Episode 425: Smarter grocery stores are coming

Krogers and Walmart are both expanding various IoT devices to more of their stores as part of a larger shift in how connectivity and intelligence will change how we shop. Walmart is deploying electronic shelf labels in 500 stores while Kroger is installing Cooler Screens’ connected refrigerator doors that replace the glass doors with a screen and uses optical sensors to track when people are walking by a case to show them ads. We talk about how these changes may or may not benefit shoppers and why broad deployment may also lead to better broadband quality. Then Kevin shares his dreams of a home robot and the launch of an easier way to program embedded hardware from Microsoft. We also look at the history of the Internet of Bees with news from Sateliot, and focus on projects from Microsoft, Oracle, and many others. In smaller news, Wyze has a new outdoor light with AI features, NXP has a new line of industrial application processors, Amazon is getting rid of celebrity voices, and Level debuts a connected doorbell product for multifamily units. We’re going to see more smart home companies pivot toward apartments in the next few years. There’s also a new Mirai variant spreading across IoT devices. Finally, we answer a listener question about installing low-voltage wiring during a home renovation.

Cooler Screens makes doors for cold storage that can show shoppers what’s inside. Image courtesy of Cooler Screens.

Our guest this week is Nate Williams, founder and managing partner at Union Labs VC. He’s on the show to answer my questions about the current fundraising environment for startups. We talk about what it takes to raise an early round of funding, and why venture capital firms are reluctant to invest in new companies while they try to figure out what their existing investments need. He also mentions that Union Labs is raising a second fund, and discusses what areas he’s excited about. We then discuss the hype around generative AI and what he’s looking for in AI investments. We end with our thinking about the current state of smart home investments. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Nate Williams, founder and managing partner at Union Labs VC
Sponsors: Particle and Kudelski IoT

  • Will smart store technology benefit retailers or consumers?
  • Microsoft’s DeviceScript is a cool software tool for embedded devices
  • A brief history of the Internet of Bees
  • A closer look at the venture market for those seeking funding
  • If you’re selling AI to investors, you need a moat

 

Episode 424: Trust, AI, and the economy drive IoT conversations

This week’s show is live from Dallas as I attend the Parks Associates Connections smart home event, so I start out discussing some of the themes I’ve seen so far, including the growing importance of data privacy, local processing and generative AI. We also talk about the five-year-anniversary of the General Data Protection Regulation in the EU and evaluate its impact so far (it’s not as bad as you think). On the security front, we evaluate Samsung’s plans for IoT security with its Knox Matrix vision and talk about its similarities to the security design for the Matter smart home interoperability standard. Microsoft’s Build event is also this week, and the company’s newly launched Fabric data service and unified data lake products are worth watching for enterprises and industrial customers trying to aggregate and use IoT data. Then we cover some smaller news items such as new Matter products from Yeelight, Govee, and Yale. There’s also a new smart outlet with a sensor-packed outlet cover that has been funded via Kickstarter, which our audience might be interested in. Finally, we answer a listener question about good Zigbee-based light bulbs.

The Yale Assure Lock SL will have a Matter Smart Module, available for $229.99 in black suede or satin nickel. Image courtesy of Yale.

Our guest this week is Paul Williams, chief product officer of Nice North America, who last appeared on the show two and half years ago when he was at Savant.  We start off talking about Matter. Williams says that so far the roll out has been slower than expected which has obviously affected adoption, but he hasn’t lost hope for the standard. He also explains how Matter might affect professional integrators. During our conversation on generative AI he discusses how Nice is using AI currently and where he’d like it to go with generative AI. However, he cautions that privacy of consumer data and corporate data is a real concern when using generative AI, so he’s looking for more conversations about how providers deal with that. We close with a discussion about the economy and how it affects professional integrators and the adoption of smart home devices. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Paul Williams, chief product officer of Nice North America
Sponsors: Computex and Blues Wireless

  • There’s still optimism about the smart home at the Parks Associates event
  • GDPR turns five, and we look at what it has done
  • Microsoft’s new Fabric will bring all of your data together for analysis
  • Matter’s slow roll out is disappointing, but not a deal killer
  • In bad news for smart homes, new home starts and sales are down

