Nest rival: Smartmobes will decide who survives the Internet of Stuff war

Ecobee CEO on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, thermostats and more

Dealing with the mess that is Internet of Stuff standards

The critical element that everyone is trying to figure out in the IoT market is what standards you should incorporate into your products and which ecosystems you should decide to work with.

At the moment, it's a mess. There are the IoT-specific standards ZigBee and Z-Wave. There are the more general but applicable standards, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. And then there are the assorted proprietary and non-proprietary overlays: Google's new Thread, Insteon, HomeKit, Smart Things, and also Ecobee.

Lombard is confident of one thing: the smartphone is the key to much of it. "The technology in phones will have a significant impact on the decisions we make on connected devices," he stated. "You have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in billions of smartphones, so if you include that in your product you have a step up."

He sees IoT devices breaking down into two basic groups: those that run on AC power and those that run on batteries. "If the device is powered, the answer is Wi-Fi. The user experience is just great. And hubs [needed to work with other standards] are a real challenge; trying to persuade people to spend an extra $50."

As for battery-powered objects, "the jury is out", he says, agreeing with pretty much everyone else in the market. "Is it Z-Wave or ZigBee or Bluetooth? I don't know. But that's why we have included an expansion slot in the Ecobee."

The company is focused on integrating its products with the ecosystems that are already out there: Apple's HomeKit, Samsung's Smart Things, and start-up Wink ("the key is the eco-system"). But Lombard isn't sure the approach that some in the market are taking is the right one.

Scenario setting

Assuming you have multiple smart devices from multiple manufacturers that manage to talk to one another. The big question becomes: how does the consumer manage all of this without being overwhelmed? How do you change the lighting, music, and heating to what you want without having to go into three different apps and select three different settings?

The answer, many feel, is the creation of "scenarios." For example, Insteon walked us around its show home in San Francisco a few weeks ago and demoed its system's interactivity with a somewhat tongue-in-cheek "Romance" button that affected 26 elements in the home to create a soothing environment. Similar scenario setups are used by other manufacturers, whether for "movie night," "bedtime," or whatever typical human experience you want to program.

"The early adopter crowd is very keen on the idea of scenarios," Lombard says. "But it's not clear where the value is in the next wave of products. A lighting system adds complexity; it sounds cool but I don't know if people would actually use it."

Lombard argues for a slightly different approach of "curated experiences," where companies try to help consumers figure out what they want to accomplish and then give them the tools to achieve it. It's less prescriptive and accounts for the fact that at the moment, most of the devices in your home simply will not speak to one another.

And to make that approach work, Ecobee is doing two things. First, it is putting out an open API so that developers and other companies can work with its products (as most other IoT vendors do). Second, it is trying to make a personal connection with its customers so that it can act as a kind of IoT advisor going forward.

Lombard tells us he would like to see Ecobee become a source of information for related products. "One of the opportunities we have is in collecting the data. We have energy monitoring technology and we have a Home IQ system that provides insights on your energy use. So, say you have a 2,000 square foot house made in 1960. We should be able to tell you the right sort of upgrades for you – and how long they would take to pay for themselves."

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • Zuckerberg sued for alleged role in Cambridge Analytica data-slurp scandal
    I can prove CEO was 'personally involved in Facebook’s failure to protect privacy', DC AG insists

    Cambridge Analytica is back to haunt Mark Zuckerberg: Washington DC's Attorney General filed a lawsuit today directly accusing the Meta CEO of personal involvement in the abuses that led to the data-slurping scandal. 

    DC AG Karl Racine filed [PDF] the civil suit on Monday morning, saying his office's investigations found ample evidence Zuck could be held responsible for that 2018 cluster-fsck. For those who've put it out of mind, UK-based Cambridge Analytica harvested tens of millions of people's info via a third-party Facebook app, revealing a – at best – somewhat slipshod handling of netizens' privacy by the US tech giant.

    That year, Racine sued Facebook, claiming the social network was well aware of the analytics firm's antics yet failed to do anything meaningful until the data harvesting was covered by mainstream media. Facebook repeatedly stymied document production attempts, Racine claimed, and the paperwork it eventually handed over painted a trail he said led directly to Zuck. 

