Episode 372: Ecobee embraces radar sensors!

Did y’all know that almost a quarter of people who buy a smart home device, hire a professional to install it? That’s just one of the facts I learned at the Parks Associates event happening this week in Dallas. We talk about that before focusing on Google’s plans for Matter and SmartThings new Matter testing program. After that we talk about Ecobee’s new thermostats and a HomeKit sensor that uses millimeter wave sensing. In enterprise news, we mention a new real-time asset tracking network service from MachineQ, sub-$2 battery-powered Bluetooth tags from Wiliot, and LoRaWAN getting IPv6 functionality. We close with a review of Eve’s new outdoor camera, and a reminder to stay safe if you’re going to handle smart home installs yourself. In our hotline segment, we answer a listener’s question about moving from Alexa to HomeKit, and finding a garage door opener that works.

Image courtesy of Samsung.

Our guest this week is Stuart Lombard, the CEO of Ecobee and president of Generac connected devices. In our interview we dig into the new thermostats’ industrial design and why Ecobee replaced its PIR sensor with radar. Lombard also explains why services are essential for smart home providers and what Matter may do for the creation of new home services. We end with a discussion of Generac’s acquisition and why the combination of Ecobee and an energy storage and resiliency company makes sense. He didn’t share any specific products but he also gave us a hint about what to expect from the two companies going forward. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Stuart Lombard, the CEO of Ecobee and president of Generac connected devices
Sponsors: LoRaWAN World Expo and InfluxData

  • Google’s preparations for Matter includes two new SDKs
  • Cheap Bluetooth tags are about to be everywhere
  • Eve’s outdoor camera for HomeKit a good choice
  • Why radar is better for people sensing
  • How smart homes will lead to energy resiliency

Episode 371: Smart screws and massive IoT

This week’s show was recorded a few hours before the annual Google I/O event so we didn’t discuss the new Pixel Watch, but we do discuss Google’s thoughts on the Matter smart home standard from an article in The Verge, which Kevin also tied to a discussion about Sonos launching its own voice assistant. Then we discussed a new gesture-recognition and fall-detection system that combines my love of Tiny ML with RF sensing. In privacy news, we focused on the use of private data by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and why we need stronger laws to govern how state agencies use private data. In smaller news, Qualcomm launched a 5G-capable robotics platform, Inmarsat launches a program to sell its Elera satellite IoT network, and Augury acquires Seebo in an industrial IoT deal. We then turn to my favorite story of the week, the creation of smart screws and a bit on the concepts of Massive IoT. We then discuss a question from a listener about the potential to create ad-hoc mesh networks using LoRaWAN or Amazon’s Sidewalk network.

Vivint’s new doorbell camera will detect package thefts and sound an alarm when it happens. Image courtesy of Vivint.

Our guest this week is Mike Child, VP of Product Management at Vivint. This week, Vivint launched an array of new security cameras and accessories as well as a new feature called smart deter. Child is on the show to talk about the design decisions that went into building the new gear as well as what Vivint had to consider when trying to design its smart deter feature. We discuss why it’s important to own your own hardware when building novel AI-based services and what companies need to consider when evaluating partners for future integrations. He also explains why Vivint wasn’t ready to give consumers the ability to record just any message for intruders on their property. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Mike Child, VP of Product Management at Vivint
Sponsors: LoRaWAN World Expo and InfluxData

  • Google and others trying to reset expectations for Matter
  • Why this industrial IoT mashup makes sense
  • Smart screws are why we need tech for massive IoT
  • Why Vivint invested in an AI feature to deter criminals
  • Why building your own hardware is essential for advanced AI features

Episode 370: How to build the infrastructure for public tech

This week’s show kicks off with research suggesting Amazon uses data from Alexa devices to advertise its own products, and that Amazon is selling some of the insights derived from Alexa requests to third parties. This is disturbing, but so is John Deere’s ability to decommission tractors stolen by Russians from a Ukraine dealership. We talk about why this sort of power makes me nervous. And in a final story about digital rights, we discuss the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention buying location data from private companies so it can see how effective some of its COVID policies were. From there we go into basic product news, starting with new wellness features coming to your Google Nest Hub screen ahead of Google I/O next week, a new room sensor from Wyze, new light switches from Leviton that don’t require a neutral wire, and new Wi-Fi 7 chips from Qualcomm. Kevin then shares a new smart home purchase and his thoughts on the Schlage Encode Plus with Home Key door lock. We finish by answering a listener’s question about if we’ll get a custom sound detection from Amazon’s Alexa.

The Wyze room sensor has a screen, and tracks temperature, humidity and motion. Image courtesy of Wyze.

