Episode 84: Google Home is in the house!

The Google Home arrived this week and I detail a few first impressions here. Kevin Tofel and I also came up with a sneaky way to control a wider variety of devices using If This Then That and the Google Home. We kicked off the show talking about the recent hack of the Philips Hue light bulbs and then covered the Nest appliance news. We also discussed a new mindfulness device I’m testing, Talkies, a way to connect with your kids, and Bixi a gesture-controlled button.

The Spire mindfulness tracker feels like an oxymoron.  Image courtesy of Spire.
The Spire mindfulness tracker feels like an oxymoron. Image courtesy of Spire.

The next half of the show features Rammohan Malasani, the CEO of Securifi, which makes the Almond Router, discussing how the Wi-Fi demands in the home are changing, how to secure routers and why consumers may never buy a smart home hub. We also talk about adoption rates and what he’s learned in four years of selling the idea of a smart home. Enjoy.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Rammohan Malasani, founder and CEO of Securifi
Sponsors: Samsung ARTIK and Bluetooth

  • First impressions of the Google Home
  • Philips bulbs (and ZigBee lights in general) are vulnerable
  • Check out Spire, a wearable for mindfulness
  • Why combine a router with a home hub?
  • How many devices are on your network?

Episode 81: Reviewing the Wink Hub 2 and new gear from Philips Hue

The second version of the Wink hub, complete with an Ethernet connection, Bluetooth and a $99 price tag is out, and I started testing it. The good news so far for folks who have existing Wink gear is in this week’s show, along with my take on the new, richer color Philips Hue bulbs. For those seeking the latest in thermostats, we discuss the new, cheaper Ecobee Lite, the Honeywell Lyric T5 for $149 and Nest’s need to the lower its pricing. (We also discussed the new Eco nomenclature). Kevin Tofel shared his impressions so far on Google Assistant, and we’re all still waiting for Google Home.

honeywellt5

After that, Michael Wolf, creator of the Smart Kitchen Summit and host of The Smart Home Show talked with me about his vision of the connected kitchen, some of the latest gadgets on offer for that segment and food waste. In the show I mention my anti-food waste recipes, so here they are for y’all (Minestrone and Weeknight Curry). Just chuck your old produce in one of these and feel virtuous.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Michael Wolf, The Smart Home Show and the Smart Kitchen Summit
Sponsors: ARM and Hewlett Packard Enterprise

  • Only one hiccup with my Wink hub transfer
  • I’m all in on Philips Hue
  • Google Assistant is no Amazon Alexa (yet)
  • Is the smart kitchen ready for the harried chef?
  • The best kitchen gadget buying advice

Episode 75: What connected cars can learn from tractors

Nest is in the news again this week with a clarification on what its software engineers are really up to and new products. Its outdoor camera is launching as are thermostats in 3 new colors. It’s also unveiling a new software product that looks pretty cool. I’m still worried about the hardware innovation we can expect. Kevin and I also discuss Verizon’s new IoT network, leaked news of a new Wink hub and Kevin’s review of his Wink Relay light switch.

The new, Outdoor Nest Cam.
The new Outdoor Nest Cam.

I interview Cory Reed, senior vice president of intelligent solutions at John Deere, to discover what connected car executives can learn from the company that pioneered a self-driving tractor. Reed and I also discuss how John Deere thinks about connectivity adding value to the business and how it prices connected products. Also, farmers are pretty sophisticated consumers of technology.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Cory Reed, senior vice president of intelligent solutions at John Deere
Sponsor: Macadamian

  • Will LTE Cat M1 pose a threat to other IoT networks?
  • News from Nest
  • Kevin’s thoughts on the Wink Relay
  • How to think about building connected products from production to pricing
  • What John Deere can teach us about building autonomous cars

Episode 74: More Nest distress and a primer on protocols

As IFA starts in Berlin, there’s a bunch of product news to cover, including a partnership between Sonos and Amazon, that will let you control your Sonos from the Amazon Echo … in 2017. But before we get to that, Kevin Tofel and I explore what it means that Nest’s developers are reportedly moving over to Google, specifically part of the Google Home team. We also cover Z-wave becoming a more open standard, which could lead to more Z-wave compatibility in products like the Amazon Echo or smart TVs.

