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How will data retention laws cope with the Internet of Things?

2:20AM | Tuesday, 3 February

One of the many things that is troubling about the current Australian government’s metadata retention proposals is how rooted in the past they are, which could make them obsolete before they even come into force.   The Telecommunications Interception Act was first enacted in 1979, when telephony was the only widespread and available communications service. Updates to the act have really only been at the edges, keeping in place the assumption that communications is essentially telephony with a few additional services.   However, as has been pointed out many times before, modern communications is much more than telephony. Modern communications is used more and in many different ways by far more of us than was the case with the simple telephone. Yet interception is still built on a telephony model, most apparently in the continued distinction between data and metadata.   Lawful interception of telephony distinguishes between “intercept related information” (metadata) and “call content” (the actual voice conversation). In telephony, metadata consists of the parties to a call, the duration of the call, any call forwarding and perhaps (in mobile telephony) the location of the parties.   In telephony, distinguishing between metadata and call content made sense. In modern communications it does not. Attempting to identify the boundary between what is and what is not metadata in the modern communications environment leads to all manner of contradictions and confusion.   For example, when it was suggested that compulsorily retained metadata might include websites that were visited, there was such an uproar that the legislation will now explicitly exclude such information. But why should it? Why is it necessary to distinguish between different types of metadata? The answer is that some metadata is more sensitive than others.   The problem is that developments in modern communication make the concept of metadata meaningless. There is really only data, some of which is of greater or lesser sensitivity depending on the circumstances. New technologies have made the contradictions inherent in basing legislation on a telephony model increasingly apparent. Worryingly, emerging technologies risk making the contradictions even more absurd than they already are. Keeping tabs on the Internet of Things For example, there is a great deal of interest in massively increasing the number of devices connected to the internet. This is the so-called “Internet of Things” (IoT) or “Internet of Everything”. Cisco believes that by 2020 there may be 50 billion “things” connected to the internet. Proponents envision that any object in your house or place of work may well have a wireless transmitter, receiver, IP address and be able to communicate autonomously with other systems.   IoT has great potential in industrial applications, particularly manufacturing but also in domestic applications. The possibilities range from the mundane to the bizarre.   A mundane example is that your refrigerator might note that you are getting low on yogurt and order in some more. A slightly bizarre possibility is that your toaster might decide you are not eating enough toast to warrant keeping it and decide to sell itself. A vaguely alarming proposal is that your toilet might do some analysis of what you flush and let you know if you should see a doctor.   Whether these things happen, and whether they should happen, is a discussion for another time. But if the number and variety of devices connected to the internet massively increases, how will legislation relating to compulsory retention of metadata be applied to it? New technology developments may make the distinction between metadata and data even more of a problem than it is now.   A fundamental question is what constitutes metadata in these circumstances? Often the message sent from one device will be for another to switch on or off. The metadata may well be little more than the message.   Will ISPs be required to keep metadata, whatever it is defined to be, relating to all these devices? iiNet believes the cost of retaining all metadata for a single person per year will be around $130. Between data and metadata Unfortunately we don’t yet know what metadata is to be kept, but have been assured that not all metadata will be, so the cost will probably not be quite that high. But presumably there will be some cost, and if the number of end devices increases by several orders of magnitude, it is likely to be significant.   Metadata can already provide deep insights into how we live our lives. Stores of such information are likely to be an attractive hacking target. What new threats to privacy will metadata from our household objects create? And what new exclusions, similar to that for web browsing, will need to be enacted?   Interception legislation needs to be brought up to date. A good place to start will be to dispense with the outdated distinction between metadata and data.   As noted earlier, in modern communications there is only data, some of which is more sensitive than others. That should be reflected in the legislation. Otherwise the revised legislation risks being out of date not long after it is released.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

More startup investments coming after Cisco invests in Blackbird Ventures

12:37AM | Friday, 12 December

Cisco has become the first major corporate investor in Blackbird Ventures, with the move paving the way for more investments in promising Australian startups.   While no official amount has been disclosed, a source told Business Insider the figure was between about $1.3 million and $5.3 million.   Fund co-founder and managing director Rick Baker told Private Media that Cisco will be Blackbird’s 96th investor.   “For Blackbird, it’s a little more capital to put to work. That means investments in more startups, and more follow-up investment in our existing portfolio of 14 companies,” Baker says.   “So what it means is an extra amount of capital in the startup ecosystem.   “Aside from the investment, Cisco is also keen to be more involved in the startup ecosystem. They have a number of different projects in the startup space currently in the pipeline.”   Earlier this year, Cisco organised an Internet of Things (IoT) Innovation Grand Challenge, with IoT a key part of the company’s growth strategy. Meanwhile, Blackbird has already made investments in high-profile IoT startups LIFX and NinjaBlocks.   Given Cisco’s interest in IoT, its decision to invest in Blackbird could be seen to be an endorsement of Australia’s burgeoning IoT scene, according to Baker.   “I think Australia is developing an international reputation in IoT and there’s a lot of action in the area. We currently have two investments in this space, and are looking at more,” he says.   Looking towards 2015, Baker hopes the trend of corporate investment in the Australian startup scene continues from two directions.   “There are global tech companies that already do venture startup investments that are starting to see Australia as a worthwhile place to invest. And hopefully we’ll see Australian companies continue and increase their investments in the startup community too.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

