Episode 39: CES bound and the Internet of postage

If you haven’t gone totally paper free on your bills yet, it’s highly likely that the envelope that arrives via the mail has been touched by a Pitney Bowes machine. Pitney Bowes is a $4 billion company that makes mail its business, and Roger Pilc, its chief innovation officer, came on the show this week to explain how it thinks about the Internet of things, how it works with startups and invests in them to rethink how it manages mail. He also talks about how he’s challenging the company to improve by signing up startups as customers who demand services that are a year or two ahead of the curve.

The Samsung /SmartThings line up. Courtesy of Samsung.
The Samsung /SmartThings line up. Courtesy of Samsung.

Before we get to Pilc, Kevin and I talk about Samsung’s decision to turn its 2016 Wi-Fi TVs into hubs for the connected home and its introduction of the SmartThings Extend dongle that will add Z-Wave and ZigBee to the TV. In the show we were trying to figure out if the current hub was running Tizen, and the answer is a definitive no. The SmartThings software is ported to run on Tizen OS for the TVs. As for the rest of the show, we hit the anticipated high points of CES and I delve into my experience with the Saeco Gran Baristo Avanti Bluetooth Connected Coffee Maker. We also discuss a new idea in why non of our gadgets work together from Bruce Schneier who penned a good article over at The Atlantic.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guests: Roger Pilc, Chief Innovation Officer, Pitney Bowes

Episode 38: A holiday troubleshooting guide under your tree

Just in case you open a few Christmas goodies in the coming days or decide to use the holidays as an excuse to set up a few connected devices, Kevin and I decided to offer the gift of our experience. We’ve condensed our stupid mistakes (like not reading the box for device compatibility) and more advanced tricks (like making sure all the devices are on the 2.4 gigahertz Wi-Fi network) into a relatively quick podcast that might one day help you solve your connectivity problems.

At the very least it will remind you that you are not alone as you struggle to set up your connected door locks or your ZigBee sensors. I just spent an hour on the phone with some very smart and helpful support folks trying to figure out why my WeMo outlet decided to stop connecting to my Amazon Echo. The experts decided that it must be some weird modem issue that will require Belkin to buy my model of modem and visit the testing lab. So know that this stuff is hard. In your network, with your stuff, as you get more wacky and crazy, your stuff will fail. Be patient, have fun, and keep listening. Kevin and I look forward to hearing your stories.

Alexa, Turn on Christmas from Stacey Higginbotham on Vimeo.

I’m also including above, a holiday demonstration of Alexa’s capabilities using the Wink hub ($50), a Lutron dimmer switch in the dining room chandelier ($45), four Hue bulbs in the living room ($260) and 3 GE Jasco outdoor switches ($40 each). I could have used a WeMo outlet or my SmartThings outlet, but neither would connect via the Echo, and so I just swapped out my outdoor ones for the sake of the video and figured I’d troubleshoot over the holidays.

Episode 37: Philips Hue drama and plan to fail even as you hope for success

Phillips caused a kerfuffle this week when it stopped supporting third-party light bulbs with its Philips Hue bridge and software. It has since reversed the decision after customers complained, but because the crazy time travel that Kevin and I undergo each week to bring the podcast to you had to record an update. However the conversation about third-party support and standards still remains relevant for the smart home today. We also dig into IBM’s new program that brings the Watson set of cognitive computing services to the industrial internet and Kevin’s crazy Bitcoin mining operation on a Raspberry Pi.

Kevin's Bitcoin mining operation using a Raspberry Pi and a custom dongle.
Kevin’s Bitcoin mining operation using a Raspberry Pi and a custom dongle.

Our guest this week is Santiago Merea who just sold his startup, the Orange Chef Co. to Yummly for an undisclosed amount. Merea discusses the future of the Prep Pad connected scale made by his company, and the future of Yummly. He also talks about the importance of having a plan for failure when you start out building a connected product. It’s a great show, so please enjoy.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Santiago Merea of Yummly

  • What’s wrong with Philips Hue?
  • IBM’s calling in Watson for a job on the industrial internet.
  • How to make 4 cents a day using your Raspberry Pi and a $35 dongle.
  • What’s next for recipe provider Yummly after swallowing a connected device company.
  • When building hardware, think about failing even as you plan for success.

Episode 36: A total breakdown in connected gadgets and the Hiku review

This week it seemed that many of my devices and some other people’s devices were experiencing some troubles. My Nest thermostat decided to roast my family in bed at night and it seemed I wasn’t alone. Kevin and I discussed Nest’s response as well as why switching to the Ecobee might require a little extra work on the part of a consumer as well. I also shared my disappointment with the SmartThings’ hub, which has turned into a product that only works about 80% of the time when it comes to turning on my devices on a schedule, some news about Wink and why consumers may not be the ultimate buyer for the smart home.

