With the launch of the Thread radio protocol, I’ve already heard several people deride ZigBee and Z-wave as legacy standards for smart home networking, which petrifies me given that I have at least $2,000 invested in Z-wave gear. So I was excited to see SmartThings join the board of the Z-wave Alliance on Thursday morning, indicating that perhaps it’s time isn’t yet up. Other board members include ADT, Ingersoll-Rand, Jasco Products, LG Uplus, Nortek Security & Control, and Sigma Designs.
Swiss plastic watchmaker Swatch is preparing to launch a smartwatch in the next few months, promising mobile payments functionality and compatibility with both Android and Windows. Most interestingly, it told Bloomberg and others the watch won’t require charging. There are no details of how this will be achieved, so I can only theorize that its power requirements will be low enough to feed off kinetic energy from the user’s movements — Swatch has a technology for this called Autoquartz. The device will probably launch around the same time as the new Apple Watch, but given Swatch’s pricing it’s likely to be a darn sight cheaper.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va) has reintroduced a patent reform bill, known as the Innovation Act, that enjoyed bipartisan support last year, but was killed by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt). The prospects for the bill, which would undercut the business model of so-called patent trolls, are bright since Republicans now control both House of Congress and President Obama has long opposed patent trolling. Once again, though, the real action is expected to take place in the Senate — where influential figures like Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Jon Cornyn (R-Tx) are likely to again offer their support. On the other side, trial lawyers and the patent trolls are expected to push to water it down, in part by warning that it will threaten “innovation.” (See “5 key questions for patent reform in 2015” to see how this might all play out.
In another bet on the internet of things, chip maker Silicon Labs has purchased Bluegiga Technologies Oy, a Finnish company that makes wireless radio modules for $61 million in cash. Bluegiga makes ultra-low-power Bluetooth Smart, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi modules for the industrial automation, consumer electronics, automotive, retail, residential, and health and fitness markets. Austin, Texas-based Silicon Labs already makes microcontrollers, sensors, ZigBee and Thread radios and mesh networking software. Adding more radios to the mix just makes sense and makes it more of a single stop for anyone looking to make a connected device.