Savant_03_Sonos

After Kevin and I hit the news, strap yourselves in for a primer on the pros and cons of different radios, protocols and even clouds for those designing a connected product. Chris Matthieu, VP of IoT Engineering at Citrix, and one of the creators of Citrix Octoblu, came on the show to offer his expertise. This is nerdy, but great for anyone who wants to understand some of the popular options out there for making a connected product, whether you are a developer, a product manager or just someone trying to keep up with the trends.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Chris Matthieu of Citrix
Sponsor: Macadamian

  • The distress at Nest
  • Two great pieces of news
  • How do you pick a radio for a connected project?
  • A primer on protocols
  • Which cloud works for you?

Episode 70: Distributed computing comes to the smart home

Wearables make a return to the podcast with Philips’ news of a suite of medical-grade devices to measure health. Plus, I give my impressions of the UnderArmor Fitness box after a few months living with it. Kevin Tofel and I also talk about Black Hat and IoT security, including a $9.4 million grant to study the electromagnetic noise made by hacked devices as a means of detecting hacks. There’s also new lighting tech from Philips on the Hue light bulb side! We end our segment with a first look at the Brita water pitcher connected to the Amazon Fulfillment service.

The Plum light switches in their package. The switches cost $289 for three.
The Plum light switches in their package. The switches cost $289 for three.

Our guest is Utz Baldwin, the CEO of Plum, the maker of a Wi-Fi light pad. Smart home aficionados will appreciate the quality Wi-Fi light pad that accepts dimming and other commands, while nerds will be excited by the fact that this light switch runs Erlang and acts as a node for a distributed compute network in the home. Baldwin also is the former head of CEDIA, which means he gives a professional installer’s point of view on DIY smart home devices. You’ll enjoy this episode!

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Utz Baldwin, CEO of Plum
Sponsors: Xively and ThingMonk

  • Thoughts on Philips’ new consumer medical device suite
  • Thoughts on UnderArmour’s products
  • Brita’s Amazon Dash water pitcher in the real world
  • How a CEDIA president views the smart home today
  • Why the smart home needs a fog

Episode 69: Amazon opens up about the Echo

The Amazon Echo is the gateway drug to the smart home for many folks. They start with Alexa and move to shopping for connected lights or outlets. So we brought Charlie Kindel, director of Alexa Smart Home at Amazon, on the show to discuss the Echo’s history, its future and what voice can and cannot do in the home. So turn off your Echo mics for this one because we couldn’t avoid saying “Alexa” for this show.

The Amazon Echo in my kitchen.
The Amazon Echo in my kitchen.

Before we get to the Echo, Kevin and I discuss security challenges facing Osram light bulbs and security challenges from connected industries. We also explain why the Thread Group is teaming up with the OCF and what it means for developers. Finally, we discuss if companies should reimburse customers when their connected devices have outages or features are late.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Charlie Kindel, director Alexa Home Services at Amazon
Sponsors: Xively and The Smart Kitchen Summit

  • Outages and security flaws abound
  • The Thread Group and Intel’s Open Connectivity Foundation get together
  • A modest proposal for connected devices
  • You can command August locks from your Amazon Echo
  • Charlie Kindel’s favorite Echo hacks (including one that works with Sonos)

Episode 65: All about Wink and Alexa’s new Skills

Are you curious about Wink? On June 11 it started selling its Relay switch, a light switch that contains a screen and two soft programmable switches for $99 each. Two cost $149 and also double as an intercom. So we talked to Nathan Smith, Wink’s co-founder and CTO, about what happened to bring Wink out back into the game and what to expect next.

The Relay switch from Wink.
The Relay switch from Wink.

