This week’s top Internet of Things news includes Google Home, Germany and security, Microsoft beefing up its IoT offerings and more.
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Google’s Home gets personal: An update allows the Google Home to recognize the person speaking to it and can deliver a personalized response. This tweak in software adds another layer of context that will help deliver better responses and could lead to essential services such as voice-based authentication. Amazon’s Echo can’t do this yet, but I’m sure engineers in Seattle are working on it. (Network World)
Google’s voice gets out of beta: The speech recognition engine Google’s Assistant uses to understand what people are saying is now available to all. Google opened up access to its Google Cloud Speech API this week, creating a competitor to Amazon’s Alexa Voice Services. This should please developers who have told me that Google had been difficult to work with on the voice front compared with Amazon. (Google)
Your next competitor may surprise you: This story is about insurance firms trying to boost their digital credibility as they face new sources of competition. The competition isn’t from other insurers, but from companies like Google or auto makers who now have their own sources of data about cars, accidents and road conditions. Armed with that data they can undercut traditional insurers if they so choose. (The Drum)
Keep an eye on Germany: Germany is serious about IoT device security. The country’s telecommunication regulatory agency, which in February classified a hackable connected doll as an espionage device, has decided it could fine parents who don’t destroy the doll to the tune of $25,000. The same agency last year banned a toy panda that had an unsecured camera in its head. With bans and the potential for fines, I’ll be looking to see how companies respond to better enforcement for IoT security. (The Consumerist)
IBM and Harman built an Alexa: IBM has jammed its Watson cognitive computing smarts into Harman’s speakers with the idea of letting people control lights, TVs and communications equipment inside hotel rooms, conference rooms and even in hospitals. While Amazon and Google focus on the home, it appears that IBM and Harman, which is now a subsidiary of Samsung, are looking to the enterprise and businesses. (IBM)
Why aren’t smart TVs smarter? This overview of the state of smart TVs left me bummed. When Samsung bought SmartThings back in 2015 the hope was that Samsung TVs would get SmartThings inside. Some features are part of connected Samsung TVs but the ability to control ZigBee and Z-wave devices aren’t, and so far a dongle that would add those features is delayed. Your TV isn’t a smart home hub yet. (CNET)
Your old-line industry isn’t organized for the IoT: This article focused on getting automotive companies to think in terms of the entire connected car ecosystem should be required reading for all businesses as they try to figure out how to sprinkle some IoT on their business model. Ignore the datafication jargon, and focus on the core idea. When you connect to the internet of things, you’re going to have to reshape your business processes. (ComputerWorld)
Microsoft beefs up its IoT products: As I talked about above, Microsoft launched a new software as a service offering called IoT Central for folks who don’t want to manage their own IoT cloud. It also announced several other products perfect for the internet of things community, such as a time series database, a new pre-configured Azure offering for connected factories and an on-device stream analytics offering that seamlessly ties back to the Azure cloud. There’s more on provisioning (this is a huge pain point for companies and especially systems integrators) and some hardware security efforts over at the company’s blog post. (Microsoft)
AWS CEO says IoT is real: Andy Jassey, the CEO of Amazon’s cloud business, is a believer in the internet of things. At an AWS event in San Francisco he apparently said “of all the buzzwords everybody has talked about, the one that has delivered fastest on its promises is IoT and connected devices.” (Geekwire)
Taser has this IoT business model down: Several stories have covered the offer by Taser to outfit police departments with body cameras for a year at no charge. This story explains why Taser is keen to do that, and in the process offers up a credible business model that several connected device companies are trying to follow. The idea is to give away cheaper hardware, lock people in with the camera management software and access to those images to profit. Most connected camera companies for consumers have similar plans, where access to clips after a certain period of time costs money. I’d love to know what adoption of those cloud video storage subscriptions looks like. (NPR)
Verizon’s IoT news is pretty dull: Verizon reported earnings this week and all eyes were on its incredible loss of subscribers while it delayed launching an unlimited data plan. It did talk about building out deeper fiber networks for next generation technologies including fixed wireless broadband and smart cities and telematics efforts. However, much of the investor focus was on wireless. Verizon said its telematics revenue was $214 million in the first quarter, and that its IoT revenue, including telematics, was up approximately 17% in the first quarter. (Verizon)