“Flying robots won’t be toys anymore”: The Australian startup using drones to revolutionise the surveying industry

12:51AM | Friday, 5 December

An Australian startup is hoping to revolutionise the surveying and building industries by using a cloud-based platform to create 3D images from data gathered by drone aircraft.    Propeller Aviation works by collecting data, from either a third-party UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) service or through one of the company’s drones and feeding it into its cloud-based platform, called Aerodata. From there the data can either be viewed through the Aeroviewer app or be exported to another app through an API.   The company was cofounded in May this year by drone expert Rory San Miguel and software guru Francis Vierboom.   “Rory helped the UNSW set up a drone society and imported a lot of quadrocopters from China. We worked together on a number of projects… I got involved in late 2013,” Vierboom tells Private Media.   “With Propeller Aerobotics, we took on a big project working with surveyors and construction companies on 3D modelling. But the problem is not doing that with drones – the problem is making the data coherent and creating a platform for that data.   “The problem we’re addressing is many of those companies do their surveys and give it to you on a USB stick instead of in the cloud…. We can get them to log in and upload the data and then make it available.”   Propeller Aerobotics comes at a time when interest in UAVs is booming.   “There are already around 170 licensed UAV operators in Australia, and we’ve opened them up to surveyors. There was less than 100 [operators] 12 months ago and that number is likely to double again in the next 12 months.   “Using the entire industry means that you can use drones from a local operator at local cost in the surveying industry, instead of flying in specialist operators and having to pay for a hotel room for them.”   According to Vierboom, there’s growing interest internationally in the startup, which is based at the National Innovation Centre in Canberra. It was one of 19 finalists in Cisco’s Internet of Things (IoT) Innovation Grand Challenge, and will be among the four Australian startups set to participate in the 1776 Challenge Festival in May next year.   “In the Cisco competition, we were look at as an opportunity for an IoT technology that could change the world. Propeller Aerobotics was a great story about how flying robots won’t be toys anymore.   “Just in Australia alone, surveying is worth $4 billion a year. Drones will have a huge impact as well in environmental monitoring and project management.”   Image credit: Flickr/ unten44   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Asia-Pacific region could lead the way on IoT, says Akamai

11:50AM | Monday, 17 November

The Asia-Pacific region is likely to be an early adopter for the internet of things (IoT), creating opportunities for Australian startups, according to Akamai president of products and development Rick McConnell.   “Overall, Australia is one of our top markets in the world in terms of revenue. While IoT specifically depends on adoption of IoT devices by end users, in our experience web delivery will map closely to what happens with IoT,” McConnell says.   “I think Asia is leading the way on smart connected cities, which include a lot of things that are connected devices. It wouldn’t surprise me on connected homes and cities if the adoption rate for devices and capabilities across Asia leads the world.   “For example, there are buses in Singapore that are available to be tracked through an app, a perfect use case where IoT is invaluable.”   Competition in the IoT marketplace is intensifying in recent years. A range of major IT and tech firms are already competing as cloud-based platform providers for the sector, battling for the attention of tech startups. These companies include the likes of Microsoft Azure, Cisco, IBM and others.   McConnell claims his company is in a unique position in the marketplace, with a content delivery network responsible for 15-30% of all internet traffic, with 2000 server regions across 95 countries.   “The one thing that Akamai does better is deliver content fast and reliably around the world, while IBM and Microsoft Azure have their strengths in computing power and storage,” McConnell says.   “We think there’s an ecosystem opportunity to work with other companies, such as IBM for storage or Microsoft for computing power, while we have a highly distributed network to get the content out.   “We have servers within 20 milliseconds of the users of the internet. That provides the transport layer.”   McConnell says there is likely to be opportunities for tech startups in collecting and compiling data, for building devices, and providing functionality to smart devices.   “You have thermostat functionality, pacemaker functionality, the remote management of an MRI machine that communicates to GE notifying it needs to be repaired,” he says.   Security, reliability and real-time communications should be key considerations, according to McConnell.   “Drones are a great example. A drone is in the air making deliveries and will need to compute so it does not hit a person or fly into restricted airspace. Many of those instructions will come remotely and will need to be at near real time,” he says.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

