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Robotbase CEO Duy Huynh

Robotbase
22 January 2015 - by Maxine Bingham, Editor-in-Chief


You’re asleep in bed, when Rosie the Robot slides over to you to wake you, turn on the lights and ask if you want your coffee started. She then reminds you of the day’s appointments, as well as the latest football scores. Thanks to Rosie, the coffee is made, the right lights are turned on and the temperature is adjusted to your liking by the time your feet hit the floor. She looks at you and asks if you’d like some jazzy music as you look tired. You tell her “yes.” While you’re away, she turns down the thermostat and adjusts the lights. At night, when you are exhausted, she reads a story to your child before bedtime.

Robotbase Personal Assistant
This is not just a scenario out of the Jetsons’ cartoon series, it is a new implementation of the Internet of Things integrated with artificial intelligence, speech recognition, natural language processing, emotion, object detection and facial recognition and neural networks, to bring to our homes a Personal Assistant that can anticipate our needs and handle connected devices in one place. She (or he – you can choose your avatar) can even show you recipes as you cook and ensure the door is locked and oven turned off while you’re away automatically.

CEO Duy Huynh, originally from Vietnam, founded New York-based Robotbase, the company that has designed this Personal Assistant robot. Robotbase announced it at International CES in early January.

Huynh designed this invention after analyzing problems he found with the Internet of Things. He saw two main problems.  One, IoT solutions amass a great deal of data, but companies don’t know what to do with it in order to create better customer experiences, and, two, people today need separate apps for each connected device, which can quickly get out of hand.

The video on the company’s KickStarter page provides a number of scenarios, including taking photographs on the robot’s own initiative. One can see the great interest in this invention, as they have greatly exceeded their goal of $50,000. As of January 20, they’ve raised $119,825. The campaign will end on February 5, 2015 at 3:39am PST.

Robotbase did collaborate with Samsung on a software component that is the foundation of the robot software today, but won’t say if Samsung is an investor. A small team (under 15) of software engineers, hardware engineers, mechanical engineers, and product designers have created the Personal Assistant (to make it feel more personal, owners give her/him a name). 

The Internet of Things, or the IoT, is a catchall term for devices that are connected over the Internet, designed to be smart and to use as little human intervention as possible. In the case of Robotbase, speech recognition is performed by an internet-connected server whereas the natural language processing is done locally. Other IoT examples include the Nest thermostat and the Fitbit fitness tracking “wearable.”

The IoT is considered the greatest revolution in technology since the Internet. The possibilities for positively affecting our lives are endless – from connected cars, including those that drive themselves and smart cities that reduce congestion and pollution, to eHealth applications that allow doctors to diagnose remotely and energy management systems that reduce energy consumption.

Robotbase plans to offer its Personal Assistant in Q1 2015 at a retail price of $1,995.00.

Photo of Robotbase CEO Duy Huynh and the Personal Assistant courtesy of Robotbase

© 2015 IoT Perspectives

 


Roel Peters Roost

Roost
28 October 2014 - by Maxine Bingham, Editor-in-Chief


Startup, Roost, announced their first product on 21 October 2014, a retrofit "smart battery" for the home. Coupled with an intuitive smartphone app, the Roost Smart Battery delivers notifications to your smartphone when the smoke alarm activates, even if you are not at home.We spoke with CEO and co-founder, Roel Peters, about his new venture.

Roost Smart Battery Alert"Simply download our Roost app, connect to your home WiFi, and then insert the Roost Smart Battery in an existing smoke alarm to appreciate how simple and intuitive it is to install and use," Peters said. "No hubs, no wires, and no pricey new devices. Our retrofit approach to the smart home shows that peace of mind doesn't have to be expensive or complicated. We've chosen to apply the Roost Smart Battery to smoke alarms first because quite simply they are the most important devices to ensure the safety of your home and loved ones."

The patent-pending Roost Smart Battery combines a lithium battery and advanced Wi-Fi in a familiar 9V package. According to the company, it will begin shipping in Q2 of 2015. The company plans to offer pre-orders through a Kickstarter campaign in the next few weeks. They also claim that the battery will, although dealing with increased performance, last five years.

Sounds intriguing. We wish them luck.


Photo of Roel Peters and Roost SmartBattery Alert Courtesy of Roost

© 2014 IoT Perspectives

 


Seed Labs Microboard

Seed Labs
14 December 2014 - By Ron Bingham, Technology Editor & Sr. Analyst


Startup Seed Labs, whom we met at DEMO Fall 2014, provides a design kit for manufacturers to easily incorporate IoT capability into everyday products.

