IoT News Roundup

Open Interconnect Consortium releases IoTivity platform; new sensor platforms for developers, do-it-yourselfers; U.S. Congress launching an IoT Caucus; Google shuttering consumer Google Glass product; Kontact.io shipping Cloud Beacon.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor

U.S. Congress Launching an IoT Caucus
Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (D-WA) and Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) announced this week the formation of an Internet of Things congressional caucus aimed at educating their fellow U.S. Congress members regarding the development of technology and public policy related to Internet of Things technologies. Issa, who chairs the Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Courts and the Internet, said, in a prepared statement, that "Emerging uses of Internet connectivity to these devices raise both opportunities and questions about regulatory policy, spectrum space, privacy, and more." He noted that the caucus would help members of Congress have access to "informed policy discussions about the government's role in access and use of" IoT devices, but added that he wants the caucus to "ensure federal policy spurs, rather than stifles, our innovation economy."

The caucus will address the use of IoT technology in applications ranging from health care to transportation and the workplace. "Policymakers will need to be engaged and educated on how we can best protect consumers while also enabling these new technologies to thrive," DelBene said in the statement. "It's important that our laws keep up with technology, and I look forward to co-chairing the IoT caucus."

The Federal Trade Commission is expected to publish a comprehensive report about the Internet of Things during the coming weeks. Last week, its chairperson, Edith Ramirez, spoke at a CES panel on data privacy, during which she urged technology firms to focus on safeguarding consumer privacy and building digital security features into every node in the Internet of Things.

In October, a group of U.S. Senators called on Senate Commerce Committee chair Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) to hold a "general oversight and information-gathering hearing" to discuss the IoT by the end of last year. To date, however, no such meetings appear to have taken place.

Google Changes Direction for Glass Product
Google announced Thursday that it intends to stop selling its $1,500 Glass wearable computing product as it shutters its Explorer program (part of the Google X research unit), which developed the glasses, on Monday, Jan. 19. Google will combine all of its future Glass development into its Glass at Work program, which certifies third parties to market enterprise products based on Google Glass. Smart glasses are beginning to see strong traction across many enterprise applications, as we recently reported.

Kontakt.io Shipping Wi-Fi Beacon Hub
Kontakt.io, a beacon manufacturer based in Krakow, Poland, is now shipping a new device called the Cloud Beacon, which it announced this summer and which is designed to facilitate the managment of large deployments of Bluetooth beacons across single facilities. The Cloud Beacon, which contains both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios, acts as a bridge between a user's servers and its installed network of beacons. Using a Wi-Fi connection to the Cloud Beacon and Kontakt.io's Web Panel software, a user can make over-the-air updates, via Bluetooth, to an installed network of beacons even when working from a remote location.

The 16 gigabytes of onboard memory can be used to store MAC address from Wi-Fi devices (such as on smartphones) that enter the monitored space, or to store data locally on the beacon. The device measures 3.5 inches wide by 3.5 inches tall and 1.5 inches deep, weighs just under 11 ounces and can be powered either via AC power or four lithium-ion polymer batteries, which have a lifespan ranging from one year (when both the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios are activated) to up to four years (if only the Bluetooth radio is activated). Users who turn the Wi-Fi radio on intermittently can achieve a battery life of longer than one year, the company reports. Its Bluetooth radio has a range of up to 230 feet, while the Wi-Fi radio has a range of 650 feet. The Cloud Beacons cost $79 each, but are discounted for orders of three or more.

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