IoT news of the week for Feb. 23, 2018


Another piece in place for Google’s IoT toolbox: Just last week, when writing about Google’s purchase of Xively, I noted that Google didn’t have any IoT customer success stories. That changed this week as Google’s IoT Core product became generally available. Schlumberger, Smart Parking, Blaze, and Group ADO all shared their positive experiences using IoT Core to create and manage their IoT efforts. IoT Core is the part of Google Cloud used to connect and manage IoT devices, with the data fed back into Google’s analytics and machine learning tools. The combination of IoT Core and customer case studies provides Google with a more cohesive tool set, so keep an eye out to see what other companies choose Google over its competitors in the IoT space. (Google)

The new data center isn’t at the center; it’s at the edge: With more data processing and collection happening on devices, traditional data centers aren’t the best place to store, sort, and analyze information. Computing at the edge is the next big thing. And it will require a transition in product design, data analytics, and machine learning, to name just a few aspects. If you’re looking to better understand why this is happening and what the future implications of moving compute cycles out to edge devices are for IoTthis article is a great read. (NextPlatform)

Why you need to design scalable IoT pilot programs: Adding connectivity to a device isn’t all that difficult, but that alone doesn’t define a good IoT experience. Such a concept is often overlooked when creating IoT pilot programs. Instead, there has to be return on investment for the data captured in the pilot device, which can be tricky; ROI isn’t a “one and done” effort. Successful pilot efforts will evolve and scale the business value over time as companies figure out the many ways they can use data from devices. If your pilot project can’t do that, it’s likely to become a short-term solution at best and at worst, a one-off effort. (LinkedIn)

Training robots with virtual reality is a thing: I can’t wait until our digital assistants gain mobility and take care of things around the house. Current robots are pretty dumb when it comes to household tasks because they often don’t recognize what the items in our home are, never mind how to interact with them. How do you train their AI without breaking everything? I suppose you could set them loose in an IKEA and over time, they’d eventually figure it out. The Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence has a better idea, though: Use virtual reality to simulate homes and household items so robots can learn without causing real destruction. Fascinating! (IEEE Spectrum)

The SEC pushes for sorely needed cybersecurity risk disclosures: No system is perfect, so even if the best precautions are taken, cyber hacks can happen to any company. If they’re taking reasonable security precautions, I generally have sympathy for when they get hacked. I draw the line, however, when hacked companies withhold public information about the hack. That’s why I’m happy to see the Securities and Exchange Commission put forth new guidelines on cybersecurity risk disclosures and breaches. (Reuters)

Dish will spend $ 1B on an IoT network: While most telecom companies are focusing on both 5G and NB-IoT networks, Dish is looking solely at the latter. The company plans to spend a billion dollars through 2020 to build out a network for IoT device use. Even though Dish has plenty of spectrum, it can’t yet deliver 5G service because the 3GPP standards group has only defined specifications for adding 5G to existing networks. Since Dish doesn’t have a 4G network of its own, it has to wait for the 3GPP to approve such a standalone effort. That may be good news for the IoT industry, though. By having an option other than the traditional carriers for IoT data services, price plans and service could be better through Dish over the next few years. (Fierce Wireless)

Siri to go hands-free in the next AirPods: Before I bought them last year, I didn’t think I would enjoy Apple’s AirPods as much I do. But one thing that irks me is that you have to tap them for Siri. Maybe she’s sleeping in there and this action wakes her up? That’s set to change, as the next version of AirPods are expected to wake Siri by saying “Hey, Siri” in hands-free mode. I don’t know if it that alone will be worth replacing the $ 169 pair I already invested in, but I use the hands-free Siri on my Apple Watch numerous times a day, which is telling. The main question I have is: Will Apple cut costs in the new AirPods and remove the touch functionality altogether? I hope not, because I don’t want to have to speak to Siri every single time I want to skip a music track or play a different artist. (Bloomberg)

You can finally order a Lighthouse AI webcam: We’ve been hearing about Lighthouse for nearly a year, but in case you missed it, here’s a quick summary. Lighthouse looks like most other connected home security cameras and works like them, too. There’s some secret sauce inside, though: more artificial intelligence than competing products. You can ask the Lighthouse app, for example, “Did anyone walk the dog today?” and computer vision algorithms can determine the answer from captured footage and 3D sensors. Yes, it’s a smart (or smarter) webcam that understands natural language queries. You can now order a Lighthouse for $ 299. Just remember that the AI service will cost you $ 10 a month. (The Verge)