Initially, the companys design efforts were directed at providing software to manage and coordinate existing home IoT products. After examining the number of different home IoT products available, they concluded that there were too few products available to make their original control hub idea viable. Seed then decided that what the world needed were more devices in the home that are IoT-enabled, thus they pivoted their design strategy to make it simple and easy for device manufacturers to incorporate IoT capability in consumer products.

Seed’s prototyping kit offering includes three Seed microboards, as shown below, and smartphone apps for iOS and Android that communicate with the Seed BLE microboards to test and verify design validity.

Features of the design kit include:

  • Up to 1,000 ft. range (line of sight).
  • Ability to group and control a set of devices.
  • Multiple smartphones can access and control all devices.
  • Public and private modes, i.e., Seed-enabled devices can be set to restrict access to specific smartphones or allow access to any smartphone within range.
  • Smart phone apps automatically detect Seed enabled devices’ characteristics and build on-the-fly appropriate controls.
  • Automatic detection pairing of Bluetooth-device-to-smartphone.
  • Automatic user identification based on smartphone or fob carried by user.

The innovations

How Seed Achieves Extended Range

As can be seen on the microboard, the larger Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) SoC (system on a chip) is combined with a smaller amplifier chip to increase receive sensitivity and extend broadcast range. Also, notice the antenna trace on the periphery of the microboard. These design choices combine to extend range and increase receiver sensitivity to 108 dB.

Seed Labs iPhone Dashboard

How Multiple Smart Phone Access is Achieved

Seed uses a modified Smart Bluetooth protocol that turns Bluetooth from a star network to a mesh network. So, instead of a single smartphone connecting to multiple devices, multiple smartphones can connect to multiple devices. Mesh networks also extend the physical range limitation by allowing a smartphone to connect to the nearest device to be able to access all of the devices in the mesh network no matter their location.

Support for IoT Device Manufacturers

For a device to be convertible it must have an embedded microprocessor that can talk to the Seed IoT micro-controller. Most appliances today already have microprocessors performing control functions. Failing that, the simplest alternative implementation is for the manufacturer to supply a Seed-enabled wall power plug that can turn the appliance off and on from the Seed smartphone dashboard.

In addition to the design kit, Seed provides technical consulting and support from design through manufacturing.

Seed Labs was founded in 2013. They raised $1M in angel funding in September 2014. The company includes 50 software developers, hardware engineers and UX designers. They are based in San Francisco (sales, marketing and support), Krakow, Poland (where they started and have R&D and engineering) and Guangzhou China (Asia engineering and sales).

We find Seed’s technology and B2B strategy very compelling. We’ll be watching for their news.

Images Courtesy of Seed Labs

©2014 IoT Perspectives

 


Thomas Nicholls Sigfox

SIGFOX
7 July 2015 - by Maxine Bingham, Editor-in-Chief


SIGFOX provides a cellular network on top of the Internet that delivers a complementary forth connectivity solution that offers IoT connectivity at a lower price and much longer power battery life than WiFi or Bluetooth, for example.

They achieve that with a solution that allows you to exchange small packets (messages) via their own antennas/cell towers over unlicensed spectrum (via partners). Thus they can cover wide areas and sell connectivity at a very low cost. SIGFOX’s connectivity can enable devices to have 20 years of battery life, for a price of about one dollar per device per year.

According to Marketing Chief Thomas Nicholls, SIGFOX democratizes connectivity.

The company began in France, since the founders and management team were there. Today, SIGFOX has 450,000 square miles covered in the country. They have 8M device connections and several hundred thousand devices on its network.

The company raised $115M to cover all of the US and finish Europe, and to start covering Asia and Latin America in February of 2015. According to TechCrunch, this investment was by a number of strategic investors including the Spanish, Korean and Japanese carriers Telefonica, SK Telecom and NTT DOCOMO (whose Ventures arm did the investing), and French industrial giants GDF SUEZ, Air Liquide and Eutelsat. Also participating was Elliott Management Corporation. Previously, SIGFOX had raised about €30 million from investors that include Intel Capital, Partech and several other French investors. On 15 June, the company announced additional investment (amount undisclosed) by Samsung Investments.

Said Thomas, “The goal of SIGFOX is to finally enable what we believe what the IoT is, since, today, there is no way we will get billions of devices connected. SIGFOX removes the barrier to entry for the IoT to happen.”

In terms of monetization, Thomas said that, “We sell subscriptions to partners, we’re like an AT&T. We sell data subscriptions that provide access to the pipe, we don’t build the solutions. In parallel, there’s an ecosystem of SIGFOX-ready device, thus we spend a lot of time working with device manufacturers to create a large catalog of SIGFOX-ready solutions that others provide to their customers.”

The company plans to roll out a new version of its web site with a fully-fledged catalog of SIGFOX-ready devices. Currently there have 60-70 off the shelf compatible devices. Some partners provide SIGFOX-ready devices directly to their customers, so that those would not appear on the catalog.

