IoT News Roundup

By Mary Catherine O'Connor

Volvo turning smartphones into keys; the Open Connectivity Foundation says it will make the OIC's vision a reality; Semtech, Sigfox building out networks in Germany; Actility launches network into space with Inmarsat partnership; Vodafone, 3B Medical adding cellular connectivity to sleep apnea aid.

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Volvo Replacing Keys With Smartphone App

Volvo has announced its plans to launch a smartphone application that will enable a driver to unlock and operate a Volvo vehicle via a digital key, sent via a smartphone’s Bluetooth radio. The carmaker plans to pilot the technology this spring with users of Sunfleet, a car-sharing program that Volvo operates. Participants will use the app to access Sunfleet vehicles located at the Gothenburg airport in Sweden. The company then plans to begin making the application commercially available next year.

Aside from offering the convenience of not having to carry a physical key, the carmaker says the app will enable Volvo owners to issue digital keys to other individuals (friends or family members, for instance) so that they can drive the vehicles.

According to Volvo, the app will also accommodate keys for multiple Volvo vehicles, for households with multiple Volvo automobiles or owners who own multiple Volvos but keep them in different cities.

In addition, Volvo is exploring use cases through which rental car agencies could use the app when loaning Volvo cars to their customers, thereby eliminating the need for physical keys. In this scenario, a customer would use the GPS receiver inside her phone to locate the vehicle, and the app would then unlock it and enable the ignition. This could reduce drivers’ wait time as they retrieve rental cars in airports or train stations.

A New (Old) Standards Group Forms: Open Connectivity Foundation

The Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC), an Internet of Things standards and certification organization formed in 2014—which last year unveiled an open source IoT framework called IoTivity—is now called the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF). The new foundation has also added three prominent member companies: Microsoft, Qualcomm and Electrolux. All three of these firms are also active members of the AllSeen Alliance, a separate standards-setting organization that has its own open-source IoT framework, known as Alljoyn, based on the Linux operating system.

The change is not just a rebrand, says OCF spokesman Mike Richmond, since the inclusion of Microsoft, Qualcomm and Electrolux signals that the OCF and the AllSeen Alliance have moved much closer to ensuring interoperability of IoT devices and systems offered by the hundreds of member organizations in the two nonprofit groups.

Semtech, Sigfox Announce German Network Expansions

Semtech, a chipmaker that, with IBM, developed LoRa, a long-range, low-power IoT radio technology for IoT modules, says it is expanding the rollout of the LoRa network across Germany. With access points currently in Hamburg and Berlin, the network will expand to Munich, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Düsseldorf, Essen and Cologne, and is expeted to be available by midyear. Semtech is also working with German firm Digimondo to develop smart-city applications that leverage the network.

Also this week, French company Sigfox, which has been deploying its own low-power, long-range, low-power network across more than a dozen countries throughout the past two years, announced that it is expanding its network into Germany. The firm plans to complete the rollout by next year.

Inmarsat, Actility Partner to Expand Actility’s Network Reach

Inmarsat, a provider of global mobile satellite communications services, has partnered with IoT platform provider Actility to enable a global end-to-end IoT solution, connecting assets over public and private networks. Through the partnership, Actility’s low-power, long-range access points, which leverage the LoRa communications protocol, will be linked through a backhaul to Inmarsat’s communications satellite network.

Companies that deploy Actility’s technology will be able to transmit data globally, via Inmarsat satellites, using Actility’s ThingPark IoT cloud-based platform. Inmarsat also recently joined the LoRa Alliance, an industry group that is seeking to standardize the LoRa protocol for low-power wide area networks (LPWAN). The Alliance was formed by IBM and Semtech (which developed the LoRa protocol), and Actility is a founding member.

Actility further announced that it is deploying a public LoRa network throughout the Barcelona area, timed with next week’s Mobile World Congress, but which will be operated for only six months, in order to provide interested end users with a means of evaluating the network. In collaboration with other LoRa Alliance members, Actility will use the network to showcase use cases utilizing LoRa technologies. For example, taxies and busses will be outfitted with LoRa-based transceivers, and a network of 10 access points deployed around the city will track their locations in real time.

Vodafone to Connect Sleep Apnea Machines to the Cloud

Telecom provider Vodafone has partnered with medical device manufacturer 3B Medical to integrate Vodafone cellular connectivity into 3B’s Luna CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) devices, used to treat sleep apnea, a disorder that disrupts one’s breathing patterns during sleep. To use 3B’s Luna CPAP machine, a patient wears a mask that increases air pressure to help him or her breathe more easily while sleeping.

3B offers iCodeConnect, a cloud-based service that leverages a Wi-Fi radio integrated into the Luna device to transmit usage data, showing the amount of time the machine was used and the amount of air pressure required to keep the patient breathing properly, to the patient’s medical records. This helps medical personnel ensure that the machine is being regularly used, and helps them track the patient’s treatment. Through the partnership, Vodafone will provide cellular SIM cards that 3B will embed into Luna devices so that patients who travel with the CPAP device, or who lack a home Wi-Fi network, will be able to send usage data to iCodeConnect.