IoT News Roundup

Intel debuts IoT platform; Researchers weave smart fabric for biomedical uses; Gimbal announces new beacon with 18-month battery life; SoftBank licenses GE's Industrial Internet software, Predix; Smart suitcase sparks crowd-funding fervor.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Dec 12, 2014

Intel Rolls Out Platform to Power, Secure the IoT

On Dec. 9, Intel announced a range of products and partnerships geared toward supporting what it forecasts will be an Internet of Things composed of 40 billion connected devices by 2020. The Intel IoT Platform consists of a new edge device management system, new gateway devices, developer kits, enhanced security- and privacy-management tools, and an application programming interface (API) management solution.

Software provider Wind River, an Intel subsidiary, unveiled the Wind River Edge Management System, a cloud-based Internet of Things platform that serves as middleware between edge devices and Intel IoT gateways. Another Intel company, McAfee, gas announced enhanced security tools for Intel IoT Gateways in support of the Intel IoT Platform, which provides advanced security management for gateway devices. Intel Security, the company's division that owns McAfee, has unveiled a product called Enhanced Privacy Identity (EPID) that lets users connect to the Intel IoT Platform anonymously. In addition, Intel has announced that it is expanding its cloud analytics support for IoT Developer Kits, to include the Intel IoT Gateway series (it already supports Intel Galileo boards and Intel Edison Modules). In a statement, Intel said, "Cloud analytics enables IoT application developers to detect trends and anomalies in time series at big data scale."

Researchers Build Prototype Smart Fabric

A research team led by Professor Younès Messaddeq, of the Centre for Optics, Photonics and Lasers at Montreal's Université Laval, has, by layering copper, polymers, glass and silver into a durable and malleable textile, created a prototype fabric that could be used to monitor and transmit wearers' biomedical information to a health-care system via wireless or cellular networks. According to a statement from the university, the "surface of the fiber can also be adjusted to monitor a range of information such as glucose levels, heart rhythm, brain activity, movements, and spatial coordinates." It also notes that the fiber can function as both a sensor and an antenna, and can be woven with wool or cotton. The team is still working on a number of factors that must be fine-tuned, including how to power the sensors and how to make the fabric resistant to chemicals used during the laundering process.

Gimbal Announces Series 21—a Longer-lasting Beacon With New Features

Gimbal, the provider of Bluetooth beacons that spun off from Qualcomm earlier this year, on Thursday announced its latest product, the Series 21 beacon. Beacons transmit a 2.4 GHz signal that can activate applications on smartphones, and are often used in retail settings, as part of smartphone-based customer-engagement programs, or in places such as sports stadiums, where they are also used for public engagement. This is the third distinct beacon model that the company has issued. The Series 10 beacon is very small—roughly the size of a quarter—and the Series 20 beacon is roughly the size of a deck of cards. The Series 21 beacon will replace the Series 20 model, and sports a 30 percent longer battery life when beaconing every 100 milliseconds, 24 hours a day. At this rate, the Series 20 lasts for 12 months on AA alkaline batteries, whereas the Series 21, which also uses AA batteries, lasts for 18 months at the same transmission rate (the batteries in all Gimbal beacons can be replaced).

The Series 21 beacon also introduces a two-color LED display, as well as a button. Pressing the button once displays the battery level in broad strokes: Green is adequate, whereas amber indicates the batteries will soon be depleted. (This information is also available through the Gimbal Beacon Manager app, as well as via the Gimbal Manager Cloud portal and its software developer's kit.) Pressing and holding the button puts the beacon into configuration mode, which users would do to update the beacon's settings or firmware, through the Gimbal Beacon Manager application. Gimbal's beacons comply with the Bluetooth Low Energy 4.0 standard.

GE, SoftBank Telecom Enter Predix Industrial Internet Licensing Deal in Japan

General Electric announced Wednesday that it is licensing Predix, its software designed specifically for industrial Internet of Things applications, to Japanese telecommunications firm SoftBank, which will build Predix applications for shipping, manufacturing and other industries. SoftBank wants to exploit what it considers a $12 billion data-analytics market in Japan. According to GE, the revenue-sharing plan that is part of the licensing deal could yield $200 million during the next five years.

Globally, GE estimates that the Industrial Internet—as it calls the use of sensors and data intelligence to better manage and maintain things such as jet engines and locomotives—could add $10 to $15 trillion to the global GDP in efficiency gains throughout the next two decades. This year, GE says, it expects to net $1 billion in revenue from Industrial Internet projects, based on Predix, that it has deployed in the transportation and energy sectors. In a prepared statement from General Electric, Dave Barlett, GE Aviation's chief technology officer, said that in licensing Predix to third parties, "We want Predix to become the Android or iOS of the machine world."

Indiegogo Campaign Nets $1.4M to Develop 'Connected Carryon'

A group of engineers and developers blew past their goal of raising $50,000 on crowd-funding platform Indiegogo to innovate the basic roll-aboard suitcase by adding a Bluetooth radio and GPS module to enable (when paired with a smartphone) a user to secure the bag with a digitally controlled, TSA-approved lock, and to also keep constant tabs on the suitcase's whereabouts. The suitcase, dubbed Bluesmart, will also support additional apps, such as a built-in digital scale that is used to weigh the bag and alerts the user if it exceeds an airline's weight limit, as well as a built-in supplemental battery for recharging phones or other devices.

By communicating with a Bluetooth beacon integrated into the luggage, the user's phone will generate alerts when the bag is about to move outside the Bluetooth range, and could thus be in the process of being stolen or lost. The Bluesmart app will let the owner track the suitcase's whereabouts using GPS, assuming there is an adequate quantity of other Bluetooth radios in the vicinity to form a mesh network capable of delivering the bag's GPS data. The campaign raised $1,366,016. Brian Chen, an MBA student at MIT Sloan, conceived of the suitcase and brought on a team of seven designers, engineers and business developers to create the product, which they plan to begin shipping in August 2015.

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