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IoT News Roundup

May 27th, 2016
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Samsung building LoRa network in South Korea; Intel acquiring computer-vision startup to bolster IoT capabilities; Virginia startup says it is bringing Nest-like controls to water heaters; Hitachi Insight Group merging public and private data sources for smart-city apps.

Samsung Building Countrywide Low-Power Wide-Area Network
Samsung Electronics this week announced that it has entered into an agreement with SK Telecom to deploy LoRa low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) nodes in South Koreawhich, Samsung says, will become the world's first commercial network dedicated to enabling Internet of Things applications.

The network build-out is starting in the city of Daegu, which will serve as a testbed for applications related to the use of renewable energy, collecting air-pollution data, analytics applications in the health-care sector, and electric vehicle infrastructure for autonomous cars. The network is expected to be available throughout South Korea by the middle of the year, according to Samsung.

LoRaa communications protocol developed by IBM, Semtech and other firmsleverages unlicensed, public spectrum called the Industrial Scientific and Medical (ISM) frequency band, to send small packets at low speed, but over long distances.

Intel to Purchase Computer-Vision Startup
Intel reported on Thursday that it is acquiring Itseez Inc., a San Francisco-based company that makes software used in a type of technology called computer vision, which enables a computer to process images and make real-time decisions based on what it sees.

Itseez' technology is currently used to power advanced driver-assistance platforms in vehiclesfeatures such as lane-departure warning, traffic-sign detection, forward-collision warning and pedestrian detection. Its software is also used in facial-recognition and -detection systems, as well as in 3D scanning program. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

In a blog post about the purchase, Doug Davis, Intel's senior VP and general manager of the company's Internet of Things Group, wrote: "Itseez will become a key ingredient for Intel's Internet of Things Group (IOTG) roadmap, and will help Intel's customers create innovative deep-learning-based [computer vision] applications like autonomous driving, digital security and surveillance, and industrial inspection."



Aquanta Calls Its Monitor 'Nest for Water Heaters'
Aquanta, a startup based in McLean, Va., has launched a smart-home product to address what it says is an ignored energy waster: the water heater. According to 2009 data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, heating water is the second single largest use of energy, per BTUs, by households. Aquanta estimates that its water heater controller could reduce the amount of energy that a household uses to heat water by 10 to 30 percent. (It adds that third-party testing is presently underway to verify those savings.)

The company says its controller is compatible with approximately 125 millionor around 70 percentof conventional tank-storage water heaters (as opposed to tankless water heaters) throughout the United States and Canada. The retrofit device is promoted as the Nest for water heaters, because it uses an algorithm to learn a household's demand for hot water over time. The device connects to the home's Wi-Fi network and is controlled via a cloud-based application that the homeowner utilizes to access data showing how much energy the water heater uses throughout the day. A person can also use the app to set schedules that would lower the set temperature of the water during times when it is not needed, and also turn the water heater on or off remotely. The sensor includes a moisture probe that detects the presence of water in the tank's drain pan; the application alerts a homeowner to a possible leak if this sensor detects any moisture.

The Aquanta system can control electric water heaters, as well as those gas water heaters with electronic gas control valves. For gas tanks equipped with mechanical control valves, the Aquanta system can measure the energy and provide most of its reporting features, but cannot control the temperature setting.

The company says it plans to integrate Aquanta with some smart-home hubs, though it does not currently offer any application programming interfaces (APIs). The product is available for pre-purchase for $149 at the company's website, aquanta.io, and is scheduled to begin shipping in late July 2016.

Hitachi Insight Group's Data Exchange Targeted at Smart-City Apps
Earlier this month, Hitachi launched the Hitachi Insight Group, its new business arm addressing smart-city, industrial and manufacturing IoT applicationswhich, it says, generated $5.4 billion in revenue last year through 33 deployments. One of the group's first orders of business is to launch The City Data Exchange, a new data marketplace for smart cities. The goal of this database tool is to bring together data from public and private data providers for use in smart-city applications. The inaugural City Data Exchange project has been completed in the City of Copenhagen, for which Hitachi says it brought together 100 sources of anonymized data for use by the government, as well as by private-sector organizations.

The group reports that it has already created an initial set of applications to leverage the marketplace, which it has tested using real data, in close collaboration with all partners contributing data to the service. Hitachi provides access to the information via RESTful JSON application program interfaces (APIs), and through a subscription service. It currently offers only raw data, but plans to add analytical tools later this year. The group has not announced any users in Copenhagen.