Apple AirTag
Image: Apple

Have you spent any time at the airport during the Holidays? You may have had to deal with long queues, lost luggage and… Apple AirTags. What is an AirTag and most importantly: how does it use Internet connectivity to help you find your missing stuff? Whether is’s your suitcase that’s lost at the airport because of a lack of baggage handlers, your laptop that you may have left at the office or simply your purse that could be lying underneath a pile of clothes somewhere in your home – let’s find out how an AirTag can help you recover it!

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Image: IOTA Foundation

Cryptocurrencies are hot. In our last post we talked about Bitcoin: it has the potential to change our world in many useful ways, but at a price. To keep its blockchain secure, Bitcoin requires as much energy to run as entire countries. In a world where climate change is a growing concern, people may start to ask questions.

In fact, there are a number of alternative technologies in development. An interesting example is IOTA, which is envisioned as a distributed ledger for the Internet of Things. It’s not based on a blockchain, but instead uses a Directed Acyclic Graph called the Tangle. So, what exacly is the Tangle, how will it allow payments between smart devices, and how is it different from a blockchain?

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Image: Peloton

We’ve witnessed some upsetting security incidents in the United States of America recently. As a new president is entering the White House, the latest security concern is in fact… a bike! We’re not talking about an ordinary bike. Part of Joe Biden’s favourite fitness routine includes a Peloton exercise bike, which is a stationary exercise bike combined with an interactive tablet. This setup allows you take part in group training sessions remotely, which is perfect when gyms are closed because of lockdowns, or when you’re keeping a busy schedule, for example because you were just elected president of the USA!

So what’s the concern? The bike is in fact part of the Internet of Things and contains a camera and microphone that connect to the Internet. Bringing these devices into the White House could potentially allow hackers to access them remotely and capture all kinds of sensitive information. I’m sure they’ll eventually work out a solution that will allow the President to stay fit and his conversations private. The good thing is that at least they’re aware of the risks being posed by bringing all kinds of devices in our homes online… quite unlike some unsuspecting people that recently had their Ring doorbells hacked or their stuffed animals taken hostage!

Most of us are still pretty happy with the fast 4G connection on our cellphones. But of course, it’s never fast enough and preparations are well underway for the next generation of wireless connectivity: 5G. Samsung just completed a test where they managed to achieve speeds of up to 1.7 Gigabits per second. That’s even more impressive because they did so on board a train speeding through Japan.

So, how did they do this and what is 5G? In fact, 5G is not just a faster version of 4G. It’s a range of technologies, not only aimed at faster speeds, but also at connecting more and more devices to the Internet of Things. Think of self driving cars that don’t have to send lots of data, but have to respond quickly to conditions on the road, making a low latency connection a must. Or think of a a sensor in your street, monitoring and transmitting the local air quality. You don’t want to be changing the batteries frequently, so low power consumption would be an important requirement.

In other words, 5G is not just faster browsing on your cellphone. The technology could develop into a serious competitor to a variety of ways we now connect devices wirelessly: not just 3/4G, but also WiFi, Bluetooth, Long Range Radio or Zigbee.

To accomplish all that, 5G will need to make use of new parts of the frequency spectrum, sometimes even using multiple frequencies at once to manage high speeds. That’s also one of the reasons it may still take a few years before we’ll be able to benefit from all that’s promised. Not only does the technology need to mature, but also governments need to approve (or auction) the rights to use the required parts of the frequency spectrum.

Stuffed Bear
Image: Pixabay on Pexels

We’re connecting more and more devices to the Internet: security cameras, baby monitors, child’s toys, smart thermostats and even lightbulbs. these devices are particularly vulnerable to hackers: they are not necessarily designed by experienced network engineers, the focus is on keeping the costs low and how would you login to your hacked stuffed bear to update it’s firmware?

Security researchers warn of a new piece of malware that’s infecting Internet of Things devices: the Reaper botnet has already infected over a million networks. That’s not just scary because the bad guys could be watching your home camera feed or change your room temperature, but also because such a large number of devices can be used to mount a pretty massive DDOS attack. An earlier version of this malware, the Mirai botnet, managed to take out the Internet for much of the USA’s East Coast by launching a DDOS attack against a large DNS provider.