Discussing the business of smart things with Nanoleaf’s CEO

BY STACEY HIGGINBOTHAM
May 3, 2022

This year feels like a fraught one for the smart home. On one hand, there’s the promise of the Matter protocol arriving to help solve persistent interoperability challenges. On the other hand, we’re seeing a wave of companies shut their doors as they assess the landscape post-pandemic.

So it seemed like a good time to talk to Gimmy Chu, the CEO of Nanoleaf, a company that makes fancy, connected light panels, about the challenges and opportunities ahead for smart devices.

Shapes Hex Meditation

Nanoleaf lights already support some of the basics required by Matter, but until the certification is out, the company is waiting to release some new products. Image courtesy of Nanoleaf.

First up, get ready for commoditization. With the Matter protocol, Chu said we’re going to see cheap Matter-certified products flood the market. These products will have basic functionality as defined by the Matter standard, and will force existing smart home providers to up their game or fight for market share based on cost.

The good news from a consumer standpoint is that the Matter standard does enshrine basic security, so these low-cost devices are less likely to open gaping holes in your home network. Matter also provides for local control of basic devices, which means these products will work even if their parent company goes out of business.

As Chu noted, the smart home has been built on sand for years, always shifting, whereas with Matter the smart home will be built on rock, making these platforms more stable. This is a positive, but he also thinks that for consumers, Matter isn’t the flashy technology it’s being built up to be. “This is the rock and no one cares about the rock,” he said. “They care about what’s built on top of the rock.”

I tend to agree with him. Matter will make it easy to enable various devices to work together without worrying about which ecosystem the device is in. This will be helpful, but no longer as game-changing as it was when the Matter standard was announced. Especially since the bigger names in the smart home are moving from selling individual devices to packaging devices into services, such as security systems or elder-care monitoring products.

This article first published at STACEY ON IOT on May 3, 2022.

Large hadron collider: A revamp that could revolutionise physics

By Pallab Ghosh, BBC News | Science

LHC Atlas closeupThe Atlas detector comprises 7,000 tonnes of metal, silicon, electronics, and wiring, intricately and precisely put together. It is now more powerful than ever.

Deep underground amidst the Alps, scientists are barely able to contain their excitement.

They whisper about discoveries that would radically alter our understanding of the Universe.
“I’ve been hunting for the fifth force for as long as I’ve been a particle physicist,” says Dr Sam Harper. “Maybe this is the year”.

For the past 20 years, Sam has been trying to find evidence of a fifth force of nature, with gravity, electromagnetism and two nuclear forces being the four that physicists already know about.

He’s pinning his hopes on a major revamp of the Large Hadron Collider. It’s the world’s most advanced particle accelerator – a vast machine that smashes atoms together to break them apart and discover what is inside them.
It’s been souped up even further in a three-year upgrade. Its instruments are more sensitive, allowing researchers to study the collision of particles from the inside of atoms in higher definition; its software has been enhanced so that it is able to take data at a rate of 30 million times each second; and its beams are narrower, which greatly increases the number of collisions.

What all this means is that there’s now the best chance ever of the LHC finding subatomic particles that are completely new to science. The hope is that it will make discoveries that will spark the biggest revolution in physics in a hundred years.

As well as believing that they may find a new, fifth force of nature, researchers hope to find evidence of an invisible substance that makes up most of the Universe called Dark Matter.

The pressure is on the researchers here to deliver. Many had expected the LHC to have found evidence of a new realm of physics by now.

The LHC is part of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, known as Cern, on the Swiss-French border, just outside Geneva. As one approaches, it seems an unremarkable complex – blocks of 1950s office buildings and dormitories, sprawling across a two and a half square mile site of manicured lawns and winding roads named after revered physicists.

This article first published at BBC News | Science on April 22, 2022.

Writing may be on the wall for sharing Netflix accounts

Netflix estimates that a huge amount of people watch the service thanks to account sharing

By Jay Peters @jaypeters Apr 19, 2022
 

Netflix logo

Netflix announced in March that it plans to crack down on password sharing, and in its first quarter earnings letter to shareholders (pdf), it gave a big clue as to why.

