Episode 408: Hacking sensors and securing medical devices

This week’s show starts with an overview of the reviews for the new second generation HomePod and a deep dive into the security mess that Anker has made with its Eufy smart home cameras. We then dig into some earnings from IoT chip providers NXP and Silicon Labs, before discussing some new ideas to use RFID to prevent retail theft. We then talk about how the demand for retail tech could be generating demand for better broadband in places where broadband isn’t really all that robust. Then we cover news of a $100 million fund for Industry 5.0 companies (and explain what Industry 5.0 is) and share news of a new smart lock and a new integration for Ecobee. We talk about plans for noise sensors in NYC and Kevin’s review of a $20 Matter-capable smart plug. Finally, we answer a listener question about which video doorbell option makes the most sense, given their particular needs.

Lowe’s innovation group is testing a connected anti-theft program. Image courtesy of Lowes.

Our guest this week is Kevin Fu, who is a professor of electrical and computer science at Northeastern University, and the former acting director of medical device cybersecurity for the Food and Drug Administration. I’ve followed his efforts to hack physical sensors for years, and was excited when he started focusing on medical device security for the FDA. On the show, he discusses new federal legislation that will require companies to get an FDA review of their medical device’s cybersecurity before it goes on the market. This is a first for the U.S. in terms of requiring some sort of cybersecurity review before a product is released, and it might become an inspiration for legislation in other industries going forward. We also talk about how to regulate AI in healthcare and more. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Kevin Fu, professor of electrical and computer science at Northeastern University
Sponsor: Akenza

  • Transparency is helpful, but not a panacea for privacy
  • The chips are down, but not in the IoT
  • What is Industry 5.0 and why does it matter?
  • The Patch Act didn’t pass, but some elements of it did
  • What kind of regulations make sense for AI in medicine?

Episode 406: Return of the HomePod

This week’s show kicks off with a discussion of Apple’s new HomePod, which has some cool machine learning capabilities and new sensors built into it, plus a higher price tag than most smart speakers. Then we talk about a survey out of the UK that asked 119 appliance makers about their plans to continue updating software over the life of the appliance, finding out that some won’t commit to updates. A former Nest employee has a new connected composting startup that we have some questions about. Then we talk about some deals in the enterprise and industrial sector with the $1.2 billion acquisition of Sierra Wireless by Semtech completed, and a $7 billion hostile takeover of National Instruments by Emerson. In smaller news, we talk about what it means that Google’s new Chromecast 4K remote does away with batteries, Wyze’s new connected cameras that bring back the $20 price tag, and Kevin’s review of the Govee Smart Kettle purchased by his wife. Finally, we answer a listener question about motion sensors that don’t always work, which inspired us to create a survey asking where y’all build your smart home automations.

The new Apple HomePod will ship on Feb. 3. Image courtesy of Apple.

Our guest this week is Ivo Rook, COO of 1NCE, a company that provides device connectivity for 10 years at a cost of $10. Obviously this isn’t for smart phones or cameras, but for many IoT devices, this type of flat-rate pricing over a long time period makes it easy for developers to create a device and predict exactly how much it will cost to support. Rook discusses how the 1NCE mindset differs from the traditional carrier a-roach and explains the rationale behind a new operating system that 1NCE announced at CES. It’s not exactly an OS, but more of an abstraction layer for data traveling from the device to the cloud. It’s a good idea and the open, developer-friendly ethos 1NCE has is pretty exciting. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Ivo Rook, COO of 1NCE
Sponsor: Silicon Labs

  • How long will your appliances get software updates?
  • Why Emerson would want National Instruments
  • Kevin’s wife bought a smart kettle, and it’s pretty cool
  • Rethinking the telco business model
  • Is the new 1NCE OS really an OS? Does it matter?

Episode 402: Google begins its Matter roll out

This week’s show is a celebration of Matter actually hitting devices, with Google announcing its Matter roll out and Eve allowing users to update its devices to Matter as well. We’re super excited to play with Matter, and you’ll read more about in the newsletter or hear us chat about it next week. We also discuss how Z-Wave’s open-source efforts have gone, and the first port of Z-Wave technology to a third party chip. Energy management is becoming a compelling use case for smart home tech given the high price of heat this winter, so we share what might help and how it may change the conversation around connected devices. Then we dig into a new Comcast report on home security that points out the things you’re worried about getting hacked in your smart home are not necessarily what’s getting hacked. In smaller news, we cover gestures and accessibility features for the Echo Show, smarter alarm systems, and a new sensor that’s itty-bitty. We close with chip news about a new RISC-V microcontroller, a new integrated Matter chip from NXP, and Qualcomm’s new LTE Cat 1 modem for IoT. We end the first segment of the show by answering a listener question about outdoor smart lights for cold climates.

