Cars aren’t just connecting to the internet; they’re connecting to everything

As in previous years, we’re seeing a lot of car connectivity news at the Consumer Electronics Showcase, but an interesting theme is emerging at this year’s conference. We’re starting to see the automobile take its place among the internet of things, connecting not just to smartphones, but also wearables, the smart home and even the roads and vehicles around them.

When a smart watch is also a key fob

You can connect a smartphone to a lot of vehicle these days. But [company]Hyundai[/company] has done one better. It’s linking Android Wear watches to its Blue Link infotainment and telematics system. The app will let you unlock and start your car with a tap of a screen icon or even a voice command. What’s better is this isn’t some concept tech. It will work on Hyundai Blue Link systems going back to its first generation in 2012 Sonata, and the app will be available for download on Google Play this quarter.

The Blue Link app soon to be available on Android Wear devices

The Blue Link app soon to be available on Android Wear devices

We’re also starting to see more linkages between the smart car and the smart home courtesy of Nest and Automatic, the maker of the popular plug-in module that will turn your unconnected car into a connected one. Now your Nest can coordinate with your Automatic module to set your home’s temperature. Instead of turning on the AC or heat when you walk in the door, Automatic can let Nest know when you’re 15 minutes from your garage based on your driving patterns and therefore start cranking the thermostat well before you arrive.

That’s a pretty basic application, but we’re starting to see more ties between apps in the home and car through services like IFTTT and after-market devices like Automatic and Mojio, but hopefully we can soon start eliminating those middlemen. At CES, [company]Ford[/company] demoed its new Sync 3 connected infotainment system publicly for the first time, and one of its features is the ability to talk directly to your home network through Wi-Fi. Ford is only using that connection for software updates today, but Ford executive director of connected vehicles and services Don Butler told me recently that Ford plans to use Wi-Fi as a bridge between the home and car in the future.

And lest we forget smartphones, we saw one of the world’s biggest automakers, Volkswagen, commit to supporting [company]Apple[/company]’s CarPlay and [company]Google[/company]’s Android Auto software in vehicles released this year in Europe and the U.S. Most of the auto industry is doing the same, though most automakers are being pretty vague on the timelines.

What’s interesting about the VW announcement is that [company]Volkswagen[/company] is already supporting an alternate smartphone overlay system called MirrorLink, and it will continue to include it in its vehicles. We’re starting to see automakers open up to multiple different means of connecting smartphones to a car, and based on my conversations with car OS makers like [company]BlackBerry[/company] QNX, this will be the norm among car companies. That’s great because ultimately it will give consumers choice, which is something we lack in a lot of connected car systems today.

Cycles, snowy roads and internet-connected salt trucks

[company]Volvo[/company] and POC were on hand at CES showing off their prototype cycling helmet, which can communicate with Volvo cars to help both cyclist and driver avoid collisions. My colleague David Meyer covered the technology last month, but as he pointed out the chances of it actually preventing accidents in the real world were pretty slim.

Volvo POC cycle helmet

But I give credit to Volvo for experimenting with the concept of making cars part of larger transportation network. Of all of the automakers it’s been looking into ways to linking vehicles to infrastructure and the roads they drive on.

One of the most interesting examples is work Volvo doing with [company]Ericsson[/company] and local government agencies in Sweden to use embedded road sensors in its cars to determine snow and ice conditions on streets and highways. By crowdsourcing data from thousands of vehicles driving on roads in real times, city crews know where and when they need to send out their salt trucks to de-ice the pavement.


Shady but smart: Secret’s CES feed copies Yik Yak for a new crowd

That savvy Secret. The anonymous sharing network, which recently redesigned its entire product to save itself, isn’t going quietly into that dark night.

It unrolled a new feature Monday allowing people at CES to view and post to an exclusive CES feed on Secret. Only those in the Las Vegas area can add content, turning Secret into a geofenced members-only club for whining about Mandalay Bay Wi-Fi, discovering the best after party, and mocking Samsung’s keynote.

A location based social feed — it’s like Twitter circa SXSW 2007. But where Twitter grew too large and noisy to deliver on its initial events flair, Secret’s geofencing makes sure the party stays small.