The technology hype cycle: From disillusionment to enlightenment

8:13AM | Monday, 18 August

For 20 years, consulting firm Gartner have been calling the future of technology using its now iconic “Hype Cycle”.   The Hype Cycle: from hype to reality   The Hype Cycle breaks the introduction of new technologies into five phases starting with the “Technology Trigger”, the first point at which a technology comes to the attention of the press and businesses. Technologies then rapidly become oversold or hyped. This is the point at which expansive claims are made about how technology X is going to radically transform and disrupt and the early innovators push to be amongst the first to ride the wave of excitement that technology generates.   The initial hype eventually leads to a “Peak of Inflated Expectations” which is subsequently followed by the crash as it is realised that the technology isn’t going to be adopted in quite the way everyone predicted, nor is it generally as useful. This part leads to a “Trough of Disillusionment” which is accompanied by an increasing number of negative articles, project failures and lessening of interest in the technology generally.   For some technologies however, the disillusionment is followed by a gradual increase in a more realistic adoption of the technology which eventually results in a “Plateau of Productivity”.   Technologies for the next 10 years   For Gartner’s 2014 Hype Cycle, the notable technologies are speech recognition which they are claiming to be well into the productive phase. Certainly mobile phones and increasingly, wearables, have driven the adoption of voice control and interaction and it is definitely usable on a day-to-day basis.     Having said that however, Gartner also puts wearable user interfaces as having passed the peak of inlfated expectations and rapidly heading to the trough of disillusionment. Given that Google has based their interface for wearables very heavily on the use of voice, it seems odd that these two technologies would be so far apart according to Gartner.   The position of the Internet of Things at the peak of inflated expectations will also come as a disappointment to all of the companies like Cisco that are claiming that we are already well and truly in the era of billions of interconnected and independently communicating devices.   The future is lumpy   Although the Hype Cycle is a convenient way of visualising the progress of technology from invention to universal use, it over-simplifies the way progress is made in innovation. As science fiction writer William Gibson once said:   “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed”   Technology innovation is never smooth and never takes a single path. There can be businesses and individuals that are using technologies to radically improve productivity at the same time as almost everyone else is failing to do the same. A good example of this is the hype around “Big Data”. Whilst everyone acknowledges that we are creating enormous amounts of data that ultimately must hold valuable information and knowledge, very few organisations are attempting, let along succeeding, in finding it. Those that are experts in Big Data are the companies that have made digitally massive infrastructure their entire existence, companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter.   Whilst Gartner has predicted that Big Data will reach the plateau of productivity within five to 10 years, it is also possible that it will never get there and that very few companies will have the skills to be able to take advantage of their amassed data.   The other issue with Gartner’s representation of the technologies that it surveys is that it doesn’t distinguish between the different categories of technologies. Those that are aimed at consumers as opposed to the business sector. Here again, we are likely to see very different paths to adoption and acceptance of those technologies with very different time frames.   What we are increasingly seeing is how technology is increasingly being used to enable a concentration of a very small number of very large companies. In turn, these companies are able to focus their resources on introducing new technologies for the public, rapidly iterating on designs until they work. Wearables from Apple, Google and companies like Samsung is a good example of this.   As always with predictions around technology, it is very hard to tell what will be the key technologies next year, let alone in five to10 years time. Given that the Hype Cycle has been with us for 20 years however, my prediction is that it will still be here for the next 20.   David Glance does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Australia's ScriptRock raises $8.7m and aims to focus on growth

8:55PM | Friday, 15 August

Australian IT DevOps company ScriptRock, a graduate of Sydney's Startmate 2012 program, has successfully raised a $US8.7 million ($9.8 million AUD) series A round led by August Capital, which also led investment in Splunk. Also participating in the round were Peter Thiel's Valar Ventures, Square Peg Capital and Scott Petry.   TechCrunch reported on the raise, citing an SEC filing, but got the lead investors and other key facts wrong.    Vivek Mehra of August (founder of Cobalt Networks) and Scott Petry (founder of Postini and Authentic8) are joining the board, while Australian VC Hamish Hawthorne of ATP Innovations, who was previously director, is moving on.    Mountain View-based ScriptRock was cofounded by Australians Mike Baukes and Alan Sharp-Paul who, having worked in large scale enterprises all their life, wanted to make process more efficient.    Their product GuardRail has ridden the DevOps wave with its focus on configuration discovery, validation and collaboration. Baukes told StartupSmart that their traction to date had been a result of providing a simple and powerful DevOps solution.    The company has 600 customers, including ADP, Cisco, Amadeus and Trek, after launching in October last year.   "We're getting traction because existing solutions are too complicated, too specialised. Your typical IT department wants something that is simple, powerful and flexible. They want something everyone can use," Baukes told StartupSmart.   They will use the funds to build up their sales, marketing and engineering teams with a focus on growth.   By his own admission, Baukes says ScriptRock has taken an interesting approach to the industry and has not been shy at poking fun at the DevOps movement, something he says might be explained by the fact they're Australian.   It's not gone unnocticed by incumbents in the space like Chef and Puppet.   Cofounder Alan Sharp-Paul says the attention doesn't concern them.   "We're taking a different approach to the other configuration management players in this space," says Sharp-Paul.   "They're predominantly open source and bleeding edge focused. We've spent years working in the enterprise. We're building a business, and whilst we're based in the Valley, we target the real world; SMBs and enterprises outside of the bubble."   As for the company having two CEOs, an arrangement TechCrunch called an "unusual division of labour", Baukes says it's great.   "We're pretty happy with the way that's all worked out," he says.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

