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 59: Chipmakers love the smart car

This week I was at the NXP Technology Forum interviewing the semiconductor company’s CEO Rick Clemmer about smart cities and smart cars. The most interesting fact he shared was that the BMW Series 7 cars have about $300 worth of silicon inside them. To compare the estimates on the cost of chips inside the Apple iPhone 6 come to roughly $120.

The BMW Series 7 sedan packs a lot of silicon.  --Image courtesy of  BMW.
The BMW Series 7 sedan packs a lot of silicon. –Image courtesy of BMW.

Kevin was at Google IO this week, so next week’s episode should be full of great insights, so Janko Roettgers from Variety was my cohost. He has just been to CES Asia, so we learned about the Amazon Echo of china called Ding Dong and the size of CES Asia. We also discussed new integrations for the Nest, the Amazon IoT Dash button and a then I was kicked out of the room where I was recording. So we didn’t get a chance to cover Google Home and the sound quality isn’t as great because I was live with a wobbly connection. I hope you will bear with it.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Janko Roettgers
Guest: Rick Clemmer, CEO of NXP

  • So many more things work with Nest!
  • Tips on the AWS IoT button
  • Meet the Amazon Echo of China
  • How a chip company thinks about the internet of things
  • Cramming chips in cities and cars

Episode 57: A deep dive into OpenHAB and some problem devices

We dove into the deep end of wearables this week discussing the dresses at this year’s Met Gala, where Kevin shared that Clare Danes’ princess fantasy gown took 30 battery packs to operate. It’s not all celebrity this week as Kevin and I dove into several devices that unfortunately didn’t all quite work as we expected. I reviewed the Pebblebee Stone, a bluetooth tracker and programmable button that was supposed to connect to If This Then That, but didn’t. Kevin talked about connecting his OnHub router to If This Then That, but also had some troubles. And once again we shared news of SmartThing’s troubles–this time with a security vulnerability. We ended with Microsoft’s acquisition of Solair and Oracle’s acquisition of Opower.

The Pebblebee Stone next to a pen. The other side is covered in the soft plastic.
The Pebblebee Stone next to a pen. The other side is covered in the soft plastic.

Then for the open source, DIY smart home junkies out there, I brought Kai Kreuzer, the founder of OpenHAB onto the show. He discussed the projects ambitions–let people connect all their stuff without worrying about handing over control to a vendor–and how he might commercialize the project. The conversation exposed how tough it is to get the ideals of the open source community to mesh with the reality of trying to connect your home. Listen up.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guests: Kai Kreuzer of OpenHAB

  • You must match your LEDs to your dress
  • Some bumps in the road for IFTTT, OnHub and the Pebblebee Stone
  • Rick Osterloh returns to Google and Kevin and I disagree
  • Want to build your own home hub?
  • Ease of use means totally different things to me and to Kai

Episode 52: These 9 ideas can secure the smart home

Security is a big deal for the Internet of things, which is why we’re so pumped about having Beau Woods, the deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative, on the show to discuss nine new recommendations for securing smart home devices. The Atlantic Council and security research group I Am The Cavalry created the report to as the beginning of what they hope will become a formal framework for smart home devices. Some are basic such as design with security in mind, but others help data privacy and what happens when a device becomes disconnected form the Internet (or the app governing it). For a full list of recommendations please check the report or my summary in PCMag.

The August doorbell cam courtesy of August.
The August doorbell cam courtesy of August.

Before we delve into security, Kevin Tofel and I cover the big Nest drama from last week that extended into this one when former Dropcam CEO Greg Duffy defended the Dropcam employees from Nest CEO Tony Fadell’s insults. Nest isn’t the only company that acts as a smart home platform that had drama. If This Then That also ruffled some feathers as it sent out notices to longtime developers that it was changing the way it requested information from their APIs. I emailed Linden Tibbets, the IFTTT CEO, and got a quick comment, but still have questions. As Kevin and I await our Amazon Dot’s coming the day this show airs, we discussed the Amazon Dash expansion, the longer wait for June connected ovens, a connected wine bottle and the new August doorbell. We end with a plea for y’all to take our survey and tell us what you think. So enjoy the show, and please click here if you’d like to take the survey. (It’s super short).

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham & Kevin Tofel
Guest: Beau Woods, The Atlantic Council

  • Nest is run like Apple and that’s not a good thing.
  • If this, then … drama!
  • I like the August doorbell.
  • Security woes are keeping people from the smart home.
  • Here’s how to make the smart home more secure.
  • Take our survey, please!

Episode 50: Are your devices being held hostage?

This week, Kevin Tofel and I discuss the challenges of treating connected hardware like software. Nest is experiencing one of those challenges this week as it requests users accept new terms and conditions in order to use their Nest. If you don’t agree, you don’t get the app, which is frustrating users who feel that Nest is reducing the functionality of the product. Twitter users are calling this holding the device hostage, but it is a legal necessity if you change certain features. Kevin and I propose a solution.

After that we spend time discussing the New Philips tunable white lights, the C by GE lights and the Stack lights, which I am trying out and still learning how to use.

Paying with a  Callaway golf glove with MasterCard payment tech inside.  --Image courtesy of MasterCard.
Paying with a Callaway golf glove with MasterCard payment tech inside. –Image courtesy of MasterCard.

