Tuesday, January 24, 2017

CES 2017 IoT and Voice Control: The tipping point

Internet of Things consumer applications are finding their way into the backdoors of homes via the dramatic surge in Amazon Echo and Google Home purchases. At CES, Amazon signs claiming integration were displayed in almost every IoT vendor’s booth. While consumers have latched onto Alexa and OK Google as their voice-based search engines (and entertainers), the other growing use is voice control of devices – from outlets to garage doors to cameras – in the home.

While IoT had a bit of a rocky start with consumers who dabbled with devices they found at local big-box hardware stores, it seems as though personal AI assistants are easing some of the start-up pain. Beyond voice control, there are also a couple of remote controls designed to help aggregate all the protocols and networking providing a central control for all devices – sevenhugs uses triangulation from three sensors to detect the proper device for control, NEEO, in year two of development, has a smart hub that interconnects the devices, and has some hand recognition intelligence to identify the user. Each has its own unique approach, but all control systems, and in particular voice, are trying to solve the same problem – helping control devices without having to get out a mobile phone and find an app for each function.

This doesn’t completely solve the home automation problem which is currently still an Internet of ‘Thing’ world instead of ‘Things.’ Most devices are only adding voice or remote control that provides essentially a one-to-one relationship, from controller to device. The full realization of IoT is still crawling along, as devices generally are not yet sharing data and controlling each other using scripting language tools such as IFTTT. For example, if the fire alarm goes off, it might be helpful if this triggered doors to unlock, or shut off the oven and stove. Or in a B2C application, anonymous data could be sent to manufacturers so that they could identify appliance failures.

This interconnectedness of devices and data is the harbinger of many life changing opportunities. Each CES we leap forward on this front; the sticky wicket is that each manufacturer would ideally like you to buy all devices and appliances from them, and that’s generally not human nature. This means there is still opportunity to develop simple programmatic rules that allow devices from a variety of manufacturers using a variety of wireless technology to talk to one another and share pertinent data. These kind of interactions will be interesting challenges if voice is the controlling interface.

On an adjunct note, Alticast is working on Voice Authentication, providing a simple way to get secure access to various devices and systems. As we move on getting more data and more interconnected devices, securing these systems is imperative.  You can get the paper at either of these two links:


Friday, January 13, 2017

Through the looking glass at CES 2017

2017 CES may prove to be a pivotal year. The enormity of the show over multiple locations in Las Vegas makes it impossible to see everything, but the pervasive theme was that key emerging technologies are being transformed through integration and ubiquity. As an example, Internet of Things devices went from demos in a number of assorted focused companies last year, to every booth that builds products for the home. Most devices were tied together as systems and were integrated with Amazon Alexa for control, or used Homekit as their software platform. For the home, almost every appliance had a screen (some replicating mobile phone displays) while providing everything from remote control, to building your grocery lists–from which Alexa can place orders.

UHD technology continues to improve with both hardware and software taking advantage of High Dynamic Range and audio advancements. The TV smarts in the physical device itself have been moved to a separate bar, allowing the display to be thinner than a whiteboard. One demonstration showed a sliding glass door on a bookcase that could be ‘turned on’ and become a TV. On the service delivery side, the network technology for bringing QoS to wireless media delivery also gained considerable attention – good news for MSO and OTT providers focusing on IPTV. And just like with IoT devices; Robots, Drones, VR goggles and smart heads-up glasses were everywhere.

The most integration was seen in the automotive hall, where concept cars had doors that opened with biometrics, were full of cameras and lidar or radar, had virtual ‘personal assistants,’ and were exclusively electric. They provided either mixed autonomous driving or completely driverless operation. A Mercedes panel van without rear or side windows, featured a robotic package handler that retrieved a package and pushed it out the top to a drone for doorstep delivery. Consider all the technologies that have come together for this vehicle–pretty incredible.

This show gave the sense that we are at a technology tipping point where Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence will be coming at us faster than we anticipated, and in many forms. It was a refreshing look into the future.