Skip navigation
1 2 Previous Next

Analog Garage

28 posts

The Analog Garage Master Mechanic was just coming out of hibernation when the third Nor’Easter in ten days dropped 22 inches of snow. Forecasters say more is coming and the only way to cope is to think ahead to summer.

For Analog Garage, summer means new start-up cohorts at our accelerator partners. We expect things to begin heating up soon, both literally and figuratively, as entrepreneurs hone their ideas and their applications. We’ve put together a summary of the deadlines.

Mass Challenge is looking for the most-promising startups across industries and regions around the world. Apply for the chance to access millions in cash prizes, expert mentorship, top corporates, free office space, and more – all at zero cost and for zero equity.

Analog Garage has been working closely with the Boston team for the past several years and now we are located just a few blocks away (Watch for future posts about our new Analog Garage state-of-the-art facility overlooking Boston Harbor).

Deadline for the 2018 Boston, Mexico, and Switzerland MassChallenge accelerators is March 28 at 12pm ET. The Boston cohort begins June 18, 2018. Learn more.

Alchemist Accelerator is exclusively for startups whose revenue comes from enterprises, not consumers. B2B and B2B2C ideas all qualify. Alchemist operates out of the San Francisco Bay Area. Our team at Analog Garage West are the primary liaisons and can be regularly spotted at events.

Deadline for Alchemist applications is May 5 and the next program starts August 9, 2018. Apply here

SkyDeck may be a good choice for start-ups with a team member affiliated with UC Berkeley, UCSF or Lawrence Berkeley Lab. SkyDeck Berkeley Acceleration Method is a 6-month process for promising startups in any vertical.

Deadline for SkyDeck applications is March 30, 2018. The program kicks-off June 7, 2018. Apply here.

StartX puts founders first and takes no equity in your startup for joining StartX.  Most start-ups are Stanford University affiliated. However, applicants without a Stanford affiliation (visiting founders) who obtain a recommendation from a single StartX alumni community member before the deadline will also have their application considered.

StartX is now accepting applications for the Fall 2018 program. Deadline is June 24, 2018 for the session beginning September 17, 2018. Apply here.

Good Luck!

Would you believe a critical piece of a new product developed by the Analog Garage was tested in the kitchen? It’s true. Not in the oven, mind you. But in a button on the counter, by the coffee maker.


This particular innovation helped round out the Sentinel platform, a cloud monitoring service for industrial applications. Sentinel features a wireless infrared camera module that watches for overheating components in factory equipment, and alerts maintenance to replace parts before they fail. The Sentinel is scaling from its first customers in manufacturing and municipal water treatment, and will soon be sold into manufacturing sites around the globe.


To help prove out the cloud service component of the platform, the team set the button by the coffee maker so that folks could push it to alert maintenance when the appliance wasn’t working, Vlad Kvartenko, Analog Garage senior product engineer who leads the team, told the Master Mechanic. The alerts were sent up to the cloud, and the team used the data to iron out kinks in the Sentinel service before customers ever got to use it.

Unlike Sentinel’s infrared module, the button wasn’t designed to predict failure. But it helped the team ready Sentinel for commercial deployment. As an added bonus, it gave residents of the Cambridge Innovation Center, where the Analog Garage resides, a fast and easy line of communication into maintenance. That helped boost uptime for the coffee maker, itself a critical component to productivity at the center.


The button is just one of example of the creative things the prototyping team – the real Master Mechanics of the Analog Garage – dreams up to validate new innovations and, if all goes well, prepare them for market.


The team is always coming up with creative ways to prove out and polish new ideas, Vlad said. His own workspace, like much of the rest of the Analog Garage lab, is a sea of connectors, cables, scopes, boxes and rolling tables. What-if ideas and equations overwhelm the lab’s whiteboard-style walls.


“It’s my team’s passion, to make things work,” he said. “It’s always something new and challenging here. That’s why we love the work.”


