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Main article: Internet of Things

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Topics from 1 to 10 | in all: 36

Now even the FBI is warning about your smart TV’s security

22:47 | 1 December

If you just bought a smart TV on Black Friday or plan to buy one for Cyber Monday tomorrow, the FBI wants you to know a few things.

Smart TVs are like regular television sets but with an internet connection. With the advent and growth of Netflix, Hulu and other streaming services, most saw internet-connected televisions as a cord-cutter’s dream. But like anything that connects to the internet, it opens up smart TVs to security vulnerabilities and hackers. Not only that, many smart TVs come with a camera and a microphone. But as is the case with most other internet-connected devices, manufacturers often don’t put security as a priority.

That’s the key takeaway from the FBI’s Portland field office, which just ahead of some of the biggest shopping days of the year posted a warning on its website about the risks that smart TVs pose.

“Beyond the risk that your TV manufacturer and app developers may be listening and watching you, that television can also be a gateway for hackers to come into your home. A bad cyber actor may not be able to access your locked-down computer directly, but it is possible that your unsecured TV can give him or her an easy way in the backdoor through your router,” wrote the FBI.

The FBI warned that hackers can take control of your unsecured smart TV and in worst cases, take control of the camera and microphone to watch and listen in.

Active attacks and exploits against smart TVs are rare, but not unheard of. Because every smart TV comes with their manufacturer’s own software and are at the mercy of their often unreliable and irregular security patching schedule, some devices are more vulnerable than others. Earlier this year, hackers showed it was possible to hijack Google’s Chromecast streaming stick and broadcast random videos to thousands of victims.

In fact, some of the biggest exploits targeting smart TVs in recent years were developed by the Central Intelligence Agency, but were stolen and published online by WikiLeaks two years ago.

But as much as the FBI’s warning is responding to genuine fears, arguably one of the bigger issues that should cause as much if not greater concerns are how much tracking data is collected on smart TV owners.

The Washington Post earlier this year found that some of the most popular smart TV makers — including Samsung and LG — collect tons of information about what users are watching in order to help advertisers better target ads against their viewers and to suggest what to watch next, for example. The TV tracking problem became so problematic a few years ago that smart TV maker Vizio had to pay $2.2 million in fines after it was caught secretly collecting customer viewing data. Earlier this year, a separate class action suit related to the tracking again Vizio was allowed to go ahead.

The FBI recommends placing black tape over an unused smart TV camera, keeping your smart TV up-to-date with the latest patches and fixes, and to read the privacy policy to better understand what your smart TV is capable of.

As convenient as it might be, the most secure smart TV might be one that isn’t connected to the internet at all.

 


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Amazon Sidewalk is a new long-range wireless network for your stuff

21:25 | 25 September

At its annual hardware event in Seattle, Amazon today announced Sidewalk, a new low-bandwidth, long-distance wireless protocol the company is developing to connect all of the IoT devices in and around your house.

Amazon argues that Bluetooth and WiFi don’t have enough range, while 5F takes too much power and is too complex.

“We came up with something that we call Amazon Sidewalk,” Amazon’s device chief Dave Limp said at the event today. “Amazon Sidewalk is a brand new low bandwidth network that uses the already existing free over the air 900 megahertz spectrum. We think it will be great for keeping track of things, keeping things up to date — but first and foremost, it will extend in the distance at which you can control these kinds of simple, low-cost, easy-to-use devices.

The details here remain a bit vague, but Amazon says that you may be able to use Sidewalk to connect to devices that can be up to a mile away, depending on how the base station and devices are positioned.

Image from iOS 3 1

Amazon already sent out 700 test devices to households in L.A. to test the access points — and once you have a lot of access points, you create a network with some pretty broad coverage.

Amazon says it’ll publish the protocol so that other device makers can also integrate it into their devices.

The first product that uses Sidewalk? A dog tag, so that you’ll hopefully see fewer lost dogs on your local Nextdoor in the near future because if your dog now leaves the perimeter, you’ll get an alert. This new tag, the Ring Fetch, will launch next year.

download

 


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Elk, a blockchain dev board for decentralized IoT, launches on Kickstarter

17:55 | 25 July

Hardware developers toying with the idea of building physical stuff that can plug into the decentralized world of blockchain should point their eyes at Elk: A dev board in the making that’s been designed to support all sorts of IoT projects with a blockchain flavor.

