This Week: Apple Watch, cyberwar, Gartner mansions, Rhino bracelets and wearable tech pays
You never now what’s coming next in this business. Jeremy Cowan’s week in the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications has included wearable tech for payments, Ralph Lauren shirts, Apple Watches, global cyberwarfare, and the size of the average Gartner’s gaff.
Connected and wearable devices are moving out of the nerdy phase where most people are interested but only Early Adopters actually invest in them, financially and intellectually. Wearable tech is proving its worth, in wellness (this is old news. Ed.), chronic healthcare, and now payments.
We reported in July that analysts believed the wearable tech market was being held back by, among other things, the need for fashion collaboration. Since then Ralph Lauren has shown how alert fashion brands are becoming to wearable tech with the launch of its connected Polo Tech shirt (Report and video: Wearable band shipments rocket by 684%, but are privacy and fashion issues still slowing adoption?).
Now even banks and financial institutions are shaking off their dusty image and looking at ways of incorporating wearables into their businesses. Through the use of near field communication (NFC) tattoos, stickers, and wearable accessories like watches, consumers may not have to rely exclusively on their smartphones to access accounts and personal data remotely. ZootBlog®, a community for financial industry executives, reports that financial institutions could soon offer consumers wearable tech as another way to make payments. Since mobile payments require a mobile phone that is roughly the size of a wallet, there’s little advantage in using them; better to NFC-enable small or embedded devices in clothing, jewellery or watches.
There’s even a growing case for the much-maligned (including here) Google Glass, now that the medical profession is devising new uses for the technology in managing early-stage Parkinson’s Disease, or supporting better social interaction for Autism sufferers as shown by the Fraunhofer Institute (see: What will Google Glass wearers know about you?).
Monday also brought us a seemingly daft comment from Gartner, one of the world’s most successful analyst firms. We are big fans of Gartner who didn’t get to be as influential as they are by stating that “a typical family home could contain more than 500 smart devices by 2022″. We’ve tried to calculate what those 500 devices might be before giving up and going to the pub. (If you can help me on this one you can reach me on Twitter @jcm2m) I’ve heard it argued that it depends what you mean by a connected device — is it every single light bulb? Well, we think the definition is fairly clear, if it’s Internet-enabled then it’s a ‘smart device’. Of course time will tell, and we all know that prophets are often met with derision; all we can say is that the “typical” Gartner residence must be somewhat larger than ours.
Sony must have been feeling pretty good about life around lunchtime following the launch of its attractive Smart Watch and Smartband Talk devices (see: Life is a journey, apparently). By sundown, however, few of us could remember much about them following the usual ballyhoo that surrounded Apple’s launch of the iPhone 6, the iPhone 6+, the Apple Watch, oh and Apple Pay (see: Apple may launch NFC payments in iPhone 6, but the banks and telcos can stop smiling …).
We were most interested in the widely-anticipated move into the world of connected payments by Cupertino’s favourite child. The response from analysts and the payment community was swift, in some cases it was even issued before Tim Cook had stood up, which was quite a trick.
According to a BellID blog (see iPhone, NFC & Apple Pay: How Should Banks React?) the retailers ‘partnering’ with Apple are the US merchants accepting contactless EMV payments. Martin Cox, global head of Sales, said: “What about mobile payments for the remaining majority? Apple Pay will initially be available for customers of the largest U.S. banks that have the latest iPhone or Apple Watch. But what about those outside the U.S? The good news is that millions of transactions are already happening around the globe without Apple’s intervention, simply by using the contactless EMV standard. This is not restricted to only iPhone since the same functionality can be offered across a broader range of mobile devices, such as those running Android and also Blackberry, which collectively outsell iPhone by more than seven to one.”
Security of communications and data is another challenge facing the Apple Watch. Antoine Rizk, VP, Global Go-To-Market Programs at Axway, commented: “The launch of the Apple Watch marks a giant leap towards wearable technology becoming truly mainstream. Not only will the Watch appeal to a far broader consumer audience, it signals advancement towards constant connectivity. As developers rush to meet the demands of the Apple Watch, we will see a proliferation in new apps, creating a new wave of data flow to information back offices, and an influx of security challenges for businesses to manage. Behind the face of the new Watch, it’s application programming interfaces (API) that will be the deciding factor as to whether the Watch is a success.
“Apple Watch apps will be calling on APIs that must be delivered in real-time and able to communicate instantaneously; our smart watches will be linked up to our smart cars, and data on location and battery level has to be communicated in real-time. To achieve the agility and instant communication required, API gateways will be a fundamental cog in the infrastructure. API gateways with web sockets and inbuilt messaging and monitoring, will enable businesses to integrate new applications efficiently, meaning new services can be brought to the market securely and quickly to meet the growing demands of consumers. Low latency APIs and applications will result in the Apple Watch struggling to get off the launch pad.”
What could have been a dry discussion of security standards and challenges held deep in The Vault bar in the City of London came to life as analysts from Beecham Research said, “We’re just nine meals from anarchy” if national logistics chains for food supply to supermarkets are interrupted by terrorists or cyberwarfare. Talking afterwards to M2M Now, Professor Jon Howes went further and said the threat could come in nine minutes if there’s a ‘successful’ attack on control networks for our water and sewage management.
Asked by M2M Now if these networks are under attack now or if this is still a theoretical risk, Haydn Povey, technical associate at Beecham Research, co-author of the security report (and former director of Secure Products at ARM Holdings) said: “It’s not been widely reported but utilities in North America have already been attacked.” As to where the threat was coming from Povey would only say, “You have to look to your traditional enemies. There are already documented threats from China, Russia, and now particularly in Iran.”
Beecham’s interim report, Evolving Secure Requirements for the Internet of Things, warns that there are currently insufficient security capabilities within the emerging IoT standards to manage the long lifecycles expected of many IoT devices.
Just when you thought the week couldn’t get any wilder, along came Intel bringing stories of rhinos and poachers. In his blog (Top 10 Unexpected Intel Powered IoT Projects at IDF14) Doug Davis, corporate VP and general manager, Internet of Things Group (IOTG), Intel Corporation, said: “It seems that even rhinos are getting hip to IoT. Connected ankle collars are now being used to track the critically endangered black rhinoceros, native to eastern and central Africa. The ankle collar provides each rhino’s geo-location and movement data, which is encrypted to ensure poachers cannot get to it, and then sent to the cloud. If there is an issue with a poacher, anti-poaching teams can be alerted with helicopters, drones, and ground-based vehicles to apprehend the poachers.
“This enables researchers to track the location of the animal, monitor its behaviour, and know when it’s in distress — all in an attempt to help save this species. For those interested, the Intel® product inside is the Intel® Quark™ SoC-based Intel Galileo board.” The credit card-sized Intel Galileo board, complete with 3G communications and onboard storage features, is said by Davis to be the perfect size-integrated solution for an ankle collar.