166: Alexa gets better at business and AI at the edge

The General Data Protection Regulation took effect last week so we kick off this episode by talking about what it means for IoT devices. We then hit the Z-Wave security news and explain why it isn’t so bad, after which we indulge in some speculation on Amazon’s need to buy a security company. We also discuss a partnership between Sigfox and HERE and a new cellular module for enterprises. Also on the enterprise IoT side, we review Amazon’s new Alexa meeting scheduler feature. Then we hit on news about Arlo cameras, Philips’ lights, new gear from D-Link and Elgato’s compelling new HomeKit accessories. We also have a surprisingly useful Alexa skill for enterprise service desks.

The new Elgato Aqua is a HomeKit water controller for your spigot. It will sell for $99.95. Image courtesy of Elgato.

Our guest this week is Jesse Clayton, a product manager for Nvidia’s Jetson board. I asked Clayton to come on the show because the 10-watt Jetson board is being used in a lot of industrial IoT applications and I want to understand why. He tells me, explains how AI at the edge works and shares some cool use cases. I think you’ll learn a lot.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Jesse Clayton of Nvidia
Sponsors: Praetorian and Bosch

  • Baby, don’t fear the GDPR
  • Here’s that list of Z-Wave certified devices
  • Amazon’s scheduling has a lot of hoops
  • A good explainer of machine learning
  • Why companies need computer vision at the edge

Episode 165: How Sears plans to use IoT

I was at the Parks Connections event that covers the smart home this week, so I share a few thoughts on what’s holding back adoption and how to think about using AI to create a smart home. From there, Kevin talks about the new meeting function offered by Alexa and we add nuance to the debate over Amazon selling facial recognition software to police. We then dig into some additional doubts about the new Wi-Fi EasyMesh standard, cover Comcast expanding the places it offers new Wi-Fi pods, discuss funding for a smart light switch company and new Arduino boards. For the more industrial and maker minded, we talk about Ayla adding Google Cloud as a hosting option and Kevin shares how we put our IoT hotline into the cloud. Finally, we answer a question about getting different bulbs to work together before switching to our guest.

A panel on smart home user interfaces. Photo by S. Higginbotham.

This week’s guest is Mitch Bowling, the CEO of Sears Home Services, who gives me the answer to what Sears plans to do with its acquisition of Wally sensor business back in 2015. I have been wondering what happened to Wally inside Sears for years. He also discusses how Sears can use IoT to make appliance repair better and the plans to add smart home installation services. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guests: Mitch Bowling, CEO of Sears Home Services
Sponsors: MachineQ and Bosch

  • Device interoperability is a huge challenge for the smart home
  • The fuss over computer vision is just beginning
  • What can Sears Home Services do with IoT?
  • The smart appliances are coming!
  • The installer will see you now

Episode 164: New Wi-Fi standards and robots

The Wi-Fi Alliance has created a new standard for mesh networks, and Kevin and I are on top of it, discussing what it means, who’s participating, and whether or not it matters. We then tackle Sigfox’s new sensor and network in a box offering before sharing details on a new home hub from Hubitat that keeps your data local. We then talk up a new product for communicating with your kids, plans for outdoor lights from Philips and Netgear’s Arlo, and Kevin discusses his experience with the $20 Wyze v2 camera. He also bought a Nest x Yale lock, so we talk about that before getting a tip from a listener on the hotline about using cameras to set his alarm.

The Misty II is cute and somewhat affordable.

Our guest this week is Chris Meyer, who is head of developer experience at Misty Robotics. We talk about the newly launched personal robot that is aimed squarely at developers. In our conversation we get technical (so many specs), physical (why do robots fart?) and philosophical (will playing with robots turn our kids into monsters?). You’re going to enjoy this episode.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Chris Meyer of Misty Robotics
Sponsors: MachineQ and Bosch

  • Where’s Eero in this new Wi-Fi spec?
  • A hub privacy-minded folks could love
  • Why wouldn’t you buy this $20 camera?
  • Robots are in their infancy
  • Why do robots fart?

Episode 163: Everything IoT from Microsoft Build and Google I/O

This week was a big one in the tech ecosystem with Microsoft and Google both hosting their big developer conferences. Microsoft’s featured a lot more IoT. Google shared a few updates for its Google Home and, prior to the show, made its Android Things operating system available. In Alexa news, Microsoft showed off its integration between Cortana and Amazon’s digital assistant, and Amazon added in-skill payments to Alexa. Ring has a new app, Fibaro has a new button, Netgear has a new update, Wyze has a new camera, Intel Capital has a new partner,  and we share a new report on camera security. I also share my experience with the Nest Hello Doorbell and the Nest Yale lock before we answer a question about moving music from room to room using the Amazon Echo.

