New products, Conferences, Books, Papers, Internet of Things

Archive for April, 2012

Help – My Thermostat is Calling Home to China!

According to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal, a group of hackers in China broke into the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s network around November 2009 and were not discovered until more than a year later.

The hackers likely used a spearphishing attack to install spyware on end-user machines.  The spyware was used to steal employee administrative credentials, which were then used to install about a half dozen back doors which communicated with computers in China every week or two.

The hackers stole sensitive Chamber data such as trade-policy documents, meeting notes, trip reports and schedules, and emails containing the names of companies and individuals in contact with the Chamber.  They even used their own search tools to locate documents containing keywords related to financial and budget information, and stole all emails from four targeted employees – who worked on Asia policy – for approximately six weeks during one portion of the attack.

And here’s an interesting twist — a thermostat at a Chamber town house on Capitol Hill was communicating with an Internet address in China, and a printer spontaneously started printing pages with Chinese characters.

More info here.

Researchers Boost Efficiency of Multi-Hop Wireless Networks

Multi-hop wireless networks can provide data access for large and unconventional spaces, but they have long faced significant limits on the amount of data they can transmit. Now researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a more efficient data transmission approach that can boost the amount of data the networks can transmit by 20 to 80 percent.

“Our approach increases the average amount of data that can be transmitted within the network by at least 20 percent for networks with randomly placed nodes – and up to 80 percent if the nodes are positioned in clusters within the network,” says Dr. Rudra Dutta, an associate professor of computer science at NC State and co-author of a paper on the research. The approach also makes the network more energy efficient, which can extend the lifetime of the network if the nodes are battery-powered.

Multi-hop wireless networks utilize multiple wireless nodes to provide coverage to a large area by forwarding and receiving data wirelessly between the nodes. However, these networks have “hot spots” – places in the network where multiple wireless transmissions can interfere with each other. This limits how quickly the network can transfer data, because the nodes have to take turns transmitting data at these congested points.

Data can be transmitted at low power over short distances, which limits the degree of interference with other nodes. But this approach means that the data may have to be transmitted through many nodes before reaching its final destination. Or, data can be transmitted at high power, which means the data can be sent further and more quickly – but the powerful transmission may interfere with transmissions from many other nodes.

Dutta and Ph.D. student Parth Pathak developed an approach called centrality-based power control to address the problem. Their approach uses an algorithm that instructs each node in the network on how much power to use for each transmission depending on its final destination.

The algorithm optimizes system efficiency by determining when a powerful transmission is worth the added signal disruption, and when less powerful transmissions are needed.

The paper, “Centrality-based power control for hot-spot mitigation in multi-hop wireless networks,” is published online by the journalComputer Communications, and is in press for a print version of an upcoming issue of the journal. Pathak is lead author. The research was supported in part by the U.S. Army Research Office.

Design and deploy your own IoT/M2M solutions in the magical environment of Drvengrad

The 7th Summer School on IoT/M2M and Applications of Smart and Connected Devices, senZations’12, takes place September 3 – September 7, 2012, in Drvengrad, Serbia.  The senZations summer school has become an annual event on the agenda of young researchers in Europe. Covering a range of novel topics from wireless sensor networks to M2M to Internet of Things and their applications with support of excellent lecturers and senior researchers from academy and industry, the senZations have attracted more than 300 students during the past six events.

Design and deploy your own IoT/M2M solutions in the magical environment of Drvengrad and run experiments on the SmartSantander framework! Learn about the latest achievements in the field of IoT and M2M from the experts coming from the EU FP7 projects EXALTED, LOLA, HOBNET and SmartSantander! Join us, have fun, meet peers and experienced researchers, expand your network of contacts.

The aim of the summer school is to:

  • Run experiments on SmartSantander framework including a live deployment in Drvengrad
  • Present the latest results, trends, activities and applications in the IoT and M2M domain
  • Identify novel research opportunities, important challenges and research directions
  • Demonstrate existing prototypes and demos – and implement new ones!
  • Interact with experienced researchers and establish new contacts
  • Have fun and enjoy the beauty of the Serbian mountains while acquiring new skills and expertise

More info here.

techBASIC 2.0 brings sensor data collection, analysis and visualization to iOS

Scientists and hobbyists who want to use their iOS devices as tricordersnow have a new tool to help them to bring that dream to life. Byte Works has released version 2.0 of techBASIC, a US$14.99 scientific and educational programming environment for iOS that can be used to pull in data from internal (accelerometer, magnetometer, and gyroscope) and external sensors.

