Smart Building

Voice-controlled Furniture Can Transform Tiny Spaces

Create: 08/16/2017 - 18:23
Ori smart home furniture

Photo: Orisystems.com

 

Consumers and small businesses are adding all types of innovative IoT devices to make their environments more comfortable, convenient, energy efficient and less expensive. There are smart thermostats, power switches, power outlets, energy-generating solar window sills, multi-room audio/video, automated fans, air conditioners, locks, doorbells and garage door openers. Home surveillance systems capture everything outside from the curb to the front door along with indoor activities of the nanny, the kids and the pets. Office cameras can detect intruders and theft and make customers feel safer. Smart sensors monitor water, air, smoke, fog and other environmental conditions.

These various smart home technologies are poised for mass-market growth, as automation becomes the norm. Berg Insight predicts that there will be 73 million smart homes in North America by 2021. And the market will be valued at $138 billion by 2023—a compound annual growth of nearly 14 percent from 2017, according to Markets and Markets.

Going Big with Micro Living

Next up: smart furniture, as robotics-maker Ori in Cambridge, MA, is going big with its home automation technology. A spin-off from MIT Media Lab, Ori has developed voice-controlled furniture that moves about the room, rearranging itself to maximize the living and sleeping spaces in small apartments and condos.

Ori has built a wall-sized, software-controlled robotic furniture case that includes a bed, nightstand, closet and storage shelves on one side and a combination TV stand, bookcase and fold-out work desk on the other side. The system is about 8 feet tall and costs approximately $10,000.

While Ori currently sells its robo-furniture module and software to large-scale urban housing developers, it intends to eventually target individuals who dwell in small spaces. The company is piloting its connected furniture system in 10 cities across the United States and in Canada. Ori’s first intelligent furniture system will have an initial production run of 1,200 units, according to the company.

The modules have already been installed in dozens of luxury apartment buildings around the country, including the 495-square foot luxury studios in the Channel Mission Bay development in San Francisco.

“We are bringing the world of robotics and technology into architecture and real estate, making systems that can make a space feel much bigger,” said Ori CEO and Founder Hasier Larrea in a recent interview with CTV News. Larrea says his company set out to extend the convenience of connected smart devices, such as smart speakers, light bulbs, thermostats, doorbells and garage door openers to larger furniture. He added in the interview, that “when you look at the smart home, it’s all based on peripherals. We’ve been forgetting about 90 percent of the space.”

Programmable Bedtime

If a user sets Ori to “bed mode,” the modular system can transform a living room into a bedroom in less than 30 seconds, gliding on wheels over the floor as a queen-size bed that was tucked underneath the module appears. At the same time, the TV stand/entertainment unit side rolls into the living room. When going into living room mode, the Ori rolls the other way, but it can also leave enough space to allow access to the closet and other storage areas.

Ori Smart home furniture

Photo: Orisystems.com

The unit can be controlled multiple ways. It can move using a side-mounted Ori touch controller, or with a mobile phone app, or by voice commands using an Amazon Echo. The Ori—named partly for the Japanese art of origami paper folding—can also be programmed to transform rooms automatically at certain times, such as bedtime.

Join the Smart Furniture Movement

First Killer App for Smart Cities: Street Lights

Create: 08/09/2017 - 19:33
IoT Smart City Lights ScottMadden

Photo: ScottMadden Management Consultants

As municipalities grow and urban population expands, city officials are feeling the pressure to invest in IoT pilots and programs. By adding embedded intelligence to its assets, cities can create a working framework of modern, cost-effective technology that gathers data and can ultimately improve the quality of life of its citizens.

In addition, every city, regardless of size, wants to have the moniker of being a smart city. With transportation, energy, safety, water and air quality issues that could all benefit from smart technology upgrades, the first question is often, “where should we start?”

Saving Energy, Saving Budget

In a new report, “The Smart City Opportunity for Utilities,” energy consultancy ScottMadden in Raleigh, NC, notes that cities need to look no further than one of the initial components of their existing energy network: the street light. The report states that street lighting projects are a popular entry point into the smart city conversation because of the enormous potential to deliver a strong—and rapid—return on investment.