The Fibaro HomeKit compatible button is $60.

Our guest this week is Microsoft’s head of IoT Sam George. He’s been on the show before, but this time we run down the big news on edge computing from Microsoft Build and discuss how a company can avoid messing up their business transformation. It’s a fun show no matter what you care about.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Sam George, head of Microsoft’s IoT platform
Sponsors: MachineQ and Twilio

  • Google’s turning the Home into a hub
  • How much is your hacked camera feed worth?
  • Thoughts on the new Nest gear
  • Why Microsoft’s edge strategy is open source
  • How to out of pilot purgatory for enterprise IoT

Episode 158: Stacey and Kevin debate robots

Intel said it would sell its nine-year-old IoT acquisition Wind River to private equity firm TPG this week. We explain why, and offer some context on the deal. Driven by Spotify’s public listing, I suggest how it can improve its service for the IoT, and then Kevin and I debate what we’d like to see in robots. Kevin shares a smart radon detector. News bits include stories about Google possibly building its own smart display, controlling the Nest Secure system through Google Assistant, Sigfox doing a deal with Louis Vuitton, and enabling devices to use emotion as a form of contextual insight. I also offer a word of caution for those installing video doorbells and we answer a question from Zach about multiple users and the Google Home.

The Airthings Wave is a smart radon detector for €199.

Our guest this week is Elecia White who is the creator of the Embedded podcast and an embedded systems engineer. She has spent 20 years building software for devices that aren’t computers and has a lot of insights on how the internet of things is changing the role of such engineers and the tradeoffs one makes when building a connected product. I enjoyed her stories on the challenges of security, the future for her job and the ideal team you need if you want to build a connected device. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Elecia White producer of Embedded
Sponsors: Forgerock and Ring

  • Why Intel dumped Wind River
  • Should digital subscriptions be tied to homes or to users?
  • I do want a Google display
  • What the heck does an embedded systems engineer do?
  • What your ideal smart device team should look like

Episode 155: New toys, Pi Day and insect-tracking LIDAR

We have reached the purported end of Broadcom’s bid for Qualcomm, so Kevin and I finally shared our thoughts on the topic. After that we discussed a murder that was solved using evidence from connected devices, Google Routines and Strava’s privacy clean up. We used the SmartThings outage to discuss whether or not we need a hub in the smart home before hitting an array of new devices, including the new Raspberry Pi Model B+, Ecobee’s new light switch, and a new security hub/camera from Abode. Kevin’s Nest Cam solved a crime as well and we answered a listener question about taking the first steps to learn about the IoT.

The Raspberry Pi Model 3 B+ has more computing power and still costs $35.

Our guest this week was Tobias Meene, the global head of digital farming at Bayer AG, who shared a bunch of insights about bringing sensors, machine learning and intelligence to farmers. He discussed how the firm has managed to remotely identify insects by their wingbeats using LIDAR, several startups working with Bayer to make farming more productive and how Bayer sees IoT remaking its business and business model. Plus, Bayer has built a cool app to identify weeds and problems called Xarvio. I couldn’t try the app because it’s not compatible with my devices, but I would love to. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Tobias Menne of Bayer
Sponsors: Samsung Artik and IoT World

  • Chip consolidation ain’t over yet
  • Google Routines is a step forward, but not far enough
  • This week’s crop of new devices is strong
  • The problem with using LIDAR to track insects
  • How Bayer finds customers who want to buy into its new business plan

CES 2018 was about more than voice

CES is full of stories if you know where to look. This year we had to look beyond companies putting Alexa in everything from toilets to toothbrushes. If you did, you could find out all kinds of fascinating things, such as the big opportunities in the enterprise internet of things or what Comcast is doing with its purchase of Stringify. While roaming the halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Sands Expo, I asked people what they were excited about, what they were looking for and what they think the future might hold.

Once again, we bring you the less obvious side of CES.

The results are in this podcast, with interviews with Alex Hawkinson, CEO of SmartThings; Nate Williams, an EIR at Kleiner Perkins; a CEO who sold his camera startup to Ooma, and many more. I also share my favorite device from CES, which is not exactly something you can buy at Best Buy. But if we’re lucky, we could soon see it in something from Amazon. I hope you enjoy. If you do, thank the Open Connectivity Foundation which sponsored the entire episode, and gave an update on that standard effort.

