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Come out for the next season of America’s Greatest Makers

Portrait thinking woman in glasses looking up with light idea bulb above head isolated on gray wall background

After a premiere season that saw Grush — an IoT-enabled gaming toothbrush aimed at getting kids to brush their teeth more effectively — take home the $1 million top prize, America’s Greatest Makers is coming back for another season of bringing IoT inventors together in a head-to-head battle for a sweet cash prize.

The primetime television show is produced by reality TV giant Mark Burnett, in partnership with Intel. Last season was especially exciting here at ReadWrite. Not only did we get to see emerging IoT technologies displayed on a national stage, but winning team was also an alumni of the IoT accelerator run by our parent company, Wearable IoT World.

This year, two IoT startup alumni are confirmed as auditioning  – SoundSight and Metron Force.

SoundSight produces an integrated video recording smart headphone that connects to your smartphone. Metron Force is a smart wristband for device radio control that uses intelligent wrist gestures.

“America’s Greatest Makers would be a good opportunity to explain how our technology differentiates us from the competition,” said Alex Hai, founder of Metron Force. “If we can tell our story to a national audience, our product will speak for itself.”

Makers to use new IoT technologies

Television series have a habit of upping the stakes. So for season two, in addition to Intel’s Curie Module that was used last year, Intel is making new technologies are available to be integrated into the product.

The next-generation Intel Atom processor-based platform can provide contestants with advanced display, graphics and high-speed I/O in a low-power, small form-factor configuration for product ideas. And Intel’s RealSense ZR300 camera offers makers a small form-factor solution for contestants who want to add visual depth sensing and tracking capabilities to their product ideas.

“We’ve already been getting excited about what we can do with the Intel Atom,” says Stephen Chase, founder of SoundSight Smart-Headphones, about the audition process. “One of the things we’re most excited about with this competition that we would get to work closely with the brilliant people of Intel.” 

The shows producers hope that the new technologies will elevate the competition. From Grush founder Ethan Schur’s experience, the lack of ability to code should not scare a potential applicant away. “If you find a problem big enough (to solve), you can prototype quickly,” he said. “There’s help out there. The maker community is there.”

Interested? You have until August 19th to apply here.

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Smart energy market valued at $136 billion for next decade


Smart energy firms could see a surge in adoption, as Internet of Things (IoT) devices, platforms and off-the-grid technology reduces the cost of power and improves efficiency in a smart city.

Market research group Navigant Research estimates in a report the global revenue of the industry between 2015 to 2024 will be $136 billion. It also expects the revenue to rise from $7.6 billion this year to $20.9 billion in 2024, bolstered in the U.S. and other countries with a strong renewable movement.

See Also:  Does Zap&Go have this energy storage issue solved?

“Smart cities are emerging as an important force in implementing the Energy Cloud philosophy across different sectors such as transportation, public and private institutions and buildings, and land use and development,” said Lauren Callaway, research analyst with Navigant Research. “For utilities, this creates myriad opportunities to test and deploy new technologies, services, and business models.”

Energy needs require a special agency?

Navigant Research calls for cities need to develop an agency for smart energy planning and infrastructure. The agency would smooth the issues of interoperability of standards and the alignment between various stakeholders—city leaders, utilities, and private shareholders—that have the power to change the future of the grid and turn homes and enterprise green.

A strong carbon tax and reductions in the cost of renewables may give smart cities an edge on the rest of the country, especially if it lets citizens go off-the-grid and send power back if it has excess. There are worries that business model may kill energy companies however, which must move from a supplier to a trader of energy.

We’ve already wrote about how the IoT could negatively affect renewable energy adoption, by making coal power more efficient and less pollutive, but it could also make renewables even cheaper and a more viable option to some households in the United States.

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Nissan adds semi-autonomousness to next Serena Minivan


Nissan introduced the 2017 Serena minivan on Wednesday, a slightly redesigned model that features semi-autonomous highway driving.

The Nissan ProPilot system provides one-lane highway driving for the Serena minivan, but that’s where the system sophistication ends. It cannot change lanes or routes autonomously, and is not functional in urban environments.

