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Netherlands first to establish nationwide Internet of Things network

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The first country on earth has now readied itself for the Internet of Things (IoT), according to Phys.Org. The Netherlands, which is about the same size as Connecticut and Massachusetts combined, is completely covered by telecom KPN’s LoRa (long range) wireless access.

The KPN network is a low data rate (LoRa) mobile communications network that is also compatible with the telecom’s 2G, 3G, and 4G phone network. Both the long-range and low-data-rate aspects of KPN’s network are necessary to connect “things” that cannot connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi. The greater issue for IoT with Wi-Fi is that the “things” will often be far apart. In most cases there won’t be a heavy data stream because the content of the signals will be on the order of “I’m here” with a GPS coordinate, “I’m on,” or “My temperature is xx.” Usually it will be pretty simple stuff.

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After initial implementation in Rotterdam and The Hague in November 2015, the KPN LoRa network is fully active throughout the country as of June 30. There are currently about 1.5 million objects hooked up to KPN’s network, but now that the full system is ready that number is due to rise quickly, due to the nature of IoT.

Three initial projects give a sense of the scope and types of application that will make up the Internet of Things. At the port of Rotterdam, depth sounders have already been outfitted with sensors and network connections. An experiment at Utrecht will connect all railway switches so they can be monitored centrally. And at the Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, a major European hub busier than JFK and Miami International combined, tests with baggage handling are already underway.

If you think of the number of pieces of luggage moving through the worlds sixth-busiest international airport you begin to get a sense of the scale of applications for IoT. If each piece of luggage has an IoT tag, nothing should be unaccounted for.

The implementation of the Internet of Things requires many elements, among them widespread coverage of LoRa networks like KPM. The good thing is the budget is there, with projected growth from $699 billion in 2015 to $1.3 trillion in 2019.

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Comcast’s Xfi Pods turn power sockets into a mesh Wi-Fi network
comcast xfi pods available to all xfinity subscribers pod

After an initial launch in Boston and Chicago at the end of 2017, Comcast's Xfi Pods are now available to all Xfinity internet subscribers in a three-pack for $119, or a six-pack for $199. They're compatible with the company's Xfi Wireless Gateway and the Xfi Advanced Gateway, extending the reach of your wireless network in the home or office. 
“Our gateway devices are incredibly powerful, but we know that some homes have a unique layout or are constructed of materials that can disrupt Wi-Fi coverage in some rooms,” Eric Schaefer, Senior Vice President, Comcast Cable, said in a statement. “Our Xfi Pods can blanket a home with great coverage and are simple to install and easy to use.” 
The Xfi Pods are AC1200-class devices, meaning they support speeds of up to 300Mbps on the 2.4GHz band (2x 150Mbps) and up to 867Mbps on the 5GHz band (2x 433Mbps). They plug directly into a wall's power outlet to create a "mesh" network: A web of coverage that shows up on your device as a single access point no matter where you are in the home or office. 
The hexagon-shaped Xfi Pods are the result of a collaboration between Comcast and mesh networking kit developer Plume. The Plume Wi-Fi system relies on what the company calls “Adaptive Wi-Fi” that is a bit different than the typical mesh networking kit. That is because it uses a feature called Auto Channel Hop, allowing data to "hop" from one transmission lane to another to avoid any congestion routed between the gateway, the Xfi Pods, and your device. 
Another difference between your typical mesh networking kit and the Xfi Pods is that they don't physically connect to the gateway via an Ethernet connection. Instead, the unit serving as the "hub" connects wirelessly to the gateway with the others serving as "nodes" to create a web of connectivity. Thus, the included Ethernet port merely connects a wired device to the network. 
Comcast says these mesh devices will "evaluate" the environment and adjust the channels. They "self-monitor" their performance as well, diagnose all issues, and repair the connections between each Pod. They are powered by cloud-based remote management, meaning you can install, monitor and control these devices using a mobile app for iOS and Android. 
"Pods are not meant for outdoor use and should not be placed outside of your home," the company FAQ states. "To extend Wi-Fi coverage to an outdoor location, place one of your Pods in an inside wall outlet that is closest to the outdoor area where you would like to extend Wi-Fi coverage." 
Mesh networking kits complement your current gateway. Picture a radio tower: The further you move away, the fuzzier the music becomes until all you hear is static. Wi-Fi is similar, but adding a mesh network "extends" the coverage so your data transmissions remain fast and solid. Not every Xfinity subscriber will need this kit, such as small studio apartments. 
The new Xfi Pods are available to purchase online, at any Xfinity retail store, or within the Xfi app. 