Such as, for example, a connected door-lock that doesn’t demand that your ability to access your own property be dependent on the uptime (and accord) of servers of a remote corporate giant, nor your comings and goings be logged by a commercial third party.

Or, in another of their suggested examples, an alarm clock that charges you in bitcoin if you hit the snooze button too much, rather than getting up. Ouch.

The team behind Elk have just launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to bring their prototype to market — with the aim of shipping the board to developers from next Spring.

They’re looking to raise a modest ~$20k. While the gizmo is being priced at $59 for early bird backers, or ten dollars extra for those who failed to, uh, un-snooze their clocks in time.

We covered Elk last year — when it was in an earlier stage of development and being called Elkrem.

At that point the team hoped to get the device to market before the end of the year. As it turns out it’s taken them a little longer to feel ready to fire up a crowdfunder — hitting various challenges along the way.

It’s worth flagging it’s not the team’s first product for hardware devs. They grabbed attention at TechCrunch Disrupt Europe back in 2013, when they got plucked out of startup alley as an audience choice to participate in our startup battlefield competition — where they pitched their idea to tap into sensors on smartphones as an alternative to Ardunio shields.

They went on to crowdfund and ship the 1Sheeld — and are still selling it to this day.

So there are fewer caveats than can usually apply to a crowdfunded hardware (though, as ever with anything being pitched for sale when still a prototype, it’s always prudent to expect delays).

Here’s a quick Q&A with Elk CEO and co-founder Amr Saleh on the team’s aim and ambition for the device:

TC: What is Elk and what is it for?
Saleh: Elk is a hardware development board for the blockchain and the decentralized web. It combines the simplicity of Arduino with native support for decentralized networks. With only a few lines of code you can build IoT that interfaces with Ethereum, IPFS, Whisper, and more!

Elk empowers developers to build what we call “Decent IoT”. Decent IoT is decentralized, gives users true control and true privacy, and allows entirely new use-cases like payments, oracles, selling your data, and much more.

With Elk you can build a smart door lock that you can control remotely without relying on a cloud provider that tracks and controls your device usage, or build a charging station that you can rent with Ethereum, or lock money into a treadmill that you can only get back when you work out. The possibilities are truly endless.

TC: Why is dedicated hardware necessary for developing blockchain IoT devices? What advantages does the hardware offer over rival dev boards, for eg, using microprocessors like Raspberry Pi?
Saleh: You can certainly use a microprocessor like Raspberry Pi to develop blockchain IoT devices. What differentiates Elk hardware-wise is that we combine both a microcontroller a microprocessor, a WiFi module and persistent storage preloaded with our OS in one breadboard-compatible board, and this allows us to offer a development experience that is plug-and-play just like programming an Arduino.

Unlike using a Raspberry Pi, with Elk you won’t have to deal with wallet and keys management, fuss over setting up nodes, tune their parameters to run well on an embedded device, handle crashes, etc. We are delivering the 10x easier Arduino-like experience to blockchain IoT development, with all the libraries that Arduino already supports. Developers can now focus on their applications and not the overheads.

TC: Who is the Elk for? How large is the blockchain hardware development community right now & how do you see that evolving over the next few years?
Saleh: Currently, blockchain hardware development is small and mostly siloed to building hardware wallets for blockchain enthusiasts.

We believe the potential for blockchain and decentralization extends far beyond that. Elk is not just  for blockchain enthusiasts, but for privacy-conscious makers as well. Decentralization allows us to build IoT that is far more private, far more secure, and far more capable. We call it “Decent IoT”, and that’s what we are set out to introduce with Elk.

Current IoT architecture relies on centralized cloud providers for communication and data storage. This, by necessity, means that cloud providers (and whomever hacks them) can control your devices, deny you access, or tap into your private life.

The new decentralized web enables a completely new paradigm for IoT. A paradigm where your communication flows privately through a decentralized network with no central authority responsible for relaying your communication, no third party that can track your device usage, and no third party that can control your device. It additionally opens the door for other possibilities like payments, oracles, selling your data, and more.

Elk provides the tools and the UX to make building Decent IoT as easy as writing a few lines of code, and we’re hoping that over time this would further drive adoption of decentralization within the hardware community.

TC: Why the delay in launching the KS? What challenges have you encountered as you’ve prototyped Elk & how confident are you of meeting your estimated shipping deadlines?
Saleh: Blockchain and decentralization are very nascent fields, and ensuring that Elk offers the stable plug-and-play experience we want to offer was certainly a challenge.

Another significant challenge we faced was finding the right balance of features to offer in Elk. For example, we initially felt it was paramount for Elk to have a secure hardware enclave and spent months building out a prototype. We decided to later drop hardware security in favor of a stable and superior development experience. The development experience in building Decent IoT, we think, is far more of a bottleneck than pushing the extra mile in security.

At this point, we’ve been through four different iterations of our hardware and have done our diligence to be confident that we can deliver the product we’re offering with no surprises in production. We’ve already been through the process of manufacturing hardware. In our previous Kickstarter we shipped on time to our backers and sold tens of thousands of units in the years that followed.

TC: What’s the business model? Are you intending to make money via distributing/supporting the SDK as well as selling dev hardware?
Saleh: At this point, we are focused on making Elk the standard for building blockchain IoT devices. Beyond the current campaign, we’d be looking at enterprise use-cases that require stricter hardware requirements and support.

 


0

UK to toughen telecoms security controls to shrink 5G risks

22:49 | 22 July

Amid ongoing concerns about security risks posed by the involvement of Chinese tech giant Huawei in 5G supply, the UK government has published a review of the telecoms supply chain which concludes that policy and regulation in enforcing network security needs to be significantly strengthened to address concerns.

However it continues to hold off on setting an official position on whether to allow or ban Huawei from supplying the country’s next-gen networks — as the US has been pressurizing its allies to do.

Giving a statement in parliament this afternoon, the UK’s digital minister, Jeremy Wright, said the government is releasing the conclusions of the report ahead of a decision on Huawei so that domestic carriers can prepare for the tougher standards it plans to bring in to apply to all their vendors.

“The Review has concluded that the current level of protections put in place by industry are unlikely to be adequate to address the identified security risks and deliver the desired security outcomes,” he said. “So, to improve cyber security risk management, policy and enforcement, the Review recommends the establishment of a new security framework for the UK telecoms sector. This will be a much stronger, security based regime than at present.

“The foundation for the framework will be a new set of Telecoms Security Requirements for telecoms operators, overseen by Ofcom and government. These new requirements will be underpinned by a robust legislative framework.”

Wright said the government plans to legislate “at the earliest opportunity” — to provide the regulator with stronger powers to to enforcement the incoming Telecoms Security Requirements, and to establish “stronger national security backstop powers for government”.

The review suggests the government is considering introducing GDPR-level penalties for carriers that fail to meet the strict security standards it will also be bringing in.

“Until the new legislation is put in place, government and Ofcom will work with all telecoms operators to secure adherence to the new requirements on a voluntary basis,” Wright told parliament today. “Operators will be required to subject vendors to rigorous oversight through procurement and contract management. This will involve operators requiring all their vendors to adhere to the new Telecoms Security Requirements.

“They will also be required to work closely with vendors, supported by government, to ensure effective assurance testing for equipment, systems and software, and to support ongoing verification arrangements.”

The review also calls for competition and diversity within the supply chain — which Wright said will be needed “if we are to drive innovation and reduce the risk of dependency on individual suppliers”.

The government will therefore pursue “a targeted diversification strategy, supporting the growth of new players in the parts of the network that pose security and resilience risks”, he added.

“We will promote policies that support new entrants and the growth of smaller firms,” he also said, sounding a call for security startups to turn their attention to 5G.

Government would “seek to attract trusted and established firms to the UK market”, he added — dubbing a “vibrant and diverse telecoms market” as both good for consumers and for national security.

“The Review I commissioned was not designed to deal only with one specific company and its conclusions have much wider application. And the need for them is urgent. The first 5G consumer services are launching this year,” he said. “The equally vital diversification of the supply chain will take time. We should get on with it.”

Last week two UK parliamentary committees espoused a view that there’s no technical reason to ban Huawei from all 5G supply — while recognizing there may be other considerations, such as geopolitics and human rights, which impact the decision.

The Intelligence and Security committee also warned that what it dubbed the “unnecessarily protracted” delay in the government taking a decision about 5G suppliers is damaging UK relations abroad.

Despite being urged to get a move on on the specific issue of Huawei, it’s notable that the government continues to hold off. Albeit, a new prime minister will be appointed later this week, after votes of Conservative Party members are counted — which may be contributing to ongoing delay.

“Since the US government’s announcement [on May 16, adding Huawei and 68 affiliates to its Entity List on national security grounds] we have sought clarity on the extent and implications but the position is not yet entirely clear. Until it is, we have concluded it would be wrong to make specific decisions in relation to Huawei,” Wright said, adding: “We will do so as soon as possible.”

