Google Assistant adds command for syncing smart home devices

Smart home devices can become extremely complicated. You have to use different apps for each brand, and new devices you add might not be visible to a Google Home. Google has now (partially) solved this problem, with a new voice command.

You can now say “sync my devices” to Google Assistant (on your phone, Google Home, etc) to refresh all of your smart home services. For example, if you have Philips Hue lights and WeMo outlets, Google will pull the full list of your devices from those services.

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Google Assistant adds command for syncing smart home devices was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

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Apple Fixes HomeKit Flaw That Allowed Unauthorized Smart Lock Access

Apple is reportedly rolling out a server-side fix for a critical, zero-day HomeKit vulnerability in iOS 11.2 that allowed unauthorized access to smart devices and accessories.

The vulnerability was first demonstrated to Apple news site 9to5Mac, and the flaw could have potentially allowed attackers to gain remote, unauthorized control of a slew of HomeKit-enabled smart devices — including smart locks and smart garage door openers.

Currently, no information on the vulnerability itself has been given, but the news outlet reported that it was difficult to reproduce. It reportedly required at least one iOS device running iOS 11.2 connected to a user’s iCloud account.

The implications of the vulnerability are extremely worrying, with the obvious concern being the ability for attackers to remotely open a smart lock or garage door and gain access to someone’s house without a physical key. This portion of the vulnerability was specifically demonstrated first-hand to 9to5Mac, the publication wrote.

As of Thursday, Apple has told the outlet that it is rolling out a server-side fix for the issue. As such, users will need to take no immediate action to patch the vulnerability and protect their security.

On the other hand, Apple’s server-side fix will apparently limit certain HomeKit functionality — namely disabling remote access for shared users. Full functionality will be restored in an upcoming update to iOS 11.2 next week, Apple said.

“The issue affecting HomeKit users running iOS 11.2 has been fixed,” Apple said in a statement. “The fix temporarily disables remote access to shared users, which will be restored in a software update early next week.”

Reports seem to indicate that Apple has been aware of this and similar HomeKit vulnerabilities since late October, but certain issues were not addressed as of iOS 11.2 and watchOS 4.2. That means, presumably, that the flaw was live for several weeks in current versions of iOS and watchOS before being addressed.

Apple was apparently able to fix the issue on its servers because it affected the HomeKit framework, rather than individual HomeKit systems or supported smart products.

iDrop News

Australian smart buildings company Quantify raises $5M in capital

Quantify Technologies, a publicly traded IoT company that develops smart/intelligent building applications and solutions has raised $ 5M in new capital.

The company trades on the Australian stock exchange under the ticker QFY and raised the funds by issuing 83M new shares to new and existing investors at 6 cents a share. Quantify will use the funding proceeds for the testing of an integrated Amazon Alexa/Q Device product they are developing.

“These funds will also allow us to accelerate development of further enhancements and integrations of technologies such as Amazon Alexa to further redefine the IoT industry standard and to make our solution the platform of choice,” Mark Lapins, head of Quantify Technologies.

The Q Device by Quantify can be used to control multiple IoT-based in-home devices. The core solution can be deployed at the time of a building’s construction or retro-fitted later.

Rolling out IoT solutions across an enterprise is considered a tough ask, especially when organizations have heterogeneous system operating upon different standards. This is where Quantify makes a difference by eliminating the needs to install dedicated gateway devices or communications hubs. It offers a core control and reporting API for the purpose.

Postscapes: Tracking the Internet of Things

Apple’s HomeKit security blunder exposes the risk of smart homes

The expression “safe as houses” will become a thing of the past if tech firms don’t get connected home security right, and the need to be incredibly watchful was visible in Apple’s latest security blunder this week.

Not so ideal home

The latest iOS 11.2 update held a zero-day vulnerability attackers could exploit to control smart home devices, including connected locks, 9to5Mac explains. While the vulnerability was difficult to exploit, and Apple has acted very swiftly to close this security gap, its existence exposes the risk of smart homes.

