All posts by EdwardM

Facebook, Google and Verizon want to track everything you do

Facebook, Google and now Verizon are instead accelerating their tracking efforts, despite privacy concerns appearing consistently in the top reasons for using an ad blocker. They are in fast pursuit of the holy grail for digital advertising — syncing up a consumers’ personally-identifiable information with all browsing history and app usage:

Source: Facebook, Google and now Verizon are accelerating their tracking efforts despite consumers’ privacy concerns – Recode

Vayyer’s 3D Sensors for home applications, sensors that see through walls

Sensors could also be utilized for advanced security and safety features in case of fire or intruder. AlertTracks the real-time movement of individuals inside the home and pinpoints and locates people in a structural fire or if home security has been breached.

Source: 3D Sensors To Make Your Home Smarter And Safer (Image of IC, above, is from the Vayyar web site.)

Their web site does not  yet reveal much about what their technology is about. Presumably their technology uses low power wireless signals with powerful software to interpret reflections. This would enable them to provide a “3D sensor” that sees through walls, providing position information. Perhaps like Kinect but using wireless RF signals.

If my interpretation is correct, this technology could have many useful applications in construction, repair and perhaps even imaging of humans.

Update: A separate tech article from a year ago, describing a product that uses Vayyar technology, suggests the above is exactly what this is about. Basically, this is a low power radar imaging system technology.

The Internet of Things is all about sensors, data collection, data analysis, and actuators/stepper motors and what not. The Vayyar technology adds a new capability to sensing by seeing through surfaces in 3D.

#IoT and its dramatic impact to improve #marketing effectiveness

Great anecdotal story of a mobile app marketing campaign:

ultra-hip Guatemalan shoe retailer Meat Pack ran an unusual promotion via its mobile app. When customers who had downloaded the app walked into competitors’ stores, they were given an alert: they now had a 99% discount on their next in-store Meat Pack purchase. However, the discount would drop 1% every second, until the customer entered a Meat Pack store. With the clock ticking on the offer, customers literally ran from competitions’ stores—over to Meat Pack.

Source: NeustarVoice: The Internet Of Things Is Disrupting Marketing Attribution, And Marketing ROI Will Never Be The Same Again

The above article summarizes key concepts:

  • Location tracking of foot traffic inside stores
  • Better understanding of the external environment in which marketing messages are delivered and received
  • End-to-end marketing life cycle understanding – from first received message to decision point
  • Development of standards-based marketing data sharing partially based on #IoT device data collection

This potentially the ultimate in content marketing.


How #IoT May Change Marketing

The concept is that #IoT devices will share sufficient information about their usage that marketeers will be able to optimize their marketing message delivery to customers. In exchange for giving up privacy, the consumer might get (in theory only) fewer ads in media, social media and email optimized with the right message, at the right time, delivered in the optimal media channel. In theory.

“The IoT collects data regarding where, how, and even why, products are being purchased. Having access to that information allows companies to tailor their marketing efforts to the individual needs of their customers. As IoT allows companies to deliver only the most relevant messages over preferred channels at a time when it’s most convenient for each individual customer, the return on their marketing investments will increase substantially.

Just knowing the right time to send an email can make the difference between a potential new customer reading it and responding or hitting the delete button without even opening it. Companies will be hiring fewer marketers and more data analysts to determine the right information, the right time, and the right channel to deliver it.”

Source: Internet of Things & Marketing | SmartData Collective

Finely tuned marketing could – in theory – mean less marketing messages targeted at getting you to buy a product or service that you neither need nor want. Instead, marketing messages might – in theory – be seen as delivering potential solutions to customers, just when the customer is seeking a solution for a problem. That’s the idealized view, of course. But it takes the ideas of content marketing beyond web pages and social media.

Zigbee low power wireless for the Internet of Things #IoT

Most everyone is familiar with Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11 standards) and most are likely also familiar with Bluetooth wireless. Far fewer are familiar with some of the standard wireless technologies used for Internet of Things applications. These technologies include Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth LE), Zigbee and others.

This post is about Zigbee.

