Global IoT round-up: Jackets, cars and regulation getting smarter

17 Mar 2017

Will future fashion shows feature ‘smarter’ attire? Image: Paolo Bona/Shutterstock

It’s finally time for your clothes to smarten up, with technology weaved into buttons and sleeves. Autonomous cars are still big news, too.

It has been a costly week for companies in the sex toy industry, with We-Vibe proving to be a terribly damaging product for Standard Innovation amid privacy concerns.

The Canada-based maker of the vibrator is in a bit of bother after the smart sex toy tracked customers’ usage without their consent. A class action lawsuit had been filed in a court in Illinois.

The We-Vibe 4 Plus was billed as the world’s first internet of things (IoT) vibrator, with a Bluetooth connection that can be controlled from afar. Unfortunately for users, data such as minute-by-minute temperature changes and times of use, as well as vibration intensity, could be gathered remotely.

In more positive and entirely unrelated news, Dublin City University researchers were allotted €4.6m in EU Horizon 2020 funding this week to develop the Recap project, along with Intel Ireland and seven other agencies in Spain, Sweden and the UK.

The aim of Recap is to develop the next generation of cloud, edge and fog computing, but with a heavy slant towards the future of IoT, where estimates of the number of sensors by the end of the decade range up to multiple billions.

Recap wants to find answers to improve the capabilities and capacity of future networks, through targeted research advances in cloud infrastructure optimisation, simulation and automation.

So, what else did you miss?

Who polices the police?

This week, The Guardian reported on Maureen Ohlhausen, the acting chair of the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), who claims that IoT should self-regulate.

In effect, she thinks that risks should “materialise” before the FTC is called into action. Prevention is not the cure, it seems.

“We’re saying not, ‘Let’s speculate about harm five years out’, but, ‘Is there something happening that harms consumers right now or is likely to cause harm to consumers?’” Ohlhausen said during a discussion at a cybersecurity conference at the Nasdaq.

If there is potential harm to consumers in a new technology, the FTC should not act until that harm manifests, she said. “We don’t know if that risk will materialise. It may well materialise, but a solution may materialise at the same time.”

Fashion! Turn to the left

In 2015, Google hinted at the future of fashion, with wiring stitched into clothing to make sure we’re never more than a few millimetres from the connected world.

Now, more than 18 months later, Google’s fruits are beginning to ripen: Project Jacquard is on the way.

The Commuter Trucker jacket, made by Levi Strauss, will go on sale this year for about $350.

The jacket’s left sleeve is a touchpad, with the wearer controlling the interface by swiping their fingers across, much like on a smartphone.

Syncing the jacket up with a complementary app means that music can be chosen, the time can be displayed and other – at first, trivial – services will be provided.

Weirdly, it’s being pushed primarily towards the cycling community.

“Anyone on a bike knows that navigating your screen while navigating busy city streets isn’t easy – or a particularly good idea,” said Paul Dillinger, head of global product innovation for Levi Strauss & Co. “This jacket helps to resolve that real-world challenge by becoming the co-pilot for your life, on and off your bike.”

This promo video from a few months ago is about as detailed as it gets at this stage.

Autonomous cars gain new support

This week (deep breath), Intel snapped up computer vision expert Mobileye in a $15.3bn deal to further its autonomous vehicle push, Alibaba emerged as the lead investor in an $18m Series B funding round for smart car technology developer WayRay (continuing the former’s connected car road plan) and Detroit Electric signed a fascinating $1.8bn China deal to further its business.

Every week, there are new developments throughout the global automotive landscape.

What’s more, Nvidia and Bosch this week announced a partnership to collaborate on an AI-powered self-driving computer intended for mass-market cars. Bosch competes with Mobileye in certain respects so, once the Intel deal went through, it could never truly rest on its laurels.

Under the agreement, Nvidia’s Xavier processor will no doubt play a primary role. The companies are aiming to release a self-driving computer system in 2020, according to Reuters.

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Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic