15 Jan

IoT roundup: IoT shifts focus to SMBs, standards movement and the sea

    Much of the focus on IoT from a non-consumer perspective falls on the large-scale and the big-ticket areas – smart grids, smart cities, complex industrial automation and the like. The type of IoT technology used by small businesses, most often, gets lumped in with consumer IoT – an example of this is basic building-security tech.

    IoT for small business

    At CES, however, Arduino rolled out a new integrated programming environment called Arduino Pro, designed to provide a flexible, easy-to-use development platform that companies without extensive in-house coding expertise can use to create their own solutions.

    The company also rolled out a new line of small compute modules designed to dovetail with Arduino Pro, known as the Portenta family. The initial model is the Wi-Fi-and-Bluetooth LE-enabled Portenta H7, which features two types of processors and the capability to run a host of IoT and edge applications for about $100 per module.

    The idea is to make it as simple as possible to “digitize” existing products and equipment. That’s obviously a big deal for companies with more limited resources, although Arduino lists some big names among its early Arduino Pro users, including Google, Microsoft, Bosch and Telstra. (The early use cases include snow plow tracking, agricultural IoT and more.)

    Sprint also used CES to target the SMB IoT market, redesigning its IoT Factory experience to be more transparent in terms of pricing and options, as well as pledging that all IoT Factory solutions will be available without the need for specialist technical expertise on the user’s part.

    Moves like this represent an interesting potential sea-change in the overall business-IoT marketplace – large, holistic ecosystem plays targeting specific verticals have made the biggest headlines, although the major public clouds have had some success in bridging those gaps. Products built specifically to be easy to design, implement and use for organizations without a high institutional level of technological prowess, while avoiding the security pitfalls of consumer IoT, represent a new option for SMBs looking to realize the technology’s benefits.

    “Small businesses are looking for simple technology that can save them time and reduce costs,” said Sprint Ivo Rook, senior vice president of IoT and product development in a statement.

    The Open Connectivity Foundation’s OCF 2.1

    Given the wild complexities introduced by IoT technology on a compatibility level – one company’s sensor, another’s edge device, another’s networking gear, a fourth’s cloud – lots of people in the industry have been arguing that IoT has been crying out for some widely applicable standards. The Open Connectivity Foundation’s OCF 2.1 specification is an attempt at just that, outlining standardized methods of bridging various types of network connectivity into a single system.

    At its simplest level, OCF 2.1 is a common interface for everything from Bluetooth, Zigbee and a host of other networking standards, allowing devices with different types of connectivity to work together. It’s designed to work with everything from highly limited devices to highly capable ones, and to function across different cloud environments.

    It’s ambitious, certainly, but at least one of OCF 2.1’s major backers has confidence that it can make a meaningful impact on interoperability issues in IoT.

    “As a founding member of the OCF, over several years we have contributed much to deliver a standardized IoT solution to the market,” said Hyogun Lee, head of R&D for Samsung’s visual-display business. “We anticipate that the OCF Universal Cloud Interface can resolve the current IoT market fragmentation and thus build the unified IoT ecosystem.”

    IoT takes on safety at sea

    One of the bigger challenges in networking for IoT systems is that the distances involved are sometimes extreme, this is especially true in the vastness of the planet’s oceans.

    It’s a good thing, then, that Sigfox’s new partnership with the boating supply company Plastimo pairs the former company’s proprietary low-power WAN with a new type of IoT product – life vests. Safety clothing featuring connectivity to Sigfox’s network can already be located “tens of kilometers” offshore thanks to Sigfox’s terrestrial network, and a version designed to work with a forthcoming constellation of nanosatellites will be able to locate distressed swimmers anywhere on the planet.

    “Our challenge is to improve safety at sea, by using the potential of connected solutions, and make our products accessible to as many sailors as possible,” said Plastimo marketing director Frédéric Blaudeau.

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