IoT News Roundup

By Mary Catherine O'Connor

Mojix purchases software developer of ViZix platform; Intel spending big on Altera acquisition; Pebblebee, Target offering Bluetooth-based item tracker.

Mojix Acquires Software Company TierConnect
Mojix, a company whose wireless sensor platform helps businesses in manufacturing, retail, automotive and other industries deploy automatic identification and sensing solutions to automate business processes, has acquired TierConnect, a software company whose products power Internet of Things technology applications. The terms of the acquisition are undisclosed. TierConnect developed the ViZix sensor network management software that Mojix unveiled at this year's RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibition, held in April.

"We see our future in aligning hardware and software in vertically oriented solutions," says Mike Kastner, Mojix's senior VP of sales and marketing. "That is imperative to our long-term success." Purchasing TierConnect, he says, gives Mojix this broad set of capabilities.

Likewise, Kastner adds, TierConnect was "looking for a partner with which to evolve market offerings and offer strategic guidance. We see eye-to-eye in terms of going after new products and services in the IoT space, in general, and with a specific focus in auto-ID technologies," including RFID. Mojix launched in 2008 with a unique RFID reader infrastructure, known as the STAR system, which uses multiple antennas and specialized receivers that enable the tracking of an RFID-tagged item's location in three dimensions and within about 1 meter (3.3 feet). The company has since expanded its platform to support a wide range of sensors and IP-connected devices, and has grown its data-filtering capabilities.

Included in the acquisition is CodeRoad, a TierConnect subsidiary and software-development firm specializing in Web, mobile and IoT applications. TierConnect is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Mich., while CodeRoad is based in La Paz, Bolivia. Both companies will remain at those locations and fully staffed, Kastner says.

Intel Paying $16.7 Billion to Acquire Altera, Boosting IoT Capabilities
This week, Intel announced its plan to acquire Altera Corp., a maker of field-programmable gate array (FPGA) technology, for $54 per share in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $16.7 billion. FPGAs—which are chips that can be programmed and re-programmed by an end user and are used in a range of applications, including controlling actuators—play an important role in machine-to-machine and IoT applications. Intel says it plans to pair its Xeon processors with Altera's FPGA products to create components for products that can be easily customized and employed for a range of applications during the components' lifecycle, without users having to replace the chips.

Altera will become an Intel business unit. The boards of both firms have approved the deal, which is now moving through regulatory approvals and shareholder votes.

Pebblebee Finds Success With Honey Campaign
The latest electronic fix for individuals who chronically lose track of their keys, wallets or other precious items is the Honey, a Bluetooth tag designed to help people find lost items quickly and easily. The first product from Seattle startup Pebblebee", the Honey was funded through a Kickstarter campaign last year in which more than 3,000 backers pledged nearly $220,000 to fund the company's product development. More than a year later, the firm is now shipping the Honey devices to those backers. Pebblebee is also selling the device through its website for $24.99 each (or a pack of six for $149.94) and Target is carrying the product for $19.99 each (or in a three-pack for $49.99).

The creators say their antenna design gives the Honey tag a read range of up 150 feet when used outdoors in open space (the range decreases outdoors), and it is equipped with a number of functions designed to help owners find lost items. Users can set the Honey to emit an audio alert when it reaches a pre-determined distance from their phone. When a user puts the Honey app in search mode, a lost Honey-tagged item within range will emit sounds or light (through an integrated LED light). If that individual misplaces her phone, she can utilize the Honey (which she may have attached to her keychain, for example) to trigger an alarm on the phone, by pressing a search button on the Honey. The button's other pre-programmed function is to act as a remote shutter for the phone's camera.

If a user thinks a lost Honey-tagged item might be outside Bluetooth range, he can use the Pebblebee's cloud-based services to request help from other Pebblebee app users, by turning on what the company calls a "CrowdGPS" function. Once the item's Honey tag comes with a range of other Pebblebee users, Crowd GPS then sends the owner an alert, along with a map showing where the tag was last detected by another Pebblebee user's phone. The Honey's replaceable lithium coin battery could last for up to three years, depending on use.

According to the Kickstarter campaign, Pebblebee also plans to offer two other Bluetooth tags, the Hornet and the Dragon. These models will include a temperature sensor, an accelerometer, a compass and a gyroscope, and will support a wider range of functions.