“Connecting flying robots to what we do every day”: Drone developer wants to make Australia a little more like The Jetsons

8:19AM | Tuesday, 12 August

The cofounder of a Sydney-based drone aircraft and cloud platform developer says it has the potential to make internet-connected drones a part of everyday life, making Australia a little more like The Jetsons.   The comments  were made at an Internet of Things event in Melbourne, attended by Private Media and organised by network equipment giant Cisco.   Propeller Aerobotics cofounder Francis Vierboom says it is now possible and affordable to create drones that will fly themselves about and capture a lot of different data from a lot of different angles, and feed that information into the cloud.   “Thinking about what the internet of everything means from our perspective with the naive, exciting opportunities, I think is about making the world a little more like The Jetsons,” Vierboom says.   “The internet has so far been mostly about desk jobs, except recently it has gotten a little more interesting because we’ve gotten to do things on our mobile phones and watches, but there’s still a lot of staring at a screen.   “The internet of everything is about creating cool stuff like a jacket that can dry itself out like in Back to the Future or something like that. And the other thing that the internet of everything is about is connecting flying robots to what we do every day.”   According to Vierboom, there are a number of industries ready for disruption by a combination of drone aircraft as part of the Internet of Things, as well as cloud-based data storage and analytics.   “A lot of businesses see the potential for drones to change the way they do things. There’s a lot of existing applications that are already being disrupted by these machines,” Vierboom says.   “So for example, surveys, where you can measure the exact shape and contours of a piece of land or work out exactly how much iron ore is in each of the open cut mine. Drones are changing how that’s done and they can get it done really quickly.   “I’ve been working on drones for a long time, and as soon as you tell people that, they spend the next 10 minutes talking about their exciting ideas for what drones can do. And it’s pretty difficult for businesses to adopt that at the moment, the way things are working now.”   Vierboom’s startup, Propeller Aerobotics, has made the process of connecting data to the cloud easier through the creation of a new platform called Aerodata.   From there, businesses can integrate drone-collected data into external third-party apps and cloud services through its APIs, or view the data directly through an app called Aeroviewer.   The startup is one of 19 in the semi-finals of Cisco’s Internet of Things (IoT) Innovation Grand Challenge, with a winner set to be announced on September 18.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn

Wotif acquisition shows potential of Australian startups for US investors eyeing Asia

7:59AM | Monday, 7 July

The proposed $700 million acquisition of Wotif by Expedia is a sign of the Australian startup scene succeeding despite relatively low levels of funding and support, according to StartupAus board member Dr Jana Matthews.   Matthews, who is also director of the UniSA Centre for Business Growth, says the Wotif bid is significant because it is evidence that US corporations are realising that it’s easier to enter the Asia-Pacific market by buying a successful Australian company with an established presence in the region rather than trying to do it themselves.   “This acknowledgment of Australia as the door to Asia-Pacific is accompanied by a growing recognition that Australia has some very interesting innovations and tech startups worth watching,” Matthews says.   “I know of at least five Australian startups who have been contacted recently by US VCs, corporations and state governments, wanting to learn more about their technology products and services.   “On top of that, large US tech corporations such as HP and Cisco are investing in Australian university-related innovation centres.   “All this is happening in spite of relatively low levels of funding and support for tech startups in Australia, as the StartupAUS Crossroads report highlighted.   “Take for example the state of Colorado in the US, where approximately one third of the companies, employees and revenues are from tech companies.   “In Australia it’s less than 1%.   “If we ramp up support for tech companies, Australia could have an increasing number of Wotifs – with great benefits for both the startup ecosystem as well as the economy.”   Adir Shiffman – chairman of ASX-listed Disruptive Investment Group, which owns check-in.com.au – says the sale will not only limit consumer choice, but also represents another example of Australia’s failure to retain leading companies in the new economy.   Check-in.com.au, which has been operating for about 12 years, is wholly Australian owned.   “Most consumers don’t realise that all the other major players are already foreign owned,” he says.   “Whilst Booking.com has arguably the largest market share of any player locally, its Australian outpost is just one of 115 offices globally.   “HotelClub was acquired by US-based Orbitz in 2004, Booking.com and Agoda are both owned (by) $6.5 billion US giant Priceline, and Expedia itself is worth $10 billion and also owns Hotels.com and Trivago.”   Shiffman says the future of the industry is mixed.