SIGFOX offers a free a software protocol and a SIGFOX-ready certification program.

Thomas noted that, “We work with manufacturers to ensure optimal performance.”

Device manufacturers pay SIGFOX a yearly subscription; it is up to the partners how to charge, or if not to charge, for their SIGFOX connectivity. Some may bundle in the cost via the lifetime of the product, for example. Thus, the end user interacts with the device manufacturer, not with SIGFOX directly. “It’s a B2C solution,” added Thomas. For example, a farmer might monitor water in the soil and via a company providing such a solution to the customer, so the end customer focuses on the solution and not how SIGFOX works.

According to Thomas, “SIGFOX was born by a team of people who had been working in connectivity for a few years and who came to the conclusion that there was a problem with IoT connectivity.  Connectivity wasn’t good enough for all those use cases where you just need to extend the five senses of the human by collecting a small amount of data about the physical world around us. What’s unique in our approach is rolling out a new operated cellular network, no one thought of doing that, and for established communications companies it would have meant they needed to buy expenses licenses to operate, and thus billion of dollars of investment.”

SIGFOX signs an exclusive partnership deal with each partner in each country, it’s like a franchise Thomas told us, and where that company becomes the local operator. The logic in SIGFOX’s network is running in SIGFOX’s cloud and their bay stations. All devices run through the SIGFOX cloud, that makes one network. According to Thomas, “We break down the barriers of roaming. You can connect from anywhere.”

If a major entity, such as a city wants a SIGFOX network, they can deal with the company directly. Covering a city depends on the size of the city. “It wouldn’t require that many cells, it’s very quick and not that expensive to cover a new area,” explained Thomas.

Bottom line, SIGFOX is designed for use cases where there are small messages being transmitted. It is a clever and increasingly successful approach that is aimed at connected those million, or billion, of devices cheaply and with very long battery life.

Photo of Thomas Nicholls from the Internet

© 2015 IoT Perspectives


Milos Milisaljevic Strawberry Energy

Strawberry Energy
18 November 2014 - by Maxine Bingham, Editor-in-Chief


Is there a smart urban “tree” in your future? I had the good fortune of speaking with Miloš Milisavljevi?, founder and chief executive of Strawberry Energy Company during the RE.WORK IoT Summit in San Francisco. He is the inventor of the “Strawberry Tree,” a solar-powered “smart city” platform for urban environments.

The black Strawberry Trees are comprised of a wooden bench and a beautiful steel sculpture in the shape of an abstract tree with a “canopy” of solar panels to provide free Wi-Fi, device charging, environmental sensing and, a place for community gathering. 

The Strawberry Tree’s patent-pending technology includes:

  • 530W solar panels
  • 4.7kWh rechargeable battery
  • 16 (special to the tree) charging cords – so don’t take them, they won’t work!
  • Up to 1.5M 10-minute annual battery charges
  • 6.2k 10-minute charges without sunshine

The solar panels do not move with the Sun, but are optimally placed according to engineering calculations, toward the south, with the angle depending on location.

Some 350,000 people are using Strawberry Trees, at first in Eastern Europe, which makes sense since the company is headquartered in Belgrade, Serbia, but is planning to open an office in the U.S.

Strawberry Tree

The company’s articulate CEO, Miloš Milisavljevi?, told us, "I wanted to put renewable energy sources into people's everyday lives, and realized that the best way to show people benefits of these clean energy is to solve their problems with the usage of green technologies in public spaces. On the other hand, with over six billion portable devices around the globe, energy and Internet have become 21st century water and air. Still, people get disconnected every single day. I realized that the time has come for our public spaces to change and adapt to the mobile generation of our time.

Miloš added, “That’s why we created our Strawberry Tree, conveniently placed all around the city to answer the modern “thirst” for power and connectivity. Just like every tree in the nature, that grows and has new branches, our Strawberry Tree grew into a smart city platform to offer new services to people. Our future plans are to further expand into the US market, because we want to enhance the smartness of public spaces across America."

Strawberry Trees are in 12 locations so far, in nine different cities in two European countries, and very soon the thirteenth will be installed in Timisoara, Romania. Exact locations are mainly in parks and city squares, to date. The company is also pursuing private lands such as universities, business and other campuses, as well as spaces in front of shopping malls, etc. The company has signed a Letter of Interest from California Community Colleges’ Chancellor's Office, which represents 112 campuses, which I think is quote impressive for an early foray into the US market.