 
First, it’s increasingly clear that the pace of growth into our underlying addressable market (broadband homes) is partly dependent on factors we don’t directly control, like the uptake of connected TVs (since the majority of our viewing is on TVs), the adoption of on-demand entertainment, and data costs. We believe these factors will keep improving over time, so that all broadband households will be potential Netflix customers. Second, in addition to our 222m paying households, we estimate that Netflix is being shared with over 100m additional households, including over 30m in the UCAN region. Account sharing as a percentage of our paying membership hasn’t changed much over the years, but, coupled with the first factor, means it’s harder to grow membership in many markets – an issue that was obscured by our COVID growth.

Netflix has 222 million “paying households,” but it estimates the service is shared with over 100 million “additional households,” 30 million of which are in the US and Canada. That indicates there is a massive swath of people who aren’t paying Netflix directly for the ability to stream their favorite shows.

“We’re working on how to monetize sharing,” Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings said in a video regarding this quarter’s earnings. “You know, we’ve been thinking about that for a couple years. But you know, when we were growing fast, it wasn’t the high priority to work on. And now we’re working super hard on it. Remember, these are over 100 million households that already are choosing to view Netflix. They love the service. We’ve just gotta get paid in some degree for them.”

This article first published at The Verge on March 29, 2022.

A hacker stole $625 million from the blockchain behind NFT game Axie Infinity

One of the largest ‘decentralized finance’ hacks yet

By Adi Robertson and Corin Faife Mar 29, 2022

Axie Infinity game

Roughly $625 million worth of cryptocurrency has been stolen from Ronin, the blockchain underlying popular crypto game Axie Infinity. Ronin and Axie Infinity operator Sky Mavis revealed the breach on Tuesday and froze transactions on the Ronin bridge, which allows depositing and withdrawing funds from the company’s blockchain.

Sky Mavis says it’s working with law enforcement to recover 173,600 Ethereum (currently worth around $600 million) and 25.5 million USDC (a cryptocurrency pegged to the US dollar) from the culprit, who withdrew it from the network on March 23rd. The attack focused on the bridge to Sky Mavis’ Ronin blockchain, an intermediary between Axie Infinity and other cryptocurrency blockchains like Ethereum. Users could deposit Ethereum or USDC to Ronin, then purchase non-fungible token items or in-game currency, or they could sell their in-game assets and withdraw the money.

According to Sky Mavis, an attacker used hacked private security keys to compromise the network nodes that validate transfers to and from the Ronin blockchain. That let the attacker quietly withdraw large quantities of Ethereum and USDC. The transfer was discovered today — nearly a week later — when another user attempted to withdraw 5,000 Ethereum through the bridge.

This article first published at The Verge on March 29, 2022.

This Seemingly Normal Lightning Cable Will Leak Everything You Type

By Joseph Cox, Vice
September 2, 2021

OMG cable leaks data

It looks like a Lightning cable, it works like a Lightning cable, and I can use it to connect my keyboard to my Mac. But it is actually a malicious cable that can record everything I type, including passwords, and wirelessly send that data to a hacker who could be more than a mile away.

This is the new version of a series of penetration testing tools made by the security researcher known as MG. MG previously demoed an earlier version of the cables for Motherboard at the DEF CON hacking conference in 2019. Shortly after that, MG said he had successfully moved the cables into mass production, and cybersecurity vendor Hak5 started selling the cables.

But the more recent cables come in new physical variations, including Lightning to USB-C, and include more capabilities for hackers to play with.

“There were people who said that Type C cables were safe from this type of implant because there isn’t enough space. So, clearly, I had to prove that wrong. :),” MG told Motherboard in an online chat.

The OMG Cables, as they’re called, work by creating a Wi-Fi hotspot itself that a hacker can connect to from their own device. From here, an interface in an ordinary web browser lets the hacker start recording keystrokes. The malicious implant itself takes up around half the length of the plastic shell, MG said.