In a press release accompanying the telecoms supply chain review the government said decisions would be taken about high risk vendors “in due course”.

Earlier this year a leak from a meeting of the UK’s National Security Council suggested the government was preparing to give an amber light to Huawei to continue supplying 5G — though limiting its participation to non-core portions of networks.

The Science & Technology committee also recommended the government mandate the exclusion of Huawei from the core of 5G networks.

Wright’s statement appears to hint that that position remains the preferred one — baring a radical change of policy under a new PM — with, in addition to talk of encouraging diversity in the supply chain, the minister also flagging the review’s conclusion that there should be “additional controls on the presence in the supply chain of certain types of vendor which pose significantly greater security and resilience risks to UK telecoms”.

Additional controls doesn’t sound like a euphemism for an out-and-out ban.

In a statement responding to the review, Huawei expressed confidence that it’s days of supplying UK 5G are not drawing to a close — writing:

The UK Government’s Supply Chain Review gives us confidence that we can continue to work with network operators to rollout 5G across the UK. The findings are an important step forward for 5G and full fibre broadband networks in the UK and we welcome the Government’s commitment to “a diverse telecoms supply chain” and “new legislation to enforce stronger security requirements in the telecoms sector”. After 18 years of operating in the UK, we remain committed to supporting BT, EE, Vodafone and other partners build secure, reliable networks.”

The evidence shows excluding Huawei would cost the UK economy £7 billion and result in more expensive 5G networks, raising prices for anyone with a mobile device. On Friday, Parliament’s Intelligence & Security Committee said limiting the market to just two telecoms suppliers would reduce competition, resulting in less resilience and lower security standards. They also confirmed that Huawei’s inclusion in British networks would not affect the channels used for intelligence sharing.

A spokesman for the company told us it already supplies non-core elements of UK carriers’ EE and Vodafone’s network, adding that it’s viewing Wright’s statement as an endorsement of that status quo.

While the official position remains to be confirmed all the signals suggest the UK’s 5G security strategy will be tied to tightened regulation and oversight, rather than follow a US path of seeking to shut Chinese tech giants out.

Commenting on the government’s telecoms supply chain review in a statement, Ciaran Martin, CEO of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, said: “As the UK’s lead technical authority, we have worked closely with DCMS [the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport] on this review, providing comprehensive analysis and cyber security advice. These new measures represent a tougher security regime for our telecoms infrastructure, and will lead to higher standards, much greater resilience and incentives for the sector to take cyber security seriously.

“This is a significant overhaul of how we do telecoms security, helping to keep the UK the safest place to live and work online by ensuring that cyber security is embedded into future networks from inception.”

Although tougher security standards for telecoms combined with updated regulations that bake in major fines for failure suggest Huawei will have its work cut out not to be excluded by the market, as carriers will be careful about vendors as they work to shrink their risk.

Earlier this year a report by an oversight body that evaluates its approach to security was withering — finding “serious and systematic defects” in its software engineering and cyber security competence.

 


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UK plans new law aimed at improving Internet of Things security

18:10 | 1 May

The U.K. government is proposing new legislation aimed at improving security of Internet of Things devices.

Digital minister Margot James MP revealed the draft law on Wednesday as part of the government’s efforts to protect millions of internet-connected devices from cyberattacks.

The law will mandate that internet-connected devices, like smart thermostats, appliances and webcams, must be sold with a unique password.

Botnets typically rely on default passwords that are hardcoded into devices when they’re built that aren’t later changed by the user. By selling a device with a unique password, it significantly slows down cybercriminals from scanning the internet and automatically logging into devices with a default password, often to launch distributed denial-of-service attacks.

On a massive scale, botnets operating thousands of hijacked Internet of Things devices entire websites offline. Two years ago, the Mirai botnet briefly downed Dyn, a networking company that provides domain name service to major sites. That outage knocked dozens of major sites offline — like Twitter, Spotify and SoundCloud.

The new U.K. law will also mandate device makers to provide a public point of contact to allow hackers and security researchers submit flaws and vulnerabilities.

And device makers will have to tell consumers for how long each device will receive security updates.

The law, if passed, would create a labeling scheme for consumers to easily see devices that are “Secure by Design,” said James, giving consumers greater confidence that the devices land with a baseline level of security out of the box.