The Hiku and its app. --Image courtesy of Hiku.
The Hiku and its app. –Image courtesy of Hiku.

We started a new program this week of reviews from other reviewers who aren’t Kevin and I (although Kevin did discuss his Fire TV purchase). The idea is that because connected devices are best used and lived with, it’s worth getting opinions from people who have tried the stuff out for a few weeks and knows what they are looking for. Since I don’t do the grocery shopping in my house, I had my husband on to review the Hiku, a device that recognizes speech and scans bar codes to grab your grocery list and import it into your phone. Stay tuned for that, and let me know what you think of the segment. I’d love to get some user reviews of connected sprinklers and some of the packages for aging in place.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: The Hiku Review from Andrew Allemann

  • What’s up with Nest, Ecobee and SmartThings?
  • Flextronics closed its acquisition of Wink!
  • If consumers don’t buy a smart device, who will?
  • An in-depth review of the Hiku. Is it for you?
  • Episode 35: Raspberry Pi creator Eben Upton shares ideas for the Pi Zero

    Sure it’s a week after Thanksgiving, but we are all about Pi with this week’s episode. Yes, I went there! With the launch of the Raspberry Pi Zero, the cheapest Linux computer yet at $5, we invited Raspberry Pi founder Eben Upton on the show to discuss how Google’s Eric Schmidt helped inspire the cheaper computer, when it might be available to buy again and his ideas for connected projects. We also discussed what’s missing and how to add things like connectivity and battery life. He also gives a bit of advice for engineers and non-engineers alike.

    The Raspberry Pi Zero. Photographer: Matt Richardson
    The Raspberry Pi Zero.
    Photographer: Matt Richardson

    But before we get to Pi, Kevin and I discuss the VTech hacks and a scary survey from SEC Consult, that lays out how many vendors of connected products are sharing code and thus, sharing static keys used for encryption. This is a big problem as connected devices proliferate, and one the industry is already addressing. Still, it’s worth delving into. We also got a little holiday cheer going, as I described how I used my Amazon Echo and SmartThings (or Wink) plus my GE/Jasco outdoor modules and Wemo indoors to create a voice command that lets me “Turn on Christmas.” So please, listen up and enjoy the show.

    Hosts: Kevin Tofel and Stacey Higginbotham
    Guest: Eben Upton, creator of the Raspberry Pi

    • Exploited kids accounts and everything is vulnerable
    • Have a connected holiday with Alexa
    • What on earth is the Raspberry Pi?
    • Let’s talk about specs
    • Whew, now let’s talk about how this whole cheap computer thing happened

    Episode 34: All I want for the holidays is a smarter home

    The holidays are rapidly approaching so as you’re prepping your Thanksgiving dinner or wallowing in that special feeling of torpor that only comes after downing three servings of stuffing and a piece of pumpkin pie, check out Kevin and my selections for holiday gifts. This week’s episode doesn’t have any guest so we could focus on the gadgets, but next week, the show will be back to its normal format.

    Kevin and Stacey at CES in 2015. Kevin's hair is longer and so are my bangs.
    Kevin and Stacey at CES in 2015. Kevin’s hair is longer and so are my bangs.

    I’m not going to lie, I’ve already realized that I left off a few ideas, so you’re going to want to stay tuned for new devices and a few more gift ideas in the coming episodes as well. No one would accuse Kevin and I of being overly organized. And in honor of Thanksgiving, Kevin and I just want to take a moment to thank you guys for listening to us. This is a labor of love created after Gigaom exploded, done because we like the topic, and because we got so much feedback from our listeners that they enjoyed the show and found it valuable. So keep the feedback coming, keep listening, and we’ll keep it up.

    Enjoy the show!

    Episode 33: Better Bluetooth and an AI for the smart home

    If you’ve learned anything from this podcast, you’ve probably learned that the smart home is pretty much a mess if you want everything to work together in some sort of seamless, easy-to-use way. Amazon’s Echo helps. HomeKit has a roadmap, but it’s still got a ways to go. This week, our guest Alex Capecelatro, CEO of Jstar, a company developing a voice-controlled artificial intelligence for the smart home discusses how to build an intuitive self-learning home. Our conversation will teach you a lot about how machines learn and the limitations of voice for controlling your home.

    The Misfit Shine.
    The Misfit Shine.

