Graphic showing Internet of Things news

Sigfox’s problem is IoT’s problem: This profile on the trials of 10-year-old Low-Power Wide-Area Network (LPWAN) provider Sigfox is a lovely little microcosm of the overall trials of the internet of things. After so much hype, the reality of fewer connected devices connecting to its network combined with the rise of a slightly more open technology have forced Sigfox to shift its business model. I wrote about that here, but for those wondering about the fate of IoT’s LPWAN unicorn, this is a nice read. (VentureBeat)

Maker of smart fitness gear acquires maker of dumb fitness gear: Peloton, maker of a $2,000 connected bike that went public pitching itself as a media company, will pay $420 million to buy Precor, the formerly high-end fitness equipment company whose treadmills, ellipticals, and assorted other gear can be found in gyms, hotels, and homes. I don’t write about Peloton a lot, but to me it’s a quintessential IoT company in that it uses connectivity to change the business model and opportunity around fitness equipment. That’s clear in the price it paid for what is arguably an older and better-known fitness brand (among fitness gym bunnies). Back in 2018, when Precor last reported sales publicly, it had $427 million in revenue, a number that it expected would get an 11% boost thanks to a new deal with the Planet Fitness chain of gyms in 2019. This is not a deal with high multiples, is what I’m saying. And the reason is that while companies like Precor were trying to snap on connected modules to their equipment to talk to people’s phones or Apple watches, the Peloton executives were realizing that they could change the entire workout experience with a connected bike. So now Peloton gets Precor’s factories to boost its product, because even when you’ve mastered the bits, you still have to make sure the atoms are taken care of as well. (Engadget)

Some thoughts on the ready-made Homebridge box: Over the holidays, Kevin tried the HOOBS hub, which combines the Homebridge smart home automation software with a Raspberry Pi in a branded case. It’s an easy way for a consumer to play with the Homebridge open source home automation software, and we were excited to try it. HOOBS is for people that love Apple’s Home app and want to bring in non-HomeKit devices. But as Kevin discovered, there are some caveats. (StaceyonIoT)

PE firm to buy real estate tech firm RealPage: Thoma Bravo will acquire RealPage in a deal valued at $10.2 billion. Normally I wouldn’t cover this type of news, but the impetus behind the deal is technology, specifically technology that can make managing and leasing apartments easier and more efficient. RealPage recently purchased Stratis IoT, which makes a smart apartment platform, and has invested hundreds of millions in the last few years on tech-related startups to bring apartments and other multiple dwelling units into the 21st century. (RealPage)

IoT’s continuing e-waste problem: I’ve spent a large portion of this year staring sadly at a box of defunct IoT devices and questioning the wisdom of buying more gadgets as the realities of climate change and our disregard for the environment slap me in the face. So over at IEEE Spectrum, I wrote a column about how companies need to start taking responsibility when marketing and designing their products, as well as when it comes to helping consumers dispose of them. (IEEE Spectrum)

Words matter: In this story about living without Amazon, I came across a significant tell in the copy. The author, in describing Amazon’s varied interests, wrote: “The sheer scope of Amazon’s business interests — including surveillance devices (Ring), government contracts (through Amazon Web Services), and…” Describing Ring’s products as surveillance devices is a confirmation of the worst opinions about Ring’s portfolio and a pretty damning bit of editorializing. Ring makes home security devices, which by design are also surveilling your property. The issue isn’t that Ring provides home surveillance, it’s that users aren’t sure how the surveillance data is used and by whom. And until smart home device makers offer users actual control and transparency — even at the expense of useful services that require data aggregation — they run the risk of the public losing faith in them. (NYT)

The FAA’s new drone rules include one that should apply to all robots: The Federal Aviation Administration has adjusted its rules around drones, adding a requirement that all drones should broadcast their registration to anyone with the equipment to receive it, creating a digital license plate. Personally, I think any robot that roams the public needs something like this, so I’m hopeful we see municipalities or states adopt such rules as part of their own laws. The rules also allow drones to fly at night (with lights) and to fly over people who aren’t operating the drone. This will help push drone deliveries, but I’m not excited about the sound of thousands of drones whirring overhead, even if it does mean I get my package faster. (FAA)

Cisco backs out of selling the smart city: Cisco has stopped selling its Cisco Kinetic for City product line because apparently cities weren’t buying it. This was confirmed by a Cisco spokesperson, who said sales would stop and eventually support would as well. Two weeks ago, Qualcomm announced a service designed to help cash-strapped cities buy connected tech. Qualcomm used pandemic marketing, noting that remote delivery of education, contact tracing, and more meant that cities needed some kind of smarts more than ever. However, as I look at the landscape, I see smart cities facing the same practical headwinds discussed in my first article. Companies wanted to own the whole stack and lock cities in, but the promise of the IoT (and the internet) is that it makes it so easy to share. And when you share, the returns are exponential. So it’s no surprise that Cisco, of all companies, had a hard time selling its vision of smart cities as opposed to one that would truly leave cities in control of their data and destiny. (Wall Street Journal)