The job is different every day, Vlad said. Sometimes the team does rapid prototyping, piecing together crude designs with off-the-shelf parts. Other times, they take an already-proven idea and get it ready to graduate. They optimize the hardware and software. They even work with industrial designers on packaging.


And sometimes, they even get the coffee machine fixed faster.

Boston’s HUBWeek festival kicks off this week, with as many as 40,000 people converging on the city to explore the future, and the Analog Garage will help give them a sense for the role sensors will play.


Pat O’Doherty, the Analog Devices vice president who heads up the Analog Garage, will be moderating a panel this Friday called Around Us. On Us. Within Us. The session will focus on disruptive new sensor technologies, and the impact they might have on our lives. Joining Pat on the panel are:


  • MIT Chemistry Professor Tim Swager, who is Director of the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at MIT,
  • John Kymissis, Chief Technology Officer at Chromation, a company that is helping to make spectrometers small and inexpensive. That will pave the way for pocketable devices with a wide range of uses, from hazardous chemical detection for first responders to color paint-matching for contractors, and
  • Mehrnaz Motiee, Ph.D. in Analog Devices’ Advanced Sensor Technology group developing micro electro mechanical sensor systems.


The panel is scheduled for Friday, October 13, at 10:15 am. It will be held at the HUB, 1 City Hall Square in Boston.


This post is the latest in the Analog Garage's NextGen series on biosensing.


Healthcare-associated infections, or HAIs, are a tremendous problem for hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Which is why potential sensor-to-cloud solutions for reducing the incidence and impact of HAIs are attracting so much interest and investment.


There is a lot riding on those efforts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that HAIs afflict one in 20 patients. The infections can lead to a variety of conditions, from inflammation and urinary tract infections to pneumonia and sepsis. All told, HAIs cost the US healthcare system an estimated $35.7 billion a year, according to the CDC.


When dealing with patient infections, time is of the essence. Numerous studies show, for example, that mortality rates and hospital stays are dramatically reduced when sepsis is diagnosed and treated within the first four hours. Which is why faster detection at the point of care is the goal of many HAI ideas.


“But imagine if we can find and stamp out bacteria at the source – in exam rooms, on instruments, in common areas, before patients are infected. That really mitigates the urgency to watch patients for warning signs,” Mario Freni, Business Development Manager at the Analog Garage, told the Master Mechanic. “That’s flat-out revolutionary.”


The founders of one Boston-area start-up have logged biochemical fingerprints for the bacteria responsible for nearly 90 percent of HAIs. They invented an inexpensive handheld biosensor with disposable test strips so front-line healthcare workers can quickly detect the presence of the most common bacteria. If successful, the system would reduce from days to minutes the time it takes to spot bacteria.


In little more than a year, the Analog Garage helped the startup build the hardware platform, and then guide it through pilot studies at healthcare facilities. Now that the pilots have completed successfully, Analog Devices’ incubator is deciding whether to become an investor.


Certainly, making a commitment to invest precious time and resources to help startups vet their concepts before taking an equity stake is immensely helpful to startups like this. But it also helps Analog. For the company, it’s a critical piece of the overall strategy to balance risk and reward in the high-stakes arena of new business ventures.


“This is really a great approach to investing in new ideas,” Mario said. If it means helping more world-changing inventions like the bacteria tester realize their potential, then we couldn’t agree more.


Click here to listen to Mario's podcast on the growing importance of biosensing in health and wellness

Prospects for fitness bands, smartwatches and other biosensing monitors have caught the attention of insurance companies. Increasingly, health insurance providers are building programs around biosensors to lower premiums for healthy behaviors. As well, life insurance providers are now looking to insight from wearables data to help them make more informed policy decisions, which would serve to lower premiums for healthy people – and to help steer higher-risk candidates down a better path.


