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Amazon, Apple, and Google take a crack at a home Internet of Things networking standard

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Keeping IoT devices and your laptop on the same network is a risk, says FBI
The FBI recommends changing factory-set (default) passwords and not allowing an IoT device’s accompanying mobile app to gain access to too many smartphone permissions.

Internet of Things (IoT) devices have come a long way since David Nichols, a Carnegie Mellon University graduate student, hooked up a Coke machine to the school’s intranet. One thing hasn’t changed, though: The network standards behind IoT have been a bit of a confusing, incompatible mess. What works with one family of devices is total gibberish to another. Now, Amazon, Apple, Google, and the Zigbee Alliance are working on an open-source network standard to make life easier for IoT hardware vendors and software developers: Connected Home over IP.

This is an interesting development for several reasons. First, Amazon, Apple, and Google own the smart home device market. Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home have become household names. While Apple’s Siri lags behind them, it still has Apple’s sizable fan community as a large, potentially profitable audience. That these three would agree to work on a common standard is remarkable.

The second reason is the ZigBee Alliance — which has a long IoT history — already has its own standard. This is the ZigBee IEEE’s 802.15.4. It uses the 2.4GHz band and supports a self-healing mesh network.

We need this network standard. As my colleague Jason Perlow recently observed, our “IoT devices are doomed” without a common IoT communication and control standard. Connected Home can be a step to this goal.

The group is trying to find open-source common ground for their network standard. It’s the same story that has made open-source software the success story of the 2010s. By using open source to share the workload of making smart home devices secure, reliable, and seamless to use, all its supporters will get a larger market for their devices and services.

Specifically, Connected Home is building on the Internet Protocol (IP). It will “enable communication across smart home devices, mobile apps, and cloud services and to define a specific set of IP-based networking technologies for device certification.”

To create this new, unified connectivity protocol, it won’t be reinventing the wheel. Instead, it’ll be building on their existing smart home technologies. This, in turn, will make it easier for device manufacturers and developers to build devices that are compatible with existing smart device services such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google’s Assistant. For users, this will mean they can buy devices from different vendors and be sure they’ll work and play well together. 

Although the organizations involved in this don’t spell it out, if successful, this should help make home IoT devices more secure. Given what a mess IoT security is — see, for example, Amazon Ring’s most recent security snafus — anything that might improve IoT security is a good thing.

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Lunaz adds classic Bentleys to its lineup of electrified British cars

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British electric-conversion specialist Lunaz adds classic Bentleys to its lineup after dabbling with electric versions of vintage Rolls-Royces, Jaguars, and Range Rovers. Lunaz claims its 1962 Bentley S2 Continental Flying Spur is the “definitive Gran Turismo” and is the world’s first electric classic Bentley.

It starts with factory original and coach-built bodies of a Bentley Continental S1, S2, or S3 manufactured from 1955 to 1965, in a coupe and four-door Flying Spur body style. Visually, Lunaz has retained all the classic lines and creases of the original body, hammered and carved to perfection by Mulliner Park Ward. The only visual mod is the paint, custom-chosen by the buyer, of course.

Underneath that gorgeous body, though, is a different story. All the vintage bits and pieces are giving way to modern components. You won’t find a 6.2-liter V8 Bentley engine under the hood, and all the suspension and brake parts are new. Lunaz failed to discuss the powertrain specifics, but we’re assuming the Bentley will carry the same electric drivetrain as the firm’s very own electric Rolls-Royce Phantom V and Silver Cloud.

Powering the electric motors is a 120 kWh battery pack with enough energy to cover 300 miles of range. It also has modest oomph to push the Bentley from zero to 60 mph in under five seconds, not bad for an unassertive vintage British car.

Meanwhile, the interior is as British as a cup of tea. All the leather and walnut trim are there, with each piece carefully hand-restored to match the original. Lunaz also gave its classic Bentley a new retro-style infotainment screen and climate control system. Also, electric power steering is now standard.