Zigbee is a low power, very short range wireless technology that has been around for more than a decade, although it has continually evolved to support new requirements. Zigbee 3.0 is the current version of the specification.


Source – Zigbee standards group.

Zigbee is a set of protocols that sit on top of the IEEE 802.15.4 specification. 802.15.4 specifies a short range (less than 10 meters), low speed (up to 250 kbps maximum) wireless link operating in the 2.4 Ghz band (or alternatively the 868 Mhz band in Europe and the 902-928 Mhz band in North America and potentially in other forms including Ultra Wide Band).

While used for peer to peer communications, protocols add support for mesh networking, where nodes in the network can forward packets on to others in the network. In this way, a message can be delivered over a much greater distance than the few meters of a specific link. Zigbee specifies how devices join the network, plus how security is implemented.

Key to Zigbee is its design for extreme low power operation. This means a device can be powered by a small battery for very long periods of time (such as a year or many years) or the device can even use “energy harvesting” to obtain sufficient energy from a wireless field (similar to how RFID works). A Zigbee device might operate on 1/100,000 to 1/1,000,000 the power required for a typical WiFi connection.

Zigbee’s design is oriented towards applications of Zigbee, such as a switch remote controlling a light bulb, or a dimmer controlling a light. Zigbee devices are intended to be easily installed “plug and play”. Contrast that with setting up an Internet connection just a few years ago – where end users had to enter router and DNS addresses and possibly specify a subnet mask. The complexity was absurd in terms of the the end consumer. The consumer just wants to purchase a solution, plug it in, and it works.

The device should automatically discover its surrounding support network, plus, automatically adapt in the event the environment changes. In other words, each device may be part of a mesh network that forwards packets – but if devices within the mesh go offline or are blocked, a new path can be automatically identified.

As you can see, Zigbee is a low power, wireless communications standard that is designed for a world of small, battery powered, Internet of Things devices. Zigbee is not the only standard available – but it is certainly an important one.


“HitchHike” manipulates WiFi signals to encode new data for #IoT

HitchHike consumes 10,000 times less current than WiFi radios. It can operate for years on a simple coin battery, but the researchers say future versions might use tiny solar panels or even harvest the energy of incoming WiFi radio waves. HitchHike is a variation on what is known in engineering circles as a backscatter radio. It is actually more a reflector than a radio. HitchHike merely bounces WiFi signals back into the atmosphere – a signal that is known as backscatter.

Source: Miniature WiFi device developed supplies missing link for the Internet of Things | Stanford News

Basically, a backscatter signal is when a radio wave passes through a receiving antenna, a current is produced. This current flow causes the receiving antenna to radiate the signal back out. If you were to view this antenna as connected to a load, the load can modulate the signal that is being received on the antenna. For example, in a simple scheme, the load could switch the antenna on or off by connecting it to ground or breaking the connection. More complex modulation schemes can be created – I need to read the paper to learn more!

Hacking embedded systems: Camera hacking the Canon PowerShots

Source: CHDK Wiki | Fandom powered by Wikia

If you have a Canon PowerShot camera, a great and fun software hack is available – for free – called the Canon Hack Development Kit or just CHDK.

CHDK is software that runs on your Canon PowerShot camera to add additional features and capabilities; which features are supported depends on which PowerShot camera is used.

When I had a Canon PowerShot SX1, I used CHDK especially for its motion detection feature. This hack added a feature to detect motion in a scene and then fire the shutter – which was perfect for photographing lightning. Yes, its detection is so fast that you could use it to photograph lightning bolts.

In addition to a set of features added by CHDK to the PowerShot cameras, CHDK also adds “scripting”. This is a feature that let’s you write a set of commands (similar to writing a program) to use and operate various camera features.

The hack is installed by copying files to a specially prepared mini SD card. When the camera is turned on, the hack software is pre-loaded, together with the camera’s own, original software.

I sold my SX1 (a great camera for macro shots due to its macro feature and small sensor size). Since then, I have missed being able to play with CHDK. I am thinking about buying a used Powershot with a larger 1/1.7″ sensor so I can play with CHDK again 🙂