments for an ad hoc wireless network that other devices can use to transmit their data. This reminds me of which is doing something similar with Bluetooth and without blockchain. (MIT Technology Review)

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