A growing number of insurers are looking to South African startup LifeQ to help develop such sensor-to-cloud programs. Analog Devices is an investor in LifeQ. LifeQ is an attractive partner for such programs, due to its broad suite of metrics to assess heart health, sleep quality and stress, as well as a health information platform to manage all the data.


“This is an exciting time in biosensing, as we’re finally starting to realize the great potential for healthcare providers, insurance carriers – and all of us, of course – to make better decisions,” said Riaan Conradie, President and Co-founder of LifeQ (pictured right). “It’s a win-win, because it eases the burden on our healthcare system and saves insurers money. And in the end, we’ll all be healthier, too.”                                                                                                                   


LifeQ recently concluded a pilot program with an insurer with the potential to turn the life insurance business on its head. Together, they developed inputs for the insurer’s risk-stratification systems that are used to set premiums.


You might call it a wrist-stratification system. Because the new inputs into the insurer’s new model were derived from insight generated from fitness band data. As part of the pilot, 1,000 test subjects wore Garmin Vivosmart HR bands modified with LifeQ metrics for three months. The sensor complex  inside the Vivosmart HR bands are built around Analog Devices’ components monitoring platform, which the company unveiled more than two years ago.


Though it’s vitally important to the success of life insurance companies, the risk stratification process has remained largely static for decades. Insurers typically make premium decisions for policies that can span 10 years or 15 years armed with little more than a questionnaire and a physical. So there is plenty of room to improve.


Indeed, the commercial program hasn’t yet been announced. But the buzz surrounding the pilot – and resulting enhancements to the insurer’s risk-stratification process – is already catching the attention of other insurance providers. We expect more insurers to build wearables-based programs over the next year.


Have an idea for a biosensing application? Let us know!

An architectural innovation in chip-scale energy harvesting pioneered by the Analog Garage has the potential to make the Internet of Things practical – if not outright possible – in some cases.


The utopian vision for the Internet of Things – a future where deadly diseases are spotted in time to contain, crop infestations are quickly detected and eradicated, and faltering components driving factory equipment are flagged before they fail – hinges on insight garnered from continuous streams of measurements collected by sensors deployed, well, everywhere.


Of course, the sensors will need power to operate. In many cases, that’s easier said than done. Batteries add size, weight and cost to sensor nodes. And that doesn’t include the added maintenance burden of charging or replacing batteries. With billions of nodes deployed everywhere from factories and farms to rivers and roadways, that could become downright untenable.


Energy harvesting, which draws energy from environmental forces like sun, wind, motion – even radio waves – increasingly is being viewed the solution to this formidable challenge.  And this solution has great market potential.  IDTechEX is forecasting the overall energy harvesting market to reach $998 million in 2024, a tenfold jump from $94.5 million in 2016. And the wireless sensor portion of the market is forecasted to total $450 million in 2024, or 45 percent of the total, which is a key area for Analog Devices. 


Analog Devices greatly amplified its energy harvesting portfolio earlier this year when it bought Linear Technology, a pioneer in the segment. A new area with great potential for powering sensors is thermoelectric energy harvesting. The Analog Garage is developing a chip-scale Thermoelectric Generator, or TEG, that can be used to generate power in spaces where temperature differentials exist.



The principle behind thermoelectric energy harvesting is known as the Seebeck effect, named for the Baltic German physicist Thomas Johann Seebeck. Seebeck discovered that when a temperature differential is maintained across a conductor, a voltage is generated. As it turns out, all materials exhibit the Seebeck effect to some degree (some better than others). The way this is quantified is the Seebeck coefficient, which can be understood by the following formula:


That is, the voltage generated is the product of the Seebeck coefficient S and the temperature difference ΔT. The best thermoelectric materials, those with the highest values of S and most often used in TEGs, are semiconductors.


The greater the temperature difference ΔT, the higher the voltage and the greater the power that can be generated.  The power output Pout of a TEG is approximately proportional to the square of ΔT:


So by affixing a TEG to a window in a climate-controlled building, for example, enough power could be harvested to run a motion sensor to detect when people enter the room.


