Microsoft to funnel $5bn into IoT research over the next four years

6 Apr 2018

Microsoft HQ in Redmond, Washington. Image: Katherine Welles/Shutterstock

Microsoft is diverting a chunk of its budget into IoT research and development, while a new wearable from MIT can read your mind.

In internet of things (IoT) news this week, Google staff raised concerns over the company’s involvement in a US military drone project.

Meanwhile, Apple snapped up John Giannandrea – Google’s former head of search and AI – to give virtual assistant Siri an edge.

Microsoft prioritises IoT in budget reshuffle

Over at Redmond, Microsoft announced that it would be investing $5bn into building out its IoT services and products arm over a four-year period.

While the firm didn’t specify how exactly the money would be spent, it’s safe to assume it will contribute to the development of new products and address the need to boost the security of IoT devices and networks.

Julia White, corporate vice-president at the company, said: “Whether they’re building products that transform the home, office or factory floor, one thing remains clear: IoT is a collaborative, multidisciplinary effort that spans cloud development, machine learning, AI, security and privacy.”

The Register reached out to Microsoft and asked whether the spend was new money or a reallocation of previously earmarked funds and the company responded: “This investment includes planned resource in hiring, research and product development, partner enablement, and training and infrastructure investment.

“This signals Microsoft’s continued commitment to digital transformation and the internet of things.”

Mirai variant botnet launches attacks on financial sector

According to research from Recorded Future, a Mirai botnet variant was used in attacks on at least one company in the financial sector. The variant is possibly linked to the IoTroop or Reaper botnets, the report said.

A DNS amplification attack hit first on 28 January, while a second company in the financial industry experienced a DDoS attack on the same day at around the same time. It’s thought the same botnet was behind both incidents.

At least seven IP addresses were controllers for the botnet and ZDNet was told that the companies affected were global Fortune 500 firms. At least one of the firms saw customer service disrupted temporarily.

Researchers say it’s the largest attack since Mirai first wreaked havoc at the end of 2016.

AlterEgo wearable from MIT predicts what you’re going to say

Researchers at MIT said they have developed a computer interface that can transcribe a user’s internal monologue. It consists of a wearable device with electrodes that pick up neuromuscular signals in the face and jaw, triggered by internal verbalisations – the words you say in your head before you speak them aloud.

A machine-learning system is then fed the signals and correlates them with particular words. The AlterEgo device also includes a pair of “bone-conduction headphones, which transmit vibrations through the bones of the face to the inner ear”. This helps the system to convey information to the user without disrupting conversations.

At present, the researchers are in the middle of collecting data, and a device such as this could have major benefits for workers in high-noise environments or those carrying out special operations missions.

New IoT device helps pet owners connect with their animals

Unisys has introduced a system of sensors and apps to track the comfort of animals during air transit. Called Digi-Pet, it connects pets in aircraft cargo holds to their owners via a mobile app, with automated alerts, voice chat and streaming options.

According to Internet of Business, the system caters for domestic animals as well as livestock, horses and more.

“Large pets – whether accompanied or not – must travel in the cargo hold. Unisys Digi-Pet uses IoT sensors to provide pet owners with full visibility of their pet’s comfort and the environmental conditions, as well as enabling them to talk to their pets – calming both pet and owner,” said Venkatesh Pazhyanur, senior industry director of freight solutions for Unisys.

Microsoft HQ in Redmond, Washington. Image: Katherine Welles/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects