Episode 367: What do you want in a home robot?

In this week’s show we question whether or not we want Amazon’s Astro home robot after seeing a few reviews. We then note that Google has introduced gaze as signal to wake up Google Assistant, which is one of the first uses of gaze as a wake-up indicator for the smart home. Then we talk about wearables starting with a recollection from Eric Migicovsky, the founder of Pebble, about what went wrong ending up with Pebble’s assets sold to Fitbit. We compared the Pebble story to the latest funding for the Oura ring, and mentioned Fitbit’s new FDA-approved atrial fibrillation detection. Then we discuss smarter tags manufactured in a new Brazilian factory for Avery Denison before discussing two new options in air purifiers: one from Wyze and one containing a UV-filter from Xiaomi. In other product news, here’s a new smart grow lamp and watering system for houseplants and some smart trackers with a greener footprint. And for all of our Home Assistant fans, Kevin checks in on the platform after a one-year-hiatus. We close by answering a listener question about consolidating smart lights.

Amazon’s Astro robot roves around the home trying to be helpful. Image courtesy of Amazon.

Our guest this week is Dan Simpkins, CEO and co-founder of Dwellwell, a startup that aims to create a check-engine light for the smart home. Simpkins started the company in 2018 after experiencing a flood caused by frozen pipes, and realizing that many of the options available to monitor the home were too expensive and siloed. The solution he’s worked out is a SaaS product called Dwellwell that relies on custom-sensors that contribute data to several algorithms to check on the health of several home systems. We discuss how it works, why he chose to go after the multi-family and rental market and why he needs to use his own sensors. We also discuss the role Matter will play in the smart home and eventually, his platform. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Dan Simpkins, CEO of Dwellwell
Sponsors: Impinj and InfluxData

  • Is your home robot ready?
  • What we’ve learned in a decade of wearables
  • Home Assistant’s worth another look
  • Why companies should base their AI on their own sensors
  • How Dwellwell rethinks traditional maintenance devices

Episode 366: Meet a robot that weeds your garden

This week’s podcast starts with an update on the state of Bluetooth adoption courtesy of the Bluetooth SIG. We discuss adoption of Bluetooth in the smart home, adoption of Bluetooth mesh and why Kevin prefers NFC to Bluetooth for secure keys. From there we discuss a new effort by the U.S. Congress to make it easier for medical device companies to keep their devices secure and up-to-date. We then talk about a new chip that handles a lot of the complexities associated with energy harvesting chips, and a new partnership program from Wiliot to enable other companies to put their postage-stamp-sized computers on products. We also talk about how the chip shortage can have negative impacts on R&D, building off of conversations I have had recently, and this article. In product news we discuss using picture-in-picture for Apple’s HomeKit camera feeds, Eufy’s new battery-powered camera that has a cellular subscription, and whether we should be done with Wyze gear or not. Kevin also reviews the Wyze gun safe and finds that its connectivity doesn’t offer much value. We end the first half of the show by answering a listener question about creating a do-not-disturb option for connected devices.

The Bluetooth SIG estimates that Bluetooth will be in 552 million smart home devices shipped in 2022. Chart courtesy of the Bluetooth SIG.

Our guest this week is Helen Greiner, a co-founder of iRobot and CEO of Tertill, a weeding robot. We discuss what she learned building a robot designed for the mass market, and how to think about introducing new capabilities over time. We also discuss how the Tertill works. It’s surprisingly low-tech for a robot, but that’s intentional to keep the price low enough to convince skeptical consumers to shell out $349 for a robot designed to keep gardens weed-free. We also talk about adding a subscription business model to the company’s mix and why that matters today. We end with Greiner’s vision for the smart garden of the future. It’s a fun interview just in time for spring.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Helen Greiner, CEO of Tertill
Sponsors: Save our Standards and RAKwireless

  • Whatever happened to Bluetooth mesh?
  • Congress wants to make medical devices more secure
  • The chip shortage may be hurting innovation
  • What the creator of a weeding robot learned from robotic vacuums
  • Tomorrow’s smart garden has plenty of sensors and solar-powered robots

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 352: As Alexa goes, so does the smart home?

We’re back after a one-week break in the Internet of Things Podcast, and we didn’t miss too much. The biggest stories of this show are the slow collapse of CES 2022 and a Bloomberg article that uses internal Amazon documents to show how Alexa growth has stagnated and illustrates the hopes Amazon has for its smart speakers. We also talk about Alexa’s unfortunate suggestion to a 10-year-old looking for a challenge. After that, we discuss a survey related to edge computing from Zededa after we explain what edge computing means for different folks. Then, in smaller news, we highlight Level Lock’s new keypad, a smart ring, sales data on connected appliances, and my review of the Fi collar. We close out the news portions of the show by answering a listener question about why he can’t find Wi-Fi motion sensors anywhere.

The Level keypad fulfills an essential need for people who don’t carry a smartphone — or their keys. Image courtesy of Level.