Nest Cam IQ is now a Google Assistant: Speaking of webcams, you can actually speak to one and get information from it. Nest made good on its promise to integrate Google Assistant into its Next Cam IQ devices this week. That’s one less Google Home product you need to buy if you purchased this camera from Nest. This is also a good example of an IoT device maker designing with an end-user business plan in mind, something that many IoT companies don’t consider from the beginning of the product life cycle. (StaceyOnIot)

OrCam raises $ 30.4M to bring smart glasses to the visually impaired: I love what OrCam is trying to produce. The company has built a smart camera that attaches to any glasses frames for use by the visually impaired. The wireless camera can scan objects, bar codes, and faces, and then read aloud what it “sees.” For folks with terribly bad, or even no eyesight, OrCam could be an accessibility superhero in our digitally visual world. I must not be the only who thinks so. The company raised $ 30.4 million at a $ 1 billion valuation this week. (Reuters)

 

Update 2-26-2018: This article was changed to reflect that the Lighthouse camera is now available to ship.

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

Latest Apple Pay & Instacart tie-up offers free delivery through Feb. 28

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Apple has once again partnered with Instacart to promote Apple Pay, enabling free delivery for people who order groceries through Instacart’s iPhone and iPad app.
AppleInsider – Frontpage News

Apple releases photos of first retail outlet in Austria ahead of Feb. 24 opening

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In preparation for the opening of its first Apple store in Austria on Saturday, Feb. 24, Apple has released new photographs of both the outside and the inside of its latest retail location, showing customers in Vienna what to expect when they visit the new outlet.
AppleInsider – Frontpage News

IoT news of the week for Feb. 16, 2018

Google is buying Xively for $ 50M: Google, which has apparently seen that it needs to step up its IoT cloud game, said it will purchase the Xively IoT platform from LogMeIn for $ 50 million. Xively is a fine IoT platform that always seemed like a strange addendum to LogMeIn. Before LogMeIn bought it, it was known as Pachube, and was the creation of Usman Haque, a forward thinking individual when it came to sensor data monitoring. Xively was a platform-as -a-service offering that managed much of the difficult cloud connections for devices. Combined with hardware kits, the idea was that a developer could get from idea to a working device quickly without having to understand how to connect things and manage them in the cloud. (Google)

Particle brings mesh networking to IoT devices: Most of my IoT projects these days are DIY, or do-it-yourself, efforts. So it’s exciting to see Particle (formerly known as Spark) bring new wireless technology to its small compute boards. Ranging in price from $ 9 to $ 29, the new third-gen Particle boards merge traditional connections—think LTE, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth—with mesh technology so each of the sensor boards can transmit to each other, helping with overall connectivity and data transfer. In other words, not all of your IoT devices need their own internet connection, which can reduce device costs. With Particle’s mesh technology and Thread network support, a non-internet-connected sensor could still transmit its data over the web by using other Particle products on the mesh network, since each is a gateway. Check this video for the full story. (Particle)

Intel-powered drones win Olympic Gold: If you missed the 2018 Winter Olympic opening ceremonies, you missed quite a show. And yet the best performers weren’t even people, but the 1,218 drones with their amazingly choreographed light show, which dazzled. Wired explains how they did it using Intel’s Shooting Star drones. (Wired)

Wearable tech is also on tap for the Winter Olympics: Drones aren’t the only IoT-related things at this year’s Winter Games. Smart clothes and other wearable technology are part of the events, ranging from self-heating jackets with connected apps to speed skating suits that send real-time training data to coaches and skaters. Those sound a little more useful to me than the Halo headsets being used by the U.S. Ski Team: Halo sends energy pulses to a skier’s brain to “prime” their performance. I’ll stick with the warm jacket, thank you. (Gadgets and Wearables)