Episode 423: Why Wemo is a no go for us

We start this week’s show with a conversation about Latch, the company that is acquiring Jamie Siminoff’s stealth startup. Siminoff, who also founded Ring, left Amazon (which had acquired Ring in 2018) this week ahead of the planned deal. He will become the CEO of Latch after the deal closes. Then we discuss Google I/O and wonder why we didn’t hear more about Google Assistant, and explore what it means to bring large language models to the smart home. Surveillance is a possibility. And for residents of public housing in the U.S., surveillance is a reality as landlords use cameras and AI to evict residents for minor infractions. They are weaponizing the internet of things. Also in depressing news, we recommend you never buy Belkin Wemo gear again and toss the Wemo gear you own after poor handling of security vulnerabilities by the company. In smaller news, Infineon has purchased TinyML company Imagimob, Amazon has lost a robotics executive and launched new Echo gear, and Eve has two new products. Finally, we answer a listener question about a message users might hear from their Google devices as Google sunsets a program called Conversational Actions.

Amazon introduced a new Echo device called the Echo Pop that will sell for $39.99. Image courtesy of Amazon.

Our guest this week is Doug Roberson, the chief operating officer at Shelly. We talk about Shelly and its history, as well as the products it offers. Roberson explains Shelly’s focus on relays designed to connect outlets and light switches with sensors and other devices to manage electrical consumption in homes and businesses. He talks about how enterprises are using Shelly’s products and what consumers can do with them. He also gives us a tutorial on connecting your dryer to the internet to detect when your clothes are done. We end with an update on Matter and a sneak peek at coming Shelly products, including a water shut-off device. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Doug Roberson, the chief operating officer at Shelly
Sponsors: Computex and Blues Wireless

  • Latch has a bunch of issues. Will Siminoff solve them?
  • Google Assistant was missing at Google I/O
  • When smart cameras can see everything, which laws do police enforce?
  • We recommend Shelly gear often, what is this company?
  • Shelly’s U.S. business has an enterprise, integrator, and DIY audience

Episode 422: The Pixel tablet is a smart home let down

Google launched a new tablet and dock at the Google I/O event Wednesday, and Kevin and I share our thoughts on how it might fit in with a smart home. Will it replace your Nest Smart Displays? We also share some of the updates expected in the new Google Home app before moving on to discuss Roku’s new smart home security system. Then we ask questions about the new State Farm and ADT combined security and water monitoring plans that provide a 6% discount on your insurance premium. Will insurers see your ADT data? You do have to to share it. After this we talk about Qualcomm’s V2X acquisition of Autotalks, the return of Mirai on TP-Link routers, and more perspectives on the Aqara FP2 sensor. It’s not great at fall detection, but it is able to offer some unique automations based on where people are in a room and how many people are there. We then end the news section by answering a listener question about connecting IR devices to your smart home.

The new Roku security system has two sensors, a hub with a siren, a keypad, and an alarm. Image courtesy of Roku.

Our guest this week is Calista Redmond, the CEO of RISC-V International. She explains what RISC-V is and the why the chip world needs a new instruction set. She also gives some examples of RISC-V architectures used to design chips for the IoT. There are hearing aids and edge computing gateways that currently use the technology as well as automotive chips. We also addressed concerns about the lack of software that supports the RISC-V architecture and how the organization plans to handle fragmentation. Enjoy.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Calista Redmond, CEO of RISC-V International
Sponsors: Computex and Blues Wireless

  • The Pixel Tablet isn’t supposed to replace your Nest Displays
  • State Farm’s investment in ADT is now a real product. We have questions.
  • Qualcomm is still betting on vehicle-to-vehicle communications
  • What the heck is RISC-V and why would we use it?
  • How companies are using RISC-V for the IoT

 