“Many consumer products that are connected to the internet are often found to be insecure, putting consumers privacy and security at risk,” said James. “Our code of practice was the first step towards making sure that products have security features built in from the design stage and not bolted on as an afterthought.”

The U.K. is following in the footsteps of California, which in October passed a law banning default passwords in connected devices. The law will come into effect in 2020. Each device sold in the state must come with a password “unique to each device.”

Ken Munro, founder of security firm Pen Test Partners, said in a blog post that the proposed law was a “great start,” but the new rules were a “fairly light touch.”

His company finds security flaws in internet-connected devices like car alarms and other consumer goods.

“We hope that the government will also commit to a program of continual improvement of smart product security,” he said.

 


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Spy on your smart home with this open source research tool

13:16 | 13 April

Researchers at Princeton University have built a web app that lets you (and them) spy on your smart home devices to see what they’re up to.

The open source tool, called IoT Inspector, is available for download here. (Currently it’s Mac OS only, with a wait list for Windows or Linux.)

In a blog about the effort the researchers write that their aim is to offer a simple tool for consumers to analyze the network traffic of their Internet connected gizmos. The basic idea is to help people see whether devices such as smart speakers or wi-fi enabled robot vacuum cleaners are sharing their data with third parties. (Or indeed how much snitching their gadgets are doing.)

Testing the IoT Inspector tool in their lab the researchers say they found a Chromecast device constantly contacting Google’s servers even when not in active use.

A Geeni smart bulb was also found to be constantly communicating with the cloud — sending/receiving traffic via a URL (tuyaus.com) that’s operated by a China-based company with a platform which controls IoT devices.

There are other ways to track devices like this — such as setting up a wireless hotspot to sniff IoT traffic using a packet analyzer like WireShark. But the level of technical expertise required makes them difficult for plenty of consumers.

Whereas the researchers say their web app doesn’t require any special hardware or complicated set-up so it sounds easier than trying to go packet sniffing your devices yourself. (Gizmodo, which got an early look at the tool, describes it as “incredibly easy to install and use”.)

One wrinkle: The web app doesn’t work with Safari; requiring either Firefox or Google Chrome (or a Chromium-based browser) to work.

The main caveat is that the team at Princeton do want to use the gathered data to feed IoT research — so users of the tool will be contributing to efforts to study smart home devices.

The title of their research project is Identifying Privacy, Security, and Performance Risks of Consumer IoT Devices. The listed principle investigators are professor Nick Feamster and PhD student Danny Yuxing Huang at the university’s Computer Science department.

The Princeton team says it intends to study privacy and security risks and network performance risks of IoT devices. But they also note they may share the full dataset with other non-Princeton researchers after a standard research ethics approval process. So users of IoT Inspector will be participating in at least one research project. (Though the tool also lets you delete any collected data — per device or per account.)

“With IoT Inspector, we are the first in the research community to produce an open-source, anonymized dataset of actual IoT network traffic, where the identity of each device is labelled,” the researchers write. “We hope to invite any academic researchers to collaborate with us — e.g., to analyze the data or to improve the data collection — and advance our knowledge on IoT security, privacy, and other related fields (e.g., network performance).”

They have produced an extensive FAQ which anyone thinking about running the tool should definitely read before getting involved with a piece of software that’s explicitly designed to spy on your network traffic. (tl;dr, they’re using ARP-spoofing to intercept traffic data — a technique they warn may slow your network, in addition to the risk of their software being buggy.)

The dataset that’s being harvesting by the traffic analyzer tool is anonymized and the researchers specify they’re not gathering any public-facing IP addresses or locations. But there are still some privacy risks — such as if you have smart home devices you’ve named using your real name. So, again, do read the FAQ carefully if you want to participate.

For each IoT device on a network the tool collects multiple data-points and sends them back to servers at Princeton University — including DNS requests and responses; destination IP addresses and ports; hashed MAC addresses; aggregated traffic statistics; TLS client handshakes; and device manufacturers.

The tool has been designed not to track computers, tablets and smartphones by default, given the study focus on smart home gizmos.

Users can also manually exclude individual smart devices from being tracked if they’re able to power them down during set up or by specifying their MAC address.

Up to 50 smart devices can be tracked on the network where IoT Inspector is running. Anyone with more than 50 devices is asked to contact the researchers to ask for an increase to that limit.

