Episode 40: The Amazon Echo and AI take a starring role at CES

This week I was at CES, the huge consumer electronics trade show held in LAs Vegas. Kevin wisely stayed home, but monitored the news. IT’s actually easier to do that from 2,000 miles away. There’s more news than we can cover in one show, but we started with the links between Ford and the Amazon Echo and all of the other tie ups with Alexa that were showed off at the event. We then moved to our doubts about the new Wi-Fi standard for the Internet of Things called HaLow and the news that ZigBee and Thread were trying to work a little more closely together and what that means for you.

Finally, we delved into the gadgets and partnership news that caught our eye. Most of it focused on the hot new cameras in odd places, such as inside fridges and outside. But we also spent time discussing IBM’s new partnerships for Watson announced at the show. We’ll come back next week with more insights based on my final days at the show and time spent walking the show floor, but already I think we’re seeing a gradual maturation of the industry. Unfortunately it’s not in the direction we may have wanted in terms of everyone embracing open standards. Interoperability is going to come slowly through custom integrations.

Hosts: Kevin Tofel and Stacey Higginbotham

  • Alexa is the star of CES this year
  • Can you hear me now? Radios get gussied up for IoT
  • Put a camera in it!
  • Did I saw Alexa was the star? Maybe I meant IBM’s Watson.

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 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 28: Warm and fuzzy drones and living with Apple’s HomeKit

    Several HomeKit devices finally arrived in the house and were installed with relative ease. I had the Lutron bridge that had come out earlier this summer paired with two dimmer switches, a lamp module and my Nest thermostat, the new Philips Hue bridge that is HomeKit enabled paired to five Hue lights and a Schlage Sense lock installed on my back door. It was a good smattering of devices, but unfortunately it was the wrong smattering, because none of the apps seemed to have a way to bring all of the individual devices together, unless it was through Siri. Listen up as Kevin and I discuss a full review of the products on this week’s podcast.

    The outside-facing side of my HomeKit-enabled Schlage Sense lock.
    The outside-facing side of my HomeKit-enabled Schlage Sense lock.

    We also cover August smart lock’s new video doorbell, keypad and access plans and Savant’s new DIY home automation system. But most of our time is spent on HomeKit, Apple and little bit of comparison between that and other solutions on the market, such as the Amazon Echo. Our guest for the week covers the topic of helping people age in place through the use of drones. Not today’s drones, but a warmer, fuzzier version that is autonomous. Naira Hovakimyan, a professor in Mechanical Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois discusses her research in developing autonomous drones that work with people and don’t frighten people. Listen up to find out how she plans to transition from farming to helping the elderly.

    Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
    Guests: Naira Hovakimyan, a professor in Mechanical Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois

    Episode 21: Here’s what Amazon’s Echo will and won’t do

    We connected our lights and locks to the Internet and frankly, we don’t seem to be much better off. In this week’s podcast I talk to Claire Rowland a user experience consultant and lead author of Designing Connected Products about why that is, and who actually is better off. We also discuss what she’s discovered about making friendlier designs and why she’s optimistic about the smart home.

    The Philips wireless dimmer kit.
    The Philips wireless dimmer kit.

    In the here and now, Kevin and I discuss how I connected my Wink and SmartThings hub to the Amazon Echo and what we can and cannot do now that we’re linking our hubs into a larger hub. We also do a little review of the latest Hue light product from Philips–a $40 wireless dimmer kit. I even managed to fix a lingering problem with my Wink setup and now I have porch lights that go on when my garage door opens. It’s a known issue with scheduling on the Wink, so listen up to see if it might apply to you.

    Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
    Guests: Claire Rowland, Designing Connected Products

  • So what can you do on the Amazon Echo with SmartThings and Wink?
  • Should you buy the Philips new wireless dimmer kit?
  • Adding the internet to consumer products isn’t enough.
  • Connected devices are turning out to be great for accessiblity
  • I spent $120 on lights so I could control them with my Amazon Echo

    If you love something you should set it free, but if you love a connected device you should spend gobs of money adding more gadgets until you have a platform. And this week I have done just that, spending $20 on six light bulbs that I can control with my Amazon Echo. I explain how I used GE’s Link lights which work with the Philips Hue platform, which works with the Amazon Echo, to both lower my overall energy spend and add voice control to more of the lights in my home. It’s awesome.

    This is my new kitchen light bulb. Purchased for $20 at Home Depot.
    This is my new kitchen light bulb. Purchased for $20 at Home Depot.

    After this week’s news and my lighting project I welcome Andrew Farah,CEO of Density to the show to discuss how we might count people in public places. Before y’all get too worked up, his sensors offer anonymity, and we discuss why merchants, offices, consumers and governments would be keen on getting a tally of people inside buildings. We also talk about alternatives that rely on facial recognition and how building a company that sells data is very different from building a company that sells products.

    Hosts:Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
    Guests: Andrew Farah, CEO of Density

    • News about July Fourth drones, Thread and a free business idea from Kevin.
    • BP is connecting 4,000 oil wells around the world.
    • How to connected cheaper GE Link lights to your Amazon echo.
    • This startup wants to be the Waze of public spaces.
    • Another free business idea involving TVs.

    What does President Obama think about the Internet of things?

    The president recently made a famous podcast appearance but he didn’t talk about the internet of things. Since he has yet to offer to visit the IoT Podcast, I spoke to Darren Samuelsohn, a senior policy reporter at Politico who recently spent seven weeks trying to discover what Washington D.C. thinks about the Internet of things. The resulting series of articles is informative and little bit scary so I had Samuelsohn come on the show to share the D.C. take on all things IoT.

    president_official_portrait_lores

    Before we focus on the nation’s Capitol, Kevin Tofel and I debated whether Amazon just outmaneuvered Apple when it come to building the best smart home platform and discussed how connected devices are changing the insurance business. We start with the details of the Beam Technologies plan to build an insurance business around a connected toothbrush. Finally my visit to Marriott to see a connected hotel room and a follow up 5-minute review of my Ringly connected ring. Enjoy the show.

    Host:Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
    Guest: Darren Samuelsohn, senior policy writer at Politico

    • Can Amazon do for the smart home, what Apple did for the smartphone?
    • New insurance business models for the internet of things.
    • Hotel rooms of the future and an update on Ringly.
    • Is legislation or regulation the way to govern the internet of things?
    • What does the president think?