Our guest this week is Raoul Wijgergangs CEO of EnOcean. Wijergangs joined EnOcean in August to help the maker of energy-harvesting IoT devices expand into building management with a focus on sustainability. In the interview, Wijergangs talks about what he’s learned from his efforts building out the Z-wave standard, and how he’s trying to apply an ecosystems approach to making buildings smarter. We also talk about the challenges of designing energy-harvesting sensors and what new energy harvesting technologies might become available. It’s a fun interview.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Raoul Wijgergangs CEO of EnOcean
Sponsors: Twilio and Silicon Labs

  • I’m no longer going to CES, and I’m not alone.
  • Alexa and the smart home are stagnant.
  • I love keypads with my smart locks.
  • Sustainable buildings should be smart and need middleware to get there.
  • New polymers might drive the next generation of energy harvesting devices.

Episode 344: Energy harvesting sensors are finally real

This week’s show kicks off with news from many of the big smart home players offering their plans for the Matter smart home protocol. First, we discuss Google’s plans, before focusing on Samsung’s latest announcements and then a surprise update from Eero, which is owned by Amazon. Sticking with Amazon, we also cover the news that Alexa is now employed in hospitals and senior living facilities. We cover industrial IoT sensor provider Augury’s $180 million round of funding, and a new report from Palo Alto Networks on how remote working and IoT devices have compromised enterprise security before heading into some news from Amazon, Aqara, Inmarsat, and two retailers removing Chinese cameras from their shelves. Finally, we answer a listener question about a switch for LIFX lighting without a neutral wire.

Alexa is heading to senior living facilities and hospitals. Image courtesy of Amazon.

Our guest this week is Steve Statler, the senior vice president of marketing at Wiliot, a company that had been making Bluetooth beacons that don’t require batteries. Now the company offers sensing as a service and licenses its chip technology. Statler explains the shift and discusses how Wiliot had to build up a web of relationships to make the sensing-as-a-service option possible. We also discuss how smart Bluetooth tags can create what Statler calls the demand chain to track products on an individual level and ensure supply meets demand based on reality instead of estimates. Statler also talks about how to make the tags recyclable, and what he still needs to make that happen. It’s a fun interview for people who have high hopes for smart labels, and who want a glimpse of the future where items in your fridge or closet may communicate with you after you’ve purchased them.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Steve Statler, Wiliot
Sponsors: Very

  • More support for Matter (and more questions too)
  • Alexa now has a role in senior living facilities and hospitals
  • Augury’s sensors have saved Colgate-Palmolive a lot of tubes of toothpaste
  • Why Wiliot switched from selling chips to selling a service
  • Do we want our clothes to ask us why we haven’t worn them in a while?

 

Episode 342: Explaining the IoT’s latest $11B deal

The industrial automation world got a jolt of news with Emerson combining some of its industrial IoT software businesses with AspenTech in an $11 billion transaction. We explain why the deal matters and what it means, before hopping over to discuss Best Buy’s acquisition of Current Health. Then we review large funding rounds for Plume and Magic Leap. On the product news front, AT&T will provide connectivity for Blues Wireless, Tile’s new trackers have Ultrawideband, and Ecobee has added Siri support for its voice thermostat. Apple is also thinking about health sensors inside its AirPods, although this has been a dream of headphone companies for years, and Amazon Alexa has new Halloween routines. I’m less excited about the routine and more excited that Amazon has found an easy mechanism to share routines. We close out the news segment of the show by answering a listener question about smart devices for woodworking workshops.

Tile uses AR to help find your lost objects. Image courtesy of Tile.

Our guest this week is Jim Carroll, who is the CEO of Sendal, a fairly new smart home company that wants to create services built on the backs of popular connected devices. We discuss the planned business model, why people will pay for good user experiences in the smart home, and how to share revenue among many device makers. We also get Carroll’s perspective on the smart home from his time as the CEO of Savant until now. Like me, he’s disappointed at where we’re at and hopes to change it. We then discuss how you can differentiate a true IoT company from a hardware company, and how to graduate from thinking like a device maker to a services company. It’s a fun interview, and I always enjoy a good Boston accent.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Jim Carroll, CEO of Sendal
Sponsors: Trek10 and Ayla Networks

  • Why Emerson’s deal with AspenTech matters for the industrial IoT
  • Best Buy aims to be the connected device integrator for remote healthcare
  • Why Magic Leap got more money
  • After Savant, this is the smart home problem Jim Carroll wants to solve
  • Are you a real IoT company or just a pusher of connected hardware?

 

 

Episode 340: Amazon wants you to trust its devices

This week’s podcast is all about Amazon (with a few other stories for variety). We start the show with a rundown of the devices and services Amazon launched at its device drop on Tuesday. We then explain what it means for the smart home and ask if this is what we want. We also question if the Astro robot is really all it seems before offering a public service announcement about updating to iOS 15 beta software. After that, we cover a new Helium miner called Finestra, designed for the mainstream consumer. As an added bonus, the company behind the new miner, Mimiq, is also building LoRaWAN devices, which is desperately needed if we want these networks to actually provide real value. After that, we talk about a smaller satellite signal module that works indoors and an incredibly irritating marketing campaign for the new Flic Twist device that puts me off from what is actually a good idea. Then, Kevin talks about his experience with the new Wyze Cam Pan 2. We close the news segment by answering a listener request for a Spanish-speaking smart home.