Another co-founder flies from the Nest: Google’s re-absorption of Nest from Alphabet won’t just impact development teams and supply chain management. The last remaining co-founder of Nest, Matt Rogers, is leaving the team as well. This week, Rogers told CNET that he’ll help the hardware team plan its 2019 roadmap and assist with the re-integration of Nest’s team into Google. After that, though, he’s walking out the door and essentially out of smart home hardware creation. Instead, Rogers plans to focus on Incite.org, a venture firm and labs group he co-founded with Swati Mylavarapu. It’s hard to believe that just six months ago Stacey interviewed Rogers to hear more about Nest’s security products. (CNET)

Faster, more power-efficient encryption at the edge: With recent stories about how much electricity Bitcoin mining gobbles up, it’s nice to see some focus on power efficiency. That’s what MIT has done with a new chip said to increase the speed of public-key encryption on devices by a factor of 500. While the speed is welcome—device encryption processes typically aren’t quick—even better is that the hardware approach reduces the encryption power requirements to just 1/400th of the energy of a software encryption approach. This is important for IoT devices at the edge of a network, which can run on small batteries and therefore need to conserve every milliwatt of power they can. Watch for more ASICs, or application-specific integrated circuits, as our IoT needs continue to expand beyond traditional software solutions. (MIT)

What are the impacts of driverless cars? Let me count the ways: This list of 73 implications of autonomous vehicles is a super read, because it’s one thing to talk about a driverless-car future from the perspective of the technology, but it’s another when you consider the numerous impacts caused by the technology. Think of reductions in traffic policing, for example, a possible decrease in demand for car ownership, or major disruption to the automobile insurance industry. I’m not typically a fan of list-like articles, but this one from Geoff Nesnow is worth an exception to the rule. (Medium)

LimeBike raises $ 70M for real estate companies to offer dockless bikes: When I visited Scottsdale, Arizona over the Christmas holiday, I couldn’t walk more than 100 feet without seeing what looked like a discarded neon green bicycle. Upon closer inspection, I found out these were LimeBikes: cycles used for inexpensive rides with the idea of leaving the bike at your destination. LimeBikes use a connected lock, integrated GPS, and mobile app for the ride. Now, the company has raised another $ 70 million (for a total of $ 132 million) to make it easier to find and store bikes at large, managed real estate properties through dedicated parking spaces. It’s a smart move because it provides centralized accessibility in places where there might be a large number of customers looking for quick and cheap mobility. (Forbes)

Misty wants a robot in every house: You’re likely familiar with Sphero, the company that makes a small, $ 100 robotic ball. You may not, however, know about Misty Robotics, which spun out of Sphero for a different market. Misty is targeted for a developer edition release this month at a cost of $ 1,500. The idea is that a more feature-packed and easily programmable robot could lead to less of a toy and more of a functional assistant based on what developers create with Misty. Using dual treads, Misty can roam around your home either autonomously or programmatically. And she has far more smarts than a Sphero, thanks to a pair of Qualcomm Snapdragon chips (found in most smartphones), a light sensor for mapping, digital camera, microphone, speakers, and USB ports. And a 4.3-inch touchscreen shows Misty’s “emotions” based on information or activities. Using either Blocky or Javascript along with Misty APIs, she looks relatively easy to program. Perhaps Misty is on tap for my next project! (Fast Company)

Another day, another botnet. Where’s the fix?: I doubt we’ll ever see the end of botnet attacks on devices, but we do need to see the end of infected devices that may never get patched. The Satori botnet infected 100,000 devices in just half a day back in December, and plenty of device makers did what they’re supposed to do and provided patches to address the issue. Dasan isn’t one of those device makers, though. More than 40,000 Dasan-built routers are still exploitable by Satori and the company reportedly still hasn’t responded to a December advisory explaining that its routers infected by Satori allow for unauthorized remote code execution. The public needs to continue putting pressure on device makers that don’t take quick action in case of security challenges. Keep voting with your dollars in the meantime. (Ars Technica)

HomePod’s smarts are in the speaker engineering, not in Siri: This is a bit of a personal plug since I reviewed Apple’s HomePod earlier this week. Most of the early reviews were based on the HomePod experience through a combination of Apple briefings and personal use. I found most of those to be less critical (and filled with far more positive superlatives) than reviewers who, like us, simply bought our own HomePod. Maybe it’s just me, but I wasn’t as blown away by the sound as early reviewers. And I find it difficult to give Siri a pass when she’s smarter on the iPad and iPhone than she is inside HomePod. (StaceyOnIoT)