    Before we get to that, Kevin and I spend time breaking down the big news of the week including Lowe’s updated Iris home hub and the updated Bluetooth roadmap which includes speed updates and a mesh. We also break down Fossil’s reasons for buying Misfit, the company behind the Shine wearable device. So get comfortable, and listen up.

    Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
    Guests: Alex Capecelatro, CEO of Jstar

    • Lowe’s updates its Iris Smart Home Hub
    • Bluetooth is getting meshy and faster
    • Why on earth did Fossil buy Misfit?
    • Building a better Alexa with Josh.ai
    • How does machine learning even work?

    Episode 32: Amazon for the kitchen and Apple for the living room?

    This week had so much connect home and internet of things news Kevin and I covered everything from a brand new way to turn your old smoke detectors into connected smoke detectors using a $35 battery replacement to new chip design from ARM that could make the Internet of things more secure. In the middle of all of that we talked about being able to buy the Amazon Echo in retail stores, the new Tag Heuer connected watch partnership with Intel and Gartner’s latest data on the Internet of things.

    The Roost battery.
    The Roost battery.

    After Kevin and I run through the news, I turned to my friend Chris Albrecht, who was the emcee at the Smart Kitchen Summit held last week in Seattle. The event was awesome, and brought a good mix of old-school appliance folks together with Silicon Valley startups trying to remake the kitchen. Chris doesn’t love the connected kitchen, so he’s a good person to discuss what seemed worth buying and what seemed like hype. He also offered a bonus review of the Sonos Truplay feature at the end. That feature listens for your Sonos speakers’ sound quality in your room, and tweaks it so they sound as good as they can given their placement in the room. Find out what Chris says about it by listening to show (it’s iOS only, so Android lovers, need not apply).

    Host: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
    Guest: Chris Albrect of OneHub

  • Gartner says we’re going to have 20.7 billion connected devices by 2020
  • ARM designs new chips for a more secure Internet of things
  • Try the Roost connected battery to connect your existing smoke detector for $35
  • This isn’t a smart kitchen, it’s just pricey
  • Amazon is going to get the kitchen while Apple gets the living room
  • Episode 31: Walmart gets connected and this is what you want for Christmas

    This week’s guest Rob Katcher is working with Wal-Mart to take a little of the pain out of grocery shopping with the Hiku connected fridge magnet. I chatted with Katcher to understand how he decided to create an entirely new category of deviceā€”a button that sticks to your fridge and lets you scan or tell it what you need. It then adds it to a shopping list that is available on a mobile app. With a new deal to link its magnet to Wal-Mart’s curb-side pick up in parts of the country and Peapod’s grocery delivery, Hiku is creating a service that consumers will love and a new revenue stream.

    In the first half of the show, Kevin and I take a Mulligan on the SmartThings hub, after discovering a hub replacement solved many of my issues. We also discuss a new integration with the Ring doorbell, Google’s Brillo OS and finally talk about Kevin’s new toy. It isn’t connected, but you watch the snippets of him riding around above and tell me that you don’t want one of these things. Actually, I am sure I’ll hear from y’all. Please enjoy the show.

    • Replacing my SmartThings hub made it a whole new experience.
    • What is Google Brillo good for?
    • Self balancing scooters are pretty hot right now.
    • What it’s like to build a category defining device (you hope).
    • How to build a connected device and get paid.

    Episode 30: My SmartThings hub must be haunted

    Does your office need more conference rooms? Or maybe there’s wasted space where the printer and several reams of paper sit. In this week’s podcast we discuss how companies can use connected sensors in their lights to make better decisions about their real estate while also saving money on their energy costs with Joe Costello, the CEO of Enlighted. Before we talk to Costello, Kevin Tofel and I cover the SmartThings version 2 hub.

    The SmartThings Monitoring kit.
    The SmartThings Monitoring kit.

    After the show aired I got on the phone with SmartThings and swapped out the hub, but my initial experience was terrible (you’ll hear). Since the show was recorded, I’ve since managed to join most of the sensors to the network using the new hub and will keep testing. Kevin and I also talk about Verizon’s plans for the Internet of things and a list the National Association of Realtors put together to help people sell their smart homes without compromising their data. You can find it here!

    Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
    Guest: Joe Costello, CEO of Enlighted

    • My SmartThings hub isn’t behaving like it should.
    • Learn about how to talk about your smart home to prospective buyers
    • Verizon has an IoT cloud and new pricing plans
    • Smart office buildings are coming and it starts with LEDs
    • How to solve conference room overbooking using sensors