The project team has produced a video showing how to install the app on Mac:

 


0

Meet the startups in the latest Alchemist class

20:30 | 20 September

Alchemist is the Valley’s premiere enterprise accelerator and every season they feature a group of promising startups. They are also trying something new this year: they’re putting a reserve button next to each company, allowing angels to express their interest in investing immediately. It’s a clever addition to the demo day model.

You can watch the livestream at 3pm PST here.

Videoflow – Videoflow allows broadcasters to personalize live TV. The founding team is a duo of brothers — one from the creative side of TV as a designer, the other a computer scientist. Their SaaS product delivers personalized and targeted content on top of live video streams to viewers. Completely bootstrapped to date, they’ve landed NBC, ABC, and CBS Sports as paying customers and appear to be growing fast, having booked over $300k in revenue this year.

Redbird Health Tech – Redbird is a lab-in-a-box for convenient health monitoring in emerging market pharmacies, starting with Africa. Africa has the fastest growing middle class in the world — but also the fastest growing rate of diabetes (double North America’s). Redbird supplies local pharmacies with software and rapid tests to transform them into health monitoring points – for anything from blood sugar to malaria to cholesterol. The founding team includes a Princeton Chemical Engineer, 2 Peace Corps alums, and a Pharmacist from Ghana’s top engineering school. They have 20 customers, and are growing 36% week over week.

Shuttle Shuttle is getting a head start on the future of space travel by building a commercial spaceflight booking platform. Space tourism may be coming sooner than you think. Shuttle wants to democratize access to the heavens above. Founded by a Stanford Computer Science alum active in Stanford’s Student Space Society, Shuttle has partnerships with the leading spaceflight operators, including Virgin Galactic, Space Adventures, and Zero-G. Tickets to space today will set you back a cool $250K, but Shuttle believes that prices will drop exponentially as reusable rockets and landing pads become pervasive. They have $1.6m in reservations and growing.

Birdnest – Threading the needle between communal and private, Birdnest is the Goldilocks of office space for startups. Communal coworking spaces are accessible but have too many distractions. Traditional office spaces are private but inflexible on their terms. Birdnest brings the best of each without the drawbacks: finding, leasing, and operating a network of underutilized spaces inside of private offices. The cofounders, a duo of Duke and Kellogg MBA grads, are at $300K ARR with a fast-growing 50+ client waitlist.

Tag.bio – Tag.bio wants to make data science actionable in healthtech. The founding team is comprised of a former Ayasdi bioinformatician and a former Honda Racing engineer with a Stanford MBA. They’ve developed a next-generation data science platform that makes it easy and fast to build data apps for end users, or as they say, “WordPress for data science.” The result they claim is lightning-fast analysis apps that can be run by end users, dramatically accelerating insight discovery. They count the UCSF Medical Center and a “large Swiss pharma company” as early customers.

nCorium – They’ve built a new server architecture to handle the onslaught of AI to come with what they claim is the world’s first AI accelerator on memory to deliver 30x greater performance than the status quo. The quad founding team is intimidatingly technical — including a UCSD Professor, and former engineers from Qualcomm and Intel with 40 patents among them. They have $300K in pilots.

Spiio – Software eats landscaping with Spiio, which combines cloud-driven AI with physical sensors to monitor watering and landscaping for big companies. Their smart system knows when to water and when not to. This reduces water consumption by 50%, which means their system pays for itself in less than 30 days for big companies. They want to connect every plant to the internet, and look like they are off to a good start — $100K in orders from brand name Valley tech firms, and they are doubling monthly.

Element42 – Fraud is a major problem — For example, if you buy a Rolex on eBay, you run the risk of winding up with a counterfeit. Started by ex-VPs from Citibank, the founders are using risk models and technologies that banks use to help brands combat fraud and counterfeiting. Designed with token economics, they also incentivize customers to buy genuine products by serving exclusive content and promotions only to genuine product holders. Built on blockchain at the core, they claim to be the world’s first peer-to-peer authentication platform for physical assets. They have 45 customers across two industry verticals, 800K in ARR and are a member of World Economic Forum’s global initiatives against corruption.

My90 – Distrust between the public and the police has rarely been more strained than it is today. My90 wants to solve that by collecting data about interactions between the police and the public—think traffic stops, service calls, etc.—and turn these into actionable intelligence via an online analytics dashboard. Users text My90 anonymously about their interactions, and My90’s dashboard analyzes the results using natural language processing. Customers include major city police departments like the San Jose Police Department and the world’s largest community policing program. They have booked $150K in pilots and are expanding aggressively across the US.