Kevin Tofel and I also discussed another Wi-Fi light switch from Plum as part of a discussion on switches and a home without hubs. Before we got there we cover Amazon’s makeover of the Alexa App to highlight Skills, the new Dash buttons and an update on Wi-Fi. Just for fun, I covered my doorbell review that ran in the Wirecutter.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Nathan Smith of Wink
Sponsor: Ayla Networks

  • Alexa’s new skills
  • Here come new Wi-Fi light switches
  • Wi-Fi is getting better!
  • What belongs on a glanceable interface?
  • Some fun Wink robots for y’all

Episode 63: Two summertime gadget reviews and wisdom on wearables

This week is all about health and wearables, starting with Kevin Tofel discussing his frustration with fitness trackers that aren’t sharing everything. This ties into this week’s guest, Ernesto Ramirez, who just received a doctorate in public health and is an expert on how people and companies are using wearables. Ramirez and I spoke about fitness trackers’ accuracy, their utility and then moved on to questions about how employers might use them for good and ill. We also talk about Kevin’s issue of being able to transfer your data because you should own it.

Kevin bought a Fitbit Charge.
Kevin bought a Fitbit Charge.

Aside from the health and wearables chatter, I reviewed the Ilumi color-changing outdoor BR30, which was pretty great, but had one flaw, and brought on my father-in-law who was testing the Rachio sprinkler system in his yard (since I don’t have one). Both of these gadgets are great for summer! Kevin and I didn’t get to the Apple HomeKit news this week, but we will next, so enjoy this show and you’ll have something to look forward to in the next one.

Hosts: Kevin Tofel and Stacey Higginbotham
Guests: Greg Allemann and Ernesto Ramirez

  • You’ll never believe why Kevin bought a Fitbit!
  • 3 awesome things about the Ilumi and 1 bad one.
  • Never install a smart sprinkler without checking this one thing!
  • Check out how wearables are changing healthcare
  • This story about your boss and fitness trackers will terrify you!

Episode 58: How to stop vampire power consumption

Since a quarter of residential energy use is consumed by gadgets that are “off”, Kevin and I discuss how to measure and cut back on that power consumption with a few connected devices. We also talk about Apple’s rumored Home app for HomeKit, the launch of OpenThread, the open source version of Nest’s Thread protocol and the new Almond router from Securifi. We also touch on HP Enterprises‘ hop into the internet of things and Hitachi’s new formal IoT group.

The Almond 3 router. --Image courtesy of Securifi.
The Almond 3 router. –Image courtesy of Securifi.

Then we go to Rich Brown, who is the executive editor of CNET’s smart home and appliance coverage, to discuss how the news site set up a smart house in Louisville, Kentucky, the site’s favorite gadgets and how the Amazon Echo has democratized access to the smart home. The big theme of our conversation was compromise, as in, if you want a smart home you are going to have to make compromises.

Hosts: Ken Tofel and Stacey Higginbotham
Guest: Rich Brown, Executive Editor, CNET

  • A smart home may be a wasteful home
  • Deciphering OpenThread
  • Everyone is hopping into the Industrial Internet pool
  • CNET’s favorite smart home devices
  • The smart home isn’t a democracy

Episode 56: How Ericsson plans to remake its business for a networked era

After a beating on the stock market last week, I spoke with Ericsson’s CEO Hans Vestberg to understand how the company’s 5-year-old plan to change its business is going. The company has just announced a restructuring as it tried to convince Wall Street that it was making progress, so Vestberg discussed that, the role of the internet of things in its new business, and how he defines 5G. Ericsson saw the shifts in its business from the internet of things almost a decade ago, and is working hard to adapt the 140-year-old business.

Hans Vestberg, CEO of Ericsson. Image courtesy of Ericsson.
Hans Vestberg, CEO of Ericsson. Image courtesy of Ericsson.

Before we get to the interview with Vestberg, Kevin and I spend time discussing lights. Phillips Hue has a new app that actually is worthwhile. Stack Lights introduces a new ultrasound sensor that lets it do motion detection through a lampshade, and Ilumi offers an outdoor-rated color-changing floodlight. We also discuss Nokia’s acquisition of Withings, Tile’s impressive revenue and integration with a car, and products you should buy mom for Mother’s Day instead of a Nest.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Hans Vestberg, CEO of Ericsson

  • So much lighting!
  • Nokia’s Withings buy is good, but the price seems low
  • Don’t buy your mom a Nest for Mother’s Day. Buy these gadgets instead.
  • Ericsson on its digital transformation
  • What the heck is 5G?