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 67: New Nest gear and a shocking experience

For the first time since it became part of Google/Alphabet, Nest has released a new product. It’s an outdoor camera for home security. But Nest has added a bit of a twist. We discuss the $199 camera and the ideas behind it with Mehul Nariyawala, a product manager who was in charge in building the camera.

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

Before we dig into the deets on Nest, Kevin Tofel and I share this week’s news. First up, Kevin installed an Ecobee 3 and learned some valuable lessons. (This is the Steve Jenkin’s post that Kevin wished he had seen.) And because we felt left out of the general hubbub about Pokemon Go we talked about the game and augmented reality. It probably could have helped Kevin with his install. To make sure we got into the IoT news of the week, we ran down the partnership all-in-one security device Canary signed with an insurance company, GE and AT&T’s partnership with Microsoft Azure and bit more depth on Alibaba’s new smart car. Also, he’s a link to my new favorite app, Lexa.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Mehul Nariyawala of Nest
Sponsors: Xively and wolfSSL

  • Kevin’s shocking Ecobee experience and some good advice
  • Pokemon whoa!The game taking the world by storm
  • Microsoft’s Azure is cleaning up with the enterprise IoT
  • Is this the Nest security product you were looking for?
  • Outdoor cameras are so hot right now!

Episode 66: The smart home will make you love your insurance company

Insurance firms might be the savior of smart home technology. Because the price for many connected gadgets are so high, and consumers are uncertain if they are worth the investment, insurance discounts and programs are one way connected devices could find their way into a home. But they also could help the insurance companies totally transform their business. This week, we discuss the future of the smart home and insurance with Ryan Rist, the VP of Innovation at American Family Insurance.

Ryan Rist of American Family Insurance
Ryan Rist of American Family Insurance

Before we get to that, though Kevin and I talk about how manufacturers should kill connected devices using the end of EyeFi as our case study. Then we offer consumers some advice on how to kill their accounts for connected devices when they want to return them to stores or just leave them behind based off the experience a Redditor had with an Arlo camera from Netgear. And just for fun we also covered the Nest patent for a baby crib, the expansion of LoRa networks and my thoughts on the Arlo camera.

Hosts: Kevin Tofel and Stacey Higginbotham
Guest: Ryan Rist, American Family Insurance
Sponsors: Ayla Networks and Wolf SSL

  • The end of EyeFi and how to kill a product.
  • Don’t return your connected device before doing this.
  • LoRa, LoRa everywhere!
  • Taking insurance from reactive reimbursement to proactive protection.
  • Will your insurer make an app for that?

Episode 62: Tony Fadell set to Away mode

This week we got to the big story of the last few days, Tony Fadell leaving Nest. We discuss what that means for any Nest buyers out there and what it says about selling connected device. And because Father’s Day is around the corner, we came up with three gift ideas for Dad. None of them relate to ties, golf or grilling. And for people who love lighting as much as I do, we found reports of white BR30 lights from Philips Hue, something I’ve been eagerly awaiting since the launch of the white, standard A19 bulbs.

The Nest thermostat courtesy of Nest.
The Nest thermostat courtesy of Nest.

Then we move to this week’s guest, Chris Penrose, the SVP of IoT at AT&T. He chatted with me about the carriers plans for building an IoT business beyond cars, and also talked about the opening of the latest AT&T innovation center devoted to medical devices. This AT&T Foundry is based in Houston, Texas and will tackle home health devices as well as challenges associated with connected hospitals. Enjoy the show!

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guests: Chris Penrose, SVP of IoT, AT&T

  • Next steps for Nest
  • 3 gift ideas for Dad
  • My dreams have come true
  • AT&T takes on medical devices
  • Why the last mile is now the last meter

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 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 53: How to prevent good devices from being killed

This week’s show deals with recurring themes such as whether or not you should trust the cloud, device lifespan, the Amazon Alexa platform and more lighting than a Times Square billboard. Our guest this week is Mike Pessina, the co-CEO of Lutron. He shares his recipes for great lighting (at the very end) and talks about the role of Lutron’s proprietary wireless protocol for lighting control in a world that is rapidly embracing Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Before we learn about Lutron, Kevin Tofel and I discuss the news that Nest plans to shut down all Revolv smart home hub devices that are in the field, turning the $299 device into a hunk of metal and plastic scrap.