The Analog Garage has produced a short animation to illustrate how TEGs generate power from temperature differentials. Watch that HERE.


The Analog Garage is focusing its efforts on improving energy density for a given device area, and has developed some promising techniques for boosting power output significantly beyond the current state of the art. Once productized, these new devices will be able to power a wide range of sensor-to-cloud applications, like monitoring equipment and environmental conditions in smart buildings.

The vision for the Internet of Things is to inject precision into existing processes across industry, be it agriculture, health, automotive or industrial. But it’s one thing for IoT advances to look attractive on paper. Quite another to deliver, as the saying goes, in the field.


Like, say, a tomato field.


Take, for example, Analog Devices’ Internet of Tomatoes fields. ADI’s project, one of industry’s longest-running IoT field (yes, I said it) trials, initially was conceived as a sensor-to-cloud project to help farmers better manage their crops. It has achieved that. But along the way, it has evolved into something more.


Indeed, it has become a proving ground of sorts for new IoT technologies. In the latest incarnation, the Internet of Tomatoes is helping to validate how applicable blockchain, the latest fintech technology, is to other industries. Team members are starting to deploy blockchain as a trusted ledger to help the ecosystem validate claims like grown closest to market, freshness and taste.


In the first phase of the Internet of Tomatoes, project leaders used in-field temperature, humidity and light sensors to help farmers pinpoint how much to water their tomatoes, and to hone in on the best time to apply pesticides. It was successful, as the Master Mechanic has written. But the team didn’t stop there.


At a time when the Analog Garage was incubating technology to enable handheld spectrometers, the Internet of Tomatoes team built a cloud analytics platform that can predict how good a given tomato will taste.


Now, project leaders would like to link the two processes, and broaden the platform so it can measure and track the tomato’s entire life cycle, from seed to salad. Or sandwich. From there, they envision the platform will one day identify the tastiest tomatoes while they’re still in the field. And they will track them as they pass through distribution centers and into restaurants and grocery stores.


And if they can get enough growers to participate, it could eventually develop into a certification system that identifies the best, so farmers could get compensated for prize tomatoes from chefs, foodies and others who are willing to pay a premium for them.


To do that successfully, they will need an accounting system that is not only secure, but trusted up and down the food chain, so to speak. They’re using blockchain. Or, the Blockchain of Tomatoes, as project leaders call it.


Francis Gouillart just spoke about the opportunities and challenges ahead for the Internet of Tomatoes project at the FLEX Conference and Expo in Monterey, Calif., last month. Gouillart is Chief Food Officer at, a blockchain startup with aspirations to become the de facto ledger of record for agriculture and, eventually, food.


Image: Francis Gouillart 


Blockchain, the enabling technology for digital currencies like Bitcoin, has been gaining popularity as a record-keeping tool for other applications as well, from industry-standard groups to healthcare exchanges. Blockchain has proven to be a trustworthy ledger because data is distributed across a growing number of sites that all independently validate records. Further, each record builds on the last. So even if a majority of community members agree to alter a historical record, they could not do it without rewriting each subsequent record as well.


Analog Devices, together with Gouillart, has been putting together a pilot ecosystem for Blockchain of Tomatoes in New England. Team leaders have enlisted farmers, produce distributors, retailers and restaurants. In addition to in-field measurements and spectrometer readings, they are also recording transportation conditions, including temperature and length of time refrigerated. The goal is to build a trusted scorecard that validates farmers’ claims of taste, freshness, locally produced – and however else they might like to position their crop.


Ultimately, the blockchain could be used to build trust in every grocery store aisle. The system could be used, for example, to identify same-day freshness of seafood, meat and poultry, and to know food is free of unwanted additives or processing. The possibilities are seemingly endless.


Can you think of other communities with sensor-to-cloud applications that might benefit from blockchain technology? Let us know!