See Also: BMW strikes autonomous car deal with Intel, Mobileye

Drivers will be able to turn on the autonomous pilot at speeds between 19 and 62 mph (30 to 100 kph) and follow the road until the driver takes over. The autonomous tech follows the preceding vehicle in the same lane, and gives room for cut-ins from other lanes.


Mobileye, the Israeli driver assistance firm, has provided the on-board front facing cameras that track the car in front, according to ExtremeTech. Unlike some 360 systems currently being tested, the 2017 Serena minivan can only see what’s in front or to the side of the car.

Nissan has plans to add lane switching in 2018, followed by autonomous driving in urban environments by 2020. This is a similar timeline to most automakers that are invested in autonomous driving.

It is a step behind Tesla’s Model S, which can already switch lanes. Given the recent turmoil following the death of a Model S driver using Tesla’s AutoPilot mode, we suspect automakers to be even more cautious of adoption self-driving technology early.

Nissan takes an early lead on hometown rivals

Nissan is the first Japanese automaker to bring semi-autonomous features on the road, but Toyota, Honda, and Mitsubishi are all working on self-driving services for future cars.

On top of being the first Japanese automaker to hit the road, Nissan is also one of the first to test its autonomous functionality in the United Kingdom. It has already completed a few tests on UK roads, and the Queen’s Speech address—which is essentially a manifesto of the government’s near term plans—calling for the legalization of self-driving cars could spur further investment from Nissan.

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GE and Hitachi see IIoT unlocking the next industrial revolution

Pressing gear icon, Elements of this image furnished by NASA

Selling connected devices to the public continues to be hit or miss, but General Electric and Hitachi have no qualms about going all-in for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

According to Application Resource Center (ARC), the technology leviathans Hitachi and GE are betting big on IIoT, a market which GE recently estimated could be worth $225 billion in four years. By 2030 GE Digital predicts total investment in IIoT will reach a mind-boggling $60 trillion.

With an increasing flood of data that IIoT technology is producing, various industrial sectors could be revolutionized if they can efficiently harness this information.

“If we look at the next 10-15 years we anticipate an investment in harnessing all this data around the end-to-end value chain of industrial companies across many industries,” said Greg Kinsey, vice president of Hitachi Insight Group. “For example, if you look at aerospace and automotive manufacture, there is still massive potential in digitizing and integrating those end-to-end value chains.”

Kinsey also identified the food and agriculture industry as another sector that IIoT will help flourish.

“If we look at the food industry, we have value in farm-to-fork—that entire value chain from the planting of the seed to the meal on the table,” said Kinsey. “There is a massive opportunity to make that more efficient, to improve the quality, to improve the safety and eliminate waste.”

IIoT means a new view on asset management

One of the revolutionary aspects of IIoT is the change in how companies conceive their industrial assets.

“The center of the Industrial Internet of Things is assets – plane engines, locomotive engines, oil refineries etc.,” said Vish Soaji, GE Digital’s head of engineering for industrial IOT application.

“How do I improve the performance of my asset and how do I get more juice out of it by spending less?”

“Around these assets there are so many things that we can do to maximize the life of assets, to do predictive analytics so we can catch failure before it happens,” adds Soaji.

GE is prioritizing investment in software solutions like its Predix cloud-based platform-as-a-service that provides tools for improving assets’ productivity and efficiency. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, GE plans to invest $1.4 billion into its software business this year.

“There are three big things in play,” said Soaji. “Machine learning … sensors collecting data, then you combine that data with other types of data to make changes. Second is big data and third is analytics.”

Meanwhile, Kinsey said Hitachi had identified three areas where IIoT can produce a major impact on the manufacturing sector: smart maintenance; improving quality in production; and dynamic scheduling.

In light of this, Hitachi is investing $2.8 billion over the next three years on predictive technology to help its clients achieve significant productivity improvement in factories.

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Are self-driving cars the next crime frontier?

Bank robber in black balaclava waiting inside a car

While autonomous vehicle enthusiasts gush about the technology’s positive potential, Russian experts are raising fears that self-driving cars will be used to commit crime.

Russia Beyond the Headlines recently examined worries from Russia that self-driving cars have great potential for mayhem and murder when controlled by nefarious actors.