Nunetz – A Stanford Computer Science grad and UCSF Neurosurgeon have come together to try to build a single unifying interface to replace the deluge of monitors and data sources in today’s clinical health environment. The goal is to prepare a daily “battle map” for physicians, nurses, and other providers, with an initial focus on the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). They have closed 3 paid pilots with hospitals through grants.

When Labs – If you hate managing people, When Labs wants to unburden you. Using an AI-powered assistant that texts with employees to negotiate assignments for hourly work, WhenLabs is trying to free customers like Hilton from spending money on managers who would normally do this manually. As the system gets smarter, they claim employees will prefer interfacing with their AI bot more than a human. AI and HR is a crowded space, but this might be the team to separate from the pack: the founding team’s previous company had a 9 figure exit to IBM.

FirstCut – FirstCut helps businesses put video content out at scale. Video dominates social media — it creates 10x more comments than text — and is emerging as a necessity for B2B media. But putting video out if you are a B2B marketer normally requires using agencies that charge hefty fees. FirstCut wants to disrupt the agencies with software and marketplaces. They use software automation and an on-demand talent marketplace to offer a fixed price product for video content. They are at $180k revenue, and most of it is moving to recurring subscriptions.

LynxCare – LynxCare claims that 90% of healthcare data goes untapped when doctors make critical decisions about your life. Further, they claim the average person’s life could be extended by 4 years if that data can be converted into insights. Their team of clinicians and data scientists aims to do just that — building a data platform that aggregates disparate data sets and drive insight for better clinical outcomes. And it looks like their platform has fans: they are active in 9 hospitals, count Pharma companies like Pfizer as Partners, and grew 4x over the past year and now are at $800K ARR.

ADIAN – Adian is a B2B SaaS product that digitizes the complex agrochemical supply chain in order to improve the sales process between manufacturers and distributors. The company claims manufacturers reduce costs by 20% and increase sales by 4% by using their online framework. $1.5 Billion and 70,000 orders have gone through the platform to date.

Hardin Scientific – Hardin is building IoT-enabled, Smart Lab Equipment. The hardware becomes a gateway to become the hub for monitoring, controlling, and sharing scientific data across teams. They’ve closed over $1.5m in revenue, and raised $15m in equity and debt financing. One of their smart devices is being used to 3D print bio-tissues and human organs in space.

ZaiNar – This team of 5 Stanford grads — 3 PhD’s and 2 MBAs — joined up with the Co-Founder of BlueKai to build the world’s best time synchronization technology. ZaiNar claims their ability to wirelessly synchronize and distribute time between networked devices is a thousand times better than existing technologies. This enables them to locate RF-emitting devices (i.e. phones, cars, drones, & RFID) at long distances with sub-meter accuracy. Beyond location, this technology has applications across data transmission, 5G communications, and energy grids. ZaiNar has raised a $1.7M seed from AME Cloud and Softbank, and has built an extensive patent portfolio.

SMART Brain Aging – This startup claims to reduce the onset of dementia by 2.25 years with software. They are the only company approved by Medicare to get reimbursed on a preventative basis for the treatment of dementia. In conjunction with Harvard University, they have developed 20,000 exercises that are clinically proven to reduce the onset of dementia and, they claim, help build neurotransmitters. The company works with 300 patients per week ($2.2m annual revenue) and is building to a goal of helping 22,000 people in 24 months.

Phoneic – Phoneic believes the data trapped in voice calls from cellphones is a gold mine waiting to be unleashed. Their app records and transcribes cell phones conversations, and the company has built an integration layer to enterprise AI and CRM systems that traditionally didn’t have access to voice data. The team is led by the co-founder of 3jam, one of the first group SMS and virtual number companies, which was acquired by Skype in 2011. He is keenly aware of the power of virality — and like Skype, the use of Phoneic spreads its adoption. The company has already raised $800,000 in seed funding.

Arkose Labs – Whether or not you think Russia interfered with the 2016 election, it’s no secret that bots are having significant impact on society. Arkose Labs wants to fight fraud, without adding friction to legit users. Most fraud prevention platforms today focus on gathering info from the user and providing a probability score that the traffic is good or bad. This leaves companies with a difficult decision where they may be blocking revenue generating users. Arkose has a different approach, and uses a bilateral approach that doesn’t force this tradeoff. They claim to be the only solution to offer a 100% SLA on fraud prevention. Big companies like Singapore Airlines and Electronic Arts are customers. USVP led a $6m investment into the company.

 


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The UDOO BOLT is a powerful computer on a tiny board

17:46 | 3 July

When we last met UDOO the team was building a powerful Raspberry Pi-based DIY board with a bunch of impressive features including more ports and a better processor. Now the team behind the first units has released the UDOO BOLT, a DIY board that can run “AAA games” thanks to a built-in AMD Ryzen Embedded V1202B 3.2 GHz SoC processor and a Radeon Vega 3 graphics card. The system is also Arduino compatible so you can connect it to your robotics and other electronics projects.

The BOLT, when outfitted with a chunk of RAM, is, according to the creators, “almost twice as powerful as a MacBook Pro 13-inch equipped with an Intel i5 and three times more powerful than a Mac Mini.” Because it is nearly a fully-fledged computer you can stick it into a case and treat it like a mini-workstation with a USB keyboard and mouse and HDMI out to a monitor. The BOLT can drive four monitors at once, two via 4K HDMI and two via USB-C. It runs Linux or Windows.

The team plans on shipping in December 2018. The starter kit costs $298 on Kickstarter and includes a power supply and 4GB of RAM. The 8GB unit with SATA and Wireless costs $409.

Is a DIY board with a massive processor and graphics card a bit of overkill? Absolutely. However, because the system is designed for experimentation and on-the-fly design, you can easily repurpose a board like this for a kiosk, store display, or workstation. Because it is so portable you could slap a few of these on school desks and give the kids powerful computers that run nearly everything you can throw at them. Plus it’s pretty cool to be able to play VR games on a machine the size of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

UDOO has been adding onto the traditional Raspberry Pi/Arduino stack for so long that they’ve become experts at making basic boards much more powerful. Given their earlier models could run drones and control multi-legged robots all while running Android, this new product should be a real treat.

 


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AT&T names Atlanta, Dallas and Waco first of 12 US cities to get 5G wireless

17:05 | 21 February

AT&T wireless announced on Tuesday the first cities to get its 5G network. The carrier plans on installing 5G in twelve cities by the end of 2018 and on top of the list is Atlanta, Georgia, and Dallas and Waco, Texas. The remaining cities will be announced at a later date.

Several carriers have been trialing 5G networks for sometime. AT&T says this rollout will be based on the 3GPP standard and will operate on the millimeter wave, or mmWave, spectrum. 5G wireless is said to offer theoretical peak speeds of several gigabits a second at lower latency than existing 4G wireless networks. The combination of faster speeds and lower latency is thought to help speed adoption of internet of things devices and utilities that require a persistent internet connection.

“After significantly contributing to the first phase of 5G standards, conducting multi-city trials, and literally transforming our network for the future, we’re planning to be the first carrier to deliver standards-based mobile 5G – and do it much sooner than most people thought possible,” said Igal Elbaz, SVP of Wireless Network Architecture and Design at AT&T.

The roll-out is ahead of availability of consumer 5G devices. It’s a chicken and egg problem. Both hardware makers and wireless carriers need to closely time launching 5G devices and networks so the return on investment is maximized. If one launches significantly early or late, the other will suffer. There’s a good chance major hardware makers will announced some of the first 5G devices next week at Mobile World Congress.

Featured Image: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images

 


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WICASTR brings data to the edge

18:57 | 4 December

Content distribution is hard. You want to keep enough of it close enough to favorite customers so they don’t have to wait and reduce latency for new data. That’s why WICASTR created the SMART Edge Platform, a system for sending content to the very edges of the network, including compatible local routers and access points.

“WICASTR is an ‘all in one solution’ for edge computing,” said founder Armine Saidi. “We are like Android ecosystem but for access points, routers and other edge devices: we have hardware, operating system and app store solutions to develop or deploy applications at the extreme edge with a simple 1-click solution.”

The company raised $1 million and went through TechStars. Their edge platform was inspired by the events of the Arab Spring. The founders wanted to create a system that would sustain damage caused by governments trying to shut down networks.

“The team embarked on a mission to create technology to facilitate seamless and uninterrupted communications and content distribution via all smart devices in the event of deliberate mobile network shutdown by governments,” said Saidi. This means devices on the network can act as content providers, thereby ensuring data can’t go down during an attack.

The team has been together for seven years and they have “deep domain expertise in IoT, wireless, software, hardware development, manufacturing and distribution.” They’ve launched with over 20 paying clients and work with Intel, Cisco, and Deutsche Telekom to build out powerful edge delivery.

 


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