Episode 421: Amazon adds Thread and beefs up Alexa

Amazon has turned on the Thread-capabilities inside its Echo devices so they can support the Matter smart home interoperability standard in its totality, so Kevin and I talk about what that will and won’t do for smart home users. It’s also the moment I give up on my dreams for the Matter specification. We also discuss the end of the Amazon Halo products, and plans to make Alexa savvier by updating the large language model behind the digital assistant. Then we talk about Arm’s plans for an initial public offering and a new report from Forrester on the state of the IoT. After that, we talk about Google and Apple teaming up to help prevent stalkers from using AirTags and other tracking devices, and the return of a rumored Nest tracking device. Then we mention Abode’s integration with Google’s Nest devices, and Kevin reviews the SwitchBot Hub 2 (with Matter) and BlindTilt. We end by answering a listener question about Level locks and its plans to support Matter.

Forrester says that four out of five organizations are in the process of adopting or have plans to adopt IoT.

Our guest this show is Jonathan Beri, who is the founder and CEO of Golioth, a platform to link hardware to the cloud. Golioth recently raised $4.6 million in a tough funding environment, so we talk a bit about what Beri plans to do with the money. But the bulk of our conversation touches on the changes happening in the embedded world as connectivity gets added to more devices. Beri provides historical context to help explain why the embedded world and OT staff have been so slow to adopt the Internet of things, and then expresses his hopes that the phrase IoT will simply fade into the background as connectivity becomes assumed. Before we can get to that place, he explains what vendors, developers and buyers need to think about from security to business processes. It’s a good show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Jonathan Beri , founder and CEO of Golioth
Sponsors: Computex and Blues Wireless

  • Amazon adds Matter, kills Halo, invests in Alexa
  • What worries enterprises about the IoT?
  • SwitchBot’s devices are surprisingly useful in Kevin’s opinion
  • Virtual PLCs and standard radios indicate a big shift in embedded computing
  • Bringing IT skills to the embedded world will make it safer

Episode 420: First impressions of the new Aqara mmWave sensor

This week we start the show with my first impressions of the Aqara FP2 mmWave sensor. This $83 sensor can detect multiple people in a room, light settings, and falls. It’s also one of the first presence sensors that uses radar to detect people as opposed to interruptions in infrared light. (The newest Ecobee thermostat also has a radar sensor for person detection.) After talking about my experience getting the device working and covering its limitations, we move on to discuss the use of dark patterns in IoT devices, based on an article from Consumer Reports. Then we talk about an update to InfluxData’s time-series platform that might be useful for those processing time-series data. In funding news, Hakimo raised money for using computer vision for physical security, and $96 million went to smart electric panel maker Span. In small product updates WiZ lights get a Matter version, there’s a new Shelly Bluetooth button, and Google Nest devices will chime instead of providing a long-winded spoken confirmation. And then we cover the new Z-Wave module for Yale’s Assure 2 lock. Finally, we answer a listener question about smart locks that would work with the Ring security system.

The Yale Assure 2 lock now comes with Z-Wave as an option. Image courtesy of Yale.

Our guest this week is Daniel Wroclawski, a senior writer at Consumer Reports, who is on the show to discuss an article he spent two years writing. It’s about how connected appliances collect and share your data. We talk about his conversations (or lack of conversations) with the five big appliance makers about the state of connected device data gathering. We discuss why consumers and manufacturers are excited about connected appliances and then talk about some of their potential downfalls. For example, will your oven features work if you don’t connect it to the internet? Maybe not. We also talk about what we should do in our homes to protect our privacy and what Congress needs to take action on. It’s a good show, especially if you have a connected fridge.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Daniel Wroclawski, a senior writer at Consumer Reports
Sponsors: OnLogic and Silicon Labs

  • The Aqara mmWave sensor can detect falls or light levels and presence.
  • The IoT has embraced dark design patterns.
  • Lights with Matter, better Bluetooth buttons, and Z-Wave locks.
  • Why does your dryer need to be connected to the internet?
  • Most appliance makers didn’t want to share what data they collect.