Show me the money! Four Australian disruptive financial services startups to watch

6:59AM | Wednesday, 18 June

According to SEEK co-founder and Square Peg chief executive Paul Bassat, payments are the “holy grail of innovation”. He made the comment at The Australian Financial Review and Macquarie Future Forum on Tuesday, where some of Australia’s leading entrepreneurs declared the industry ripe for disruption.   Despite banks in Australia being protected by complicated regulations, entrepreneurs are placing the industry under increasing pressure. Adding to banking woes are the likes of Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook eyeing entry to the payments market.   Here are the top four Australian disruptive financial services startups to watch:   1. Society One Society One is Australia's leading peer-to-peer lending platform, with a $5 million investment from Westpac’s Reinventure Group, a $50 million fund set up to back early stage startups. It’s rumored to be on the investment radar of both James Packer and Lachlan Murdoch.   Borrowers list loan requirements and investors decide which loans they choose, how much to invest in each loan, and the rate at which you want to earn their interest.   Its personal loan rate for a prime borrower is 9.80% pa, 5% lower than the average rate from the major banks.   2. Tyro Payments Tyro provides credit, debit and EFTPOS card acquiring services and does not take money on deposit.   It was founded in 2003 by ex-Cisco employees Peter Haig, Andrew Rothwell and Paul Wood as MoneySwitch Ltd.   Eleven-year-old Tyro is in its second year of profitable business operations. Disrupting the Australian banking industry was never going to be easy, and it took the team over $30 million in capital and a founder break-up to get there.   At launch it was the first new entrant into the eftpos space in 15 years.   3. Pin Payments Pin Payments is an Australian-based startup operating from Melbourne and Perth that offers onsite payments and a developer API without the need for a merchant account.   It received a grant from Commercialisation Australia and partnered with some of the Australian banks to make its offering possible. Both overseas-based Braintree and Stripe operate in the same space, but Pin has a solid local focus.   Getting access to a payment system has previously been a juggle for companies, especially early stage ones. Pin Payments is aimed at developers who can easily integrate its service through their API.   4. CoinJar CoinJar, a Melbourne-based bitcoin exchange and payment system, which has raised $500,000 in seed funding from a range of individual investors and the Blackbird Ventures seed fund.     Launched in February by Asher Tan and Ryan Zhou, CoinJar has over 10,000 active users in Australia. The company charges a low single-digit percentage fee for each transaction.     CoinJar was the first company to get its Bitcoin app re-listed in the iPhone App Store, after Apple revised its app guidelines to include virtual currency apps that it previously excluded.

THE NEWS WRAP: GHash moves to become miner of choice for bitcoin

6:16PM | Sunday, 15 June

For the first time in bitcoin’s history, a single entity has repeatedly provided more than half of the computing power required to mine new bitcoins.   If the entity known as GHash, which describes itself as the number one crypto and bitcoin mining pool, continues to retain that majority it would be the end of the crypto currency’s decentralized structure.   Bitcoin wallet apps re-enter Apple app store   In line with a recent shift in policy by Apple, a new bitcoin wallet app has been made available in its App Store.   The app, Coinpocket, allows users to do anything they could do on previously available iPhone wallet apps like Coinbase and Blockchain, which had been removed from the iTunes store.   Last week, Apple updated its policy to include approved digital currencies.   Tech giants unite against US search warrants   Apple, Cisco, Verizon, AT&T and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are backing Microsoft’s effort to prevent the United States government from using search warrants to demand data that’s not stored in the United States.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 41.55 to 16,775.74. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US94 cents.