Privately-held Strawberry Energy was founded in 2011. So far, they have received 100K Euros (approximately $125,000 USD) funding by Bulgarian Accelerator Venture Fund Eleven. According to the venture fund, “Our Strawberry Energy startup is the first startup from Serbia to receive 100K investment from Bulgarian Accelerator Venture Fund Eleven in April this year. From a total of 276 applications from 26 countries, 11 companies are chosen for the investment, while only five startups received 100K and six startups received 25K.” The company is in the process of raising additional investment, especially to help with expansion into the U.S. and other geos.

I am impressed by the company’s execution and track record, as well as its founder/CEO and its vision for making urban environments more enjoyable, greener and practical for a connected age. I can see these in dog parks, high schools, medical facility and research institution grounds, and other open spaces. And, hopefully graffiti, vandalism and theft of cables, etc., can be addressed to keep Strawberry Trees in action.

Photos Courtesy of Strawberry Energy

© 2014 IoT Perspectives

 


prithi ramakrishnan(

Sunrise Micro Devices
19 February 2015 - by Ron Bingham, Technology Editor & Sr. Analyst

UPDATE: On 16 April 2015: ARM announced the acquisition of Wicentric, a Bluetooth Smart stack and profile provider, and Sunrise Micro Devices (SMD), a provider of sub-one volt Bluetooth radio intellectual property (IP). Terms of the agreements were not disclosed. The IP of both companies will be integrated to form the ARM® Cordio portfolio.


What do you get when you mix one part of the world’s leading supplier of semiconductor core IP with three of the leading radio scientists and engineers from Motorola Labs? It’s called Sunrise Micro Devices, Inc. (SMD) of Deerfield Beach, FL. Using a proven business model and an undisclosed amount of investment from ARM Holdings, SMD is the first venture to offer a complete Bluetooth Smart core IP radio with baseband, the CORDIO BT4.

Using SMD IP, Internet of Things (IoT) designers can easily and quickly include the latest Bluetooth capability in their chip designs. The radio consumes less than 6.5 mW when transmitting and only 700 nW in sleep mode and costs less than if designers did their own radio from scratch (no easy task).

According to Prithi Ramakrishnan, SMD Product Manager, Marketing and Strategy, “A company could spend tens of millions to develop a Bluetooth radio design whereas we offer a superior, state-of-the-art, FCC and Bluetooth-certified design for a onetime licensing fee and a per part royalty.” Ramakrishnan declined to give specific pricing but did say, “We believe the market demands a price of under a couple of dollars for IoT Bluetooth Smart functionality.”

The tech-savvy founders and the troika leading SMD are (right to left below) CEO Fred Martin, PhD EE, CTO Ed Callaway, PhD in Computer Engineering, and Chief Scientist Paul Gorday, MSEE, who have worked together on radio science and technology for several decades at Motorola Labs. Between them, they hold 107 issued patents, authored scores of technical papers and books, and have participated in the development of the IEEE-802.15.4 radio-networking standard. Callaway is also an IEEE Fellow and a member of Bluetooth SIGs Core Specification Working Group.

smd fred martin ceosmd ed callaway ctosmd paul gorday cs    

SMD started as a consulting company in 2009, but migrated to a product company in 2014. The company is under 30 employees.

The driving force behind their business idea is that the Internet of Things is requiring low-cost, low power combinations of microprocessors, sensors and interconnectivity. One way to achieve that goal is to design chips that combine all three. SMD is supplying the interconnectivity portion with its Bluetooth Smart IP core.

Features

The CORDIO BT4 has some interesting and unique features (reference design below). It can operate from a sub-volt power supply and accepts voltages up to 3 volts for increased transmit power. It has extensive power management features including a 700 nW sleep mode. This collection of features is ideal for the IoT environment, particularly for applications that require battery power or energy harvesting. Applications such as beacons and distributed sensors fall into this category. The CORDIO BT4 can operate up to 10 months on a 70¢ hearing aid battery less than 12mm in diameter.

SMD Cordio BT4 Reference Design

The digital radio receiver design uses a single phase-locked-loop and mixer to generate an intermediate frequency that is low enough to be converted to a digital signal. From here, all of the processing is done in the digital domain including baseband, link layer and a digital host processor interface that makes software development straightforward and efficient. The receiver’s sensitivity is -94 dBm which means it can detect a signal that is a half of a trillionth of a watt. The transmitter is an FM modulated PLL followed by the PA.

We think that Sunrise Micro Devices is a player to watch once they have mastered the Bluetooth radio arena. In addition, the company’s basic design can be relatively easily extended to other radio based technologies such as WiFi. With a proven ARM-style business model, ARM investment and a stellar technical team, they could be poised for dominance in this important IoT technology market.

 

Photos of Prithi Ramakrishnan, Fred Martin, Ed Callaway, Paul Corday and CORDIO BT4 Reference Design Courtesy of SMD

© 2015 IoT Perspectives

 


Chris Goodine Thalmic Labs

Thalmic Labs
6 October 2014 - by Maxine Bingham, Editor-in-Chief


Editor-in-Chief Maxine Bingham interviewed ThalmicLabs' Evangelist Chris Goodine at the Designers of Things conference in San Francisco in September. ThalmicLabs closed a $14.5 million Series A funding round in 2013, led by Spark Capital and Intel Capital, as well as individual investors such Marc Benioff, etc. Below is an edited Q&A. BTW - the definition of thalamus is "the middle part of the diencephalon (posterior section of the forebrain) through which sensory impulses pass to reach the cerebral cortex."

MB: Tell me about your company and product.

CG: We're hoping to expand Myo (note: gesture-based armband) into a catalyst for a bigger goal, which is to improve human-computer interaction in a world of wearable and ubiquitous computing. We wanted to combine mobile and gesture control in our Myo armband. When we launched the video on the web site, we showed what the world will look like with this kind of capability. We're based in Canada and we're planning to manufacture in North America.
MB: Is Myo shipping?
CG: Developers and end-users can pre-order it now for $149. In fact, 40,000 have already been pre-ordered. Developer kits are available now. We're also building some applications ourselves. We expect to have a consumer launch within a month or so. We're focused on the consumer, to have Myo work right out of the box.

MB: What kind of applications are possible with Myo?

CG: Some examples include using gestures to underline, zoom in or create circles when giving a PowerPoint presentation, you could pause or fast-forward a film on Netflix sitting in your chair, there's also the ability to control music on the go when you're skiing, snowboarding or running, as you don't have to take a phone out of your pocket, you use your hands.

Myo Armband

MB: How does that work?
CG: The core of Myo is muscle sensing. Based on your muscle activity we understand how you position your hands. No one else is using electrical muscle activity like this. Our solution also uses a unique pinky tap to remove false positives that would otherwise result when hands are used for everyday actions, such as writing, waving, and holding things. The technology used to measure electrical activity on the skin has been around for years, but current sensors have picky environmental requirements, so we built the sensor ourselves. Our patented "secret sauce" is that we can see the signal among the noise. We process on the device, so it's faster and has an efficient battery life. 
MB: What about compatibility?
CG: Myo works with Windows, Mac OS, iOS and Android. There is an SDK (software development kit) and APIs (application programming interface) for developers to create on platform(s) of their choice. It's publicly available, you can just download it.
MB: How many degrees of freedom does Myo offer - beyond up and down?
CG: We offer nine via a 3-axis accelerometer; 3-axis gyroscope and 3-axis magnetometer (compass). We use sensor fusion to combine the outputs of these sensors to give orientation in the form of roll, pitch and yaw.
MB: Why did you choose a gesture-based solution?
CG: It's the most natural. Mobile touch is limiting and voice can be socially awkward.
MB: Thanks, Chris, for speaking with us.
CG: I enjoyed our talk very much.

 

Images of Chris Goodine and Myo Courtesy of ThalmicLabs

© 2014 IoT Perspectives

 


Mark Gazit ThetaRay

ThetaRay
8 May 2015 - by Ron Bingham, Technology Editor

 

It’s one thing to detect and combat a known attack, but, what do you do when your company is facing the unknown? We had a conversation with Mark Gazit the CEO of ThetaRay, an Israeli company that claims to have solved the difficult problem of detecting previously unknown threats, and enabling enterprises to quickly combat them.

IoTP: Tell us about ThetaRay.

MG: We have one of the largest security companies in Israel. We are venture-backed. [According to the Wall Street Journal, the company raised $10 million in 2014. Participants in the round included existing investors in the company—General Electric Company, Jerusalem Venture Partners and Poalim Capital Markets Ltd.—as well as new financial and strategic investors. GE is a customer, as is Bank Hapoalim, Israel’s second largest bank. Founded in 2012, ThetaRay spun off from the mathematical research of the company’s founders—professor Amir Averbuch of Tel-Aviv University and Yale’s Ronald Coifman. The product, deployed on site or run off a cloud, is based on advanced mathematical algorithms that learn the “normal” behavior of a system, and flag anomalies, like a cyber-intrusion, when they occur. ThetaRay started out as one of the companies in Jerusalem Venture Partners startup incubator in Jerusalem. “Our information security product helps enterprises identify unknown threats by analyzing different streams of data from all around the organization,” ThetaRay’s CEO Mark Gazit said.]

We have offices in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and are in the process of opening an office in the US.

IoTP: What’s the impact of IoT on security?

MG:  The world has really changed. In 20 years, there will be 4.5B Internet users and 25B IoT devices. If the iPhone is a device – then [that figure] is an understatement. Suddenly it’s 1 trillion instances today talking to each other. Firewalls, access lists and anti-viruses don’t work in this new world of the IoT. The only way to protect is for machines to protect humans.