In case the name Byte Works sounds familiar to some of you, the company has been around for a long time. Mike and Patty Westerfield started the company in the early 1980s, developing the ORCA computer languages for the 8-bit Apple II. ORCA/M became the standard development system for the Apple IIGS under the names Cortland Programmer’s Workshop (CPW) and Apple Programmer’s Workshop (APW). techBASIC has its roots in another Byte Works product, GSoft Basic for the Apple IIGS.

techBASIC 2.0 is a universal app, so any program you develop on your iPhone can easily be run on your iPad or vice-versa. Launching the app on the iPhone displays a list of included example programs — the source code for these programs is a nice place to pick up some tips on how to access and use readings from the sensors built into iOS devices. The iPad version shows the list of programs and also provides a window showing the graphical output of your programming efforts.

More info here.

International Internet of Things Event

6th of June 2012

High Tech Campus, Eindhoven, The Netherlands

Internet of Things (IoT) is hot. All over the world new initiatives start to offer Internet of Things products and services, but there are many obstacles to be taken before the business case becomes realistic and succesful. Still Internet of Things is very much a technology driven activity applied by hard- and software developers, whereby competing technologies offer different solutions with unclear business cases. Besides that different industries who don’t know each other traditionally, need to work together in order to create new succesful IoT value chains.

This international event will merge business (where is the money) and technology, and will focus on two Internet of Things cases: The individual and The Home.

The event exists out of two linked activities:

  • The seminar will tackle social, technical, cultural and design challenges, discuss innovative solutions, show new business opportunities and will give an outlook into the future of Internet of Things for The individual and The Home.
  • The exhibition will show Internet of Things products and services in its current and future formats

The following topics will be covered during the conference:

  • What are actual business cases for IoT in Healthcare, Consumer Electronics, Utilities and Automotive and how will this impact business in the future
  • What is the current status of IoT technologies (f.i. ZigBee, zWave, DECT ULE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, KNX etc.), how do they compete and are they complementary.
  • Who takes the lead in the value chain of IoT
  • What are legal, social and IP consequenses of IoT (will Big Brother watch us in the future?)

More info here.

IoT Interoperability Workshop

The FP7 PROBE-IT project organized its first Internet of Things interoperability workshop. It gathered around 45 attendees with the aim to identify and debate on IoT interoperability issues and practices and to provide a 2012 action plan and recommendations in IERC deliverable to be published by end of 2012.

You could download the presentations made during the workshop here.

Open-Source Hardware Association!

Open-source hardware has seen a number of exciting development over the past few years: the open hardware summit, the open-source hardware definition, an open-source hardware logo, and, of course, lots of great new open-source hardware products. Many of the people behind these efforts have been working together to establish an lasting framework for the promotion of open-source hardware and the coordination of these kinds of community initiatives. I’m very happy to share the news that this initiative has found a home in the newly-announced Open-Source Hardware Association (OSHWA).

The founding board consists of Alicia Gibb, co-founder of the Open Hardware Summit and former employee of Bug Labs; Nathan Seidle, founder and CEO of SparkFun Electronics; Windell Oskay, co-founder of Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories; Danese Cooper, a long-time advocate of open-source; Wendy Seltzer, a lawyer and expert in free software and free speech; and Catarina Mota, PhD researcher and co-organizer of this year’s Open Hardware Summit.

The association was set up and the initial board members selected by a working group which also included myself, Tom Igoe, and Massimo Banzi (of Arduino); Ayah Bdeir, co-founder of the Open Hardware Summit, founder of littlebits, and instigator of many of the above community initiatives; and many others (listed in the OSHWA FAQ). These folks have been much of the driving force behind the open-source hardware summit, definition, and logo and I’m thrilled to see the energy from these efforts being translated into a more lasting form. Additional board members will be elected soon, from public nominations.

This is a very exciting time for open-source hardware and I think the establishment of the association is an important step in maintaing and developing a vibrant open-source hardware community.

Read more about the Open-Source Hardware Association here.