SGInnovate is a private-limited company wholly-owned by the Singapore government. But to the Analog Garage, it’s a partner in our mission to help entrepreneurs research, prototype and scale their ideas. Ron Cellini, one of the Analog Garage team members focused on connecting with start-ups in Asia, spoke at an event hosted by SGInnovate. Ron told us the event, Sensor Technologies and Its Impact, attracted dozens of promising startups and researchers.



In addition to Ron, other participants on the panel were Adrienne Mendenhall, Country Manager for Access Health Singapore who highlighted the infinite possibilities and impacts of sensor applications in healthcare, and Dr. Vishram Mishra of Microsec shared insights on improving security for sensor technology.

To help guide the panel discussion about the future of sensors in the connected world, Ron explained the Analog Garage’s charter and how Analog Devices’ accelerator helps startups turn ideas into businesses. He also shared a few ideas the Analog Garage is currently incubating, including:

Ron said the event turned out to be fertile ground for the Analog Garage to harvest new relationships for Analog Devices, with the potential for several new sensor-to-cloud projects as a result. He’s not ready to tell us about them yet. But who knows? Maybe we’ll find out about some of them when the next opportunity to present at SGInnovate comes around!

There are very few places in the world with such an active, vibrant startup community as in the San Francisco Bay Area. Which is why some Analog Garage Venture team members conduct their strategic partnership exploration extensively there.


Silicon Valley Senior Marketing Manager Sylvain Marseille collaborates to find solutions to important problems with Analog Garage’s Bay Area accelerator partners, like Alchemist. Alchemist is unique in that it exclusively works with startups with solutions for the enterprise.



Sylvain says he enjoys working with Alchemist because its B2B focus aligns well with Analog Devices (ADI), which is so well entrenched in industrial markets. He just attended a Demo Day for one Alchemist class. And the cycle is set to begin again, with the next class set to kick off in August.  


Image of Alchemist Demo Day kickoff


We sat down with Sylvain and Ravi Belani, a Managing Partner at Alchemist, to talk about what goes into preparing a class for its Demo Day, and how the activity helps further the partnership between Alchemist and the Analog Garage.


Ravi Belani                                 Sylvain Marseille

Ravi Belani, Managing Partner at Alchemist                              Sylvain Marseille, Sr. Marketing Manager Analog Garage


Q: How does the Analog Garage and Alchemist work together?

Sylvain: We are a Strategic investor in the Alchemist fund. This gives the Analog Garage team preferential access to the startups once they have been accepted into the program.


That’s really valuable to us. Because there are just so many new ideas cropping up all the time in the sensor-to-cloud space that we couldn’t possibly review them all. So it’s great to have a partner like Alchemist help vet potential B2B partners for us, and pave the way for us to connect with them at an early stage. That way, we can help them develop their business, leveraging the technical and business resources that ADI has to offer.


I’m the primary ADI contact for Alchemist, so I act as an advisor to the startups that need help with B2B sales and marketing, product strategies or pitch preparation.


Q: How does Alchemist prepare for demo day?

Ravi: The teams work intensively for five months before Demo Day to get ready for the big day. In general, the teams are maniacally focusing on getting traction and improving their products to put their best foot forwards when Demo Day comes around. Of course, in the weeks leading up to Demo Day, there is an added focus on the Demo Day presentation – including practices in front of a cross section of Alchemist's staff, pitch experts, Alumni who had successfully Demo'd previously, and real investors. There is continuous and ample feedback given to the founders as they go through the practices culminating in the final Demo Day presentation.


Q: What types of demos were presented at demo day?

Ravi: At our last Demo Day we showcased 19 startups that ranged from infrastructure to applications to services. Some of the Demo's that got the press' attention included a battery efficient high-density sensor network for industrial IoT; autonomous AI-enabled drones for agriculture that can kill weeds without requiring farmers to use toxic pesticides; a next gen, agile visibility dashboard into manufacturing operations and sensors; an error analytics platform for developers to do root cause analysis on their code; and a course management app built by Carnegie Mellon alums for higher ed students.