IoTP: So, in effect, every app has to have its own immune system?

MG: It’s amazing what you said. Yes. 20 years ago people believed if the environment was clean and you washed your hands used antibiotics you’d be safe. Now there are virus-resistant antibiotics, and it’s harder to keep a clean environment. So, we need to strengthen a device’s immune system. Now, for example, you can take any managed refrigerator and make it into a weapon.

IoTP: How do you prevent that?

MG: Through algorithms. You need to analyze data in real time and note unusual patterns. You have to detect and then can protect. You need to know if you need to shut things down, or, if it’s only an alert. Making a “clean” environment just doesn’t work anymore. Every organization, especially when deploying IoT needs a detection system.

However, think of machines, they’re full of opportunities for malicious attacks. Human beings can’t cope with it any more – that’s why we take a mathematical approach that listens to the data.

When something not normal is happening our system alerts the customer and helps them understands what’s the problem.  Thus, our system is better equipped for large organizations and large amounts of data.

Our approach is similar to the new world of trading. Before you had to be a good trader, now it’s automated, people let machines trade on their behalf. Call it the “trading of things.”

We apply physics – diffusion technologies, diffusion equations.

IoTP: What data do you look it?

MG: That’s the cool stuff. We protect financial institutions. Think of an ATM as a thing. It’s connected with the Internet. You can now manipulate it to withdraw money without even touching it – that’s a real thing happening now. I can make a computer open an ATM door, you just have to move another motor to spin the wheel to take the money. So, we look at the financial and hardware transaction, first building a picture of normal activity. If money is taken out without a card, we identify that.

IoTP: So you collect every transaction?

MG: Yes, every transaction, every piece of data.

IoTP: You have to develop this hyper-dimensional view when I’m not being attacked?

MG: Exactly. That’s why we work with relatively clean environments – if it’s more than 20% dirty it’s too noisy an environment. Thus we protect enterprises like banks and power plants.

IoTP: What are organizations’ concerns about deploying security for the IoT?

MG: One of the reasons for this resistance to security is the fear that false positives create. With Target, for example, executives were fired because although a security vendor discovered the problem they were ignored. Every day Target had 1500 alerts – low security alerts. But, who can look at this level of alerts?

ThetaRay makes a better system because it uses math and physics – there are very low false positives.

IoTP: What’s your attack discovery process?

MG: By developing parameters. Give us all the parameters and we’ll detect what’s important and what’s not.

IoTP: What’s better about your discovery process?

MG: It’s unique in the industry. We have patents on all this. Our customer and investor GE had checked the market, and they said our solution is unique.

It's exciting to contemplate the possibility of determing the "unknown unknowns" by exquisitely defining what is "known normal."

 

Photo of Mark Gazit from the Internet
©2015 IoT Perspectives


Hannah Smalltree TreasureData

TreasureData
10 October 2014 - by Maxine Bingham, Editor-in-Chief


We had a substantive conversation with TreasureData Director [Note: subsequent to this interview, Hannah was promoted to VP] Hannah Smalltree about the company’s “managed cloud service” (similar to SaaS) for data generated by the Internet of Things. The company came to our attention based on their blue chip investors, including Tim Guleri, Sierra Ventures; Yukihiro Matsumoto (“Mats”), inventor of Ruby (my husband’s favorite programming language); Dan Scheinman, Former SVP, Cisco, and on the board of Arista Networks; Jerry Yang of Yahoo! fame, and others, as well as the fact that they have so many case studies and customers. Cloud for the IoT can be hard to understand, I think Hannah did a great job of helping to explain it and what they do specifically. Below is an edited Q&A.

MB: Some IoT industry watchers say that because data processing will increasingly be on the input/output device, especially in the consumer IoT space, that cloud computing for the IoT is less important.
HS: The data coming from IOT devices is so massive, yet so important, that cloud computing is most definitely an important component of the Internet of Things. Ultimately data processing will happen in two places. Data needs to be collected, aggregated and analyzed across all devices to learn how devices are performing. Companies look for common usage patterns and common errors to determine what kinds of data processing or automation should happen on the device. Then, there will also be automation that happens within a device itself, for example, “when this error condition occurs, take this action.” But to determine what that automation will be – i.e, which error conditions are important - there still has to be that overall analysis of data from all devices and that’s an ongoing, iterative process. That data analysis of all devices is the piece that people are interested in doing in the cloud for efficiency reasons.

MB: Explain what TreasureData has been developed to do.
HS:  We’re in the Big Data space. We refer to the “big data” that we collect, manage and allow customers to quickly and easily analyze, as event data or “actions” – that is logs of how a user is using a device versus more traditional structured customer records. We can collect thousands or millions of these “events” from a device or server, enabling customers to get value out of all that activity.