Here are a few of the reasons listed by the ScottMadden analysts that show why street lights can pave the way for other citywide IoT projects:

  • Street lights represent a substantial portion of city energy budgets, up to 40 percent.
  • Smart street lights can save 50 percent to 70 percent of this cost by dimming when activity is low, which means the city saves big money. These savings can be used to reduce city expense and to fund future initiatives while offering the utility a chance to increase its asset base at the expense of energy costs.
  • Networked LED lights can provide not only energy savings, but information about outages or other anomalies in the energy network.
  •  Lights can be remotely dimmed to reduce energy usage. Networked lights can also be managed by smart devices that adjust lighting in response to traffic patterns and help identify roadway hazards.
  • Networked lighting systems are also seen as a viable platform on which solution providers can build future sensing, data gathering and communications capabilities. For example, networked lights can communicate with video cameras, parking sensors, environmental sensors, weather sensors and more through the same network infrastructure.

The report notes that smart cities ready to start pilots need to first identify the workable funding mechanisms, which can include municipal borrowing, public-private partnerships and integration with federal programs. Next, cities need to create alignment and collaboration among private and public stakeholders and secure the support of their citizenry. Then, cities need to find the right technology partners and solution providers who can design, launch and manage the improvements.

Seeing the Light: ROI

As a solution provider for a smart city, part of your value is providing the expected return on these investments, demonstrating how it will be measured and clearly outlining how the changeover to IoT technology will yield energy cost reduction. 

The ScottMadden report notes that smart city investments and street lighting pilots are already accelerating at a rapid pace, with a constant flow of U.S. cities and cities around the globe announcing initiatives, particularly during the last year. Some examples of cities and regions that have launched IoT initiatives with street lighting upgrades are:

San Diego: The city partnered with Current, a Boston-based firm powered by GE, and invested $30 million to deploy the world’s largest IoT sensor platform this summer. San Diego plans to transform its street lighting in a connected digital infrastructure, allowing the city to collect real-time sensor data across the city. That data will be used to develop a myriad of energy, safety and transportation-related applications.

 

San Diego Smart City LED lights

Photo: Current, powered by GE

San Diego will upgrade 25 percent of its outdoor lights, including those in its historic Gaslamp district downtown. Current will upgrade 14,000 city light fixtures to its Evolve™ LED luminaires. According to early estimates, the fixtures will save San Diego $2.4 million per year in energy costs. Each fixture is equipped with an advance controls system, LightGrid™, that allows city managers to dim, brighten and check maintenance on the lights remotely through a single dashboard.

The sensors will be powered by the AT&T LTE network. Intel IoT technology will be inside the nodes to help extract metadata. Intel’s Atom® processor E3900 and Wind River software will enable the platform to run intelligent analytics with the light fixture and extract the data.

Washington, D.C.: The District has moved to networked LED lights and sensors and is already seeing the benefits. A recently completed pilot project delivered smart street lighting, sensors and a pubic gigabit Wi-Fi network to a three-block area, which reduced lighting energy costs by 50 percent.

IoT street light banner

Photo: Smarterdc.gov

Chattanooga, Fresno, Peoria and Pittsburg: The major appeal of moving to smart lighting in each of these cities isn’t just to save energy. These areas are all using smart lighting technology as a tool to help fight crime, assist in emergencies and better serve their citizens. Learn more about the full technology rollout in each city from a report provided by the Smart Cities Council North America.

The Utility of IoT to Smart Cities

Solution providers who are interested in smart city technology and want to learn how to position the benefits of IoT to municipal buyers can download the full Smart City Opportunity for Utilities report from ScottMadden management consultants. 

Next-generation Surveillance Systems Capture Forensic Details

Create: 07/07/2017 - 17:14
Forensic Wide Dynamic Range technology

Photo: Axis Communications

 

 

Small and medium-sized businesses and homeowners now want to see—clearly—what’s going on around them 24x7. They need your expertise to build an intelligent solution to help traditional security and surveillance systems watch over multiple locations simultaneously using remote cameras and centrally located monitors.

A common problem among network surveillance systems is the ability of the camera to capture detail in dark or obscured lighting situations, such as garages or stairwells. That is starting to change, as Sweden-based camera manufacturer Axis Communications announced it is bringing its Forensic Wide Dynamic Range technology to several of its network cameras.

The new technology enhances the ability of the camera to capture detail in difficult and variable light conditions. Surveillance operators will be better able to see forensic details in challenging lighting conditions, such as doorways or interior spaces with windows that have bright areas juxtaposed with extremely dark.

