Episode 387: Is Kickstarter still relevant for smart devices?

This week we start off talking about the Federal Trade Commission suing a data broker for sharing sensitive location data. It’s a topic we’re following closely, in part because location information can’t be anonymized even when companies promise that it strips identifying information from it. With that in mind, Fight for the Future, a nonprofit focused on consumer privacy, is asking the FTC to prevent large tech firms from getting access to car data. In more data-sharing news, we talk about Adrich, a Pennsylvania company that has found some success selling Bluetooth tags that track how much of a product has been used and can reorder them for consumers. But it also shares product data usage with the company making the product. Then we kick off the IFA conference with some news bits from the Home Connectivity Alliance adding new members and a plug fest, as well as updated products from Eve. Also, Tado has created a subscription plan to optimize low-energy prices. For those interested in the evolution of the security business, check out ADT’s deal with Uber to monitor drivers and riders on request. And for those who want to understand the consolidation happening in the IoT connectivity sector, we talk about Telit’s latest acquisition. We then answer a listener question about what he needs to run Hue bulbs even when the internet is out.

Image courtesy of Woosh.

This week’s guest is Winston Mok, the founder and product lead of Woosh, a company making a connected air filter. We talk about how Woosh works, its focus on sustainability, and how it plans to integrate within existing smart home services. We also talk about Mok’s decision to use Kickstarter to launch the connected air filter, a decision that would have been a no brainer back in 2014, but seems almost quaint now. Mok explains why he thinks Kickstarter was a good option for Woosh and shares some of the benefits he got from launching on the platform. He also discusses how it it helped prepare for manufacturing at scale amidst the chip shortage, and shared advice on dealing with that situation. It’s a really useful interview.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Winston Mok, founder and product lead, Woosh
Sponsors: Infineon and Silicon Labs

  • The FTC is taking action against sellers of location data
  • This company can tell how quickly you eat your peanut butter
  • A standard for connected appliances gets a boost
  • Smart air filters? Why not?
  • Is Kickstarter still relevant for launching a smart device?

Episode 386: We question Nova Labs’ 5G deal

Nova Labs, the company behind the decentralized Helium IoT network, has acquired FreedomFi, a company trying to build a decentralized 5G network. Kevin and I share our doubts about the value of a decentralized 5G network and question how this might work before moving on to discuss an array of security news. We start with the latest report on OT security from cybersecurity firm Claroty before sharing research on air-gapped networks bypasses with lights and sound. We end with a story about Amazon patching Ring apps on Android devices and my hope of a new tool that could make it easy to monitor devices that might invade your privacy. We also talk about a new wearable that tracks mood, Kevin’s frustration with devices, Nordic Semiconductor’s foray into Wi-Fi chips, Chamberlain’s reversal of HomeKit support, and InfluxDB announcing native connectors for MQTT. We end the show by answering a listener question about NovaLabs and its 5G plans.

The Happy Ring will track your moods and is only available via a subscription. Image courtesy of Happy Health.

Our guest this week is Josh Corman, who returns to the show to discuss his work at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (he just joined Claroty as vice president of cyber safety strategy). Infrastructure in the U.S. and in many other countries has become increasingly attractive to hackers seeking ransoms or more serious disruption. Whether it’s someone hoping for profits or a nation-state, Corman points out some of the easiest and most effective steps an entity can take, even if that organization doesn’t have a formal cybersecurity program — or the budget for one.  He starts with the Bad Practices list from CISA that states organizations should avoid hard-coded passwords, establish multi-factor authentication and to avoid using software that has reached its end of life. We also discuss an easy effort to get your Stuff off Search, a program that helps any IT person suss out open ports on popular search sites such as Shodan, Censys and Thingful. It’s so easy I can do it.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Josh Corman, Founder, I am The Cavalry and VP Cyber Safety Strategy at Claroty
Sponsors: Silicon Labs and Impinj

  • We have big concerns about a decentralized 5G network’s viability
  • More vulnerabilities are showing up in firmware
  • Here’s a mood ring for the 21st century
  • We need to get more companies to do the bare minimum for cybersecurity
  • How to get your stuff off search and start securing your network

Episode 383: Meet Insteon’s new CEO

Last week, we kicked off the podcast with a discussion on the Helium peer-to-peer IoT network, and this week we did the same thing. This time we dug into the disclosures that Helium didn’t actually have Lime or Salesforce.com as current customers, despite having listed them prominently on its web site. Nova Labs CEO Amir Haleem tried to explain what happened in a Twitter thread, but since the crypto industry is full of scammers, it feels like a company should aspite to higher levels of integrity. Then we discuss the planned Semtech acquisition of Sierra Wireless and explain what it might mean for LoRaWAN. Then we talk about the creation of a new connectivity and hardware company thanks to the combination of Telit and Thales’ connectivity business. From there we highlight the mailbox of the future, some cool battery tech, a secret Google device, a broken Google integration and ADT’s Google partnership. Then we note that Home Assistant’s latest hardware option, the Home Assistant Yellow is now shipping to early buyers, and discuss a smart scarf deployed by a UK soccer team to measure fans’ feelings during a match. We end by answering a listener question about how to track their laundry in the wake of Smart Dry’s closure.