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

IoT news of the week for Feb. 9, 2018

Nest was absorbed into Google: We discussed this on the podcast this week, but it’s worth mentioning heretoo. At best, the decision to bring Nest into Google will make for easier and faster hardware design. At worst, it’s an admission that Nest can’t stand alone as its own company in Alphabet’s “Other Bets” category. Nest has sold a relatively skimpy 11 million devices (compare that with Amazon’s estimated 31 million Echo devices in just a few years) and has been slow to produce more world-changing gadgets. (CNET)

What about your Nest data? A big question after the news broke that Nest would be absorbed by Google was, what will happen to users’ Nest data? When Google acquired Nest in 2014, it made a big deal of keeping the two companies’ data separate. When I asked that question, Matt Flegal, a Nest spokesman, said via email, “Today’s announcement does not change the way Nest uses data under its Privacy Statement.

“In short, Nest users’ data will continue to be used for the limited purposes described in our Privacy Statement like providing, developing, and improving Nest services and products. As we develop future plans and future product integrations, we will be transparent with users about the benefits of those integrations, any changes to the handling of data, and the choices available to consumers in connection with those changes.”

However, I’d keep an eye on my terms of service if I were you, because that could change down the road. But then what would a consumer do? Uninstall their thermostat? Replace their many smoke detectors? Ugh.

Let’s talk about this Intel “edge” processor: This week, Intel  made a huge deal of this new system on a chip being built “for the edge.” I’ve expressed my frustration with the trend of calling everything “the edge” in the past, but Intel’s efforts seem particularly egregious. This is nothing but a massive server chip designed for telecommunications firms. The edge features Intel is touting are basically that this product would work well in servers living at the edge of the telco network. Telcos are betting big on their ability to convince corporate and enterprise customers that their networks can offer edge computing, and that will require much fatter computing power than the current industrial IoT or enterprise IoT gateway boxes, but I’m hard-pressed to consider that the edge. (Intel)

FreeRTOS and embedded OSes: With the internet of things, the mysterious and fragmented world of embedded operating systems is consolidating so as to become more accessible to developers. This article explores what role Amazon wants to play in that transition with its acquisition of the FreeRTOS embedded operating system. (Embedded Computing Design)

How to handle the aftermath of an industrial security breach: Last last year we covered the Triton exploit, which compromised an oil and gas refinery thanks to a vulnerability in equipment from Schneider Electric. Schneider, as part of the steps it took after the attack, uploaded the exploit to a public repository of viruses and malware, where it was promptly copied. Now folks are concerned that the exploit could be recreated and are arguing that Schneider’s decision to upload the code was wrong. Schneider argues that this is a common reaction to an exploit. The whole article takes a look at cybersecurity practices I had never considered and showcases how different the industrial and IT worlds are. (Automation World)

Containers for IoT: This fellow has built a container architecture for the internet of things based on the same kernel that runs the popular Docker container software. The IoT version is called Eliot. If you want to understand more about the benefits of containers for IoT, then check out this profile of Resin.io from a few weeks back. (Medium)

Spain’s big bets on smarter cars: Telefonica and Huawei have built a 5G-based vehicle-to-vehicle communications network test bed in Madrid where the two firms have a 5G Joint Innovation lab. There, they plan to test 5G-based V2V technology for remote driving, fleet platooning, and other benefits of networked cars. Also in Spain, Orange Spain and Spanish automaker SEAT have signed an agreement to  improve the passenger experience, bringing smart home options to car users and building some kind of loyalty program to encourage users to adopt the new technology. (Telegeography)

Connected devices should focus on usage, not purchase: This HBR article delves into the perspectives top-performing consumer brands have on their customers. Do they think of them as buyers of the product, or focus on them as users? In the first case, the emphasis is on prompting a buying decision, while in the second, the focus is on creating an experience that leads to continued use and advocacy for the brand. My contention is that connected devices should focus on the latter. (Harvard Business Review)