Read more →

This article originally appeared at venturebeat.com on Sep 7, 2021

 

Salesforce’s CodeT5 system can understand and generate code

By Kyle Wiggers       Sep 7, 2021

Salesforce CodeT5Image Credit: VeniThePooh via Getty

AI-powered coding tools, which generate code using machine learning algorithms, have attracted increasing attention over the last decade. In theory, systems like OpenAI’s Codex could reduce the time people spend writing software as well as computational and operational costs. But existing systems have major limitations, leading to undesirable results like errors.

In search of a better approach, researchers at Salesforce open-sourced a machine learning system called CodeT5, which can understand and generate code in real time. The team claims that CodeT5 achieves state-of-the-art performance on coding tasks including code defect detection, which predicts whether code is vulnerable to exploits, and clone detection, which predicts whether two code snippets have the same functionality.

Novel design

As the Salesforce researchers explain in a blog post and paper, existing AI-powered coding tools often rely on model architectures “suboptimal” for generation and understanding tasks. They adapt conventional natural language processing pretraining techniques to source code, ignoring the structural information in programming language that’s important to comprehending the code’s semantics.

By contrast, CodeT5 incorporates code-specific knowledge, taking code and its accompanying comments to endow the model with better code understanding. As a kind of guidepost, the model draws on both the documentation and developer-assigned identifiers in codebases (e.g., “binarySearch”) that make code more understandable while preserving its semantics.

CodeT5 builds on Google’s T5 (Text-to-Text Transfer Transformer) framework, which was first detailed in a paper published in 2020. It reframes natural language processing tasks into a unified text-to-text-format, where the input and output data are always strings of text — allowing the same model to be applied to virtually any natural language processing task.

Read more →

This article originally appeared at venturebeat.com on Sep 7, 2021

 

SpaceX cleared for historic civilian launch next week

By Patrick Reilly       September 5, 2021

 
SpaceX is set to launch its first-ever all-civilian crew to space next week on a three-day journey around the Earth that will benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Four private citizens will be tucked inside the Crew Dragon spacecraft when it’s launched into space by Falcon 9 on Sept. 15 as part of the mission dubbed Inspiration4.

“#Inspiration4 and @SpaceX have completed our flight readiness review and remain on track for launch!” Inspiration4 tweeted Friday.

The blastoff will take place at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida sometime within a five-hour window to be determined three days before the launch, based on weather conditions.

The Dragon capsule is aiming for an altitude of 335 miles — about 75 miles higher than the International Space Station and on a level with the Hubble Space Telescope.

The soon-to-be-astronauts — Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Chris Sembroski and Dr. Sian Proctor — are expected to arrive in the Sunshine State on Thursday to begin flight preparations following months of intense training since the team was announced in March.

SpaceX Insp4 Civilians

Their preparation has involved “centrifuge training, Dragon simulations, observations of other SpaceX launch operations, Zero-G plane training, altitude training and additional classroom, simulation and medical testing,” Inspiration4 said in a press release.

The mission will be commanded by Isaacman, 38, the founder and CEO of credit card processing company Shift4 Payments and an accomplished jet pilot. Isaacman has not revealed how much he is paying for the flight but has donated $100 million to St. Jude’s.

He has an estimated net worth of $2.6 billion, according to Forbes.

Isaacman donated two of the seats on the mission, reserving one for “a St. Jude ambassador with direct ties to the mission.”

In March, he announced his crew, including Arceneaux, 29, who battled bone cancer as a child at St. Jude’s and was hired by the the hospital last spring. She will serve as the crew’s medical officer. The mission will make her the youngest American in space — beating NASA record-holder Sally Ride by over two years.

“My battle with cancer really prepared me for space travel,” Arceneaux told the Associated Press in February. “It made me tough, and then also I think it really taught me to expect the unexpected and go along for the ride.”

Proctor, 51, is a community college educator in Tempe, Arizona. She nabbed her ticket to space by winning a contest held by Isaacman’s Shift4Shop eCommerce platform that sought inspirational entrepreneurs worthy of being “elevated to the stars.” Proctor is an analog astronaut whose father worked at the NASA tracking station during the Apollo missions.