Episode 419: Little sensors save big amounts of water

This week’s show has lots of updates and small updates. We start off with a story about a golf course near San Diego that has saved millions of gallons of water using connected soil sensors. And then we review what changed with Zigbee PRO 2023 and cover the NIST efforts to create practical framework for protecting medical device privacy and security. In other medical news we talk about a new device from Cherish Health, which will use millimeter wave sensing to track falls and movement in a home, and the rise of ambient sensing as well as the launch of a new smart scale from Withings, which lets you track your weight without ever having to confront the numbers on the scale. Then we discuss the UK’s competition regulator opening up an investigation of Amazon’s deal to buy Roomba maker iRobot, before also talking about a new feature on certain Roomba vacuums. In small news HomePods can now listen for smoke alarms going off and Google is adding Matter to its most recent Nest thermostat — and only that thermostat. And speaking of Matter, Kevin tested out the beta version of Matter support on Home Assistant, and was impressed. Finally, we answer a listener question about smart breaker panels and GFCI outlets.

The Cherish Serenity device uses millimeter wave sensing to detect movement and falls. Image courtesy of Cherish Health. 

Our guest this week is Robert Pile, the head of real estate strategy at Homma, a company that is building smart homes. The company started out building smart homes but has since switched to building townhomes and multifamily units for rentals thanks to the changing real estate market. Pile talks about the technical challenges of building the infrastructure for smart homes and what types of buyers are choosing their properties. He also discusses the price premium that people are paying to buy or rent a smart home that’s built smart from the first foundation pour. I’m not sure if I’m done with my DIY efforts, but it does sound nice to have everything already smart when you move in. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Robert Pile, head of real estate strategy at Homma
Sponsors: OnLogic and Silicon Labs

  • GroundWorx sensors makes water use visible, and reduces it
  • Could ambient sensing be the key for aging in place?
  • Home Assistant has a really nice Matter implementation
  • How much will people pay for a smart home or apartment?
  • What does the “plumbing” for a smart home look like?

Episode 418: Why is the smart home still so terrible?

This week’s show is full of both good news and bad news, starting with Google apparently dropping software update support for third-party smart displays. We question Google’s commitment to the smart home, even though the good news from Google is that it has released more capabilities to control new device types — a bit of good news. Then we review Nanoleaf’s Matter-enabled Essentials light bulbs and strips and are a bit worried about what it means for Matter. If you’re putting these bulbs in your smart home, you’ll need the Nanoleaf app and can only control them on one hub ecosystem based on our testing. That’s not what Matter was designed to do! In more bad news, Samsung SmartThings deleted a bunch of hubs on April 5, and we suggest some alternative options if you’d like to switch platforms. Digital privacy rules are getting more attention and I think smart medical device implants represent a tipping point. In generative AI news, Siemens and Microsoft are bringing AI to factories and we explain how they might work, while the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has a request for comment out on auditing AI. You have until June 10 to submit comments. The CSA has announced the launch of Zigbee Pro 2023 with better security features and a new transmission band. Finally, we answer a listener question about bringing smart charging his Tesla with his solar panels.

Kevin’s 10-inch Lenovo Smart Display can play YouTube videos, Netflix and images from his Nest cameras. Image by K. Tofel.

Our guest this week is Eben Upton, the CEO of Raspberry Pi Trading Ltd. and co-founder of the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Upton explains why Sony Semiconductor has made an undisclosed investment in the Pi Trading company. He also details the end of the supply chain challenges for the PI and says customers should see the shortage of Pis end in the second quarter (which is now). We also talk about why Raspberry Pi won’t get ML accelerators or smarter sensors on the board, what the industrial world is doing with Pis, and when we might see a Pi 5. We close with thoughts on RISC-V and future custom Pi designs. It’s a great interview.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Eben Upton, the CEO of Raspberry Pi Trading Ltd.
Sponsors:OnLogic and Silicon Labs

  • What is Google telling us about its smart home strategy?
  • Nanoleaf’s new Matter lights showcase Matter’s broken promises
  • Generative AI gets White House attention and a factory job
  • When will Raspberry Pi supplies return to normal?
  • Sony Semiconductor’s Pi investment is about manufacturing and smarter sensors