Data from Comcast focused on what people think they should worry about, and what they actually do worry about when it comes to home cybersecurity.

Our guest this week is Sean Petterson, the CEO and founder of StrongArm Tech, a company that makes wearable safety devices for industrial and warehouse workers. We talk about the company’s history of building exoskeletons and its pivot to data analytics and wearables, and then the challenges associated with converting worker safety into an ROI. Petterson makes the case that analytics can drive home the importance of keeping workers healthy despite the costs of the system and the perceived costs in terms of productivity. He gives a good example from a warehouse customer using StrongArm’s analytics to send workers home after they meet their quota for the day, even if it means they get sent home early. Petterson says it’s simply not efficient or smart from an ROI perspective to keep them working. We also talk about the ethics of such software and how StrongArm tries to make sure its data isn’t used to retaliate against poor performers. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Sean Petterson, the CEO and founder of StrongArm Tech
SponsorsArm and Silicon Labs

  • Matter hits Google and Eve devices, but wait a second before updating
  • Don’t worry about someone hacking your voice assistant or robot vacuum
  • Check out this new RISC-V microcontroller
  • Keeping workers healthy improves ROI  and this company can prove it
  • What happens when worker data gets really detailed?

Episode 398: Bluetooth bets on 6 GHz and TP-Link hops on Wi-Fi 7

Amazon has started laying off workers, including some working on Alexa and in Amazon’s devices business. We discuss this as well as IBM following in Google’s footsteps and shutting down its IoT cloud business. We move from bad news to innovation with the news that the Bluetooth Special Interest Group is investing in new Bluetooth capabilities using the recently available 6 GHz spectrum. We also discuss the latest in Wi-Fi and TP-Link getting the jump on the next generation of Wi-Fi with its new Wi-Fi 7 mesh routers. Also out with new routers is Wyze, which appears to be giving Eero a run for its money. In acquisition news, semiconductor firm Nexperia has acquired energy harvesting chip company Nowi, while energy harvesting device maker EnOcean plans to go public via a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC). We then discuss the radios inside upcoming Nest speakers, HomeKit locks that won’t get Matter upgrades, and a new Matter-certified smart plug from Meross that won’t be available until next year. Kevin also shares his thoughts on the latest Apple TV 4K and its use in a smart home. Finally, we clarify our answer to last week’s question about DIY Matter devices and answer a question about keeping Matter devices certified.

The Meross outlets won’t ship until January, but you can order them today. Image courtesy of Meross.

Our guest this week is Michele Pelino, a principal analyst at Forrester. She’s on the show to share four predictions about the IoT, edge computing, and connectivity in the coming year. We discuss the technologies that will entice city planners and lead to more municipal deployments in the hopes of bringing people back to cities. She also shares some bad news about future IoT device failures and the creation of millions of IoT bricks. We also hear predictions and advice on securing the internet of things with a focus on confidential computing and zero-trust security. Finally, she shares her thoughts on the connectivity company to watch in 2023 as satellite wins over companies looking for connectivity in rural and thinly populated areas. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Michele Pelino, a principal analyst at Forrester
Sponsors: Arm and Silicon Labs

  • The Bluetooth SIG eyes spectrum currently used for Wi-Fi 6E
  • Big moves in the world of energy harvesting devices
  • Does your smart home need the new Apple TV 4K?
  • Why cities will invest in tech next year
  • Holes in 5G coverage pave the way for Starlink

Episode 397: Arduino Opta adds a little IT to the OT

This week’s show kicks off with a discussion of the lawsuit between Arm and Qualcomm amid accusations that Arm is changing its licensing model. We cover what has been said, and what it might mean for the IoT before heading into some industrial news. Arduino has announced a programmable logic controller (PLC) in conjunction with Finder called the Arduino Opta. It’s part of a larger trend of convergence between the IT and OT, as is news from Marvell that it has built an integrated networking chip for industrial clients that uses Ethernet. We talk about how Marvell made Ethernet appealing to the industrial world, and then shift to smart home news. First, Vivint reported financial results and previewed some new products coming in 2023, including integrated indoor lighting. Then we talk about the new Eufy trackers that use Apple’s Find My network and new connectors for the Nanoleaf Lines. And before we finished this segment, we also talked about last week’s Matter launch, including the news that more device types were coming. We end by answering a listener’s question about building DIY devices that will talk to Matter devices.

The Eufy tracker is less expensive than an AirTag, and it has a hole you can use to attach it to things. Image courtesy of Eufy.