Host: Stacey Higginbotham
Guests: There are a lot
Sponsor: Open Connectivity Foundation

  • Comcast explains what’s next for Strinigfy
  • Alexa Hawkinson on Samsung’s plans for SmartThings
  • Ben Nader of Butterfleye on how to pick a buyer
  • Nate Williams on enterprise tech
  • Willy Pell on how to architect machine learning at the edge

Everything you need to know from CEDIA

Grab your headset for a special bonus edition of the Internet of Things Podcast from the CEDIA show floor in San Diego. Last week I attended the show, which is aimed at the professional AV installer market to understand what’s hot, what’s not and how the business of home automation will evolve. I saw some beautiful televisions and more light switches than I even knew existed, while I walked away despairing of ever getting the smart home experience right.

This OLED screen is actually two OLED screens mounted back-to-back in a sheet of glass. It costs $20,000 and is designed for high-end retail.

I spoke with Julie Jacobson, the founding editor of CEPro to find out what she thought was cool, met with Tim McInery of Savant to talk about the benefits consumer tech has on the installer business and asked Richard Gunther of the Digital Media Zone to explain the changes in business models. I also interviewed the CEO of Josh.ai to understand why the smart home industry has progressed so slowly, and talked to Ragan Mena, the president of Audio Zeal, a custom installer to see what toys he was excited about. He did like the Josh Micro, which enables voice access for older custom systems.

This entire episode was sponsored by Ring, which is offering discounts on bundles of home security items to both consumers and pro installers. Visit www.ring.com/stacey to learn more.

  • Stacey’s highlights and news (0:45)
  • Julie Jacobson of CEPro on trends and cool stuff (10:25)
  • Tim McInerney of Savant on the benefit consumer tech has for installers (14:40)
  • Richard Gunther of The Digital Media Zone discussing the custom installer business model (16:20)
  • Ragan Mena, president of Audio Zeal explain how he decides what consumer tech to use (22:00)
  • Alex Capecelatro, of Josh.ai on why Crestron, Control4 and others have a hard time competing against consumer tech (25:10)

Episode 120: Learn how 3-D sensors work before Apple puts them in the iPhone

What did you buy for Prime Day this week? This week we tackle if Amazon’s new program to help folks install Alexa-enabled devices is a big deal and Apple’s retail plans for HomeKit. We also discuss fashion-forward wearables, and a new startup called Nodle that’s trying to create crowdsourced Bluetooth-based IoT networks. We have a lot of data on voice thanks to IFTTT and spent some time discussing a friendly French IoT company.

Lighthouse combines machine learning, natural language processing and computer vision to create an assistant for your home that can see, hear and speak.

Then I chat with Alex Teichman about Lighthouse, his new startup that marries computer vision with a voice-based personal assistant to make your life easier. For the nerds out there, we also discuss the category of sensors available for 3-D sensing and how they differ. This matters for Lighthouse, self-driving cars and maybe even for the next-generation iPhone. Get ready to cover everything from recurrent neural networks to frickin’ lasers!

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Alex Teichman co-founder and CEO at Lighthouse
Sponsors: Schlage and Affiliated Monitoring

  • Do you need a Mother? It’s on sale.
  • Can Apple build the right showroom to sell the smart home?
  • Louis Vuitton gets into wearables
  • How to use 3-D sensing to make computers see more
  • How Apple may choose to use 3-D sensors to unlock phones

Episode 114: The Essential Phone and IBM’s Watson tries IoT

What makes a phone essential? Or Essential as is the case with Andy Rubin’s new company that features a new smartphone and teases a new connected home assistant? Kevin and I discuss what we know, and Kevin also explains a surprise decision he’s made regarding Google (here’s the link he mentions during the show). We also discuss Apple’s potential AI chips, ARM’s new designs and a way to add capacitive touch to wood! Finally, I share my WeMo dimmer switch thoughts.

The Essential Phone in white.

This week’s in the guest segment we discuss assistants and bots in the home and enterprise. Bret Greenstein, VP of Watson IoT for Consumer Business at IBM, shared a bit about Watson and IoT, but his biggest service might be his help breaking down how analytics, machine learning and AI all relate. It’s a good mix of the future for enterprises and consumers. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Bret Greenstein of IBM
Sponsors: Aeris and Affiliated Monitoring

  • Essential Phone and Home launch thoughts
  • Kevin’s surprise purchase
  • The WeMo dimmer is nice, but pricey
  • Time for an AI vocabulary lesson
  • What happens when computers know how you feel?