The goal with TreasureData is that customers don’t need to worry about database management or configuration. We enable customers to focus on their business, not the complicated problem of integration between data (or “events”) collection, aggregation and management. We can return data in near-real-time, so customers can analyze data from one to five minutes ago. Customers need this kind of information to improve products, enhance customer satisfaction, make their operations more efficient and enable new business models – it’s disruptive in a good way.

We’re a managed service, so a customer doesn’t need to be an experienced cloud or big data expert to use it. We provide complete end-to-end technology capabilities, platform management and support for one monthly subscription rate, similar to software-as-a-service. The idea is that with TreasureData, a company can focus on analyzing data without worrying about database administration or the underlying infrastructure.

MB: How does TreasureData work?
Our Treasure Agent (small software app) collects data from servers or devices and streams it in near-real-time to the cloud. In the cloud, data is stored in our Treasure Plazma system and our staff manages, monitors, scales and secures the data. Then customers access our analytics engines via a simple web browser. There, they use our Treasure Query Accelerator to run queries and analyze their own data with SQL or customers can also use their business intelligence/analytics tools to access data stored in Treasure Data. Customers can store all their data in Treasure Data or we can export query results or datasets any time. We leverage Amazon as our platform in the US, but we can run on a variety of cloud platforms.

The Treasure Data Service is based on a differentiated technology stack and unique database that we've developed: Plazma is a distributed, object-based database that is purpose-built to analyze massive data volumes. It includes a columnar layer for fast analytics and archived data and a row-based layer for real-time data, plus the required merge logic. The entire service is designed for exponential growth, with a loosely-coupled, multi-layer architecture that allows I/O, processing, and storage layers to independently scale and gracefully handle the ever-increasing volume and variety of data our customers upload to our system.

MB: How much Big Data are we talking about?
HS: Today we manage over 9.5 trillion records (what we call “rows”) and that’s growing every second. We also offer a free service so that customers can give us a try and can manage 1B rows a month. In July 2013, we had over one trillion rows in our service. By November 2013, we had two trillion. Now, we're approaching 10 trillion. We're adding about five hundred million records per hour, and that number is growing daily. Unlike many MPP databases and Hadoop implementations, our architecture separates storage from computing. Hence, based on our customers' collective needs, we can scale up/down our storage and computing capacities independently from each other.

MB: What kinds of value are we talking about?
HS: For example, customers can learn a lot about how their products are behaving in the real-world. They can see how they are technically performing and understand how customers are using the products. This helps them design better, more competitive products. Companies can also do things like preventative maintenance, where they can set up rules for early intervention. For example, analysis might show that there are often five common events that occur in succession before X becomes a problem, so they can set up intervention after three of these events occur and prevent the problem. However, before customers can realize the benefits from such business alerts, they need a secure and fast way to aggregate all the data being transmitted, and a platform that integrates data collection with their analytics.

MB: Do you have any customer case studies you can share?
HS: Yes, Pioneer, for example, which many of us know as a stereo company, is also invested in automotive telematics. They are the number one auto electronics provider. They have a new technology and service that collects sensor data from cars and sells that data back to the car manufacturer, in fact, we helped co-develop the data collection technology that goes on the electronics boards in the cars. This enables car manufacturers to add value for their customers, with new services such as maintenance reminders that are linked to your calendar and send an email to make the appointment. The car can also alert you to potential problems or failures before they appear such as “you need to get your brakes replaced.” Insurers could potentially also use this auto data to help customers reduce their premiums, like the Progressive insurance commercials talk about.

MobFox is one of Europe’s leading mobile advertising networks, with offices in the U.K. and France. It’s a one-stop mobile advertising platform that allows advertisers to run intelligent, optimized campaigns across a network of 20,000 mobile publishers and many of the world’s largest third party exchanges. In two weeks they were up and running and now have a complete data analytics infrastructure that handles everything from data collection to storage and analytics, that can scale to handle billions and billions of records being added to a system in just one month.

There are a lot more case studies on our web site.

MB: What about security and privacy of all that information?
HS: While we manage and constantly monitor the service to ensure maximum security on our end, it’s up to the vendor to negotiate their security and privacy policies with their users. This is true for all IoT providers. It’s a two-way street.

MB: Tell me more about the company.
HS: We launched our service in 2012 and already have over 100 corporate customers and thousands of free ones. As you know, we’re backed by top VCs and angel investors. We’re based in Mountain View, CA.

MB: Thanks for speaking with us, Hannah.
HS: My pleasure.