The EFF is suing to break DRM on connected devices: DRM on connected devices can be used to keep owners of said products from updating their software, repairing their devices, and generally doing anything the manufacturer doesn’t like. It’s a big issue and getting bigger as we buy more connected products. Hence the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s efforts. (EFF)

FTC’s PrivacyCon event is coming! If you care as much about privacy as I do, perhaps you want to visit Washington, D.C. on Feb. 28th to attend the Federal Trade Commission’s annual event discussing the topic. It will be webcast, too! (FTC)

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

MacUpdate served up Mac cryptominer to unsuspecting users in Firefox, OnyX, and Deeper downloads on Feb. 1

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Download aggregator MacUpdate briefly linked to three malicious applications masquerading as legitimate downloads for Firefox, OnyX, and Deeper, that not only install the apps, but also deposit a cryptocurrency miner on downloader’s systems.
AppleInsider – Frontpage News

New Galaxy S9, S9+ Images Leak Ahead of Late Feb. Unveiling

We’ve already seen leaked images purporting to show the front-side of Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy S9 flagship, which is poised to be the company’s first high-end smartphone of 2018. The S9 will go head-to-head with current, high-end devices like Apple’s iPhone X when it’s unveiled later on this month..

Although Samsung doesn’t really seem to have a problem with leaks of this kind (and is perhaps responsible for them), what we’re feasting our eyes on this morning appear to be the real deal.

If indeed they are authentic, the photos interestingly reveal how the S9 family will try to emulate some of iPhone X’s most acclaimed features..

Published to Twitter this morning by famed and historically spot-on serial leaker, Evan Blass (@evleaks), the images allegedly show Samsung’s Galaxy S9 alongside its slightly larger sibling, the S9+, adorned in what appears to be the company’s signature ‘Lilac Purple’ color.

Given Samsung’s rich and colorful history of copying basically everything Apple does, these iPhone X-esque features shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. For example, the Galaxy S9+ (with its vertically-oriented dual-lens camera system, cough, cough) represents a clear shift in Samsung’s design language which ostensibly knocks off the iPhone X (save for its centralized location on the back of the handset).

Interestingly, though Samsung was rumored to be among several Android OEMs looking to source 3D camera components for their next flagships, the company appears to have implemented only a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor around back — though the sensor appears to have been repositioned to below the camera instead of being beside it on the S8, S8+ and Note 8.

In lieu of a next-generation Face ID-copying 3D camera, Samsung is expected to equip the S9 and S9+ with its current-generation Iris scanner to handle biometric security.

While broader details remain shrouded in secrecy for now, the S9 and S9+ are slated to boast either a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 or Exynos 9810 (market dependent), 6 GB of RAM, and run Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box.

Color options will reportedly include Midnight Black, Titanium Gray, Coral Blue, and the lovely Lilac Purple we see here.

Samsung is scheduled to unveil the Galaxy S9 and S9+ on February 25 — just a day ahead of 2018’s Mobile World Congress (MWC), which is scheduled to run from February 26 through March 2 in Barcelona, Spain.

iDrop News

IoT news of the week for Feb. 2, 2017

Will the new FTC be less into privacy? The new members of the Federal Trade Commission are more experienced with antitrust than with privacy enforcement, which is making attorneys who monitor the agency concerned that those members will be less focused on enforcing privacy regulations. This is somewhat dismaying, considering that the FTC back in 2013 saw the deluge of freely available consumer data from connected devices and proposed in 2015 that Congress write new laws about it. It has also been proactive in enforcing some basic IoT security practices, suing companies that advertised secure devices even if they did not follow basic practices like forcing a password change after a user has set up the product. As more connected devices come online and suck up consumer data, a less vigilant FTC would be a shame. (Law360)

Do we need our own digital twin? The digital twin concept comes from NASA’s space program in which the idea was to create a digital simulacrum of the shuttle for testing purposes. Other industries, from Formula One racing to industrial manufacturing, have followed suit, building digital models of their highly specialized and sensitive equipment. But does that mean we should — or could — build a digital twin of our own human bodies? This article asks if we could use it to show the effects of our life choices or diagnose illness. My contention is that while the idea is interesting, we’re only discovering the complexities associated with our bodies. For example, it’s becoming clear that any medically useful version would need to account for our highly individual, complex, and changing microbiomes. So maybe the question isn’t yet should we create a digital twin, but can we create a digital twin? (IoT for All)