Yik Yak peek feature

Yik Yak’s Peek Anywhere list, with featured themes and events at the top

As others have said, it’s a “fun experiment“, one that “could give Secret an edge over Yik Yak.” There’s just one caveat: Yik Yak already has this feature. It created it months ago. (For a primer on Yik Yak, a college campus staple, read here).

In its “Peek Anywhere” section, Yik Yak users are prompted to check out feeds from geofenced areas around events like college football games and music festivals. The Featured peeks change day-by-day depending on what’s happening, and allow people to get a glimpse of the action on the ground somewhere. Yik Yak, in turn, probably got its Featured Peeks idea from Snapchat’s Featured Stories.

Secret, for its part, says it has been thinking about event-based feeds since March 2013, when it played with a location feature at SXSW. When I asked Secret co-founder Chrys Bader whether Secret copied Yik Yak with its redesign a few weeks ago, he deferred.

“If you look at any text-based social network, it’s all text,” Bader pointed out. “I suspect Yik Yak and Secret will diverge a lot over the next six months.” He wouldn’t elaborate, but hinted that Secret’s upcoming design and feature changes will focus on other contexts besides location.

Regardless of whether Secret is ripping off Yik Yak, it’s a time honored truism that the tech company that succeeds is the one that executes the best, not necessarily the one that executes first (see: Facebook v. MySpace; iPad v. many tablets that came before).

If Secret can spread through the tech crowd to other demographics, perhaps it could beat Yik Yak at its own game. After all, Yik Yak has largely ignored the Silicon Valley audience until this point. Instead, it has grown virally the way Facebook did, through college campuses.

By launching an events based feed at CES, Secret might get a leg up on the early adopter audience. Assuming that Twitter circa SXSW 2007 is still something people in tech want.

Hanging with my husband: His thoughts on our smart home

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The Internet of Things podcast is back this week with a short and sweet episode featuring my husband as my guest and co-host discussing life in our smart home. He’s playing the role of a normal user as he discusses his favorite device (the Hue lights) and all he really wants his smart home to do. As a note, we couldn’t figure out the name of the product during the show that offers a button that integrates with connected services, but I finally found out the correct spelling and web site. It is called Bttn.

He also shares his thoughts on the Amazon’s Echo, which we received a few weeks back (for my review check here) and graciously asked me about what I think I’ll see at the upcoming International CES next week. And speaking of CES, tune in next week as Kevin Tofel returns as my co-host and he and I discuss what we’re seeing at CES from Las Vegas on next week’s show. We may even have a guest as the show comes back from our six-week hiatus. I missed y’all, so stay tuned for our first show back. (Yes, it does include lights.)

Host: Stacey Higginbotham
Guests: Andrew Allemann (Stacey’s husband)

  • We are back from break and diving in with our favorite connected device in our home
  • A common man’s perspective on the Amazon Echo
  • Building an Away button for my home using Bttn.
  • A few trends I expect to see at CES

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Exploring Amazon’s Echo and the retailer’s home automation channel plans

Looking for an architecture for the internet of things? Try DNS.

Building networks that can expand and survive the internet of things, plus some tips on crowdfunding

Why the internet of things should be designed with efficiency in mind

Mother may I? Building hardware that can change with the flip of an app.

We’re already driving smart cars, so when will they be autonomous?

Everyone should be a maker. So how do we get there?

Learning lightbulbs, Logitech’s new hub and the ideal smart home owner

This may be the killer app for the smart home, plus thoughts on wearables

Let’s discuss IBM’s new block chain internet of things architecture and robots

In praise of a subscription plan on your smart home and wild Apple speculation

A peek at the Peq hub expected at Best Buy and making the trains run on time

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What we can learn from what didn’t happen at CES

Last week’s weekly update was entitled Things that didn’t happen, and what that means, which was directed toward 2013 in retrospect. I am keeping to that theme this week, and trying to read between the lines of the non-event that CES seemed to be last week. Here’s a tweet I posted on the 8th, where I said:

Screenshot 2014-01-13 08.14.27

[Note that the American Dialect Society chose that way of using ‘because’ as the word of the year. Ben Zimmer, the chairman of the New Word Committee said,

“No longer does ‘because’ have to be followed by of or a full clause,” he said in a statement. “Now one often sees tersely worded rationales like ‘because science’ or ‘because reasons.’ You might not go to a party ‘because tired.’ As one supporter put it, ‘because’ should be word of the year ‘because useful!’ ”

Also note that last year, Ben Zimmer was the one that did the sleuthing to determine that I was, in fact, the person who coined the term ‘hashtag’, as a result of discussions with Chris Messina and others about his ‘Twitter channels’ idea, now known as ‘hashtags’.