You can see all the presentations and connect with the companies here.


Q: Sylvain, What were your impressions of Demo Day?

Sylvain: You know, I was really impressed. I’ve attended lots of showcase-type events for startups. But this was the first time I’d been to one hosted by Alchemist, so I didn’t know what to expect. Hats off to Alchemist – the event was very well organized, and the startups were all of really high quality. Each of the teams were solving real-world problems in the B2B space.


Q: Ravi, how do you evaluate ideas that reduce the cost for things like farming using robotics?

Ravi: When we look at ideas, in general, we are looking at how significant an impact the venture can have if things go right. We are more concerned with backing risky ventures that could have a huge impact vs. safer ventures where the downside risk may be limited, but the upside is limited as well.


In robotics for farming, we are looking for validation that the technology innovation in the product is significant, or that the team has some unfair advantage in fulfilling it. In the agriculture robotics company in the last class - Farmwise - the team was distinctive technically as the founders were some of the top grads out of MIT and Stanford's AI Labs and launchpad programs.


From a cost perspective, we want to see that the value proposition to all the stakeholders make the product an inevitability given both cost reductions and/or value creation. And that there is a long-term competitive advantage at scale if competition encroaches as the company grows


Q: What do you think of the role AI in b2b applications?

Ravi: We think the role of AI in B2B applications is incredibly significant in its scope of impact -- and will be one of the most significant trends in the foreseeable future. There are several trends converging which is why AI is suddenly so salient: the emergence of APIs has exposed data sets in the enterprise space that used to be hard to interact with; sensors are becoming so cheap and ubiquitous that there is the ability to create intelligence across many aspects of the enterprise that was not previously available; machine learning algorithms are becoming deeply impressive. Given these, we think AI in B2B will affect almost every industry and every function -- it's hard to overestimate the impact AI will have.


Q: What are some of the future problems that Alchemist start-ups are solving? 

Alchemist founders are attacking large problems using innovative technology. There is a wide variety of innovations and markets.


Here is a sample to give you a feel:

  • Universal Connectivity for Industrial IoT Devices24/7 Earth Monitoring using Solar Unmanned, Perpetual Flying Aircraft,
  • Next Gen IP Routing
  • Spatially Moving Sound Technology using distributed Wearable Speakers
  • Stress trackers for seniors


The list would be far too long for us to include everything here. Those interested in learning more should visit us here!

What better place to evaluate the state of the startup ecosystem than in Israel, the nation that calls itself the Startup Nation? And what better venue than Geektime Next, among the premier startup events in the Startup Nation?


That is why Analog Garage decided to become a community sponsor for this year’s event and actively make connections with the Israeli startup ecosystem, enabling 100 young entrepreneurs to attend the event.  Amir Eldad represented the Analog Garage at the event and served as a judge for one of the competitions.


Israel’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is very broad and deep, and Amir said that representation at the Geektime event covered virtually the entire landscape. But the three primary areas of interest were consumer, IoT and cybersecurity. He told us he was focused mostly on finding interesting sensor-to-cloud IoT technology. Toward that end, he came across many new innovations in machine learning and artificial intelligence.


“Machine learning and AI were front and center,” he said. “Much of what I saw were solutions that took advantage of sensing and artificial intelligence to fine-tune existing applications with a level of granularity that wasn’t possible just a few years ago.”


During his search, he said the trend toward precision was particularly evident across three key areas: digital health, agriculture and sports fan engagement.


In digital health, he said, he encountered a concentration of sensor-to-cloud innovations applied to precision medicine and personalized nutrition.


In agriculture, there were innovations like ADI’s Internet of Tomatoes project that enabled farmers to more finely – and accurately – apply water, fertilizer and pesticides to boost productivity and cut costs.