Our guest this week is Bianca Wylie, who is a partner with Digital Public, a public interest firm focused on technology. She wrote an article calling for the end of Canada’s COVID contact tracing application and explains why she thinks it’s time to sunset the app. I think her ideas are important to discuss as our governments invest in digital infrastructure without necessarily having a plan for maintaining or auditing it. The COVID-tracking apps are a great case study that we can learn from. For example, when governments implement new technology they need to figure out how they plan to maintain it and ensure that it is doing the job it was intended to do. As citizens, we need to participate in the process of buying technology, working with government officials to set the requirements and limitations of the tech our government is buying. This is a really good interview for all of us to listen to.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Bianca Wylie
Sponsors: Impinj and InfluxData

  • Amazon is selling Alexa voice data to advertisers
  • We need to classify more data as Personally Identifiable Information (PII)
  • Wi-Fi 7 chips are here but don’t upgrade your network
  • What’s wrong with Canada’s COVID contact-tracing app
  • Smart cities incur technical debt too

Episode 369: Amazon’s $1B industrial IoT fund

We kick off the show this week with Insteon’s comments about its abrupt closure and asset sale before trying to salvage some good news from Arm’s latest chip news. We’re getting a new M-class processor that’s going to be super capable for machine learning at the edge and other jobs. We also give you a preview of next year’s hottest tech, wireless charging for smart home devices. Then we pivot to industrial news with Amazon’s newly announced $1 billion fund for industrial innovation. So far Amazon is investing in computer vision and robotics startups, but warehouse automation, supply chain technology and logistics are all of interest for the fund. Amazon also released a new Alexa talent for the smart home, Sense raised $105 million for smarter home energy monitoring and Wyze introduced a garage door controller. We close out the news with a found Pixel watch, an update on the Sigfox sale, and Kevin reviewing an Airthings View Pollution air quality monitor. On the hotline this week we answer a question about a HomeKit hub that’s stuck in standby mode.

Wireless charging is coming to Belkin devices. Image courtesy of Wi-Charge.

Our guest this week is Willem Sundblad, CEO of Oden Technologies. Oden Technologies is an industrial IoT startup that tries to bridge the gap between operational technology data and IT data. We discuss how its clients are using the software to help track the quality of their batch processes, and how software is helping its customers with supply chain challenges and sustainability goals. Paper manufacturing and plastics companies are facing issues getting enough raw materials with supply chains mucked up, and so are trying to use more recycled materials. But changing inputs means adjusting the process, which can be difficult and lead to poor yields while the manufacturer adjusts the recipe. Oden’s customers are able to tweak their processes for new inputs faster and without as much waste, which is something to be excited about. It’s one of the things I had hoped the IoT was going to enable, and I’m glad to see it happening.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Willem Sundblad, CEO of Oden Technologies
Sponsors: Impinj and InfluxData

  • Insteon’s final goodbye is pretty frustrating
  • Alexa has a new talent and is going to share it with Google Nest devices
  • This $200 air quality monitor does too little for so much
  • Industrial IoT software can help with sustainability goals
  • More data can lead to more confident plant operators

Episode 365: Helium gets a new name and $200 million

This week’s show was recorded on the road, but we still cover all of the big news starting with LoRaWAN network Helium changing its name to Nova Labs and raising $200 million. We then discuss research from MIT that offers privacy for people captured on video and several options for connecting beehives. I then get depressed about a UK startup offering incentives for being healthy, Kevin gets excited about Eufy’s latest combo video doorbell and door lock, and we both try to figure out who the new Arduino Pro Portenta X8 is for. We also discuss a security flaw in Wyze cams, remind people about best practices for securing connected devices and share news that Google is also trying to build the ability to discover Bluetooth trackers into Android. Finally, we answer a listener question about deleting phantom devices from HomeAssistant and Amazon Alexa.

The Beewise robotic beehive is ready for occupation. Image courtesy of Beewise.

Our guest this week is Doug Stovall, the CEO of Ossia, an over-the-air wireless power company. Ossia’s technology, called Cota, uses the 5.8 GHz spectrum to send 5 watts of power to devices that have a Cota chip and are able to accept it. There’s no charging pad or wire involved.nWe discuss the company’s recent FCC approval, which brings the technology to the U.S., as well as a deal with Archos, a French smart home device maker. Stovall says we’ll see Cota-enabled products in 2023 and maybe a smart home camera in time for the holidays. We dig in on how to think about efficiency when it comes to power delivery and what kind of impact over-the-air wireless could have before we play a game where I say a device and Stovall tells me how it should be powered. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Doug Stovall, the CEO of Ossia
Sponsors: Save our Standards and RAKwireless

  • Helium has a new name, $200 million and a mysterious revenue model.
  • What is it about IoT beehives?
  • Well, this is an innovation in smart locks.
  • Charge a smartwatch over-the-air? Sure.
  • Let’s play Name That Power Source.

 

Episode 358: Why Resideo’s First Alert buy makes sense

On this week’s show, we talk about the Resideo purchase of smoke detector company First Alert for $593 million and why it makes sense. Then we focus on connectivity with an update on the Sigfox receivership and a look at the annual report from the LoRa Alliance covering the adoption of LoRaWAN networks around the world. For Raspberry Pi owners we have good news on the OS front and for people who want to load the Pi OS from the network. Then we talk about two government efforts to track potholes and beach trash using AI and sensors. On the chip front, the big news is that Nvidia has formally stepped back from its plan to acquire ARM, leaving ARM with nothing to do but plan a public offering. Also, Simon Segers has stepped down as the CEO of ARM and was replaced by Rene Haas, the president of ARM’s IP business. Meanwhile, Intel is embracing RISC-V, and we talk about why that matters. In smaller news, Netgear’s latest routers make it much easier to create a separate IoT network, Apple’s VR/AR glasses are real, and Samsung’s big event this week didn’t offer up any IoT news, but we did see the end of Bixby. We end by answering a listener question about using Matter in industrial settings.

Associate Professor Prem Prakash Jayaraman of Swinburne University works with Dr. Felip Marti Carrillo and Dr. Yong-Bin Kang (left to right) to test cameras on garbage trucks in Brimbank, Australia. Image from Swinburne University.

Our guest this week is Yana Welinder, the CEO and co-founder of Kraftful. She joins us to discuss the new analytics software Kraftful has launched and to broadly discuss best practices for connected device apps. Unsurprisingly, getting a device connected quickly and easily is the most important consideration for most connected device makers, and she’ll discuss how to make that easy. But she also talks about when apps make sense compared with voice interfaces or automated routines. We end our conversation with her take on what the upcoming Matter smart home interoperability protocol might mean for her business and for consumers at large. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Togel
Guest: Yana Welinder, the CEO and co-founder of Kraftful
SponsorsRightpoint and Hologram

  • Smoke detectors have a huge opportunity in the smart home
  • Using sensors and computer vision to make cities better and beaches cleaner
  • ARM’s next step should include a plan for RISC-V
  • If your users can’t connect their device in 10 minutes, they’re gone
  • Imagining a world where every product has an app is a nightmare

 

Episode 355: Get ready for an active FTC and energy storing appliances

The big story this week in IoT was the joint venture between Ford and ADT to add smart home security to cars through an in-vehicle security system. Then we discuss the FTC and Department of Justice reconsidering how they evaluate mergers. We also explain variations on Wi-Fi, from the launch of new Wi-Fi 6E gear to the coming Wi-Fi 7 standard. We include a blast from the past with an update on Misty Robotics and, in other robot news, we cover research from the MIT Media Lab on giving robotics a personality. We’re also sharing news about energy harvesting Bluetooth company Atmosic, which has a new product and $72 million in funding. In smaller news, we are excited about smart home company Tado going public, and a new way of handling IR sensing that could figure out the nutritional value of food. We stick with the food topic by discussing my latest purchase, a smart induction range from GE Appliances. Finally, we listen to a question from Kevin in St. Louis about using Amazon Sidewalk or LoRaWAN in wearables.

Furhat Robotics has acquired Misty Robotics for better social robotics. Image courtesy of Furhat. 

Our guest this week is Kailas Nair, a co-founder and director at Plentify. The South African startup is trying to help power companies store energy generated by renewable sources for later use by home appliances. Nair discusses how his startup is trying to use sensors and data analysis to make it possible to power a fridge, a heat pump, or a water heater when power is cheap and clean, for use when renewable energy isn’t available. He also explains how important it is to manage energy across many homes, not just on an individual basis. For the last five years, Plentify has sold its electronics and algorithms for water heaters in South Africa, and now he’s bringing the tech to the U.S. and hoping to convince appliance manufacturers to put the Plentify tech into their own products.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Kalais Nair, co-founder and director at Plentify
Sponsors: Rightpoint and Hologram

  • Canopy will bring smart home security to cars
  • U.S. merger guidelines are set to change
  • Let’s talk about Wi-Fi 6E and Wi-Fi 7
  • Smart appliances will become a source of stored energy
  • How Plentify will use insurers and utilities to bring energy storage to homes

Episode 353: Virtual CES extravaganza

It’s CES week, and neither Kevin nor I are physically there for the second year running. That makes it really tough to get a macro sense of cool tech and upcoming trends outside of press releases and product launches. Normally, we spend so much time trawling for the weird or futuristic in the demos and report on the stuff that isn’t pre-packaged in a release. Maybe we can return to that next year. In the meantime, there are a lot of stories, but the biggest trends in the smart home relate to the upcoming launch of the Matter interoperability standard for the smart home, a bunch of new products that will support HomeKit, and new products for Amazon Alexa and the Google ecosystems. We are also are excited about the newly launched Home Connectivity Alliance and what it might mean for future product features and energy consumption in the home.

