Global IoT round-up: Even our Bose headphones are listening to us

21 Apr 2017

Woman wearing a pair of Bose QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones. Image: Bose

This week in IoT, we found out that an app used by Bose allows its headphones to spy on your listening habits, while Microsoft launched a new service for enterprise.

Eyes were cast to China this week, where the tech giant Baidu revealed its plans to open up its autonomous driving platform for other companies to work with.

The Apollo programme – not connected with the moon-landing missions, of course – will now host platforms for vehicle, hardware and software, as well as cloud data services in open source.

Meanwhile, over in the US, Facebook held its F8 developer conference where it showcased all of its future technology.

This included its plans to bring augmented reality and virtual reality to the real world – not just within the next set of video games.

But perhaps what drew the most attention was Facebook’s experimental research lab Building 8 revealing that it is working on a brain-to-computer interface that will let you write text with your mind.

While still very much experimental, Building 8’s head of hardware innovation, Regina Dugan, described the effort as a way of breaking the spell that screens have over people, and enabling a conversation online.

“[The smartphone] has cost us something. It has allowed us to connect with people far away from us too often at the expense of people sitting right next to us,” Dugan said.

Bose headphones app monitoring our listening habits

When we put on a pair of headphones, we think that we are listening to whatever music or podcast is playing but, as it turns out, sometimes those headphones are actually listening in as well.

According to Fortune, a lawsuit has been filed against the audio device manufacturer Bose over its app used in conjunction with a set of its QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones.

According to the complaint, the code behind the companion app revealed that it is collecting data on the content being listened to by the user and subsequently sending it on to third parties.

Accusing the company of violating the Wiretap Act and various other privacy laws in the state of Massachusetts, lead plaintiff Kyle Zak said the claim was being made because “one’s personal audio selections – including music, radio broadcast, podcast and lecture choices – provide an incredible amount of insight into his or her personality, behaviour, political views and personal identity”.

In a statement, Bose denied such accusations, saying it will “fight the inflammatory, misleading allegations made against us through the legal system”.

Microsoft launches new IoT service

Microsoft is upping the ante in the internet of things (IoT) for enterprise stakes, with the launch of a new service called Microsoft IoT Central.

This is a fully managed software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform offering customers the ability to set up IoT systems, but with much of the cloud deployment and other skilled setting-up removed.

Built on the Azure cloud, Microsoft IoT Central supposedly simplifies the development process and makes it easy for customers to get started, making digital transformation more accessible.

Speaking with TechCrunch, Microsoft’s director of IoT, Sam George, said: “While we find that IoT is a big differentiator, one of the things we’re finding in the broader market is that there is still a broad set of skill sets needed to implement IoT solutions.”

Microsoft also revealed Azure Time Series Insights, a fully managed analytics, storage and visualisation service to interactively and instantly explore and analyse billions of events from an IoT solution.

Autonomous vehicles learning from GTA V

When we think of a future of autonomous vehicles roaming the streets, we tend to think of cars all behaving safely and driving within the speed limits.

However, news from Bloomberg suggests that researchers are looking to the violent and chaotic video game GTA V for simulations to test autonomous vehicles, which sounds like a crazy idea.

That said, a game that features 262 types of vehicles driving through various intersections and tunnels, all while 1,000 unpredictable non-playable characters wander around aimlessly, actually provides a great simulation platform.

In fact, Princeton University professor Alain Kornhauser has described it as having the “richest virtual environment that we could extract data from”, having created algorithms to use the game for autonomous vehicle testing.

The work undertaken at Princeton is based on the first breakthrough made last year by researchers at the Darmstadt University of Technology, who developed a means of turning GTA V into a research platform.

Swansea University to trial 5G smart bandages

Imagine a bandage that can read your body and tell your doctor how well your wounds are healing.

Well, this could soon be a reality. According to the BBC, smart bandages developed by Swansea University (SU) that use 5G connectivity will begin trials within the next 12 months.

Revealing the tech behind the smart bandages, researchers would use nanotechnology to insert sensors into the dressing that would monitor and transmit your health data to a physician.

The bandages will be produced by 3D printers to help bring down the cost of production.

“You combine all of that intelligence so the clinician knows the performance of the specific wound at any specific time, and can then tailor the treatment protocol to the individual and wound in question,” said Prof Marc Clement, chairperson of SU’s Institute of Life Science.

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic