Particle brings an LTE cellular model to market for networked devices working off of 2G and 3G

Particle, a developer of networking hardware and software for connected devices, has released an LTE-enabled module for product developers.

The new device specifically targets folks whose devices were reliant on retiring 2G and 3G networks, according to the company, and includes built-in cloud and SIM support.

Even as big telecom companies and vendors move ahead with 4G and now 5G networking equipment, those technologies aren’t necessarily the best for most networked devices, according to Particle .

LTE hardware is cheaper and has better battery life and ranges that are more appropriate for industrial devices that may need to communicate across distances or through obstacles (like walls, other machines, doors or floors).

Particularly, Particle sees demand for its devices in hard-to-reach or widely dispersed sensor networks — like industrial factory floors or in an agricultural monitoring setting for a farm or field.

“As US carriers are quickly moving to end 2G and 3G support, and global carriers plan for LTE network rollouts, the timing for an LTE strategy is more critical than ever,” according to a statement Bill Kramer, EVP of IoT Solutions at KORE, which provides managed IoT networks, application enablement, location-based services

The new LTE product is part of a suite of offerings from Particle — including a device cloud, operating system and developer toolkit, the company said.

By providing a pre-integrated solution, Particle said that its hardware represents a faster, far less complicated path to market.

“We launched our cellular development kit, the Electron, to give our developer community access to the power of cellular,” said Zach Supalla, co-founder and CEO of Particle, in a statement. “The following industrial E Series line made go-to-market with 2G/3G scalable for enterprises. Now with our LTE module, businesses will evolve alongside the quickly-changing cellular landscape without missing a beat.”

Particle’s new lineup now includes two LTE CAT-M1 models (LTE B13 and LTE B2/4/5/12) and is fully certified, low profile, surface mountable for industrial environments and powered by Qualcomm’s MDM9206 IoT Modem and u-blox’s Sara-R410-02B module.

The new LTE hardware evaluation kit ships for $89 with an evaluation board, a sample temperature sensor and accessories to build out a proof of concept, the company said. Individual modules are priced at $69.

Particle counts 8,500 customers and more than 140,000 developers among its customers building networking technologies for consumer and industrial devices. The company says its customers range from global energy provider Engie and design studio Ideo to indoor crops provider Grow Labs and coffee pioneer Keurig .


SEC Issues $35 Million Fine Over Yahoo Failing To Disclose Data Breach

Altaba, the company formerly known as Yahoo, will have to pay a $35 million fine for failing to disclose a 2014 data breach in which hackers stole info on over 500 million accounts. "The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced today that Altaba, which contains Yahoo's remains, agreed to pay the fine to settle charges that it misled investors by not informing them of the hack until September 2016, despite known of it as early as December 2014," reports The Verge. From the report: The SEC goes on to admonish Yahoo for its failure to disclose the breach to investors, saying that the agency wouldn't "second-guess good faith exercises of judgment" but that Yahoo's decisions were "so lacking" that a fine was necessary. Yahoo isn't being fined for having poor security practices, not informing users, or really anything related to the hack happening. The SEC is just mad that investors weren't told about it, because -- as Yahoo even noted in filings to investors -- data breaches can have financial impacts and legal implications. With a breach this large, the SEC believes that was obviously a real risk. "Public companies should have controls and procedures in place to properly evaluate cyber incidents and disclose material information to investors," Jina Choi, director of the SEC's San Francisco Regional Office, said in a statement. The SEC released guidance to public companies on what to disclose about data breaches earlier this year, which could help to avoid similar situations in the future.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Hidden Amazon page drops hints about a “Fire TV Cube”

Rumors have been floating around for a few months now of a new device from Amazon that would mash up the media streaming capabilities of its Fire TV line with the voice assistant abilities of the Echo. After leaked images turned up showing a cube-shaped device that seemed to fit the bill, people started referring to this still as-of-yet unannounced device as the “Fire TV Cube”.

Sure enough: a seemingly official page has been found tucked away on that mentions a Fire TV Cube, and promises “details coming soon.”

As found by AFTVNews, the placeholder splash page offers up little beyond the promise of eventual details. It’s got a big ol’ header that says “What is Fire TV Cube?”, a button to let you sign up for more details, and… well, that’s about it.

There’s also a mention of a “Fire TV Cube” on this page, tucked away in Amazon’s account management backend to let folks toggle their subscriptions to any one of the dozens of newsletters/email campaigns that Amazon sends out.

According to the original leaks, the Fire TV Cube would have the speaker, far-field microphones, and LED light bar of an Echo and the 4K video-capable guts of a Fire TV, allowing you to hook it up to your TV and have one device doing double the duties.

In other words: while there’s still no official word on when (or if!) this thing will actually ship, it definitely looks like they’re prepping for something behind the scenes.

Facebook and the perils of a personalized choice architecture

The recent Facebook-Cambridge Analytica chaos has ignited a fire of awareness, bringing the risks of today’s data surveillance culture to the forefront of mainstream conversations.

This episode and the many disturbing prospects it has emphasized have forcefully awakened a sleeping giant: people seeking information about their privacy settings and updating their apps permissions, a “Delete Facebook” movement has taken off and the FTC launched an investigation into Facebook, causing Facebook’s stocks to drop. A perfect storm.   

The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica debacle is composed of pretty simple facts: Users allowed Facebook to collect personal information, and Facebook facilitated third-party access to the information. Facebook was authorized to do that pursuant to its terms of service, which users formally agreed to but rarely truly understood. The Cambridge Analytica access was clearly outside the scope of what Facebook, and most of its users, authorized. Still, this story has turned into an iconic illustration of the harms generated by massive data collection.

While it is important to discuss safeguards for minimizing the prospects of unauthorized access, the lack of consent is the wrong target. Consent is essential, but its artificial quality has been long-established. We already know that our consent is, more often than not, meaningless beyond its formal purpose. Are people really raging over Facebook failing to detect the uninvited guest who crashed our personal information feast when we’ve never paid attention to the guest list? Yes, it is annoying. Yes, it is wrong. But it is not why we feel that this time things went too far.

In their 2008 book, “Nudge,” Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler coined the term “choice architecture.”  The idea is simple and pretty straightforward: the design of the environments in which people make decisions influences their choices. Kids’ happy encounters with candies in the supermarket are not serendipitous: candies are commonly located where children can see and reach them.

Tipping options in restaurants are usually tripled because individuals tend to go with the middle choice, and you must exit through the gift shop because you might be tempted to buy something on your way out. But you probably knew that already because choice architecture has been here since the dawn of humanity and is present in any human interaction, design and structure. The term choice architecture is 10 years old, but choice architecture itself is way older.

The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica mess, together with many preceding indications before it, heralds a new type of choice architecture: personalized, uniquely tailored to your own individual preferences and optimized to influence your decision.

We are no longer in the familiar zone of choice architecture that equally applies to all. It is no longer about general weaknesses in human cognition. It is also not about biases that are endemic to human inferences. It is not about what makes humans human. It is about what makes you yourself.

When the information from various sources coalesces, the different segments of our personality come together to present a comprehensive picture of who we are. Personalized choice architecture is then applied to our datafied curated self to subconsciously nudge us to choose one course of action over another.

The soft spot at which personalized choice architecture hits is that of our most intimate self. It plays on the dwindling line between legitimate persuasion and coercion disguised as voluntary decision. This is where the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica story catches us — in the realization that the right to make autonomous choices, the basic prerogative of any human being, might soon be gone, and we won’t even notice.

Some people are quick to note that Cambridge Analytica did not use the Facebook data in the Trump campaign and many others question the effectiveness of the psychological profiling strategy. However, none of this matters. Personalized choice architecture through microtargeting is on the rise, and Cambridge Analytica is not the first nor the last to make successful use of it.

Jigsaw, for example, a Google -owned think tank, is using similar methods to identify potential ISIS recruits and redirect them to YouTube videos that present a counter-narrative to ISIS propaganda. Facebook itself was accused of targeting at-risk youth in Australia based on their emotional state. The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica story may have been the first high profile-incident to survive numerous news cycles, but many more are sure to come.

We must start thinking about the limits of choice architecture in the age of microtargeting. Like any technology, personalized choice architecture can be used for good and evil: It may identify individuals at risk and lead them to get help. It could motivate us into reading more, exercising more and developing healthy habits. It could increase voter turnout. But when misused or abused, personalized choice architecture can turn into a destructive manipulative force.

Personalized choice architecture can frustrate the entire premise behind democratic elections — that it is we, the people, and not a choice architect, who elect our own representatives. But even outside the democratic process, unconstrained personalized choice architecture can turn our personal autonomy into a myth.

Systematic risks such as those induced by personalized choice architecture would not be solved by people quitting Facebook or dismissing Cambridge-Analytica’s strategies.

Personalized choice architecture calls for systematic solutions that involve a variety of social, economic, technical, legal and ethical considerations. We cannot let individual choice die out in the hands of microtargeting. Personalized choice architecture must not turn into nullification of choice.


Samsung Announces 970 PRO and 970 EVO NVMe SSDs

hyperclocker shares a report from AnandTech: Samsung has announced the third generation of their high-end consumer NVMe SSDs. The new 970 PRO and 970 EVO M.2 NVMe SSDs use a newer controller and Samsung's latest 64-layer 3D NAND flash memory. The outgoing 960 PRO and 960 EVO were first announced in September 2016 and shipped that fall, so they have had a fairly long run as Samsung's flagship consumer SSDs. Compared to its predecessor, the 970 EVO promises a small improvement in sequential read speed, and a more substantial boost to sequential write speed for all but the smallest 250GB model. Peak random access performance is also substantially improved, but again the 250GB model gets left out, and is actually rated as slower than the 960 EVO 250GB. The warranty on the EVO has been extended from three years to five years, and the write endurance ratings have been increased by 50% to retain almost the same drive writes per day rating. The 970 PRO's performance specs aren't too different from the 970 EVO. Many of the ratings are the same, and the ones that differ are mostly better by just 3-11% for the PRO. There are just two major exceptions to this. First, the PRO doesn't rely on SLC write caching so it can maintain its write speed far longer than the EVO. Second, the rated write endurance of the 970 PRO is twice that of the EVO, going from just over 0.3 Drive Writes Per Day to 0.6 DWPD. Neither of these are an important factor for ordinary consumer use cases, but they help the 970 PRO retain some shine as a premium product.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

‘Avengers: Infinity War’ is an overstuffed adventure with a terrific villain

When I saw the first trailer for Avengers: Infinity War, I was really excited and really worried.

Excited because, holy crap, there were so many characters. Iron Man! Captain America! Thor! Black Panther! Black Widow! The Vision! The Guardians of the Galaxy! And they were all going to be in a movie together!

Worried because, holy crap, there so many characters. How could you squeeze all of them into a single film?

The answer is, with great difficulty. To be fair, Infinity War isn’t the giant mess that it could have been — in fact, it’s a lot of fun. But there’s simply not enough movie to do justice to the enormous cast.

Infinity War

Marvel Studios’ AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. L to R: Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Tom Holland), Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Drax (Dave Bautista), Star-Lord/Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff). Photo: Film Frame. ©Marvel Studios 2018

Some of those characters fare better than others. For most of Infinity War, the “cosmic” side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is well-represented by Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and the Guardians of the Galaxy (Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana and team), who end up working together. Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely are more willing to spend time with them, even when they’re not involved in a giant battle, and that pays off with the movie’s funniest moments — as well as scenes with real weight and melancholy.

Meanwhile, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) also get some good jokes in, recapturing the fun of their relationship in Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Everyone else? Well, they’re usually introduced with a nice quip or a bad-ass moment, designed to remind you of how much you liked them in their own movies. But afterwards, they tend to fade into the background, becoming just another moving part in the big action set pieces (and yes, this includes Marvel’s new MVP Black Panther). That’s probably about as good as any filmmaker could do when trying to stuff the entire Marvel Universe into a single movie, but it’s still a little disappointing after the first Avengers film managed to give us five distinct and memorable heroes (sorry, Hawkeye), and it got so much mileage out of throwing those heroes together.

Infinity War

Marvel Studios’ AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. Thanos (Josh Brolin). Photo: Film Frame. ©Marvel Studios 2018

Luckily, the film’s real strength isn’t on the heroic side. Instead, as in Black Panther (and virtually no other Marvel movie), Infinity War‘s most memorable character is actually the villain, Thanos.

Previous films have reduced Thanos to a purple guy who utters a few threatening lines while sitting in his silly looking space throne. In Infinity War, Thanos is at the center of the action. His quest to acquire the super-powered Infinity Stones drives the story, as all of Marvel’s heroes scramble to stop him, giving the film a constant feeling of crisis and leading fairly quickly to spectacular fights on Earth and in space. He even gets to kill off a surprisingly large number of those heroes (though I don’t expect all of those deaths to stick).

Over the course of the film, Thanos emerges as a dangerous and powerful alien who’s absolutely devoted to his mission of destroying half the life in the universe — kind of a weird goal, but as Walter Sobchak once said, at least it’s an ethos. And as portrayed by Josh Brolin (via voice acting and motion capture), he doesn’t come off as a cackling villain. Instead, he’s a weary soldier at the end of a long quest.

I shouldn’t say too much about where that quest leads, but I will note that Infinity War feels very much like the first half of a two-part film, with an ending that sets up the still-untitled Avengers 4 (due May 3, 2019).

I do think Infinity War falls a little short of Marvel’s best movies, like Black Panther and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (which, like Infinity War, was directed by Anthony and Joe Russo). But here’s one simple measure of the film’s success: Despite my reservations, that cliffhanger worked, and I really, really want to know what happens next.

It’s going to be a long wait till 2019.

Instagram Launches ‘Data Download’ Tool To Let You Leave

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Two weeks ago TechCrunch called on Instagram to build an equivalent to Facebook's "Download Your Information feature so if you wanted to leave for another photo sharing network, you could. The next day it announced this tool would be coming and now TechCrunch has spotted it rolling out to users. Instagram's "Data Download" feature can be accessed here or through the app's privacy settings. It lets users export their photos, videos, archived Stories, profile, info, comments, and non-ephemeral messages, though it can take a few hours to days for your download to be ready. An Instagram spokesperson now confirms to TechCrunch that "the Data Download tool is currently accessible to everyone on the web, but access via iOS and Android is still rolling out." We'll have more details on exactly what's inside once my download is ready.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Vacation rental management service Guesty raises $19.75M

As the vacation rental sector heats up — with Airbnb making even more moves to expand its portfolio of services to include multiple tiers of rentals — there’s going to be more and more of a need for people who manage a large number of properties.

Guesty is one service that aims to do that, and today a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission notes that it’s raised $19.75 million in a new Series B round of financing. While Airbnb may be the dominant home vacation rental service, there are others like VRBO, and managing those properties across multiple different platforms could require handling all of that information in something more analog like an Excel sheet. It’s a kind of CRM tool for property management, ranging from tracking guest check-ins to the amount of revenue a property owner. Guesty also helps property owners by providing tools to manage operations beyond just the tracking.

Airbnb earlier this year started rolling out more tiers of home categories that are geared toward different kinds of travelers. That included high-end tiers called Airbnb Plus and Beyond by Airbnb. While these new categories potentially offer a more granular set of choices for consumers, it might make managing those properties a little more difficult — especially if it’s across multiple different services like Airbnb and VRBO, or even more analog channels. Tools like Guesty can help owners of multiple different properties (that might span multiple tiers) turn those homes into an actual business.

There are also plenty of platforms that are looking for additional services for people managing multiple properties on vacation rental sites. There are startups like Beyond Pricing, which look to help property managers figure out how to best price their homes. Airbnb has its own pricing algorithms, but there’s clear demand for tools that cross multiple platforms. Guesty was party of Y Combinator’s winter 2014 class, and raised $3 million in May last year.

While Airbnb continues to try to expand into new categories and offer home owners a way to rent out their homes — or for owners of multiple properties to run a side business — it’s not the only approach to vacation rentals. One startup, Selina, is looking to convert existing properties into kinds of campuses that cater to different tiers of travelers, ranging from travelers looking to stay in a hostel to ones that are willing to pay for their own rooms. Selina earlier this month said it raised $95 million. Selina is more of a hotel-ish model as it expands from geography to geography, but it also shows that there’s demand for an experience that can cater to a wide variety of guests.

Virtualization of Internet-of-Things Devices: An API-Driven Method

Helping IoT developers adapt to current trends in application building and testing without a continuous connection to physical devices.
How lessons learned from virtualizing enterprise applications and services can help the IoT developer accelerate their testing life cycle. This article evaluates the challenges facing the IoT developer, the current state of virtualization in the IoT space, IoT simulation options, and documents a method to model and deploy device data.