IoT News Roundup

By Mary Catherine O'Connor

MicroStrategy updates its IoT-based Usher access-control platform; ams offers wearable device makers a path for NFC integration; Juniper expects strong growth in smart home market; Marvell announces transceiver for connected cars; privacy checklist for smart-home sellers, buyers.

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Usher Marries Smartphone and Watch With Access Control

MicroStrategy, a Virginia-based developer of enterprise software, has released upgrades to Usher, its mobile phone and smartwatch-based security platform designed to replace conventional security badges and keys for physical access into facilities, while also usurping the need for passwords to control logical access to computer systems and apps used in the workplace.

Usher uses digital keys and proximity-based authentication for physical access into doors, elevators or garages, and is compliant with physical access-control systems from Tyco, Lenel, Honeywell, Datawatch, Paxton and S2 Security. An enterprise can deploy Usher to require employees to provide multiple authentications before accessing Web applications (such as Google Apps, Salesforce and Dropbox), workstations or virtual private networks. These authentications can take the form of scanning QR codes, responding to push notifications on mobile devices, and biometrics. Employee access can also be restricted based on location and time. Usher can also analyze Bluetooth radio signals emitted by beacons installed in the workplace to determine an employee's location, which it can then use to authenticate access or analyze his or her movements.

For Usher 3.0, MicroStrategy has upgraded its interface to make designing and managing badges on the Usher platform more intuitive.

From ams, a Near Field Communication Solution for Wearables

In order to enable manufacturers of smart watches, wristbands and other small wearable electronics to integrate Near Field Communication (NFC) modules into those devices—to support payments or other wireless applications that leverage that short-range RF standard—chip and sensor manufacturer ams has developed a new electronics interface, known as the AS3921 chip. Also called an NFC analog front end (AFE), the AS3921 is designed to amplify the transmission ability of an NFC reader by up to 900 percent, ams claims, when compared with conventional NFC implementations. Ams calls this technology boostedNFC, and says it improves the reliability and perceived speed of NFC transactions when integrated into devices such as smart watches and wristbands that have room only for an extremely small antenna.

The AS3921 draw 12µA of the device's battery power in normal operation. When used in the NFC Secure Element wake-up function, ams reports, the AS3921 draws even less power than the NFC controller circuits, which typically draw 60µA or more.

The AFE is sold in an ultra-compact wafer-level chip-scale package measuring 2.115 millimeters by 1.735 millimeters (0.08 inch by 0.07 inch), and connects directly to the NFC reader's Secure Element with few external components required. Ams adds that the AS3921 with boostedNFC technology implements active load modulation that generates an RFID card response synchronous to the reader's field. This allows for card-to-reader communication at coupling factors as much as one order of magnitude lower than is possible with the passive load modulation (PLM) used by contactless cards, the firm notes. The AS3921 complies with the ISO/IEC 14443 (types A and B) and FeliCa RFID protocols and is available for sampling now. Manufacturers should contact ams for pricing information.

Juniper Research Forecasts $100 Billion in Smart Home Spending

Consumer spending on smart home devices and services is expected to reach $100 billion by 2020, which would more than double this year's expected spending of $43 billion, according to a new research report by Juniper Research.

Products and services related to home entertainment, including streaming services Spotify and Netflix, are the biggest market drivers, Juniper found. But, boosted by falling hardware costs and growing consumer awareness, systems related to health, energy and home automation are gaining on entertainment's dominance.

Juniper also takes a close look at the growth of subscription services, such as AT&T's Digital Life home security and automation service, which bundles security services with video surveillance, connected locks, thermostats and lights, sold via subscriptions ranging from $50 to $200 per month. Despite past struggles, the report finds that these subscription services are catching on with consumers.

The report, titled Smart Home Ecosystems and the Internet of Things: Strategies and Forecasts 2015-2020, can be purchased from Juniper Research for £3,970 ($6,089) .

Marvell Announced Ethernet Transceiver for Connected Cars

Chipmaker Marvell has announced a new product to serve the connected car market: the 1000BASE-T1 automotive Ethernet physical layer (PHY) transceiver. It is compliant with the draft IEEE 802.3bp 1000BASE-T1 standard for physical layer specifications and management parameters for 1-gigabit-per-second operation over a single twisted-pair copper cable. In addition to automotive applications, this standard is being developed for aircraft, railway and trucking applications. Marvell says the 88Q2112 supports the industry's highest in-vehicle connectivity bandwidth, to support advanced driver-assistance systems and autonomous-vehicle applications, while meeting the auto industry's electromagnetic interference requirements.

The 1000BASE-T1 standard allows high-speed and bi-directional data traffic, and Marvell's 88Q2112 supports transport of uncompressed 720p30 camera video as well as multiple high-definition video streams with up to 4K resolution. The transceiver can be upgraded to support both 100Mbps and 1000Mbps single-pair Ethernet solutions and can be used to aggregate multiple 100Mbps Ethernet domains.

Marvell says it will begin shipping samples of the 88Q2112 to its customers starting next month.

Online Trust Alliance Teams With National Association of Realtors on Secure Home Checklist

The Online Trust Alliance, a nonprofit industry organization that is developing data and privacy protections around Internet of Things technologies in both the consumer and industrial realms, has partnered with the National Association of Realtors to create a Smart Home Checklist. The checklist was developed to assist buyers, renters and sellers in managing the privacy and security settings of the wireless systems and devices installed within their homes.

The guidelines advise sellers to create an inventory of manuals, vendor data and login information of all modems, gateways, hubs and access points, as well as the devices that could be communicating with them, ranging from security alarms, lights and irrigation to thermostats, wireless door locks and smoke alarms. Other checklist items include reviewing warranty and data-sharing policies of those systems and, for new buyers, submitting change-of-ownership and updated contact information to the manufacturers of the devices in the home, as well as service providers, in order to receive security updates and related notifications to maximize security and privacy.

New owners are also advised to reset privacy and data-sharing settings on all smart-home devices in accordance with their own preferences.

In August, the Online Trust Alliance released a first draft of its Internet of Things Trust Framework, which it developed in collaboration with technology vendors to address data privacy and security risks associated with IoT technologies. The second draft of that framework was just released this week and is available here.