The new Dronedek mailbox has a section for postal delivery and a climate-controlled chamber for food delivered via drone. Image courtesy of Dronedek.

Our guest this week is Ken Fairbanks, the CEO of Insteon Technologies Inc. who is ready to share what happened between the end of Insteon in April and his acquisition of the assets in June. He also discloses what comes next for the new Insteon and explains why customers were caught off guard by the abrupt closure and the equally abrupt return of service for their hubs. Fairbanks is still trying to piece together the assets he purchased, but is also trying to talk to users about what they want to see for the smart home service. He also explains why he had to charge a subscription and how he plans to move forward. If you’re an Insteon customer take a listen, and if you are smart home user you might learn why it’s so hard to restart a dying connected home business.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Ken Fairbanks, the CEO of Insteon Technologies Inc.
Sponsors: Silicon Labs and Impinj

  • Who’s using the Helium network?
  • Two big mergers in industrial and enterprise IoT
  • Good news from Google and some bad news from Google
  • Behind the scenes during the Insteon sale
  • Insteon has plans for Matter

Episode 382: Is Helium full of hot air?

We start this week’s show with a deep dive into a popular post from this week about the Helium network. The report pointed out that Helium only made $6,500 in the month of June from data rates. We explain why that’s not a surprise and what it will take to get those numbers up. Then we talk about Apple’s Air Tags and their potential use to track thieves and suitcases. Then Kevin reviews the Eve Motion with Thread sensor and then we focus on the excellent article from CNET that documents when Ring, Nest, Arlo and other camera companies will share your video data with police. The we cover shorter stories from Drover AI, two satellite deals including a $3.4 billion European acquisition deal, and updated lighting features from GE Cync. We then answer a listener question about Insteon’s plan for an annual fee for cloud connectivity and services.

My suitcase and obligatory Air Tag. Image courtesy of A. Allemann.

Our guest this week is Jim Ethington, CEO of Arable, a precision agriculture company. He’s on the show to talk about Arable’s $40 million in funding, and what Arable has learned in the last six years of operation. We also talk about the myth of using data to create “perfect predictions” and what sorts of predictions are more realistic when discussing how farm sensors can help farmers increase yields. Then we discuss why farmers are looking beyond simple ROI measurements when adopting technology and how sensor platforms such as Arable’s can help make their investments in sustainability or traceability pay off. We end with a list of hardware that Ethington would like to see for future field sensors. These include better connectivity options and sensors that provide more options for detecting different wavelengths of light. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Jim Ethington, CEO of Arable
Sponsors: InfluxData and Intent

  • Helium is a legit business, but is it worth $1.2 billion?
  • The Air Tag is a tool for good or evil
  • How Ring and Google decide what videos to share with police
  • The future of precision farming goes far beyond greater yields
  • Sensors with different spectral ranges will let us better monitor plant health

Episode 381: Alexa and Qualcomm embrace ambient tech

This week’s show kicks off with our discussion of several announcements from Amazon’s Alexa Live developers’ conference held Wednesday. Alexa is getting several features as part of the launch of the Matter smart home interoperability protocol that should launch in the fall. For example, users will be able to name a device once and put it in a group and that nomenclature will work across Alexa, manufacturer apps, and other controllers such as Google Home or Apple’s Siri. Amazon also shared new ways for developers to access context in the home thanks to its new Ambient Home Dev Kit and new ways for developers to build Routines for Alexa. Also ahead of Matter, Thread is getting an update, so Kevin and I explain what that entails before turning to Qualcomm’s new wearables chip.

The Google Glass AR prototype. Image courtesy of Google.

One of the keywords for Qualcomm’s new wearable platform is ambient, as the chipmaker has moved several features to a low-power always-on processor to ensure that smart watches built using the platform have always-on sensing, wake-word detection, and a nice display without compromising on battery life. Then we talk about FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel’s inquiry into data-gathering and sharing practices by cell phone providers, especially when it comes to location data. We also discuss Google’s new plans for AR glasses, using the IoT to detect forest fires, and yet another security flaw. This time it’s in a GPS tracker from a Chinese provider. We also say goodbye to Microsoft’s Sam George who retired from his role leading Microsoft Azure IoT. We end by answering a listener question about tracking the temperature of a fish pond.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Sponsors: InfluxData and Intent

  • With new features Alexa is a smarter brain for the smart home
  • Thread’s getting an update ahead of Matter
  • Qualcomm’s wearable chip is better late than never
  • The FCC wants to know what carriers want with your location
  • Google’s new glasses respect the camera shy

Episode 379: Lock down your smart home’s data

This week we continue discussing privacy and data protection with a focus on the smart home. I’d like to see a feature that lets us turn on privacy as needed on our devices, but Kevin doesn’t think that’s likely. For those who want concrete steps they can take today, Mozilla and the EFF have some suggestions that will appeal to the DIY types. And smart home device makers should be aware that if they focused on privacy, the might sell more gear according to a recent survey. For those worried about security (less about privacy), we discuss network segmentation options. In smaller news on this slow news week, Unabiz will retain the Sigfox brand, the FCC approves roaming satellite broadband via Starlink, and Samsung SmartThings is readying an app update with more features. I also share the devices I connect before I head out of town. In our IoT Podcast Hotline we answer a listener question about the best platforms on which to practice IoT development.

Home Assistant hub for smart home privacy
Home Assistant’s Yellow hub can help you keep your smart home automations locale and more private. Image courtesy of Home Assistant.

Our guest this week is Vijay Sankaran, the CTO of Johnson Controls. He talks about the reasons we’re adding more sensors to our buildings, and ensuring they work with other with IT systems. He also explains what needs to happen at the edge and what should take place in the cloud, while also laying out the standards we need to make digital twins of smart buildings. On the practical front, he says that customers usually start with modernizing buildings that are more than 10 years old or those that are currently under construction. And the best way to get started is for customers to start tracking carbon consumption by trying to understand how much energy is being used in a building and then understanding what deices are using it. Only after customers understand that, can they work on optimizing their energy usage to reduce consumptions or at least allocate carbon consumption to places or products that generate the most value.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Vijay Sankaran, the CTO of Johnson Controls
Sponsors: InfluxData and Intent

  • The privacy-focused smart home is DIY but doable.
  • What would you buy if privacy concerns didn’t hold you back?
  • Here are the devices I use when on vacation.
  • When it comes to smart buildings, which should get modernized first?
  • Standards matter for digital twins of smart buildings.

Podcast 378: Welcome to the industrial metaverse

It’s been a minute since we’ve discussed the metaverse, but this week we cover Siemens’ deal with Nvidia to create the metaverse for the industrial IoT. It’s part of several announcements this week from Siemens that include an acquisition and a new product launch for smart buildings. We also dig into some Apple rumors about a new HomePod, whether or not you’ll want to use the iPad as a home hub, and Kevin’s advice for folks trying to adopt HomeKit. Then we ask if you want to pay for a subscription to Insteon’s cloud and explore how the ADT partnership with Google is working. From there we talk talk about the new Raspberry Pi Pico W device with Wi-Fi. For $6, they are a steal. In smaller news, we talk about wireless power research and new sounds that help your Nest doorbell celebrate the Fourth of July. We also answer a listener question about automating his water heater.

Siemens Process Simulate (left) connects to NVIDIA Omniverse (right) to enable a photorealistic, real-time digital twin. Image courtesy of Nvidia. 

Our guest this week is Alok Bhanot, the CTO of ParkourSC, a company trying to create digital twins for the supply chain. We discuss the current state of the supply chain and why we’re moving into what Bhanot calls supply chain 2.0. He explains how companies are going beyond merely tracking their products and instead are trying to predict problem areas in advance and automate their response to those problems. This takes sensors and connected devices, but it also takes deep integration across the entire logistics, transportation and product ecosystem. We also explain how these solutions can’t predict everything, but for many companies, the goal is to optimize for easing the delivery of the most important things. We also discuss why ParkourSC decided to stop making its own hardware.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Alok Bhanot, CTO of ParkourSC
SponsorsNordic Semiconductor and Wirepas

  • Will the industrial IoT use the metaverse?
  • Do you want a new HomePod or an iPad for HomeKit?
  • There’s a new Raspberry Pi for the IoT.
  • What the heck is supply chain 2.0?
  • Why this startup decided to stop building sensors.

Episode 377: Why there were 56 OT vulnerabilities this week

This week we cover the Ericsson mobility report that offers some stats on cellular IoT connections, including the surprising nugget that we won’t see 4G/5G connections surpass 2G/3G connections until some time next year. Then we hit another report. This one is from NPR and covers the state of audio and smart speakers. It proves that growth is slowing for smart speakers and that we may not do as many things with voice as we think. In dystopian news we cover China using COVID tracking apps to lock down protesters, and Microsoft stopping sales of some facial recognition tools. In new product news we talk about the latest Philips Hue gear, a new material that could generate electricity for wearables, and new MCUs from NXP. We also address the closure of SmartDry and explain how Google’s update on the Nest Max Hub may break your Nest x Yale lock. We end by answering a listener question about more accurate motion sensors.