Four industrial sensors to consider: This is pretty nerdy, but I’m obsessed with sensors because when applied in new ways they can open up new experiences or insights. These four range from a high-temperature accelerometer to an ultrasonic sensor that can be used to measure liquids and powders. When they become interesting is when you take them out of their industrial context and apply them in a home. For example, an ultrasonic sensor might be put into a plastic container to sense how much flour or liquid is left inside. As it gets closer to empty, maybe it’s time to signal for a restock. (Embedded Computing Design)

Microsoft Azure boosted earnings! Amazon’s Web Services is still the cloud of choice for startups and many IoT platform companies, but you can’t ignore the pull of Microsoft Azure when it comes to attracting big enterprise clients. Among the enterprise and industrial IoT companies I talk to, most have their operations and data on Microsoft Azure. With the company’s second quarter financials (for fiscal 2018) reported this week, that becomes very clear; Microsoft saw a 98% leap in its cloud revenue from Azure from the previous quarter. How much is that, exactly, in hard dollars? We don’t know, because Microsoft doesn’t break out its Azure sales. However, it’s clearly doing something right. CEO Satya Nadella even gave a shout-out to the intelligent edge in the company’s earnings call. (MarketWatch)

More IoT for the construction business: At CES, Nate Williams, an EIR at Kleiner, told me he was interested in how the IoT can improve the construction sector. Well, here’s a cool startup that uses LIDAR and robots to monitor progress at a construction site each day and makes sure things are built to spec. Doxel monitors sites to ensure the humans building the project are following the plan and sticking to the timeline. As someone who has personally dealt with delays on home construction, I can only imagine how behind things can get on larger projects. Doxel will scan the site each day and let you know when, for example, someone just installed a beam in the wrong place to support the cantilevered deck you planned to add later. Finding out sooner is better than later. (IEEE Spectrum)

Should we worry about Satori? After the Mirai botnet exposed the dangers of having hard-coded passwords and a zombie horde of connected Linux-based boxes that could be harnessed to take down websites with denial-of-service attacks, security researchers have been down on IoT devices. But in most cases, IoT devices don’t have enough processing power to interest botnet creators because they aren’t that smart, or have limited access to the internet. So when I read about Satori, a botnet that’s attacked ARC-based devices that can include thermostats, I wondered if this was really the second coming of Mirai. It looks like its ability to infect set-top boxes and other devices that have more processing power might make it troublesome, although it is still only at about 40,000 devices. It takes advantage of devices still using default passwords, so change yours today. (MIT Technology Review)

Connect at your own risk: How often do you link your phone to your rental car while traveling? If you do, then you’re at risk for the maps data you request, your phone’s identity, and other elements to become part of the car’s stored record of user data. That’s because most rental agencies don’t have a way to clear previous drivers’ records from their cars. This may seem small, but think about all the times you put in your Netflix credentials at an AirBnB or any number of other times you make bits of your digital persona available. (Privacy International)

Suvie stores and then cooks your food on demand: I have a soft spot for kitchen gadgets and this one has me intrigued. The Suvie, which will go live next week on Kickstarter, offers a steam oven, broiler, sous vide functionality, and pasta/rice cooker. It can also keep food cool until it’s time to start cooking. It’s the food itself that gives me pause. The Suvie comes with meals that are optimized for the device, which means it’s closer to the Tovala oven than my beloved June oven. (The Spoon)

We can’t automate without people (and compassion): This story does a deep dive into what happened after Australia let an AI spot fraud and waste in its benefits program. The goal was to claw back misspent money, and the government threw algorithms at the problem of discovering waste and fraud. It then sent those who were flagged into an automated system with too few humans, making life a misery for folks already down on their luck. Bureaucracy is already tough to navigate. Adding an AI black box to the mix isn’t going to help.  (Logic)

Are you using your smartphone less? Over at our web site, Kevin writes about how he’s using his smartphone less because he’s using his watch and voice more. Plus, he detailed a fun project that he built using a LIFX bulb to track the ups and downs of his favorite cryptocurrency. (StaceyonIoT)

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis