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 162: Smart walls and dumb homes

This week Kevin and I discuss Amazon’s big security install reveal and how it made us feel. Plus, a smart home executive leaves Amazon and Facebook’s rumored smart speaker makes another appearance. China is taking surveillance even further and Kevin and I share our thoughts on the state of the smart home, and failed projects. In our news tidbits we cover a possible new SmartThings hub, a boost for ZigBee in the UK, the sale of Withings/Nokia Health, the death of a smart luggage company, and reviews for Google Assistant apps. We also answer a reader question about a connected door lock camera.

The Smart Wall research was conducted at Disney Research. The first step is building a grid of conductive materials. Later, researchers painted over it.

This week’s guest Chris Harrison, an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University, share his creation of a smarter wall, one that responds to touch and also recognizes electronic activity in the room. We discuss the smart wall, digital paper, how to bring context to the connected home or office, and why you may want to give up on privacy. It’s a fun episode.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Chris Harrison, an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University
Sponsors: MachineQ and Twilio

  • A surprise appearance from the Wink hub
  • What happens when IoT can read your thoughts?
  • Kevin swapped hubs and is pretty unhappy about it
  • A cheap way to make connected paper
  • Go ahead, rethink you walls

Episode 161: Amazon’s Alexa Blueprints, home robots and more

This week’s show finds me in Sweden pondering Alexa Blueprints, the Amazon Echo for kids and Amazon’s smart robot plans. Kevin and I talked about all of that, before showcasing new research for IoT out of Carnegie Mellon, the University of Washington, and Princeton. Two senators proposed a social media data sharing law that appears to ignore the IoT, Comcast reported growth in home automation subscribers, a few gadgets got new features and there’s a new version of a popular IoT chip that can handle mesh Wi-Fi. Kevin changes his smart home platform and we advise someone on a connected kitchen renovation.

The IKEA Tradfri lights have expanded to include colors and wall-mounted flat lights.

Our guests this week are from IKEA with Rebecca Töreman, who heads up the IKEA Tradfri products and Lena Pripp-Kovac, Sustainability Manager IKEA of Sweden. Töreman gives us a Tradfri update after a year on the market, while Pripp-Kovac offers valuable tips on how to design connected products with sustainability in mind. It left me questioning how I think about many connected devices. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guests: Rebecca Töreman and Lena Pripp-Kovac of IKEA
Sponsors: Forgerock and Twilio

  • Alexa for kids and the home robot debate reignites
  • Smart walls, power-saving cameras and IoT security
  • Kevin is dumping SmartThings for Wink
  • IKEA’s next smart home area could be health
  • How to design a sustainable connected product

Episode 160: A deep dive into Microsoft’s IoT security platform

This week’s show is all about Microsoft’s new IoT security product, Azure Sphere. Kevin and I start with that, before talking about a new checklist from the Online Trust Alliance explaining how to secure your enterprise IoT gear. We then discuss acquisitions such as Nice buying a 75% stake in home security startup abode, Lutron buying professional lighting company Ketra, and the possibility that Google might acquire Nokia’s health assets. In news bits, we talk about August’s new unlocking powers, Twilio’s new SIM offering, smart pet transport and VMware’s new lab setting for its IoT software. Kevin shares his thoughts on HomeKit sensors from Fibaro and we answer a question about doorbells.

The Art Institute of Chicago uses Ketra’s lighting. Ketra was recently acquired by Lutron. Image courtesy of Ketra.

Our guest this week is Galen Hunt from Microsoft, who has been working on the Azure Sphere product for the last four years. He shares why Microsoft attacked IoT security with a hardware, OS and cloud product and shared how far Redmond is willing to go on openness. He also talked about the revenue model, support life and other practical aspects. You’ll walk away from this one a lot smarter.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Galen Hunt, partner managing director at Microsoft
Sponsors: Forgerock and Yonomi

Episode 159: The Nest doorbell is a great video doorbell

Microsoft plans to spend $5 billion on the internet of things, and it’s more than the usual shell game that big firms play with these sorts of announcements. We discuss its plans on this week’s podcast. We also talk about Qualcomm’s new vision chips for edge devices, what it means that apps are disappearing from the Apple Watch and Kevin’s thoughts on getting Alexa or Google to talk to you. Comcast shared its vision and new features for Stringify, August is working with SimpliSafe, there’s an old UPnP exploit hitting the IoT and I dumped a gadget for poor performance. I review the Nest doorbell before we answer a question on Z-wave and ZigBee for a listener.

My Nest Hello fresh out of the box.

This week’s guest is Poppy Crum, chief scientist at Dolby Laboratories, who came on the show as part of an IEEE event at SXSW last month. We talk about where hearables are today, what’s changing and some of the cool things we can look forward to. I suggest a mute button for people you dislike, which Crum admits is possible. We also dig into the things that kill your hearing, and how we perceive sound. You may never take an aspirin again. Listen and learn, y’all.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Poppy Crum, chief scientist at Dolby Laboratories
Sponsors: Yonomi and Forgerock

  • Why every chip company has a chip for computer vision at the edge
  • This is a great podcast on Amazon Alexa
  • Goodbye Ikea lights and hello Nest video doorbell
  • Every ear is different and so is its perception of sound
  • You can jam a lot of sensors into a hearable

Episode 157: Why Foxconn is buying Belkin and the future of healthcare

We discuss two big news issues this week with the first being Foxconn’s offer to buy Belkin for $866 million. The deal would include the Wemo line of smart home devices and the Phyn leak detection joint venture. After that, data, privacy and surveillance rule the show in light of Facebook’s decision to delay its smart home speaker device. Before we lose hope in IoT entirely, Kevin brings up an effort in the UK to enshrine some basic consumer rights around the IoT including a device expiration date. We also talk about new Google Home skills, August’s updates, an acquisition by Particle, and Kevin’s thoughts on the Fibaro wall plug. We end our segment answering a question about smart door locks.

Particle’s recently launched mesh-enabled boards were part of a collaboration with the newly acquired RedBear Labs.

After the news segment, I interview Dr. Leslie Saxon who heads up the Center for Body Computing at USC, who believes that we’ll soon get 80 percent of our healthcare virtually. She talks about what we’ll need to make that happen and offers up a unique idea—a virtual version of herself that uses AI to provide basic care in her image and demeanor. The implications of all of this are pretty big, so we dig into two of the big ones; privacy and how it changes the relationship individuals have with healthcare. You’ll end up doing a lot more work. It’s an eye-opening episode.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Dr. Leslie Saxon of USC
Sponsors: Samsung ARTIK and Ring

  • Why Foxconn wants Belkin
  • Why would anyone want a Facebook smart speaker?
  • How the UK is advancing IoT security
  • The virtual doctor is in your pocket, your car and even your airplane seat
  • Get ready to take charge of your own healthcare

Episode 156: Lennar’s smart home and why it dumped Apple HomeKit

Like the rest of the tech media, Kevin and I kick off the show with a discussion about data collection and privacy in light of the allegations against Cambridge Analytica. It’s a stark reminder on what can be gleaned from your information as well as how much of your data is being gathered without your knowledge or real consent. We also talk about smart home lock in, Alexa’s new “brief” mode, shopping on Google Home and my IoT Spring Clean. IBM’s new crypto chip and Watson Assistant made the show as well as several industrial IoT news bits such as Foghorn’s industrial IoT integration with Google’s cloud and a new hardware platform for IIoT from Resin.io. We also answer a listener question about IoT for new parents.

The Nest Hello doorbell is now available, and sells for $239.

I’ve heard that smart home tech is the new equivalent of granite countertops (basically it’s a big deal for buyers) for several years now, but I had never investigated what that tech experience would look like or how it would come to be. It’s pretty complicated, as you’ll learn from David Kaiserman, president with Lennar Ventures, the investment arm of Lennar Homebuilders. Kaiserman walked me through a Lennar home outfitted with a bunch of smarts last month, and shares his thoughts on what matters to buyers and the gear inside. He also sheds light on Amazon’s Alexa-focused geek squad and explains why Lennar backed out of its plans for a Apple HomeKit home and banked on Alexa instead. Enjoy.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: David Kaiserman of Lennar Ventures
Sponsors: Samsung Artik and IoT World

  • Get ready for an IoT spring clean
  • Kevin thinks shopping with Google Assistant is “brilliant”
  • This board’s build for industrial use
  • How Amazon’s team of Alexa experts changes the smart home experience
  • Why Alexa beat out HomeKit for Lennar

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