I am biased, but I think ‘hashtag’ is bigger than ‘because’, because hashtags.]

Notably absent from CES are the dominant players in the technologies that underlie the modern workforce, and which are impelling new changes in the structure and shape of work.

Microsoft wasn’t there, although it might have been a good place to announce a successor to Ballmer: the company seems to be endlessly circling the airport, running out of fuel, never landing. And the rumors about ‘Threshold’ — the next big release of Windows — underscore the terrible response they are getting to Windows 8:

Paul Thurrott, “Threshold” to be Called Windows 9, Ship in April 2015

Windows 8 is tanking harder than Microsoft is comfortable discussing in public, and the latest release, Windows 8.1, which is a substantial and free upgrade with major improvements over the original release, is in use on less than 25 million PCs at the moment. That’s a disaster, and Threshold needs to strike a better balance between meeting the needs of over a billion traditional PC users while enticing users to adopt this new Windows on new types of personal computing devices. In short, it needs to be everything that Windows 8 is not.


In some ways, the most interesting thing about Threshold is how it recasts Windows 8 as the next Vista. It’s an acknowledgment that what came before didn’t work, and didn’t resonate with customers. And though Microsoft will always be able to claim that Windows 9 wouldn’t have been possible without the important foundational work they had done first with Windows 8—just as was the case with Windows 7 and Windows Vista—there’s no way to sugarcoat this. Windows 8 has set back Microsoft, and Windows, by years, and possibly for good.

Two comments: 1/ Way too late to stem the defections of Windows users to iOS and Android tablet, and 2/ this is a canonical example of a dominant company being disrupted because it cannot stop trying to support the past successful model. If Microsoft is going to hold onto *any* territory in office applications — Word, Excel, Powerpoint — they need to get them on other platforms ASAP, and not pretend that companies and individuals will wait until April 2015 for Microsoft to really fix Windows 8.

This could be the end of Office, and that completely undercuts Microsoft’s potential role as a leader in the work management marketplace.

The weak market response to Xbox is not a direct impact on Microsoft’s enterprise solutions, but Sony’s strong lead in this generation’s console wars — selling three to one over Xbox — is an argument for spinning Xbox out as a separate company or selling it, and focusing away from consumer technology.

Last week Google stepped in it, with an unartful power play that opened up the possibility of Google+ users being able to send email to Google+ IDs that they didn’t have email addresses for. And they made it an opt out option (see Google’s broken social strategy with Google+ and Gmail). This had all the maladroit insensitivity that accompanied the conversion of Youtube comments to requiring Google+ IDs. It seems that Google has a plan to infiltrate Google+ into everything, even if we don’t want it forced down our throats.

I wrote about the rise of wearables and how that might play out in the workplace (see Bring Your Own Wearable), even though all the wearable that debuted at CES last week seem far too clunky and limited. I made the case that wearables will accelerate BYOD by increasing the value of smartphones without increasing their risks, and that this is going to also lead to an increased desire to move to the cloud, and decrease IT staff headcount. BYOW only awaits the arrival of iWatch and a few compelling android tools, like a low-cost, more mature Google Glass. This will be as large a change for the workforce and the way of work as the desktop revolution was in the ’90s.

A week of missteps and rumors instead of world-beating debuts and announcements, which suggests that CES is becoming just another Comdex, a conference that faded as the big players decided it was no longer cost effective, and stayed home or just rented suites to hold meetings. It appears the same is happening with CES, today.

4K as a platform

The major networks’ hesitance on 4K has left the door open for OTT providers to expand their beachheads on connected devices, and cement their relationships with TV-makers desperate to avoid being consigned to selling commoditized “dumb” displays.

DIY TV Everywhere starting to add up

TiVo reported that 76 percent of the streaming through TiVo Roamio involved recorded content, while only 11 percent involved live programming, but Dish said “most” streaming through Dish Anywhere involved live programming.