And in sports, new products focused on tailoring sporting event experiences for individual fans, depending on their demographics and tastes, their favorite teams and players and – even location in the stadium.


“I was very impressed by the Geektime event,” Amir said. “It delivered a great mix of the Israeli startup ecosystem. It was definitely the right place to be.”


For more on start-up activity in Israel check out the recent Master Mechanic post featuring Alain Guery

One of the unexpected pleasures for the Analog Garage team as we expand our global exploration are the innovative projects we find that are focused on solving local problems.


Of course, there are plenty of efforts in every corner of the world with the potential to make a difference on a global scale. But everywhere we go, we always seem to uncover projects with a local flair.


It’s more common to come across those in India or China, each with huge domestic market potential. But even in a country like Israel, which is much more globally focused because of its small population, tends to solve problems that hit close to home. We’ve come across some ingenious sensor-to-cloud development, for example, that is aimed at growing more produce with less water, which is a precious resource there.


In places like India and the Philippines, where electricity is expensive and unreliable, we invariably meet up with innovators focused on things like low-power design techniques, better battery chemistries and energy harvesting. In the Philippines, where the landscape is freckled with cellular towers, inventors are intent on harvesting spurious radio signals and converting them back into energy.


India is also host to a fast-developing healthcare startup community. Much of the innovation there is focused on customizing diagnostic devices to be portable, sealed and very low cost for use in poor, dusty rural areas.


In Singapore, where space comes at a premium, inventors gin up ways to solve transportation bottlenecks and better manage waste disposal. Like, for example, a municipal hub system we saw that was designed to streamline shipping delivery by minimizing the time that large, expensive gas-guzzling trucks are on the road.


It might seem hard to believe that a place like China, where therapies like acupuncture and massage have been widely used for centuries, is combining its prowess as home to one-fourth of the world’s manufacturing, to create robot masseuses. But it’s true. One startup at an incubator we visited is developing a robot that massages with a plucking action to more closely mimic Chinese technique.



What innovations have you come across with a decidedly local flair? How might the Analog Garage tailor Analog Devices technology for those innovations? Let us know!

ADI Senior Manager, Raj Senguttuvan just got back from visiting China as part of the Analog Garage’s regional expansion into Asia. He said he “was blown away” by the fertile start-up ecosystem there. Find out why in this short video interview with Raj.


Click here to view the video: 

On Location: China’s Vibrant New Start-up Climate - YouTube 


Visit the Analog Garage at Analog Garage | Analog Devices 



When it comes to locking down a network, the security you put in place is only as good as the weakest link. If someone’s given you a password to access their network, then guess what? You are the weakest link!


For the Internet of Things, one of the biggest security risks are the countless millions of exposed sensors and actuators used to automate tasks like lighting and climate control. That’s why there’s such a focus on integrating security right into hardware to authenticate machine-to-machine communication, as we discussed last month in our blog post, “A Smart City is a Secure City.”


But hardware tampering and theft is not as big a problem for computing networks. Servers and data centers are behind lock and key. And most people keep close tabs on their laptops, smartphones and other connected devices. That’s why only eight percent of computer hacks last year involved physical attacks, according to Verizon’s annual Data Breach Investigations Report.


But don’t start patting yourself on the back just yet. Because although we’re responsible guardians of hardware, we’re terrible at locking down accounts, which are all entry points into valuable data stores for cyber thieves. According to the Verizon report, 81 percent of the breaches in 2016 leveraged stolen and/or weak passwords like “password123.”


The most obvious way to defuse our ability to, wittingly or unwittingly, grant access to critical networks is by employing multi-factor authentication, or MFA. As the name implies, MFA means you’ll need more than one method of validating that it’s really you who is requesting access. Most of us have encountered one of the simpler MFA techniques at gas pumps, many of which require a PIN or zip code as well as a credit card before accepting payment.


The problem with MFA schemes today is that they require more effort on our part, which is something too many of us are unwilling to endure. If we were, then one in six personal passwords on the Internet wouldn’t be “123456,” would they?