Microsoft improves its Azure hybrid cloud offering

5:57AM | Tuesday, 13 May

Optus’ parent company SingTel has signed on as a major partner for Microsoft’s newly announced Azure ExpressRoute hybrid cloud service.   Announced today at Microsoft’s TechEd North America conference, ExpressRoute allows businesses to directly connect their on-premises servers or data centres with Microsoft’s Azure cloud hosting service.   The service uses direct fibre optic links through phone providers and virtual private networks, such as SingTel’s Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) service, to allow businesses to connect directly to Azure without using the public internet.   SingTel joins a number of other major international telcos including AT&T, BT, Equinix, Telecity and Verizon in offering the service, which appears set to compete head-to-head against the network applications and services (NAS) offerings recently announced by Telstra and Cisco.   Microsoft’s Cloud & Enterprise Division corporate vice president Brad Anderson told the conference the new service is the product of the increasing data volumes many organisations exchange with their cloud services.   “One of the most common requests we have from organisations that are really embracing the cloud in a big ways is they want dedicated links that are high speed because they’re moving so much information back and forth between their clouds.”   The new service will allow businesses to use Azure as an extension of their existing on-premises server and datacentre capabilities. It will also allow hybrid apps where, for example, a corporate intranet app hosted through Azure can be authenticated with an on-premises Active Directory.   Aside from extending datacentres, a service set to roll out next month, called Microsoft Azure Site Recovery, will allow businesses to replicate and recover their servers to Azure in the event of an outage at their primary datacentre.   Alongside the new ExpressRoute service, the tech giant has also announced a number of cloud-based cybersecurity initiatives. These include an anti-malware service for Azure, new Data Loss Prevention capabilities SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business, and the deployment of new file encryption technology in Microsoft Office 365 from July.   This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

A brief history and future of the Internet of Things

5:00AM | Friday, 9 May

6:55am Five minutes before Lyle is scheduled to wake up. Wrist monitors check his pulse to figure out when the best time to stimulate him awake is. Good, he has been asleep for at least eight hours and his heart rate and breathing is almost optimal. A quick traffic check confirms no need to wake him up early. His water heater starts for his daily morning shower and his thermostat for the bathroom is increased for when he gets out.   7:05am Lyle’s coffee-maker turns on and starts brewing a fresh cup of joe. His fridge checks to make sure he has his usual breakfast ingredients–orange juice, eggs, yogurt, and a banana–and orders more eggs for the next week.   7:35am Lyle departs his house on time and ready for the day ahead because of a refreshing shower and delicious breakfast.   All of this has become possible because of a recent paradigm shift in technology known as the Internet of Things, or as it is most commonly referred to in tech circles and articles, the IoT.   In 1999, Kevin Ashton, a British technologist who helped to found the Auto-ID Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, coined the term ‘Internet of Things,’ but the idea of devices connecting with each other hails from as far back as the creation of the internet itself. The dawn of the internet age kickstarted an era of growing and shrinking. The amount of information that could be created, stored, and shared grew exponentially with the ability to create and harvest from across the world–or, at least, from across the world wherever servers were at the time. Simultaneously, places and people that once seemed far away and beyond one’s own scope could now be reached and interacted with on a more personal level.   Unfortunately, the interactions allowed by the internet were limited to only those few scholarly elites or academic institutions that invested in this process and new contact was limited. And connection with devices was even more stringent since wireless technology did not exist and wired connections had to be used through ethernet cords to communicate with the internet. As a result, machine-to-machine (M2M) interactions were nearly impossible, and M2M links over long distances were unheard of; Internet interface was solely between a computer and a human.   How did the Internet of Things come to be then?   Futurist and technologist Richard Yonck, who has written extensively about the IoT, explained the precipitation of devices connected to the internet and each other:   "If you think about it, the IoT is a fairly natural evolution of processing and communications technologies. Computers have continued to become smaller and cheaper over the decades. As they continue doing so, where will they go and how can we use them? Throughout our environment, naturally!"   The first internet-capable machines do not seem like much today, but when they were first created, Carnegie Mellon University programmers and engineers developed the first appliance connected to the internet in the early 1980s. They rigged a Coca-Cola machine to send status updates and messages about the availability of a can of Coke so that a trip to the snack area would not be in vain.   Other similarly sized projects became the norm for bored or experimental college students with enough resources and time. None of these devices became commercially viable and the Internet of Things remained a topic confined to academia.   It wasn’t until the late 1990s and early 2000s that the concept of having a network of interconnected devices became popular and drew interest from corporations and consumers. Kevin Ashton led the movement at his Auto-ID Center at MIT with research into the field of radio-frequency identification, or RFID.   Bill Joy supplemented Ashton’s research with a proposal for a “Six Webs” framework. Joy graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a Master of Science degree in electrical engineering and computer science, and then went on to co-found Sun Microsystems. His initial thoughts into the development of a standardized system (a Web) paved the way for M2M interactions that occurred through similar protocols and syntaxes. However, it was a combination of his theory and Ashton’s research that a truly useful and pervasive Internet of Things could be developed.   Although Ashton and Joy began the process of creating a standardized system of communication and interaction in the beginning of the millennium, the Internet of Things remains a rather fragmented and developing field. Since the Internet Coke machine, many more devices have been created by university researchers and commercial companies, but most have stayed rather proprietary and do not discuss results with other devices.   Some of the most prominent products today represent huge leaps in technology from even ten years ago, but the status of the Internet of Things remains a gradual acceptance into society. Many media outlets predict that 2014 will be hailed as “The Year of the IoT” but few care to define by how much or through which methods. In fact, despite most tech pundits believing this year to be the year, many also point out that the IoT will grow slowly. Brian Proffitt of ReadWrite, a prominent online magazine about technology, argues that, “the Internet of Things won’t see any big splashes in 2014, just steady and incremental progress toward automating … everything.”   Currently, the biggest problem facing the IoT is the lack of standards for communication. Without a “common communication method,” devices will only be able to talk to their own brands and severely limit the helpfulness of connected machines. For example, currently, sleeping monitors only give results to phones for users to analyze themselves. Imagine a future where sleeping monitors could give results to doctors or alert users of abnormal or unhealthy sleeping patterns and suggest fixes that could in turn be prompted by communication with a coffee machine (if caffeine is suspected of hurting the user) or thermostat (if temperature could be negatively impacting sleeping habits).   To remedy this situation, Intel, Cisco, GE, and IBM have come together to form the Industrial Internet Consortium, a conglomerate nonprofit with the goal of increasing inter-operability standards in devices connected to the Internet.   As a thriving industry, M2M has proved that people are willing to allow more and more technology into their lives. Yonck wrote an article last year that discussed the adoption of innovation into mainstream culture and the process a prototype undergoes to become a product:   "Consider that in order to move all the way from concept to prototype to marketable product, every idea has to pass through a succession of filters. Is the idea possible within the laws of physics as they’re currently understood? Then forget retro-causality (time machines), perpetual motion, faster than light travel/communication, etc. Do our existing, or soon to be existing, engineering capabilities, materials, tolerances, etc., allow us to realize the idea or will it remain on the drawing board for centuries, as did Leonardo da Vinci’s flying machines or Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine? Can a need be established? That is, can consumers, corporations, or the military be convinced this is something they must have? Because without a perceived need, it will surely go the way of the [Ford] Edsel.   "And what of other institutions? Regulatory bodies, insurers, political organizations and others must be persuaded to support or at least tolerate and accept the new tech. And ultimately is this an idea that is right for its time? An invention must fit within the established mores, accepted behaviors and realities of user understanding and functionality. Without all of these, the idea will die stillborn. Given all this, it may seem a miracle any new tech ever comes to life and gets the opportunity to walk the earth, even if only for a few years."   The Internet of Things meets all of these criteria and therefore has seen dramatic commercial success.   In fact, according to a Business Insider Intelligence report on the future of the internet:   "The IoT will account for an increasingly huge number of connections: 1.9 billion devices today, and 9 billion by 2018. That year, it will be roughly equal to the number of smartphones, smart TVs, tablets, wearable computers, and PCs combined."   And Cisco CEO John Chambers predicts that the Internet of Everything (as he refers to it) could be worth $19 trillion in the near future–a future where objects all over from house to airport will know people’s preferences and set themselves to certain modes to best suit the individual.   However, The Internet of Things caters to a growing category of what people enjoy calling “first world problems.” The technology that has been developed in hopes of creating the IoT is great and innovative and nothing can be said to take away the promise of advancement. Unfortunately, many of these technologies have not been created with the idea of helping developing countries and economies. A thermostat that optimizes the temperature of your floor and shower down to a degree may seem like a necessary item to some who struggle with a bathroom that is too cold after a searing bath, but to a farmer in Africa or artisan in India it fails uselessly.   As more and more companies start connecting their products to the internet and the markets of industrialized and modernized countries become saturated, hopefully devices will be created to help the people who truly struggle and could benefit with a system of interconnected machines. Perhaps an irrigation system that interacts with a weather prediction service and a local water storage facility for baths and showers of citizens as well as drinking water for local livestock. With better water management, farmers could optimize crop yield and sell to other through an online or other system that tracks grain production. The application of such devices to different environments is inevitable, so it is just a matter of when companies will realize the opportunities in creating an IoT for those countries.   Yonck, as a futurist, understands the current trends of technology and predicts where they are headed.   "As it develops, the future of IoT is to basically make our world more intelligent. Technology everywhere will literally have the ability to sense it’s environment and respond to it. While this may not result in direct physical action on the particular device’s part, it will be capable of relaying data to servers elsewhere that will potentially cause other devices to respond."    In the information age that we live in technology regularly changes the way we live. In the 1970s it was mainframe computing. In the 80s it was the PC. The 2000s saw the rise of social media. Today, the Internet of Things is revolutionizing the way we live.   Techie and entrepreneur with a passion for soccer and a distaste for chocolate, Dylan Steele dabbles in a little bit of everything, including that new crypto-currency/property. This post first appeared on Medium.

Time to clear your desk!