After building its first customer car, Lunaz is now accepting orders for its limited run of electrified S1, S2, and S3 Bentley Continental variants. And as expected, the sub-$500k (£350,000) base price is sure to leave a gaping hole in your bank account. Nobody said a vintage electric Bentley would come cheap, right? Also, the build slots are ‘extremely limited,’ so better act quickly.

Lunaz Bentley Continental Gallery

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Ample promises faster electric vehicle charging with modular battery swapping

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A company called Ample has announced a new system it believes will bring faster and cheaper energy delivered to electric vehicles. The system Ample has developed can be rolled out across an entire city in only a few weeks. The system uses Modular Battery Swapping to deliver a 100 percent charge to an EV in less than 10 minutes.

The Ample system would work with any electric vehicle. Three times faster would mean dramatically shorter charging times and less cost to install the EV infrastructure. The company claims that the system is designed for rapid deployment and could equip an entire metropolitan area with the charging network in a matter of weeks with energy costs as cheap as gasoline.

The Ample system can also capture wind and solar power when available. One of the biggest reasons vehicle shoppers don’t go for electric vehicles is long charge times and poor electric charging infrastructure availability. Ample technology relies on two major components to address that issue.

The first major component is that Ample is a fully-autonomous swapping station that removes depleted battery modules from the car and replaces them with completely charged ones. The depleted battery packs are placed on shelves where they are recharged. The second major component is a modular battery architecture allowing any EV to use Ample stations.

Ample modules are described as Lego-like and can accommodate vehicles of any size or model. Charging stations require no construction and can be assembled wherever two parking spots are available, making them convenient for locations like grocery stores, gas stations, or rest stops along the highway. Large fleets of electric vehicles will be the first to use the Ample system, and deployments are underway in the Bay Area right now. Ample also says it’s currently working with a number of the largest automakers in the world for mass deployment in the US, Europe, and Asia.

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This SWAE McLaren 720S is a cacophony of 3D-printed carbon-fiber goodness

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The McLaren 720S is an otherworldly supercar, but American tuning firm SWAE has something doubly desirable. Just a stone’s throw away from Glacier National Park in Montana is SWAE, a relative newcomer in the aftermarket tuning business. If you’re a newbie and you want to generate noise, creating a custom McLaren 720S with 3D-printed widebody panels is not a bad idea.

“SWAE operates in a space beyond luxury – enhancing each caliber of craftsmanship to create a sum greater than its parts,” explains SWAE Co-Founder Trevon Hermosillo. “Through new experiences and vehicles for innovation, we plan to test the limits of our potential.”

Right off the bat, SWAE isn’t going for subtlety with its widebody McLaren 720S. However, the execution is hardcore yet classy, befitting of a McLaren 720 S. Executive editor Chris Davies took the 720S coupe for a spin in 2018, and he had the kindest words for McLaren’s supercar. “The 720S will disarm you with its comfortable cabin and precision engineering. Get beneath the surface, though, and the 720S can be every bit as violent, raw, and downright disrespectful as you’d hope a supercar could be,” said Davies.

It’s hard to improve upon a proven recipe, but SWAE’s passion for 3D printing is the new ingredient in McLaren’s broth. The car has a bespoke 3D-printed widebody kit using premium twill carbon-fiber. The widebody look is not as outrageous as you’d expect. Still, the wider chin, bigger air inlets, gorgeous 10-spoke wheels, and massive rear spoiler (with 3D-printed titanium wing supports) are telltale signs of the immense power lying underneath.

The details are scarce, but SWAE said its “exclusive performance tune” takes McLaren’s twin-turbocharged V8 engine to dizzying heights. The tuner claims the engine is now pumping out more than 900 horsepower to the rear wheels. Measured in the crankshaft, SWAE’s McLaren 720S is breaching 1,000 horsepower. Unbelievable.

This astonishing SWAE McLaren 720 S Widebody proof-of-concept recently debuted in Miami. Expectedly, the car on this page is not for sale, but you can order your very own widebody 720S from SWAE to the tune of $500,000 – presumably inclusive of a McLaren 720S.

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