SpaceX Insp4 Cupola

The second of Isaacman’s donated seats went to Sembroski, 41, a former Air Force missileman from Everett, Washington.

Sembroski’s friend initially won the sweepstakes that raked in more than 72,000 donations totaling $13 million to St. Jude’s, according to Space.com. But Sembroski was tapped to replace his pal, who declined to fly for personal reasons.

Both the Dragon crew capsule and the reusable Falcon 9 rocket have flown before, according to Space.com. A backup launch date is set for Sept. 16.

The crew will orbit the Earth for three days before splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean.

“Inspiration4’s goal is to inspire humanity to support St. Jude here on earth while also seeing new possibilities for human spaceflight,” Isaacman said in March. “Each of these outstanding crew members embodies the best of humanity, and I am humbled to lead them on this historic and purposeful mission and the adventure of a lifetime.”

Last month, SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, sent a shipment of ants, avocados and a human-sized robotic arm to the seven astronauts at the International Space Station.

 
This article originally appeared at nypost.com on Sep 5, 2021.

 

Linux Foundation, DARPA collaborate on open source for 5G

by Monica Alleven | Feb 17, 2021 | Fierce Wireless

Networking graphic

The first project under the US GOV OPS umbrella will be the Open Programmable Secure- 5G (OPS-5G) program, currently being formed with the help of DARPA, the U.S. Navy and others.(Pixabay)

The Linux Foundation has signed an agreement with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to establish an open source project for the U.S. government.

The agreement calls for the Linux Foundation and DARPA to work together in the areas of 5G, edge, artificial intelligence, standards, programmability and IoT, among other technologies.

According to a press release, the project will launch as a standard open source project with neutral governance and a charter similar to other projects within the Linux Foundation. It’s also leveraging existing network open source projects and community efforts in the form of SDN/NFV, disaggregation and cloud native.

“DARPA’s use of open source software in the Open Programmable Secure 5G (OPS-5G) program leverages transparency, portability and open access inherent in this distribution model,” said Jonathan Smith, DARPA Information Innovation Office Program Manager, in a statement. “Transparency enables advanced software tools and systems to be applied to the code base, while portability and open access will result in decoupling hardware and software ecosystems, enabling innovations by more entities across more technology areas.”

This article first appeared on FierceWireless.com on Feb 17, 2021.

 

Zoom to lift 40-minute meeting limit on Thanksgiving for longer family hangouts

As COVID-19 makes it difficult and risky to travel

By Nick Statt, The Verge

Zoom said earlier this week it would lift its standard 40-minute limit on free video chats for Thanksgiving Day to make it easier to spend time with friends and family virtually on the US holiday. Given spikes in COVID-19 cases nationwide and various new and existing restrictions on interstate travel, this year’s Thanksgiving will be an unprecedented affair likely involving a mix of in-person and virtual hangouts using videoconferencing software like Zoom.

The 40-minute limit has been one of the key restrictions of Zoom’s Basic plan throughout the pandemic, often forcing groups to restart a chat after the time limit is up and causing a fair amount of friction in keeping a conversation or virtual gathering going. Many of Zoom’s competitors have imposed similar restrictions, including Google Meet (60-minute limit) and Cisco Webex (50-minute limit), and all providers charge extra for enterprise-grade plans that remove the limit and expand the number of participants allowed.

But Zoom, which emerged as the face of the videoconferencing boom the pandemic created earlier this year, stands to benefit if it removes this limit, even just for a day, on a high-traffic holiday like Thanksgiving. That way, it can become a destination for virtual celebrations and further establish its platform as a way to connect with others during the pandemic.

It’s only a temporary removal of the 40-minute restriction, lasting from midnight on Thanksgiving Day (November 26th) to 6AM ET on November 27th. But the fact that Zoom is doing this at all — and that it will likely go a long way in helping users employ video chatting as a substitute for a traditional family gathering — speaks volumes about the bizarre and uncharted territory we’re entering this holiday season as COVID-19 continues to rage in the US.