10:30AM | Thursday, 3 October

Let’s take a look at your desk, shall we?   Can you see the surface of your desk? No?   A vague outline of it?   Oh dear… It’s worse than Old Taskmaster feared!   You’ve got many piles of disorganised papers, bills, unopened letters, hand scrawled notes and miscellany, stacked up like small mountains, haven’t you?   And the piles are so tall at this point they’ve begun bending at an ominous angle suggesting they could topple over and bury you alive in an avalanche of paper at any time.   But of course, you never know when you might need those old accounts from 1992, you keep telling yourself. The day you toss ‘em is the day the taxman will surely call with an audit!   Then there’s that “free” promotional book you got from a group of passing Hare Krishnas in Sydney that time and another one you were given at a business networking conference – something or other about “cloud convergence” sponsored by Cisco and IBM. I’m sure you’ll get around to reading both, one of these days. Assuming you don’t die of boredom first.   A two month old copy of the Fin Review gathers dust on your printer– did you actually end up reading that thing? Didn’t think so.   And look! A science experiment! You have a petri dish – wait a minute! That’s no petri dish! That’s the casket of a chicken tikka meal you had from the take-away shop down the road last month!   Is that an executive stress ball or a hacky sack that’s sitting next to the bobble-head figurine there?   And there it is! That’s where the missing extension cord went! It’s been hiding under a box overflowing with donkey-eared sheets of yellowing paper this whole time!   Why properly adjust your monitor when a three-year-old copy of the White Pages will do the same job? That said, that bottle of Mountain Dew near your feet is probably a little flat, given it has been opened for seven months now.   You quite possibly should have started culling some of your post-it notes before they covered the entire front and back of your computer monitor. Sticking post-it notes on top of post-it notes until they all peel off like a bunch of bananas is not generally a good organisational strategy.   And Tony’s Discount Kebabs has updated its menu three times since the copy sitting beside your phone was printed. That’s why Fat Tony always tells you off when you try to order the $5 special! He hasn’t offered it in five years!   Speaking of junk mail, it would be bad enough if you still had Clive for Canberra propaganda on your desk, but unless you run a museum, there’s no conceivable need at all to still have Joe Bjelke-Petersen for Canberra leaflets!   And sure, you use an iMac these days and actually don’t own anything with a floppy drive anymore, but let’s face it, you never know when that disk with MS-DOS 6.2 will come in handy, right? Right?!   You’re not a hoarder! You can stop at any time! You swear!   Plus you’re just too busy and stressed to start cleaning now! You have a project to work on! Well – a project to work on once you finish reading StartupSmart and the rest of your email for the morning – but that’s another story!   But you’re too busy to start cleaning! Because! Because… well… uhhh… spending half an hour overturning your whole office to find the one piece of paper you actually need is far more efficient than having only what you need closely at hand!   Now, in this circumstance, Old Taskmaster is tempted to order you to clean up your act. But let’s face it, your mother tried that one for years and your old bedroom at your parents’ house is still a mess!   So instead, you should do two things.   First, get a series of tidy tubs. Only keep one type of junk in each tidy tub. If you’re going to try working in a space resembling a junkyard, at the very least it should be a properly sorted junkyard.   Secondly, get some cardboard boxes. Big ones. Write a date on the front – say, one in six months’ time – and throw a whole pile of paper inside.   If you actually need a particular sheet of paper, you get to fish it out. Anything still in the box in six months goes straight to the recycling bin! No mercy!   Oh, and throw out the stale junk food! I can smell it from Taskmaster Towers!   Get it done – today!

THE NEWS WRAP: Napthine sworn in as Victorian premier after shock Baillieu resignation

3:33AM | Friday, 15 March

Ted Baillieu has resigned as premier of Victoria, with Denis Napthine sworn in as his replacement overnight, amid mounting turmoil in the state government.

Independent eftpos provider Tyro surpasses $3.5 billion in transactions

3:27AM | Monday, 11 March

Independent eftpos provider Tyro Payments has vowed to step up its fight against the big banks, after revealing it surpassed $3.5 billion in credit and debit card transactions in 2012.

Government looks to spark home-based business surge with National Telework Week

3:01AM | Monday, 11 March

The Federal Government will stage National Telework Week in November in a bid to highlight the benefits of working from home, on the back of the National Broadband Network rollout.

Top 10 ways to use the cloud

4:20PM | Saturday, 28 April

No doubt there were countless entrepreneurs glued to their computer screens this week when Apple chief executive Steve Jobs took to the stage to announce new software for the iPhone, iPad and Mac platforms.

THE NEWS WRAP: Fortescue Metals’ Andrew Forrest steps down as chief executive

6:51PM | Wednesday, 1 June

Andrew Forrest, the billionaire founder of Fortescue Metals Group, is to step down as chief executive of the company and will become chairman.

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