If MFA is ever going to neutralize human password management, then it will have to be as painless as it is effective. That’s why the Analog Garage and others are hard at work developing sensor-to-cloud platforms designed to limit access only to authorized account holders. Some of them are built around biometrics, like fingerprints, voice patterns and iris scans.


Others are tied to specific personal devices, like smartphones and fitness trackers. Which means that, like IoT nodes, personal devices will need hardened authentication features built right into the silicon.


No one authentication option is foolproof. So the best way to lock out unauthorized access is to use a combination of three or more factors, such as the presence of a phone along with a fingerprint scan.


Most of all, as people prove over and over, it will have to be painless to use. It’s the only way for the industry to look us in the eye like the host of the old BBC TV show and say, “You are the weakest link. Goodbye.”

Bloomberg Markets caught up with the Analog Garage on-site last week at the Harvard Innovation Lab, just as the university’s program awarded more than $300,000 to incubate new ideas.


Bloomberg Market hosts discussed with Maria Tagliaferro, Director of Technology Advocacy, the intersection of the analog and digital worlds, the Analog Garage’s role in furthering the exploration in sensor-to-cloud answers to today’s most pressing problems, how university incubators like the Harvard Innovation Lab fit in the mix and the importance of the Boston area ecosystem.


Why the Boston area? “It’s a hub in every sense of the word,” Tagliaferro said. “It’s the hub for Massachusetts, which Bloomberg named the number one innovation state. It’s the hub for medical. It’s the hub for education. And it’s an international hub.”


Listen to the Bloomberg Markets interview with Tagliaferro HERE.

image of Maria (right) on air with Bloomberg reporters Carol Massar and Cory Johnson (left) 

The light bulb has become the symbol for an idea. But when ADI’s Doug Gardner sees a light bulb he thinks, “security breach.”


Gardner told attendees at EmTech Asia in Singapore earlier this year that the Smart City and the overall Internet of Things can’t realize their full potential without security that is rearchitected for connected things. (The Analog Garage was a sponsor for EmTech Asia, a MIT Technology Review-hosted event).


Machine-to-machine communication will drive decision-making by intelligent systems, without human intervention. So each node in the system must be secure.


That will be more challenging with connected devices deployed in public buildings and city streets, where hackers can manually tamper with them. In contrast, corporate datacenters are physically out of reach for most cyberthieves. In fact, Verizon just released its annual Data Breach Investigations Report and found that only eight percent of computer hacks last year involved physical attacks such as breaking into a datacenter or stealing a smartphone or laptop.



The potential for those numbers to be far higher for the Internet of Things is a scary prospect, Gardner said. He pointed out that five million lightbulbs are replaced each day. And as municipalities increasingly turn to smart bulbs to manage lighting more economically, each of those bulbs becomes a potential source of vulnerability.



Today’s assigned identity security constructs like public key infrastructure, or PKI, are ill-equipped to manage access for Smart Cities, Gardner said. A security framework for the IoT’s systems of systems must begin at the edge, with identity rooted in the silicon. A so-called hardware root of trust sits below applications, drivers and the real-time operating system, monitoring activity. That puts it in a better position to identify rootkits and spot out-of-character activities.


And for human interaction – such as for maintenance workers replacing lightbulbs – adopting multi-factor authentication that incorporates biometrics will be critical to controlling access.


Multi-factor authentication will be vital for putting a lid on existing cyberattacks by requiring more proof points than simply passwords to gain access to computer networks. According to the Verizon report, 81 percent of the breaches in 2016 leveraged stolen and/or weak passwords.


There are many obstacles on the road to the Smart City that must be cleared before we can realize the vision of cleaner, safer and more efficient municipalities. And the Analog Garage is busy clearing the path in many ways, from developing sensors tailored for Smart City applications to exploring new techniques to keep those sensors powered and secured.