A Lutron Caseta dimmer switch (left) installed near the Osram Lightify wireless dimmer switch (right). A regular rocker switch is in the middle.
A Lutron Caseta dimmer switch (left) installed near the Osram Lightify wireless dimmer switch (right). A regular rocker switch is in the middle.

While Revolv sold fewer than 10,000 units, those who own one are upset. We came up with a few suggestions that might help other connected device companies avoid alienating their users in case of failure or a sale. On the brighter side, Amazon’s Alexa platform is gaining new smarts, with the Smart Home API now available to anyone. We also tell you how to control your TV with Alexa and review the Amazon Dot. This week you also get a second review, of the Osram Lightify dimmer switch, which renters and folks who aren’t keen on replacing their wired switches will like. And once again, we ask that you take our survey if you have a chance.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham
Guest: Michael Pessina, Co-CEO of Lutron

  • The Revolv fiasco is bad for the smart home.
  • Where did you put your Amazon Dot?
  • Get Alexa to turn on your TV with Yonomi.
  • Who should buy this $30 Osram dimmer switch?
  • What’s next for Lutron

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 49: Did you buy an Amazon Dot?

This week’s podcast is chock full of smart home stuff with updates from Nest, new products from Amazon and some new tech on the Wi-Fi front. Mozilla is getting into the Internet of things, with four ideas for possible open-source products that range from a smart home hub to voice recognition services. Kevin isn’t sold on the need for more options, but if Mozilla doubles down on security and privacy it might be worth looking at.

amazondot

We don’t have a guest this week since I am traveling, but Kevin and I spent a lot of time discussing Amazon’s new hardware. The launch of the Amazon Dot and Amazon Tap aren’t totally unexpected, but we’re not sure about the rationale for the portable Amazon Tap. We did both shell out $90 for the squat Amazon Dot. We also briefly discussed the semiconductor industry getting set to pass 1 trillion devices sold in 2018 and a future low-power Wi-Fi technology. So, listen up and enjoy this week’s show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel

Episode 44: Mandatory Fitbits and a new ISP with smart home aspirations

Last week the man who founded Aereo, a company that was aimed at bringing over the air television to the masses who couldn’t always get it, and then allowing them to time-shift that television by recording it, launched Starry. Starry is a new type of ISP that aims to deliver gigabit internet service to homes (in Boston at first) and will also sell a router, smart home hub combo device. Because any new hub device gets my attention–especially if it comes with gigabit broadband–Chet Kanojia, CEO of Starry, came on this week’s show to discuss his plans. We didn’t get too much into the technical details of the broadband, but did talk about why he’s adding a smart home component and what he learned from Aereo. It’s a good listen.

The Starry Station hub.  --Image courtesy of Starry.
The Starry Station hub. –Image courtesy of Starry.

And of course, Kevin and I talked about the news of the previous week with Oral Roberts mandating Fitbits for students, which segued into insurance firms and the Internet of things. Then we moved onto the Alphabet earnings and what that meant for Nest. We were a little disappointed. We also discussed two really cool projects and hope someone out there tries to make the homemade Amazon Echo project or purchases the Pine64 smart home pack. If you do either of these things, email us at info at iotpodcast dot com to tell us about it. Next week Kevin and I will talk about Cisco buying Jasper for $1.4 billion as well as this awesome Google Now mirror Max Braun at Google built.

Host: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Chet Kanojia, CEO of Starry

  • Mandatory Fitbits and the future of insurance.
  • How many Nests are out there exactly?
  • Built your own Amazon Echo with Intel and a USB mic.
  • Why build an ISP with a smart home component?
  • How to avoid a single point of failure in your business.