IoT News Roundup

By Mary Catherine O'Connor

Google unwraps new beacon format; CentraLite using Kickstarter to crowdfund IoT platform; Vodafone releases 2015 M2M Barometer report; Gemalto, China Telecom partnering on connected car technology.

Google Takes On Apple's iBeacon With Eddystone Beacon Platform
Google this week unveiled Eddystone, an open-source beacon-management platform that is the search giant's answer to Apple's iBeacon platform.

Today, retailers and other organizations work to engage with customers or track their movements by offering applications that are triggered inside stores by Bluetooth beacons—devices that transmit a unique identifier using the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) air-interface specification. Most of these are configured to transmit data using the iBeacon data format. This format dictates that the beacon transmit its universally unique identifier (UUID). It can also send two more small packets of data that relate to where the beacon is located within a defined space. If a smartphone is within the vicinity, the UUID packet can trigger a pre-loaded application on the phone (which generally pushes some sort of offer or notification message).

The Eddystone format, which Google has made available via open source, under Apache 2.0 licensing, on GitHub, can be used in the same way. It can transmit a unique ID (the Eddystone-UID)— which, like the iBeacon UUID, triggers an action in the receiving device. But in addition to this, Eddystone accommodates two other types of data packets: the Eddystone-URL and Eddystone-TLM.

The Eddystone-URL data packet, as the name implies, transmits a URL via Bluetooth that pushes a notice to the receiver regarding a specific URL that the receiver can agree to open directly in a Web browser. This means the receiving device does not need a special app in order to actuate an event. The Eddystone-URL evolved out of UriBeacon, an experimental approach that Google launched last year as a means of using beacons to broadcast URLs. Google also considers Eddystone-URL to be the backbone of another project, called The Physical Web, an approach to interacting with connected devices that removes the need for specific applications to trigger events. In February 2015, Turkish beacon company Blesh began offering beacons and a content-management systems (CMS) software developer's kit (SDK) as part of the Physical Web project.

The Eddystone-TLM data packet is designed to make it easier to manage large networks of beacons, by providing the beacons with a means to transmit data about their own operation to the entity managing the network. This telemetry could be the beacon's available battery life, for example. The TLM packet can also be used to transmit sensory data.

Google is currently working on a security feature for the Eddystone format, in which beacons would transmit dynamic ephemeral identifiers (EIDs). These will change frequently, and will allow only authorized clients to decode them.

Another important distinction is that while the iBeacon format works only with iOS devices, Eddystone works with both iOS and Android operating systems. This would be useful for large beacon networks inside sports stadiums, for example, or in factories or across an enterprise.

Developers will be able to manage and update beacons using Google's Proximity Beacon API, while they can use Google's Nearby API to enable easy communication between phones and apps, or to help multiple devices perform collaborative functions, such as editing common documents.

Google has vetted the Eddystone format with six beacon manufacturers that are now supporting Eddystone provisioning. These are Bkon, Bluvision, Estimote,, Radius Networks and Signal360.

CentraLite Launches 'Jilia' Kickstarter
CentraLite, a manufacturer of wireless building-control devices ranging from thermostats to door locks to motion sensors, has launched a Kickstarter campaign in order to crowdfund a set of IoT development kits designed to help developers create IoT products, regardless of their level of experience. The campaign seeks to raise a minimum of $50,000 to support the production of the kits, which will be available for either Raspberry Pi or BeagleBone Black development boards.

The kits will use a cloud-based platform called Jilia, and will include an infrastructure and application programming interface (API) that CentraLite has built to eliminate the need for custom server software, infrastructure hardware or dedicated teams for server/hosting maintenance. Developers will be able to use Jilia to control and connect devices to the cloud, to link multiple cloud-based servers, and to connect cloud-based servers to smartphone or Web applications. Jilia will include driver support for ZigBee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Wi-Fi modules.

CentraLite reports that the Jilia framework and API is so capable that the only things developers will need to create on their own are applications—which CentraLite says it can also support through its development partner network, if needed. If the campaign is successful, Jilia and the Jilia IoT Development Kit will be made available to Kickstarter backers in October 2015, according to CentraLite.

Vodafone Releases 2015 M2M Barometer Report
Global telecommunications firm Vodafone has announced the findings from its third annual M2M Barometer, a global survey of machine-to-machine (M2M) technology users. According to the survey, a fourth of all businesses around the world are using M2M technology, with satisfaction recordings highest in the United States, Canada and Brazil (the Americas), where 93 percent of surveyed companies using M2M products and services reported a return on their investment. Forty-one percent of those firms say they saw a return on investment within six months.

Since 2011, M2M connections in the Americas have increased by nearly 30 percent, Vodafone reports. The company forecasts that the number of M2M connections in that region will more than double between 2015 and 2020. Globally, the retail industry has shown the fastest M2M adoption, up 88 percent year on year.

Retailers are using M2M technology for such applications as in-store digital signage, smart payment systems and supply chain optimization. The health-care sector, in which M2M is used for remote patient monitoring and patient record systems, also appears to be a top industry for M2M technology, followed by the utilities sector, due largely to its use of smart metering systems. In the automotive industry, M2M adoption year on year is 14 percent, according to the survey. This is led by connected-car applications. The survey, conducted by Circle Research, has been expanded for the 2015 report to include new countries, as well as small and midsize enterprises. According to Vodafone, Circle Research saw an 80 percent increase in the number of interview respondents, compared to previous years. The full report is available here.

Gemalto and China Telecom Demo Connected Car Technology
At the Mobile World Congress, held this week in Shanghai, digital security technology provider Gemalto announced a partnership with China Telecom through which the firms are developing a proof-of-concept project for connected cars using Gemalto's LinqUs On-Demand Connectivity (ODC) subscription-management solution. The two companies demonstrated how over-the-air provisioning can enable secure connectivity between two mobile devices, as a precursor to integrating the ODC solution into cellular radios embedded inside vehicles. This, they claim, will pave the way for China Telecom's automaker customers to offer instant connectivity, through a subscription service, between their cars and the cellular devices of the consumers who purchase those vehicles.