IoT News Roundup

By Mary Catherine O'Connor

ZigBee, Thread announce standard sharing; Amazon's Dash Button is real; Novatel grows IoT business with Feeney Wireless purchase; survey shows consumer attitudes about smart-home products.

ZigBee Alliance, Thread Group Enable Interoperability for Networking IoT Devices
The ZigBee Alliance, an association of companies that use and advance the ZigBee application layer standard for Internet of Things device communication and interoperability, and the Thread Group, an industry group that last summer introduced the Thread 6LoWPAN-based mesh-networking standard, have announced a collaboration. The two groups—which are among several that have different standards for home IoT device communication—say that ZigBee products will be able to run Thread's mesh-network protocol via the ZigBee Cluster Library application layer. While the groups remain committed to independence, they explain that they are working together to help streamline product development and ultimately improve the consumer experience with setting up and using IoT devices for home automation.

Amazon Dash Button: No Joke
With Amazon's latest news breaking the day before April Fool's Day, plenty of industry watchers initially thought that the company's new Dash Button was a joke. But it's not. Instead, it's the latest iteration of a device that Amazon introduced last year, a combination handheld bar-code scanner and microphone, that consumers could use to scan household items on which their stock was running low—or just speak the item's name, such as "eggs" or "laundry detergent"—in order to order replenishments. The device contained a Wi-Fi modem that would forward the order to a user's Amazon account via her home network. She would then need to log into her account online or via a smartphone app and confirm the order.

The new Dash Button serves the same function, but without the microphone. Instead, each button is linked to a specific item, indicated by the logo on the button, and a user simply presses the button—which, like the original Dash, sends the order to the user's account via the home's Wi-Fi network. She will then receive a push notification on her Amazon smartphone app as well, enabling her to confirm the order with a single swipe. The buttons are available only to Amazon Prime account holders, and by invitation. It is easy to imagine that appliance makers may eventually adopt the button, allowing a consumer to, say, order more coffee by pressing a button on her coffee maker.

Novatel Wireless Acquires Feeney Wireless
Novatel Wireless, a provider of broadband services for IoT applications, is acquiring Feeney Wireless (FW). The U.S.-based FW sells fixed and mobile cellular-based wireless IoT solutions to enterprise and government customers, supporting 250,000 subscribers with a management platform. Through the acquisition, the firms report that they will be able to grow their reach into new markets and benefits from their combined product-development and engineering services.

Novatel, a public company, is buying FW for $25 million in a combination of cash and stock, with up to an additional $25 million in potential earn-out payments over four years, based on FW's revenue—which is expected to reach $38 million this year—and gross profit performance.

Survey Reveals Consumers' Attitudes Toward Smart-Home Systems
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group, which includes more than 25,000 member companies developing applications that use the Bluetooth wireless communications standard, has released the results of a consumer survey. Conducted as an online questionnaire about perceptions of the growth of IoT technology for smart-home applications, the survey collected responses from more than 4,000 consumers throughout the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany.

Sixty-six percent of respondents said they believe that smart-home devices will become mainstream within the next decade—and of that group, more than half think they will do so within five years. Only 6 percent said they believe smart-home technology is already mature. But the survey revealed a strong concern regarding data privacy, with 67 percent of respondents reporting concerns that smart-home devices will fail to offer adequate privacy protections. Among the types of functions that surveyed consumers expressed the most interest in, smart thermostats led, as indicated by 45 percent of respondents, followed by lighting controls (34 percent) and security systems (33 percent).