The biggest news in the internet of things this week was the staggering story about Amazon’s Alexa business being responsible for the majority of an estimated $10 billion loss in the year ahead. So Kevin and I discuss what Amazon pulling back on Alexa might look like and what it means for voice and the smart home. Then we talk about how a newly available Amazon device signals Amazon’s problem and the potential solutions to that problem. After talking about voice, we take a look at a new controller from Aqara that uses gestures and share our thoughts about the form factor. After all our user interaction talk, we then cover some news, such as the FIDO Alliance planning to work on security and authentication issues for the IoT, Google’s plans for aggregating fitness data, and a new dev kit from T-Mobile. We also talk about new devices from Wyze and Firewalla. Finally, we answer a listener’s question about connecting LED fairy lights. Then it’s time to talk about the holidays.
Every year we choose 10 devices that we think make good holiday gifts for our audience and their loved ones. This year we suggest a few in the first part of the show, such as the JaxJox kettlebell and my perennial favorite, the Ember mug. (I gave this to my mom in 2019, and she still uses it every day.) This year’s gifts include a smart plug designed for Matter, a device to reboot your router, and multiple options for smart buttons from Philips Hue and Shortcut Labs. We also include a Nanoleaf option because we’re such fans of the devices as gifts for teens. We also include some fancier gifts for chefs and dog owners. There are more options in this week’s newsletter, but before we sign off we also want to thank our listeners for the gift of their time this year, and the nine years that Kevin and I have been producing this show. Y’all are awesome.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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