    Continue reading
  • Florida's content-moderation law kept on ice, likely unconstitutional, court says
    So cool you're into free speech because that includes taking down misinformation

    While the US Supreme Court considers an emergency petition to reinstate a preliminary injunction against Texas' social media law HB 20, the US Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday partially upheld a similar injunction against Florida's social media law, SB 7072.

    Both Florida and Texas last year passed laws that impose content moderation restrictions, editorial disclosure obligations, and user-data access requirements on large online social networks. The Republican governors of both states justified the laws by claiming that social media sites have been trying to censor conservative voices, an allegation that has not been supported by evidence.

    Multiple studies addressing this issue say right-wing folk aren't being censored. They have found that social media sites try to take down or block misinformation, which researchers say is more common from right-leaning sources.

    Continue reading
  • US-APAC trade deal leaves out Taiwan, military defense not ruled out
    All fun and games until the chip factories are in the crosshairs

    US President Joe Biden has heralded an Indo-Pacific trade deal signed by several nations that do not include Taiwan. At the same time, Biden warned China that America would help defend Taiwan from attack; it is home to a critical slice of the global chip industry, after all. 

    The agreement, known as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), is still in its infancy, with today's announcement enabling the United States and the other 12 participating countries to begin negotiating "rules of the road that ensure [US businesses] can compete in the Indo-Pacific," the White House said. 

    Along with America, other IPEF signatories are Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Combined, the White House said, the 13 countries participating in the IPEF make up 40 percent of the global economy. 

    Continue reading
  • 381,000-plus Kubernetes API servers 'exposed to internet'
    Firewall isn't a made-up word from the Hackers movie, people

    A large number of servers running the Kubernetes API have been left exposed to the internet, which is not great: they're potentially vulnerable to abuse.

    Nonprofit security organization The Shadowserver Foundation recently scanned 454,729 systems hosting the popular open-source platform for managing and orchestrating containers, finding that more than 381,645 – or about 84 percent – are accessible via the internet to varying degrees thus providing a cracked door into a corporate network.

    "While this does not mean that these instances are fully open or vulnerable to an attack, it is likely that this level of access was not intended and these instances are an unnecessarily exposed attack surface," Shadowserver's team stressed in a write-up. "They also allow for information leakage on version and build."

    Continue reading
  • A peek into Gigabyte's GPU Arm for AI, HPC shops
    High-performance platform choices are going beyond the ubiquitous x86 standard

    Arm-based servers continue to gain momentum with Gigabyte Technology introducing a system based on Ampere's Altra processors paired with Nvidia A100 GPUs, aimed at demanding workloads such as AI training and high-performance compute (HPC) applications.

    The G492-PD0 runs either an Ampere Altra or Altra Max processor, the latter delivering 128 64-bit cores that are compatible with the Armv8.2 architecture.

    It supports 16 DDR4 DIMM slots, which would be enough space for up to 4TB of memory if all slots were filled with 256GB memory modules. The chassis also has space for no fewer than eight Nvidia A100 GPUs, which would make for a costly but very powerful system for those workloads that benefit from GPU acceleration.

    Continue reading
  • GitLab version 15 goes big on visibility and observability
    GitOps fans can take a spin on the free tier for pull-based deployment

    One-stop DevOps shop GitLab has announced version 15 of its platform, hot on the heels of pull-based GitOps turning up on the platform's free tier.

    Version 15.0 marks the arrival of GitLab's next major iteration and attention this time around has turned to visibility and observability – hardly surprising considering the acquisition of OpsTrace as 2021 drew to a close, as well as workflow automation, security and compliance.

    GitLab puts out monthly releases –  hitting 15.1 on June 22 –  and we spoke to the company's senior director of Product, Kenny Johnston, at the recent Kubecon EU event, about what will be added to version 15 as time goes by. During a chat with the company's senior director of Product, Kenny Johnston, at the recent Kubecon EU event, The Register was told that this was more where dollars were being invested into the product.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022