Arlo’s new DIY security system includes an all-in-one sensor and keypad. Image courtesy of Arlo.

After a quick break, we share our non-amazement of John Deere’s automated tractor. It’s cool, but it has also been half a decade in the works, so it’s not like it comes as a huge shock. We then discuss new products from Samsung (an energy harvesting remote and a tablet for the smart home), Schneider Electric’s update to its energy management software, a new assistive robot, and Arlo’s smart home security system with an all-in-one sensor. Outside of product news, the Wi-Fi Alliance has released an update to the Wi-Fi 6 standard with more uplink capacity and better power management. This will ensure that Wi-Fi 6 is more relevant for IoT devices and perhaps ensure those chips get used in more end devices, especially in cameras and video doorbells. Masonite also showed off its smart door at CES so we share our impressions. Finally, we answer a question from a listener about power consumption in IoT devices.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Sponsors: Twilio and Silicon Labs

  • Matter may be late, but it’s looking much better
  • All three digital assistants got a lot of love from new product launches
  • John Deere’s robot tractor shows how technical farming has gotten
  • Wi-Fi 6 gets an update custom-made for the IoT
  • How much energy does Alexa or Siri consume?

Episode 348: We’re thankful for smart cows

Heading into the holiday weekend, Kevin and I share what we’re thankful for (mostly y’all, our sponsors, each other, and Thread), while also talking about the sad sale of Tile to Life360. We also discuss ClevrQeexo, and efforts to make AI accessible to people who can’t or don’t want to code. After that, I discuss my desire for a new activity tracker and the rise of Wear OS. We also talk about a new HomeKit camera from Aqara that’s pretty fancy without having a high-end price tag before diving into some of the financials and data from Samsara’s IPO filing. This week on the IoT Podcast Hotline, we answer a listener question about the anti-drunk driving provision in the Build Back Better legislation.

Smaxtec can track the health of cows for better milk and fewer farts.

Our guest this week is Stefan Scherer, the CEO of Smaxtec, a company making health sensors for dairy cows. First, we learn a lot about cows and how to assess temperature, motion, and data on acidity from a cow’s stomach and translate that into health metrics. Then we talk about the challenges of building a sensor that’s rugged enough to last three to five years in a cow’s stomach as well as the challenges of keeping such a device connected. With this data, farmers are able to track disease spread in dairy cows and prevent costly illnesses that could mean their milk gets tossed, while also tracking data that can help prevent cow farts from causing as much damage to the environment through the release of methane. You’re going to learn a lot about cows and a lot about solving a connectivity problem I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Stefan Scherer, CEO of Smaxtec
Sponsors: Twilio and Juniper Networks

  • Several things we’re thankful for
  • Why the Tile buy makes us a bit sad
  • How no-code AI will make information overload less of an issue
  • Rugged sensors can lead to smart cows, and smart milk prodiction
  • Smaxtec wants to optimize a cow to produce fewer carbon emissions

Episode 339: Much ado about privacy and support

This week’s show kicks off with the news of the Raspberry Pi Trading company closing a new funding round of $45 million. We talk about what the Pi Trading company is, how it relates to the Foundation, and how companies are building Pis. We then dig into Apple’s plans for healthcare, including plans for tracking mental illness. Plus, we give an update on what iOS 15 means for HomePods. Helium’s network expands, or rather Senet’s LoRaWAN network expands thanks to a deal with Helium, and Inmarsat provides some context about how COVID-19 is driving adoption for IoT connectivity technologies. Arlo has updated its support options, and we hate them. Facebook has introduced new devices, and we’re kind of meh on them. But Wyze has a new camera that pans, and we’re into that. Then we talk about Kevin switching to the Meross HomeKit garage door opener. We also answer a listener question about the newly launched Home Assistant Amber device on the IoT Podcast Hotline.

Home Assistant has introduced a new hardware concept called the Amber, but if you order now it won’t be delivered until November 2022. Image courtesy of Home Assistant.

This week’s guest is Leo Simonovich, the head of industrial and cyber at Siemens Energy.  He and I talk about the threats facing the grid, especially as we add renewables and more two-way devices. He also points out that while the media focuses a lot on nation-state attacks, issues like ransomware and other threats are far more likely and damaging. Siemens Energy recently announced a new security product, so he explains how the company is closing the divide between IT and OT while also adding credence to the idea that we need to watch how devices behave in the real world and not just on the network when it comes to security monitoring.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Leon Simonovitch, Siemens Energy
Sponsors: Trek10 and Ayla Networks

  • You may be surprised by who’s buying Raspberry Pis
  • Do you want an algorithm to diagnose mental illnesses?
  • Arlo’s new support plan is anti-consumer
  • Why the energy grid is such a reliable target for malicious hackers
  • Siemens is using digital twins to help secure the grid