Private sector firms such as Russia’s Cognitive Technologies (CT) are already grappling with the moral consequences of autonomous vehicles and crime. CT is currently developing an unmanned truck for Russian truck manufacturer KamAZ.

“There is a set of moral aspects and criteria that must be considered in the development of robotic car driving scenarios,” said CT President Olga Uskova. “When developing unmanned vehicle driving scenarios, we proceed from the first law of robotics formulated by science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, and try to minimize damage and casualties.”

CT experts confirmed that a hijacked driverless car could be used as a weapon, even to commit murder. Hackers could potentially weaponize a robot car by feeding false information to sensors or devices, disabling some artificial intelligence functions or overthrowing the main control system.

Uskova says that her firm is tackling these vulnerabilities by equipping the vehicles with recorders similar to black boxes on airplanes and hardening systems to outside attacks.

“CT’s approach is most resistant to external influences since the camera and ‘intelligence’ are in the cab,” she said.

Meanwhile, Russian law-enforcement officials are raising concerns that autonomous vehicle technology is moving so fast, governments haven’t begun to understand the future hazards.

“In 20 years, conventional cars will be replaced by autonomous vehicles,” said chief of the State Road Safety Inspectorate’s Road Patrol Service department Alexander Bykov. “However, no one has studied the potential future dangers.”

Russians already noting remote car hijackings

With Russia proving to be a global hacker hotbed, Bykov’s department has already logged incidents where vehicles were remotely hijacked using electronic means. And as autonomous vehicles eventually start to appear on roads of Russia and elsewhere, there are expectations that hackers will increasingly target remote control of such vehicles to injure the occupant or others outside the car.

This has raised the thorny issue among officials as to who is responsible for self-driving car crashes and injuries, be they deliberate or accidental.

The State Duma’s strategic information systems commission’s first hearing on the subject concluded that all responsibility rests with the driver – even if he is sitting in a car controlled by AI. Yet Bykov suggests future rulings will likely consider the autonomous vehicle’s software maker also culpable to some extent.

“Essentially, it is the software system installed by the manufacturer that will be responsible for the autopilot’s actions,” said Bykov.

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Next 30 day challenge: social media/news cleanse

For January 2015, I tried to declutter around the house for 15 minutes a day. We now have a couple rooms that are much cleaner, and I gave away a bunch of magazines.

For February 2015, my 30 day challenge was to go on daily 15 minute walks with my wife. That was nice.

Lately I’ve been spending more time than I’d like on social media and reading news sites. So for March 2015, I’m going to do a social media and news cleanse. I’ve done a social media cleanse several times before and it’s usually quite helpful for getting re-centered.

Here’s the steps that I’m taking:
– I’m using the StayFocusd Chrome extension to limit myself to 15 minutes a day of Google News, Twitter, Google+, Hacker News, Techmeme, Nuzzel, Reddit, and Imgur.
– On my R7000 home router I’m using the “block site” functionality for several of these sites. It looks like the R7000 can block HTTP sites, but not HTTPS.
– On my phone, I’m removing the new tab thumbnails for these sites. I’m also removing some social media apps from my home screen.

I figure that either I’ll get some good stuff done, read a lot of books, or die of boredom. I may (rarely) drop a link on social media, but if you see me just hanging out, please remind me to close my tab and move on. :)

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My next project: AutoSEO

This was an April Fool’s joke.

I’ve been working really hard with some friends on a project to handle SEO automatically. Now we’re ready to take the wraps off it over at

One of the ideas that helped the World Wide Web succeed was that it separated presentation and content. You could write your text and decouple it from the problem of how the text looked. AutoSEO takes that to the next stage with search engines, so you don’t have to think about things like redirects.

How much would you pay to never have to worry about keyword density, H1 headers, or meta descriptions again? How about.. free? That’s right, AutoSEO is free for individual, students, self-hosted installs, and companies with fewer than 100 employees. AutoSEO is also built from the ground up to handle mobile browsers.

We’re starting with a limited set of invites to kick the tires on the system before opening things up for wider usage. Read more about the project over at!

This was an April Fool’s joke.

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