Our guest this week is Daniel dos Santos, head of security research at Vedere, a business unit of Forescout. He’s on the show to discuss why Forescout released 56 new OT vulnerabilities dubbed ICEFALL. He shares the design flaws that led to these vulnerabilities and more importantly, explains what needs to happen if compromised controllers or devices can’t be fixed. He also shares a startling stat about how many industrial customers are actually updating their devices after a vulnerability has been disclosed, and how to encourage more of them to address security flaws. If you want to learn more abut securing critical infrastructure, this is a good place to start.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Daniel dos Santos, head of security research at Forescout
Sponsors: Nordic Semiconductor and Wirepas

  • There are still more 2G and 3G IoT connections than 4G/5G ones
  • With smart speakers it’s the same as it ever was
  • Are the new Hue track lights for you?
  • The ICEFALL vulnerabilities are a sign of progress actually.
  • This vendor says only one in ten patch their OT gear

Episode 376: Senator calls out video doorbells … again

This week’s show kicks off with another look at Ring’s potential to become a surveillance tool, this time prompted by a letter from Senator Ed Markey who wants Amazon to answer some questions. We then talk about a new capability for InfluxData’s time series database and explain why it matters before encouraging everyone who listens to the show or visits the site to get comfortable with doing things yourself. We then give a brief update on Insteon’s buyer and what it might mean before covering two industrial stories. First up is Siemens’ acquisition of Senseye, a company that provides predictive maintenance software, and then we discuss a remote factory experiment between Finland and South Korea. In smaller news we discuss the number of smart locks in U.S. households, Orro signing a deal with RTI for smarter light switches, and a new HomeKit enabled smart plug from TP-Link. We close by answering a listener question about the best smart lighting options to use in a new home.

Image courtesy of Parks Associates.

Our guest this week is Evan Kaplan, CEO of InfluxData, who is talking about the demand for time series data for the internet of things. InfluxData makes a time series database for storing trading and sensor data. We discuss how companies are using time series data as part of closed loop systems, and what the future tech stack for the IoT will be. He also shares his strategies to get developers interested in a platform and why he thinks appealing to developers will be essential for success in the industrial IoT. It’s a fun show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guests: Evan Kaplan, CEO of InfluxData
Sponsors: Nordic Semiconductor and Wirepas

  • Senator Markey wants more information about Ring’s capabilities
  • Be bold, and try to DIY your next project
  • Remote factory project has incredibly low latency
  • Why the IoT loves time series data
  • What we need to build better architectures for a real-time IoT

Episode 375: Arduino gets $32 million for enterprise IoT

This week’s show is an exercise in controlled chaos, as I am once again quarantined in a hotel room (this time with my teen). Kevin and I discuss Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference and Apple’s claim that HomeKit is the foundation of the upcoming Matter smart home protocol. Insteon users got a shock this week when their formerly dead hubs mysteriously turned on and their cloud-based integrations began working. We explain what we know. SmartThings is getting a new app, and Microsoft signed a multi-year deal to help Procter & Gamble with its digital transformation. In security news, we discuss new ransomware that starts on the IT side but can move over to the OT side to wreak havoc, as well as a new program from Dragos to help small businesses secure their OT networks. Finally, in chip news radar chip company Vayyar raised $108 million and Arm launched a new low-power image sensor for embedded vision. During the IoT Podcast Hotline, we answer a listener question about how to prepare his smart home for a move.

Arduino launched the Portenta line of boards for the enterprise a year and half ago. Image courtesy of Arduino.

Our guest this week is Fabio Violante, the CEO of Arduino. Arduino raised €30 million ($32 million) this week as it seeks to add software and hardware to meet the needs of enterprise and industrial product designers. We discuss why Arduino is branching out from the DIY market, and how it differentiates itself from other computing platforms such as the Raspberry Pi or Nvidia’s Jetson Nano. Violante also shares his observations about the state of the market and the popularity of certain connectivity options, protocols and cloud platforms. It’s a good show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Fabio Violante, the CEO of Arduino
Sponsors: Nordic Semiconductor and Wirepas

  • Apple contributed a lot to HomeKit and we all will benefit
  • Who is the new Insteon owner?
  • Microsoft is helping Procter & Gamble make better paper towels
  • Good and bad news for OT security
  • Why Arduino is stepping up to the enterprise