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Google’s Android Things is a new OS for the Internet of Things
Connected devices get a boost as Android Things 1.0 opens to developers
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Google wants Android to power everything, and in December 2016, it released a new operating system to help -- Android Things. As the name suggests, its primary target is the Internet of Things market, including smart thermostats, TVs, ovens, and more. Now, after a developer preview that saw over 100,000 SDK downloads by developers, Google is releasing Android Things 1.0 with "long-term support for production devices."

As part of the new Android Things release, Google will begin supporting System-on-Modules (SoMs) based on the NXP i.MX8M, Qualcomm SDA212, Qualcomm SDA624, and MediaTek MT8516 hardware platforms. All of these modules have been certified for production use, and should make it easier for developers to bring their prototypes to the masses.

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Microsoft wants to stuff Linux, not Windows 10, into Internet of Things devices
microsoft azure sphere os based on linux not windows

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Microsoft introduced Azure Sphere during the RSA security conference in San Francisco. It's essentially a platform connecting microcontroller units (MCU) within Internet of Thing devices to the cloud. What's notable about this announcement is that the operating system installed on the MCUs aren't based on Windows 10 as you would expect, but rather a custom build of the open-source Linux operating system. That's a first for Microsoft. 
At the foundation of Microsoft's new Azure Sphere platform is a new microcontroller unit from Microsoft that promises five times the performance of standard MCUs. The chip includes the company's Pluton security subsystem, built-in network connectivity, a real-time processor, an application processor, memory, flash, and more. It's a "crossover" chip that combines the benefits of ARM-based Cortex-A and Cortex-M processor cores. 
Controlling this chip is Microsoft's new Linux-based Azure Sphere operating system. It's a four-layer platform with a security monitor on the deepest level followed by the custom Linux kernel, on-chip connectivity services, and secured application containers. This software is backed by Microsoft's Azure Sphere Security Service in the cloud, guaranteeing certificate-based authentication, genuine software, automated updates, and so on. 
But there's a key reason why Microsoft likely went with Linux instead of its in-house baked Windows 10: Open source. According to Microsoft, Azure Sphere is "open to additional software innovation" by the open source community. It's also open to work with any cloud, not just Microsoft's Azure-branded platform. Even more, the chip design can be used by any manufacturer absolutely free. 
"In short, it represents a critical new step for Microsoft by integrating innovation across every aspect of technology and by working with every part of the technology ecosystem, including our competitors," says Brad Smith, Microsoft president and chief legal officer. "We believe this holistic solution will bring to IoT devices better security, resilience and developer agility than anything on the market today." 
Azure Sphere arrives after the Mirai botnet attack at the end of 2016. Hackers exploited the weak security defenses of Internet of Things devices, such as usernames and passwords that were never changed from the factory default, to install the Mirai malware. The hackers then used around 100,000 compromised internet-connected devices to flood DNS provider Dyn with overwhelming fake traffic, bringing the internet to a standstill for an entire day on the east coast. 
"Routers, DVRs, CCTV cameras, and any other ‘smart’, internet-connected appliances are at risk of attack," Symantec said at the time. "Webcams were the primary devices exploited in the Dyn attack. Additionally, many IoT devices take advantage of a feature known as Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) which opens a port on the router to allow them to be accessible from the internet." 
Thus, enter Azure Sphere: a secure, end-to-end "holistic" solution for Internet of Things devices. Dimplex plans to integrate Azure Sphere into its portfolio of products later this year, which includes electric fireplaces, electric heating, renewable energy solutions, residential heaters, thermostats, and more. Other device manufacturers are "enthused" over Azure Sphere as well, including Sub-Zero.  

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