Amazon launched a $1,000 robot. Image courtesy of Amazon.

Our guest this week continues the Amazon theme. We have Anne Toth, head of Alexa Trust to discuss how Amazon is trying to introduce friction into the Alexa experience as a way to promote privacy and help consumers open up to Alexa at their own pace. She didn’t answer my question about the number of false positives or give me a convincing reason why Alexa keeps interrupting me with suggestions about other things I can do with the device, but she does a good job talking about the challenges of explaining what Alexa does and doesn’t know about people and why people may want Alexa to know more. It’s a good interview, even if I didn’t get all the information I’d like.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Anne Toth, Head of Alexa Trust at Amazon
SponsorsTrek10 and Ayla Networks

  • Ambient intelligence is code for stop looking at your smartphone
  • There’s a looming wave of new Helium miners
  • Flic has a cool new device coming, but finding out about it is annoying
  • Amazon does care what you think about privacy
  • Alexa talks back so you know all of the cool things it can do

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

Episode 338: Wyze comes back from the edge

I need to warn y’all in advance that we don’t discuss Apple news at all this week because nothing really jumped out at us for the IoT. But we did have a lot of other big news starting with Wyze raising $100 million and sharing the precariousness of its situation over the last 18 months. We then talk about a political risk for Tuya and what that might mean for your devices, and three pieces of news from Silicon Labs’ Works With event that have big implications for radios, Matter, and security. After the chip news, Kevin sets the record straight on a story that got Matter wrong, I get excited by new chips coming out of a stealthy startup, and there’s an acquisition that will help developers work with more IoT devices.  Google has a new digital twin service for supply chains, Whoop has a new fitness wearable with a fancy battery, and Yale added HomeKit support for its cabinet lock. We end the segment by answering a listener question about new smart home cameras.

The Luci device fits onto existing power wheelchairs. Image courtesy of Luci.

Our guest this week is Jered Dean, who is a co-founder and CTO of Luci, a startup making a smart addition for power wheelchairs. First, Dean explains why power wheelchairs are so dangerous and why he created Luci. Then we dive into other challenges of building specialized millimeter-wave radar sensors for the device and specialized ultrasonic sensors and how challenging it is to combine those sensors and cameras into one view of the world. We also talk about why Dean added integrations to connect Luci with health monitoring platforms and digital assistants. And finally,  we talk about what it could mean if Luci shared data about what it “sees” with smart city or mapping platforms. I really had fun with this one.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Jered Dean, co-founder and CTO of Luci
Sponsors: Silicon Labs and Infineon

  • Wyze shares the details of its near-death experience
  • Silicon Labs has new radios, a new security option and software for a unified smart home
  • JFrog’s Upswift buy is good news for the IoT
  • Why this startup had to build its own sensors to see the world
  • How smart cities could help people using smarter wheelchairs

 

 

Episode 333: An IoT networking bonanza

Elon Musk’s SpaceX satellite broadband company is getting into the IoT with the acquisition of Swarm, a smallsat IoT connectivity provider. We talk about that deal, plus what it means that Helium scored $111 million in funding led by Andreessen Horowitz. After that, we talk about malvertising infiltrating the IoT and the Samsung smartwatch that launched Wednesday. We also discuss the creation of a virtual border wall built with surveillance tech and facial recognition. In other news, Wyze has a new camera option, there’s a connected sump pump on the market, and Legrand is using Netatmo’s tech to launch battery-powered light switches that can control pre-installed Legrand dimmers and switches, allowing them to work as a remote control for existing switches. Finally, we answer a listener question about older Insteon gear and telnet.

Legrand’s new battery-powered switches can act as a remote for existing Legrand switches in the home. Image courtesy of Legrand. 

Our guest this week is Rob Aitken, a fellow and director of technology at Arm, who came on the show to discuss the new priorities in designing chips now that Moore’s Law is less of a driver for innovations in silicon. His argument is that price-performance per watt is the new focus for designers, although flexibility and cost still matter a lot. We talk about the drivers for chip innovation in the past and he also shares his thoughts on a future where chip design is less focused on the latest process node, and embraces older alternatives. This might also help us mitigate some of the problems associated with the chip shortage. Aitken packs a lot of insights into his interview, and you’ll learn something even if you aren’t a huge chip nerd.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Rob Aitken, a fellow and director of technology at Arm
Sponsors: Very

  • Why Swarm got snapped up by SpaceX
  • Helium’s 5G network needs more details
  • Samsung’s new smartwatch isn’t bad
  • Why Moore’s Law matters less
  • Chip designers have more freedom to play without Moore’s Law