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Computerworld Mobile

Analysis: Are bike-sharing schemes a smart city’s friend or foe?

Are bike-sharing schemes a smart city's friend or foe?

There is much to be said for getting urbanites to switch to bike-sharing schemes for their daily commutes, but city authorities need to maintain some control, as Jessica Twentyman reports. 

This week, smart bike-sharing provider Mobike received a ‘Champions of the Earth’ award, the UN’s highest environmental honour, at the third annual UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya.

The award was presented to Mobike founder and president Hu Weiwei, in recognition of her company’s achievement in combining technology and an innovative business model to improve urban eco-mobility while addressing the challenge of urban air pollution.

Mobike operates a ‘pick-up-and-ride scheme’ that doesn’t rely on docking stations, unlike San Francisco’s Ford GoBike scheme or London’s Santander-sponsored ‘Boris’ bikes. Instead, its bikes are tracked by GPS, can be picked up and left virtually anywhere and are located, paid for and unlocked by users using their smartphones.

Since it launched in China in 2016, Mobike’s 200 million users worldwide have collectively cycled over 18.2 billion kilometres, equivalent to reducing CO2 emissions by more than 4.4 million tons, or taking 1.24 million cars off the road for a year, the company claims. The service is available today in 200 cities globally, and staged its European launch earlier this year, starting with the UK cities of Manchester and Salford and, more recently adding the London Borough of Hackney.

Read more: Sherlock anti-theft bike device partners with Orange Business Services

Smart bike connectivity

Mobike is a great example of an IoT-based company with the potential to change the way we move around our congested, polluted cities. IoT connectivity doesn’t just help users access the service, but also enables the company to monitor the condition of every bike in its fleet, identify demand  ‘hot spots’ and redistribute bikes accordingly.

Each bike is connected to the Mobike IoT network via its GPS-embedded smart lock, with connectivity provided by different companies in different regions. In the US, for example, Mobike has announced it will be using telco AT&T’s 4G cellular network, combined with IoT modems from Qualcomm to stay connected. In the UK, connectivity is provided by Vodafone.

Read more: Greentomatocars joins IoT network mapping air pollution in London

The downside of bike-sharing success

However, there is a more worrying side to all this. While Mobike may be the largest operator of its kind, it’s by no means the only one. Streets in China have been flooded with shared bikes as venture capitalists have poured money into different schemes, all seeking a slice of the same potentially lucrative pie and drastically cutting prices to stake their claim.

In Shenzhen, for example, you’ll see orange bikes from Mobike alongside yellow ones from Ofo and light blue ones from Xiaoming Bike. The first two companies have already made their first forays into the US and Europe, as well as other parts of Asia. Others, including Hong Kong’s GoBee and Singapore’s OBike, are doing the same.

Local governments in these regions need to keep a careful eye on the situation. The biggest problem seems to be that, unlike their dock-based counterparts, these dockless schemes are sometimes introduced without the say-so or oversight of city authorities.

In China, the consequences of that lack of control have become all too clear, with a glut of offerings resulting in many bikes going unused and cluttering up urban spaces. That’s not very environmentally friendly and it annoys city dwellers, who find themselves forced to negotiate stacks of bikes close to the entrances to metro stations and car parks.

These schemes may also pose a competitive threat to established bike-sharing services, which typically do have the right local permissions in place to operate, but face the extra costs associated with keeping docking stations maintained.

It’s a situation that is already challenging local authorities in Munich, Amsterdam and Paris, according to a recent Bloomberg report. It needs careful monitoring everywhere. While Mobike’s contribution to cutting carbon emissions is to be applauded, it’s clear that cities can sometimes have too much of a good thing – and after all, nobody ever claimed that the path to smart city status would be an entirely smooth ride.

Read more: Smart city of Aarhus uses Bluetooth sensors to improve traffic flows

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