Capturing Details in the Darkness

Axis Communications Forensic WDR is an enhanced Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) method of video capture that focuses on achieving “high forensic value,” according to the company. WDR is a term that is commonly used for the balancing of very dark and very bright areas in a fixed scene. Also called High Dynamic Range (HDR) in the surveillance industry, the aim of the new technology is to capture forensic details at all times, as the light changes with movement.

“Until now, the WDR methods on the market have not been able to add sufficient forensic value to ultra-high resolution cameras or surveillance scenes that feature a significant amount of movement,” said Ryan Zatolokin, Senior Technologist, Axis Communications, Inc., in a statement.

Photo: @AxisIPVideo on Twitter

Axis Communications will add Forensic WDR to six of its network cameras in the AXIS P32 and AXIS Q35 lines. The AXIS P32 models are available through Axis’ standard distribution channels at a retail price ranging between $779 and $1,099, depending on the model. The new AXIS Q35 cameras will range from $1,099 to $1,249 and will be available in the third quarter of 2017.

As WDR video technology improves, the demand for DSS is starting to boom, with major growth in the areas of digital network equipment. IT convergence in the video surveillance industry is also happening, along with a strong rise in the market for edge-based analytics. Overall, the video surveillance market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 25.2 percent globally in the next several years, according to forecasts from Axis Research Mind.

Goodbye, Decoy Cameras

The importance of having reliable surveillance camera technology was reinforced by a situation in the San Francisco Bay Area. Until this month, the BART trains for commuters had a combination of working cameras and decoys with blinking lights, which administrators said were installed only to deter vandals. In 2016, a criminal incident occurred on a train that resulted in a passenger’s death. Because that train only had a decoy camera, BART police had no video evidence, and the crime remains unsolved.

Axis Communications Forensic Wide Dynamic Range

Photo: Bay Area News Group

The transit district rectified the situation in late June, giving the BART system a $1.42 million surveillance system upgrade. It replaced all its decoy cameras with working digital surveillance technology. The new video systems on the trains include four digital cameras on each car and DVRs with housing units, costing $463,749, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

BART uses a robust network of high-end security cameras on its platforms and inside stations that are monitored by security administrators in real time. While the video footage on the moving trains will not be instantly accessible, police can retrieve it from the digital recorder (when needed) on each train car.

Lights, Camera, Action

If you want to learn more about the next generation of IoT surveillance technology, see the details and specs on the Axis Communications surveillance cameras with Forensic WDR.

Find out about the Axis Partner Network for system integrators.  

NBA Finals Light Up with IoT

Create: 06/09/2017 - 15:04
pixmob nba IoT

Photo: PixMob

 

The Golden State Warriors basketball team are masters at creating game-time splash. This year in the NBA Finals they have some competition—from the crowd. One of the biggest splashes to happen in the big NBA match-ups this season is the addition of PixMob flashing LED fan wristbands. The smart IoT wearables were distributed to each of the 20,562 fans in attendance for game three of the NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

PixMob provides crowd lighting wearables to the Cavs and three other NBA teams: the Sacramento Kings, the Los Angeles Clippers, and the Indianapolis Pacers. In addition to the NBA finals in Cleveland, the PixMob wristbands were used at each of the team’s respective home openers this season.

Fans Are Aglow

In an interview with Cleveland.com, Cavaliers chief marketing officer Tracy Marek described how the bands perform during the games. She noted that while fans were not sure at first about what the bands would do, their purpose became clear when the bracelets lit up in synchronized fashion during The Star-Spangled Banner. In some arena sections the lights turned red, other sections turned white, and in others the wristbands glowed blue.

They continued to flash at irregular intervals throughout the game, coordinated with the entertainment during breaks in the action. Marek says the operation is very straightforward, as an antenna in Quicken Loans Arena sends out signals that trigger each bracelet. The Arena staff decided before the game when they will coordinate the devices with sound. During a Cavalier Girls dance, for example, the wristbands light and pulse with the music.

Marek notes that an operator can also send a signal that lights up all the wristbands spontaneously, at key moments of the game. For example, if LeBron James pushes the ball down for a dunk, the operator can activate all the wristbands to celebrate the score.

The bracelets aren’t placed haphazardly, Marek explains. Because the wristbands in different sections flash different colors, the staff ensures each bracelet is in the right place when fans start filling in. Post-game, the bracelets are reset so that they flash every time they are shaken, and they continue to work until the battery runs out, which is typically 4 to 7 days.

What’s Inside

PixMob’s wristbands contain high brightness LEDs, a coin cell battery, and a motion sensor. The LEDs are controlled by an infrared signal from a group of transmitters, directed from a central control system. As the band receives a signal, it goes through a tiny 8-bit microprocessor that lights up RGB LEDs embedded in the wristbands, transforming each individual into a light pixel. The PixMob technology works with standard light board consoles using DMX or ArtNet protocols.

PixMob NBA does IoT

Photo: PixMob

The technology has four different types of features, depending on the desired effect: PixMob IMPACT, PixMob LITE, PixMob PRO, and PixMob VIDEO. These wireless control options allow for motion-activated commands all the way to 18-bit full color video display.

The company notes that the same person that controls the stage lights typically will control the wristbands, with the same console. That allows the technician to integrate the PixMob lighting objects with the overall crowd experience. The technician can choose to have different sections of a venue react in unique ways in terms of light and duration, allowing for color variations and even spinning effects.

Setting up the experience requires installing a series of infrared transmitters across a venue. The range of the typical transmitter is about 100 meters (328 feet). For an arena, the company uses about 16 transmitters. A large stadium would require 32 to 48 transmitters.

The Fan Base

PixMob IoT wearables are not just for hoop fans. The company’s technology has been used by more than 5 million people in 20 countries on five continents, lighting up everything from Taylor Swift concerts to the Super Bowl to the Sochi Winter Games to hundreds of corporate events.

The company has also developed an engagement platform for events, called Klik. It includes a smart badge or other wearable sensor that allows conference attendees to collect points by engaging and attending sessions. Conference producers can use the wearables to collect attendee data, including connections made and activity.

A Virtual Slam Dunk

In addition to PixMob, the Cavs have incorporated other networked technology to create a richer fan experience. For example, the Cavaliers activated a virtual reality feature for playoff games in 2016. In conjunction with team sponsor Budweiser and Pittsburg, PA-based technology provider YinzCam, the Cavs distributed a limited number of free cardboard headsets customized with virtual reality as fans entered the arena.

The headsets worked in tandem with the team's mobile application embedded with virtual reality. The Cavs are the first NBA club to incorporate the technology into their mobile app, team officials said.

The Cavs produced a series of virtual reality videos that fans could view through a smartphone or by attaching their device to the headset. For those using the headsets, the technology works by inserting the smartphone into the front of the headset, then looking through its special lens at the screen of the device that’s streaming the virtual reality content.

Fans watching the videos on their mobile device, either as a 360-degree video or enclosed in the headset, are immersed in the environment. They have the ability to pan and rotate their device or headset to view the panoramic videos from different angles and perspectives, simulating a real basketball experience.

Get in the Game

Find out how PixMob is lighting up business with IoT wearables. Learn more about the Klik wearable technology for audience engagement. See YinzCam’s technology line-up which includes venue apps, team apps, in-stadium replays, beacons, and crowd analytics. 

Turning IoT Security Inside Out: Part 2, Devices

Create: 05/17/2017 - 15:21

IoT devices must be managed differently than laptops, tablets, smartphones and other traditional endpoints. Unlike these typical clients, IoT devices are designed to do a very specific job—and to do it well.

Keep in mind that IoT devices are purpose-built, and they often have minimal compute and power. These characteristics mean it’s not possible to run traditional endpoint security software or be scanned remotely for malware. Another factor that sets them apart is that they are often installed in private, remote or unattended locations making them easily accessible—and appealing to curious or malicious hands. The combination of large numbers, limited space for software, and open locations make the devices extremely vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Once a device is compromised, similar devices can be compromised more easily. An attacker may launch a denial-of-service attack, causing business disruption and network outages. Or a compromised IoT device may provide an entry point for an attacker to move about the trusted IoT network in an attempt to steal sensitive information or cause further damage.

With these limitations in mind, here are seven tips to help you lock down IoT devices.

1.      Consider the physical security of the device. Does the device open so the internal components are accessible? If so, can the chips be removed by an attacker? Depending on the deployment, you may consider epoxying chips to the circuit board or embedding the circuitry in resin.

2.      Lock down open ports. Any device with an open port that’s connected to a network can be hacked. Beyond network connections, are there USB ports, SD cards or other storage that can be accessed? Can ports be disabled if they’re not needed?

3.      Secure software by design. Is the device designed for secure software execution? If the device uses secure boot techniques and securely executes applications, then attackers can’t tamper with the processor and system integrity. Increasingly, hardware-based security support is embedded into the chips to ensure system integrity, secure storage and to protect anonymity, which is important if the device handles personally identifiable information.

4.      Lock down administrator access. Eighty percent of hacking-related breaches involved stolen passwords and/or weak or easily guessable passwords, according to Verizon, so make sure administrator passwords are airtight. That includes changing the default password. Make sure the connection to the device is secure, using a protocol such as SSH rather than telnet.

5.      Use encryption. Connected devices often lack the muscle to run the usual encryption algorithms, but lightweight encryption algorithms designed for resource-constrained platforms like IoT devices are emerging. Keep in mind that some IoT devices, such as smart meters, are designed to last for many years, and the device may outlast the usefulness of the encryption used.

6.      Consider how to do software updates. Can the device software or firmware be updated when vulnerabilities are discovered? Make sure the update process is secure so that attackers can’t perform their own malicious updates.

7.      Perform real-time device discovery and monitoring. Of course you can’t control or manage a device if you don’t know about it, but research shows that 70% of enterprise IoT security professionals don’t monitor devices in real time. You need a way to identify every single device on the network so you have a real-time inventory of your IoT devices.

Expanding Your Security Expertise

With such a broad ecosystem, IoT solution providers have lots of opportunities to help customers with their security. This four-part series concentrates on securing devices, connections and data. You can find additional IoT security solutions from Intel and an ecosystem of partners that specialize in IoT security.

Up next: Secure connections

IoT Inspires Industry Shift in Managed Services

Create: 05/05/2017 - 17:51
Henry Clifford Livewire

Photo: Henry Clifford, Livewire

 

The move to IoT has caused a ripple effect of opportunity in the market, opening doors for solution providers to offer new levels of remote managed service plans for home and SMB installations. “Most of the gear being installed in the home now has some sort of network connection. So everyone in the market have been paying more attention to remotely managing those systems,” says OT integrator Henry Clifford, owner of Livewire, LLC. “Integrators are really starting to hone in on their businesses and understand how much it costs to roll a truck.”

Clifford and many other OT integrators are busy installing remote managed services appliances and hubs by companies such as Domotz, Ihiji and SnapAV into homes, much as they would do in the SMB market.

“From the commercial perspective, your network has to stay up,” says Clifford. “So, the notion of paying for the proactive monitoring and the proactive remote support is less of a conversation.”

A New Way of Thinking

On the residential side, many integrators have shot themselves in the foot by providing support above and beyond where a commercial installation would go—basically free service that goes beyond the system’s warranty.

Now, Clifford and his team have developed InVision, a solution with two remote managed service packages he offers to Livewire’s SMB and residential customers. The two service packages are structured and priced to accommodate different levels of service for customers:

1.      InVision full service: $49.99 a month

  • Always on monitoring of system remotely to proactively discover network issues
  • Proactive and reactive remote repair
  • App control
  • Discounted service calls

2.      InVision express: $27.99 a month

  • Self-monitoring
  • Reactive remote repair
  • App control
  • Discounted service calls

Clifford says among clients with two or more subsystems, 90 percent have been receptive to the programs. “It’s been amazing to see the sell-through rate on these plans, on the residential side and on the new project side.”

Setting Yourself Up for Sales Success

A big part of the sales success is integrating this new way of thinking early in the conversations with customers. “We describe to the customer that Livewire leads by being oriented toward their peace of mind, and here’s how we do that. That’s our differentiator,” explains Clifford.

It’s important for both IT channel partners and OT integrators to note the time customers save by buying these remote management programs. “That is your top sales pitch,” he adds. “From a savings perspective, for the client, their most precious commodity is time. They’re saving time because we’re able to get in remotely, fix their system and not bother them by having them set aside time for an appointment,” says Clifford.

Another added benefit for Livewire’s remote managed service plans: fewer costly truck rolls. Clifford notes that the company’s truck rolls have dropped by 80 percent with the addition of these new service programs.

Livewire home theater

Photo: Livewire

Coming Soon

Stay tuned for our next blog with Clifford, where we will explore the partnership potential between IT channel partners and OT integrators in the SMB market and beyond. Get more information about Livewire and its services—including some of its unusual projects such as converting a racquetball court into a home theater—at www.getlivewire.com

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