Episode 42: These are the two biggest challenges facing the smart home

There is no winner takes all in the smart home yet, because none of the products and services available have the scale yet says Om Malik, this week’s guest on the Internet of Things Podcast. Malik, who is a partner at True Ventures and wrote a great article in the New Yorker on the virtuous cycle of fast infrastructure leading to more users and more data, which leads to better algorithms, which leads to more customers and more data, ad infinitum. We talked about what it would take to get to that point for the Internet of things and the devices he would like to see. He also discussed the challenges ahead, and if you are making products you better listen up.

The UA Health Box sells for $400.
The UA Health Box sells for $400.

Before he and I chatted, Kevin Tofel and I broke down the week’s news including the Amazon Echo’s new ability to read your Kindle books aloud, Nest glitches, and Kevin’s random purchase of the Quirky egg minder. Kevin also reviews the new Under Armour health box that includes a Wi-Fi scale, a fitness band, a heart rate monitor and in his case a pair of running shoes. At the behest of a listener I also found the only two Wi-Fi leak detection sensors on the market to see if they made sense for his needs. So stay turned and listen up.

  • The Nest has new issues, so what is a homeowner to do?
  • Finding a Wi-Fi water sensor is harder than it looks
  • Reviewing the Under Armour gear kit (Now with IBM Watson!)
  • Will the Internet of things build its own monopoly players?
  • Om’s two biggest threats for the Internet of things startups are ….

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 23: Smart home breweries and Amazon’s konnected kitchen kabinets

    I hope you’re hungry for some smart kitchen news because this week I have smart home analyst and the host of The Smart Home Show podcast Michael Wolf coming on to discuss Amazon’s plans for the kitchen and some really awesome technology he’s seeing in that room of the house. Wolf, who is hosting a conference on the topic Nov. 5 (you can register using the code IOTPOD and get 15% off the conference fee) wrote his take on the news that Amazon is building a connected device for the kitchen called Kabinet, that was leaked in a Wall Street Journal story. Wolf and I discuss what the Kabinet might entail as well as some other connected technologies he’s seen and how the smart kitchen will evolve.

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

    Before Wolf and I get started, Kevin Tofel and I share the latest on this week’s news with the Nest outage over Labor Day weekend, ARM and IBM’s partnership to bring the internet of things to more industrial users and introduce our own idea, which is that Google should buy web service If This Then That. The one thing you won’t find is Apple’s latest announcements, because we recorded the show the day before Apple’s announcements. We just give you a reason to listen next week. In the meantime, please enjoy the show.

    Host: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
    Guest: Michael Wolf, The Smart Kitchen Summit

  • The Nest outage shows that once again, we shouldn’t rely on the cloud.
  • In which we find a buyer for IFTTT.
  • IBM and ARM team up for the industrial internet.
  • Inside Amazon’s plans for the smart kitchen.
  • Connected home brews, tea and other trends in connected cooking.
  • Episode 22: The new Nest and behind the scenes with SmartThings’ new hub

    This week has a bunch of updates on old favorites for the smart home with a third generation thermostat from Nest and a new home hub from SmartThings. We start the show with Kevin and I discussing the slimmer Nest thermostat with a bigger screen and software upgrades. Our decision? There is no need to upgrade, but the Nest is still a winner. We also review the reviews of the new router from Google and Kevin decides if he can find one, he’ll try it out and report back. But the biggest news on the smart home front is probably the upgrade to the SmartThings hub, which I’ve had in my home since 2013 and is getting an upgrade on Thursday.

    The new SmartThings hub and smaller sensors.
    The new SmartThings hub and smaller sensors.

    Our guest is SmartThings CEO Alex Hawkinson, who covers some of the changes and the new services model the company first unveiled at CES. We also talk about how it is handling Apple’s HomeKit and competition after its acquisition by Samsung last summer. The company has handled the challenge of being open while also trying to make a consumer-friendly product, which isn’t easy, as any Android user can tell you. This iteration may be the one that pushes it into the mainstream. Listen up and see what you think.

    Hosts: Kevin Tofel and Stacey Higginbotham
    Guest: Alex Hawkinson, CEO and founder of SmartThings

  • The new Nest is skinner and can double as a clock with Farsight.
  • Reviewing the OnHub reviews. Should Kevin buy Google’s router?
  • SmartThings’ new hub is finally here!
  • How to walk the line between open and usable.
  • Why SmartThings isn’t supporting Apple’s HomeKit.
  • As a note to this show, there’s a slight ghosting on Hawkinson’s voice that I couldn’t quite take care of in editing. I apologize.

    Episode 19: Meet the chef teaching a connected oven how to cook

    This week’s podcast explores how sausage gets made. Actually we explore how roast chickens, cookies and salmon get made. Ryan Baker is the research chef at June, a company making a $1,500 connected oven. When he’s not appearing on the IoT podcast he spends his days baking 15 batches of cookies or 20 batches of salmon trying to figure out how to train the artificial intelligence inside the June oven how to build recipes for certain types of food. It sounds like an amazing job, and he’s in a prime position to explain how technology and food prep can come together to change how people learn how to cook and how the internet of things might invade the kitchen.

    Ryan Baker, research chef at June.
    Ryan Baker, research chef at June.

    Before we talk to Baker about how he controls his June ovens at the command line, Kevin Tofel and I discuss Google’s stunning corporate restructuring and what it means for Nest and Google’s Brillo and Weave plans. We also talk about a few examples of the smart home still being a little bit dumb, and some fall out on the security from the Black Hat security conference. On the gadget front, D-Link has a new $60 Wi-Fi water sensor and Kevin reviews the $15 connected Cree LED light bulbs.

    Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
    Guest: Ryan Baker, June

    • Nest is an Alphabet company now, but where are Brillo and Weave?
    • Post-vacation blues in the smart home
    • ZigBee was hacked and here’s a device that could crack your car or garage for $30
    • How should we connect the kitchen?
    • It takes a lot of batches of salmon and roast chickens to teach an oven how to be smart

    Episode 18: Why Target chose clear furniture for its smart home concept store

    Forget about connecting your smart home, can you imagine the technical challenge of connecting a rhinoceros to the internet? That’s what a new anti-poaching organization called Protect has done with its effort to connect rhinos in South Africa to the internet as part of an anti-poaching effort. Kevin and I discuss the project on this week’s show, as well as the challenges of living with new products that try to train algorithms to help make life easier. So far, their just make you have to interact more with mobile apps.

    We also discuss Best Buy’s plan to use the Geek Squad as a network of experts to help homeowners navigate the complexities of the internet of things. Neither Kevin nor I are sure this is the way to save Best Buy, but we’re willing to see if the Geek Squad can become the Apple Genius Bar of the smart home. In other retail news, we snagged David Newman, the man in charge of pulling together Target’s Open House store concept that was launched earlier this month to discuss plans for the space and what he’s learned so far. He also shares why the furniture inside the store is clear. Listen up, and before you go, please note that Kevin and I will be skipping our show next week because we’re taking a quick week-long break in broadcasting. See you next on August 14.

    Host: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
    Guest: David Newman, Target

    • The internet of wild animals
    • Training smart home devices needs some work
    • Best Buy’s plan for smart home relevance also needs some work
    • Why Target went with clear furniture for its Open Home store
    • Target doesn’t have the connection and API drama that normal people experience