Episode 417: We need a standard for aging in place

This week’s podcast is focused on IoT infrastructure, with our first conversation explaining the upcoming 6G cellular connectivity standard. After that, we discuss sales of IoT connectivity chips and modules, and the leaders in each category before moving on to low-power wide area network news from Unabiz, which is open sourcing the code for Sigfox. Then we talk about smart home systems and devices for aging in place, and what we’d like to see for products in this category. The bad news is we need a standard that no one is currently developing, but the good news is we think people will pay a subscription for these devices, so there’s a reason to create that standard. Security is our next hot topic with news from DoorBird, then an ultrasonic exploit, a garage door exploit, and a Wi-Fi exploit. We then discuss the market update from the Bluetooth SIG. Finally, we answer a listener question about which new Matter or Zigbee light bulbs to buy.

The Bluetooth SIG expects Bluetooth to gain the biggest market share in the smart home as a means of connecting appliances and in lighting. Chart courtesy of the Bluetooth SIG. 

Our guest this week is Tarun Gupta, the chief product officer at Skylo, a company that is using existing satellite infrastructure to converge satellite and cellular networks. Gupta explains what satellite connectivity is good for in the IoT, and how we can expect convergence between the cellular and satellite networks to occur. He also explains why Apple’s and Qualcomm’s satellite approaches differ from other options out there, and how the latest release of the LTE standard will drive the convergence between cellular and satellite networks. We then discuss the concerns around space trash and whether companies need to own their own constellation of satellites. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Tarun Gupta, the chief product officer at Skylo
Sponsors: OnLogic and Silicon Labs

  • Why 6G is ready-made for the industrial IoT
  • We need a Matter-like standard for devices aimed at aging in place
  • DoorBird’s new firewall is an interesting approach to security risks
  • Why satellite connectivity is everywhere this year
  • These are the best use cases for satellite coverage in IoT

Episode 416: What the heck is an IoT hyperscaler?

With this week’s show I feel like we’re singing the same old tune. Philips Hue maker Signify is delaying its implementation of Matter while it waits for others to implement features it needs. Meanwhile Eve has started selling plugs that are Matter-ready from the get go, and will sell new Matter-ready contact and motion sensors starting April 17. In related news, we tout the fact that the Thread Group has now certified 200 devices. We also see a new integrated DIY home security product from Google and ADT, which is a culmination of their $600 million partnership signed three years back. In enterprise news, we discuss Kore’s acquisition of Twilio’s IoT assets and try to figure out what an IoT hyperscaler is. Amazon has also opened up its Sidewalk Network, a free LPWAN for connecting devices (it’s free because it sends your data to AWS). We talk about what I saw with regards to Sidewalk coverage in my travels around Seattle and the Bay Area. We then hear about Kevin’s frustrations with HomeKit and the latest Apple iOS upgrades that broke his smart home, and new features from the Home+ app which Kevin uses to manage his devices. I then review the Homey Bridge, a DIY smart home hub. Finally, we answer a listener question about Shelly products.

The ADT/Google start bundle which retails for $220. Image courtesy of ADT.

Our guest this week is Chuck Sabin, the head of market development for the Bluetooth SIG. He is on the show to discuss the newly launched Bluetooth standard for Electronic Shelf Labels. We discuss what electronic shelf labels will enable for consumers and retailers, as well as the different services and profiles that the SIG has built into the standard. After extolling the potential benefits for Instacart shoppers, we then talk about smart tags and the concept of ambient IoT. You’ll be hearing that phrase a lot more often. The SIG is working on a standard around smart tags, as well as updating its networked smart lighting standard. You’ll get a good sense of what Bluetooth plans to bring to the IoT, so enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Chuck Sabin, the head of market development for the Bluetooth SIG
Sponsors: InfluxData and Silicon Labs

  • Why is Matter taking so long, and what problems should you expect?
  • What is an IoT hyperscaler, again?
  • Amazon’s Sidewalk network is live for developers.
  • How Bluetooth’s electronic shelf label standard works.
  • The Bluetooth SIG also plans updates for smart tags and networked lighting.