It’s also a good reminder that, given the grim coronavirus forecasts from health experts and the current surges in positive results in virtually every state in the US, it’s a better idea to rely on technology to fill the gap than it is to take the risk of traveling during riskier times of the year like Thanksgiving.

This article appeared first at The Verge on Nov 13, 2020.

 

An Open-Source Bionic Leg

Freely available designs could help drive advanced control systems

By Charles Q. Choi, IEEE Spectrum | Human OS

Open Source Bionic Leg

Details on the design and clinical tests of an open-source bionic leg are now freely available online, so that researchers can hopefully create and test safe and useful new prosthetics.

Bionic knees, ankles and legs under development worldwide to help patients walk are equipped with electric motors. Getting the most from such powered prosthetics requires safe and reliable control systems that can account for many different types of motion: for example, shifting from striding on level ground to walking up or down ramps or stairs.

However, developing such control systems has proven difficult. “The challenge stems from the fact that these limbs support a person’s body weight,” says Elliott Rouse, a biomedical engineer and director of the neurobionics lab at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. “If it makes a mistake, a person can fall and get seriously injured. That’s a really high burden on a control system, in addition to trying to have it help people with activities in their daily life.”

Part of the problem with designing these control systems is the fact that many research groups don’t have access to prosthetic legs for testing purposes. As such, they have to either build their own, which is expensive and time-consuming, or rely on virtual testing, which may not adequately emulate real-life situations.

To solve this problem, Rouse and his colleagues have developed the Open Source Leg. The scientists detailed their research findings online today in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering. Accompanying the artificial limb are free-to-copy step-by-step guides meant to assist researchers looking to assemble it or order parts for it. The Michigan group has also produced videos illustrating how to build and test the hardware, and has developed code for programming the prosthetic to walk using a preliminary control system.

The scientists focused on keeping the Open Source Leg relatively easy to assemble, control, and maintain by reducing the number of parts and suppliers needed. The knee and ankle joints can operate independently, allowing research in patients with above-knee and below-knee amputations. In addition, each joint has on-board batteries and its own set of sensing and control systems, enabling test outside the laboratory. Also, a number of the Open Source Leg’s design and control features can be customized to fit specific research needs, such as the foot type and the knee elasticity.

A key part of the new prosthetic’s design is the use of brushless electric motors developed for the drone industry “that were not previously used in our field,” Rouse says. These flat, pancake-shaped devices give up speed in exchange for more torque, allowing for more efficient, finer control and more human-like movements. Designing these motors to be as light and efficient as possible—a key feature in unmanned aircraft—meant that, in the Open Source Leg, “they made it easier to walk with less fatigue, and the batteries onboard the prosthetic could be smaller,” Rouse says.

The bionic leg they designed weighs only 4 kilograms or so. Although that’s significantly lighter than a biological leg, to patients, it still feels heavier than it is “because it’s not attached to the skeleton; it’s attached to a prosthetic socket,” Rouse says.
All in all, the Open Source Leg costs about $10,000 to $30,000, depending on the options wanted. By contrast, commercially available powered prosthetics cost up to $100,000, the researchers note.

In a new study, the scientists conducted clinical tests of the Open Source Leg with three volunteers with above-knee amputations who had tried other powered leg prostheses. When they wore the new device in a hospital setting, they met goals set by physical therapists such as walking up and down stairs. What’s more, they noted it felt supportive, responsive, and smooth.

“They liked the Open Source leg a lot,” Rouse says. One volunteer “didn’t feel like he was riding it, as he did other prostheses; he said it did what he wanted it to do. He got a feeling of embodiment he didn’t get with conventional prostheses.”

Rouse notes that eight other institutions have asked for the new legs or are building their own. “We’re really impressed with their interest and desire to collaborate with us and willingness to help,” he says. “They’re helping make the system better.”

This article first appeared at IEEE Spectrum on Oct 5, 2020.