Our guest this week is Sherri Haymond, Senior Vice President of Digital Payments & Labs at MasterCard, who discusses the future of payments and how MasterCard’s partners are putting the ability to buy things in surprising places. Callaway, the maker of golf gear, has put payment tech into a golf glove while a fashion designer is embedding the technology in hats, handbags and jewelry. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Kevin Tofel and Stacey Higginbotham
Guest: Sherri Haymond, Senior Vice President of Digital Payments & Labs, MasterCard

  • We need granular permissions for new connected device features
  • Lights, lights and more lights
  • Early thoughts on the Stack lights
  • You can pay with anything!
  • How to secure the Internet of payments

Episode 47: New money for IoT startups, new routers for homes and Eero’s CEO

This week was so full of small news items Kevin and I could barely keep up. We kicked off the show with a review of the Eero routers that launched on Tuesday, that I tried for this show and wrote about for PCMag, and we also had Eero CEO Nick Weaver on the show to explain why previous routers have sucked for so long, what Eero is doing about security woes and why the company is not focusing on software to help manage devices … yet. Weaver has a lot to say about Wi-Fi in the home and the state of the industry, especially about security, so check him out.

The Eero router 3-pack.
The Eero router 3-pack.

But first, Kevin and I heard back from Philips about its messed up Android app that we discussed last week, we covered Verizon’s surprising gains in the Internet of things and Nokia’s launch of a $350 million fund for startups interested in building technologies that help make a highly distributed and connected world a reality. We also talked about some Mobile World Congress news, such as AT&T’s partnership with Intel to test new LTE-enabled drones, a new IoT network from Ingenu, and a new chip design from ARM for wearables. We also snuck in a business idea for anyone who wants it. Maybe you can take it to Nokia’s new fund. So give a listen and we hope you enjoy.

Hosts: Kevin Tofel and Stacey Higginbotham
Guest: Nick Weaver CEO of Eero

  • Why the I love the Eero routers (for my very specific home)
  • Verizon is doing really well in IoT!
  • MWC news round up with Nokia, a new IoT network from Ingenu, AT&T and more!
  • Why existing routers have weak security and lame software
  • How to focus on what really matters in designing your consumer product

Episode 46: Barbie has a smart home and Sense gives your home computer vision

Andreas Gal, the CEO of Silk Labs has built what feels impossible. With the Sense hub he has created an artificially intelligent home hub that contains a camera, controls for other connected devices and a dedicated to privacy that means he can still offer services but still protect users from blanket surveillance. And the device is beautiful. Gal came on the show this week to talk about the Sense hub and why the world needs yet another connected camera and how he took his role as the former CTO of Mozilla and used that to inform the privacy features the camera offers. We also discussed how to implement AI models and learning on a device as opposed to in the cloud. Many of the challenges Gal has dealt with in his design are ones that hardware designers are thinking through as they implement their own AI or consider how to think about privacy in a world where the U.S. government has declared open season on stalking the Internet of Things.

The Sense camera and home hub from Silk. --Image courtesy of Silk.
The Sense camera and home hub from Silk. –Image courtesy of Silk.

And yes, Kevin Tofel and I discuss James Clapper’s comments before the Senate’s Armed Services Committee from last week in this episode, as well as a bunch of updates to some popular products. Some are good, such as the Wemo updates that boost reliability of the platform and Wink’s updates that bring lighting commands inside the home as opposed to between clouds. Some are frustrating, such as Philips Hue updating its Android app in a way that breaks it if users don’t want to share their location and photos. And some are just awesome, like the continued updates to Amazon’s Echo that include support for Spotify, Uber and the Ecobee3. And yes, Barbie has a smart home. So get set for your commute, your run or however you enjoy the show and have a listen.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guests: Andreas Gal, CEO of Silk Labs

  • Barbie’s smart home might rival yours
  • Amazon’s Echo gets better and updates gone crazy for Hue, Wemo and Wink
  • The Internet of things is a gift for spies
  • Meet the Sense home hub which uses computer vision to learn more about your home
  • Rethinking privacy for connected devices

Episode 43: This smart home needs an email address

Freak out! This week’s episode isn’t about disco, it’s all about the security of your things. Or insecurity as the case may be. We talk about Shodan, the search engine for connected devices and the creation of a security framework for connected devices by the researchers at I am the Cavalry. Go read the story at Ars Technica and scroll all the way down to the Cavalry stuff. After we talk about that, we discuss a new programming interface for Raspberry Pi’s from myDevices called Cayenne, Amazon opening up its new Dash Replenishment Service to everyone, and the big news that could shake up the building automation market.

The Cayenne dashboard.
The Cayenne dashboard.

For those of you guys who love thinking about the smart home, I brought Scott Jenson, a UX designer from Google, to join us to talk about his personal thoughts on how connected devices change a home’s design and how to avoid having to give your home an email account just to make it functional as a connected entity. Jenson blogs about some of these topics here, such as why he doesn’t think we should look to smart homes to recreate butlers. Find out why he thinks that, and some of his other ideas in this week’s episode.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Scott Jenson, Google

  • IoT security blows up or just blows
  • Sensors that phone Amazon and the birth of a new industrial internet powerhouse
  • The smart home isn’t a butler, but it still has plenty of value
  • Why Jenson had to give his home an email address

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