 

Hannah Smalltree Photo Courtesy of Treasure Data

© 2014 IoT Perspectives

 


Alton MartinTruSource

TruSource Labs
20 April 2015 - by Maxine Bingham, Editor-in-Chief

 

I began my career in tech as a Support Specialist for Fortune 500 companies in the US, Canada and the UK for what became D&B Software. Thus, support has continued to be top of mind, and especially now as I wrestle with IoT devices and need some help! So, was delighted to connect with a company based in Austin, Texas, TruSource Labs, that is focused on providing outsourced end user support for IoT companies, starting with their first customer, Nest.

According to straight-talking co-founder, Alton Martin, privately-held TruSource saw an opportunity two years ago for providing advanced end user support functions for IoT companies’ customers. In their conversations with Nest, they saw a raison d'être for a call center business that would be able to provide sophisticated technical support, not just for Nest’s customers, but also for IoT companies as a whole. This has led to fast growth. They grew from 0 to 325 people after 18 months and will soon add a second call center in Austin. They plan to go global with call centers in Dublin, Ireland, to handle Western Europe, and next, Singapore, for Southeast Asia support.

In addition to Nest, TruSource is handling outbound end user support for a leading cloud storage company (you’d know the name), as well as smaller IoT companies including several lighting control ones. They are also working with a firm out of Melbourne, Australia, that provides geo-locating IoT so retail companies can offer discount coupons to shoppers as they shop. According to Martin, they are planning to sell many thousands of these systems.  This support structure has been extended to the enterprise space – they support Philips’ employees who use Apple computers and iOS devices, for example.


As Martin says, “the dog got the bus” in terms of the unique space that TruSource occupies. Unlike other support call centers that pay low wages and superficially train, TruSource Labs pays front line support engineers $14 to $19 per hour vs. the $9/hour that typical support call centers pay. TruSource’s higher wages coupled with extensive training, said Alton, substantially reduces the typical turnover that support call centers experience. Their attrition is 1/3rd the industry average, which, of course, helps increase customer and end user satisfaction all around while reducing costs. The idea, says Alton is to “pay people who do the work more so overall costs go down.”

TruSource Labs, whose COO, Cheryl Coppens, used to run Apple’s tech support in Sacramento, follows the AppleCare and Genius Bar model of proving top drawer levels of customer support for their customers. Many of TruSource’s staff are former Apple support personnel. Alton talks about having “Apple’s support DNA” in their systems, so that TruSource doesn’t have to teach a passion for customer support, it’s already there.

According to one of their customer, Rich Warwick, CEO of Plum, “While everyone else is focused on trying to answer as many calls as possible with the fewest possible low cost people in low cost regions by getting them on and off the phone as quickly as possible, TruSource is focused on providing a truly great experience.  While everyone else trains their support teams to "make it someone else's problem as quickly in the call as possible", TruSource trains their people to "solve the customer's problem as fast as possible, regardless of whether it is our problem or not".  

Warwick continued, “I think we have all experienced this on a call with Dell, HP or Apple.  Try connecting an HP printer to an Apple computer then call either technical support with a problem and see how quickly they tell you to call the other company.  For this reason, TruSource provides core training to all their employees for debugging generic networking and WiFi issues, etc.  Even if they do have to send you to another company, they will gather the information the other company needs to help you.”

TruSource also offers a service called “Make it Better” which includes providing their customers with non-geek speak marketing and support collaterals (which also helps the agents in the call centers). They’ll do “deep dive analytics” on a certain percentage of the customers who either call or email, so that TruSource can alert product management to problems or suggestions as to how to improve their product(s) or processes

TruSource Labs can manage an entire beta product launch process, gathering detailed feedback from beta users. This includes reaching out to beta users who dropped out to reengage them in the process.  With an industry average of 20% drop out rate for beta users, this offers substantially more data for product developers. 

In addition, TruSource monitors social media channels using sophisticated social listening technologies.  TruSource monitors traditional channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and many others.  Customer issues are immediately addressed, and feedback provided to clients so they can address both product and process issues.

Alton noted many IoT companies have great products but very limited background in support, and “it’s a huge education effort that we make with clients.” In discussing clients’ needs, “just that level of conversation advances their knowledge by several levels,” said Alton. “It’s meant a lot to them.  We love transferring knowledge in order to build strong teams and alignment between TruSource and our clients to make the customer experience outstanding.”

They not only want to do “good work,” said Alton, “but we want to work only with companies that are brand builders, like Nest, who really care about their customers, and with people we want to work with.”

As a former customer support fanatic, am delighted to see a support organization, especially for IoT enterprises, that’s straight talking, financially transparent and modeled after Apple’s excellent support “DNA.” Now, if only Pebble would become a customer!

 

Photo of Alton Martin courtesy of TruSource Labs

© 2015 IoT Perspectives