Our guest this week is Matt Rose, the CEO of Apana, a company that tracks water usage for commercial clients. The company has more than 800 customers including Costco Wholesale, Coca-Cola, and Fetzer. Rose talks about how business is booming thanks to Environment, Social and Government (ESG) directives and growing corporate concern about water usage. He explains how the focus has moved from ROI to ESG and how to parse over a billion points of data into something front-line workers can take action on. He also talks about the scaling challenges early on and moving from wired to wireless connections for his company’s sensors. Finally, we discuss his switch from private LoRa connectivity to LoRaWAN and how that should expand his business going forward. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Matt Rose, CEO of Apana
Sponsors: Arm and Silicon Labs

  • Arm’s suit against Qualcomm is pretty crazy
  • The industrial IoT will have to embrace IP
  • More Matter device types are coming next year!
  • This company’s digital twin can save on water consumption
  • LoRaWAN has matured, and it’s about time

Episode 392: Matter is here. Now what?

Matter is now official after almost three years of waiting, and Kevin and I are super excited. Well, I am. Kevin is more measured, but we talk about what to expect and when to expect Matter to start changing your smart home. In related news, we discuss Google’s new doorbell, mesh router, and plans for the Home app. Google is also adding more sensing capabilities to the smart home through its existing hubs. In November, IKEA plans to launch its latest smart home hub, the Dirigera, which will cost about $60. This will replace the Trådfri hub, but will also let users bridge their older IKEA devices to the Matter protocol. Kevin gets to tell me that he told me so, as Amazon kills the Glow video-calling device for kids, and we lay out the five principles that are part of a new U.S. blueprint for legislation related to AI. We end by answering a question from a listener about using their SmartRent Hub as a secondary Z-wave controller.

Like other big name smart home vendors, Google already has plans for Matter. Image courtesy of Google.

Our guests this week are both from John Deere. We have Tracy Schrauben, manager, manufacturing emerging technologies at John Deere, who represents the operational technology side of the manufacturing plant. Also joining is Jason Wallin, principal architect at John Deere, who is handling IT. Both are on the show for an exclusive look at how the agricultural company is deploying the CBRS spectrum it purchased in 2020. In its Moline, Ill. plant, John Deere has deployed 14 microcells that today provide LTE connectivity to various pieces of equipment. But the plan is to get to an all-5G network as end devices become available. Our guests explain why they are unwiring the factory, some of the use cases, and what it’s like to build and manage your own private wireless network. This is a must-listen for folks who care about factory 5G.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guests: Tracy Schrauben and Jason Wallin of John Deere
Sponsors: Nordic Semiconductor and Firewalla

  • Matter is live, and now we get to test it in our homes!
  • Google’s new Home app is a much needed improvement
  • The U.S. now has a good framework for AI legislation
  • Why John Deere invested in its own spectrum for factory 5G
  • How John Deere plans to unwire its factories

Episode 390: The FTC eyes Amazon’s iRobot buy

The Federal Trade Commission is looking into Amazon’s decision to purchase the maker of Roomba vacuum cleaners for $1.7 billion. The agency this week asked Amazon and iRobot for more information about the deal, so Kevin and I took a moment to explain exactly what the FTC should worry about. Then we talk about Wi-Fi sensing showing up in Signify’s WiZ lightbulbs, and a wireless power provider paired with smart tags enabling a new retail experience — all without batteries. We touch on Nvidia’s continued forays into the metaverse and its plans to create digital twins for retailers with its new Omniverse services. We also cover two surveys this week from MachineQ and Hitachi Vantara. Those surveys focus mostly on enterprise IoT adoption and things that stand in the way of them. We also cover Helium’s new deal to bring its decentralized 5G wireless network to T-Mobile and then discuss Tile’s new QR code stickers to create a tech-savvy label for your stuff that might get lost. It’s better than sewing your name in your underwear. Kevin then discusses his review of a LoRa-based IoT development kit from Blues Wireless. We end by answering a listener question about leak monitoring and water shut off tools.

Image courtesy of MachineQ.

Our guest this week is Rob Davies, the chief insurance officer at Vivint. We start the interview by asking what a monitored security company is doing in the insurance sector, and move on to discuss what data might be most useful in building new insurance products. We also talk about how an insurance company might use smart home data to become more proactive about alleviating risk as opposed to paying out once the worst has happened. Davies uses the example of someone who has forgotten to lock their door. With Vivint’s platform, the insurance provider can let the homeowner know their door is unlocked before someone tries to break in. This creates a new relationship between insurers and their clients, and it will be interesting to see how far insurance companies take this idea. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Ron Davies, chief insurance officer Vivint
Sponsors:  Infineon and Silicon Labs

  • Why Robot OS could become Amazon’s anti-competitive advantage
  • Buy IoT gear is tough, and having customer support matters
  • This LoRa development kit was easy to set up and get data from
  • Why a monitored security firm is interested in offering insurance
  • Owning your own devices is useful for building new insurance products

Episode 389: Is Matter ready for its close up?

I’m in Austin this week, for Silicon Labs’ Works With event, and while there I hosted a panel that provided a good sense of what is going to happen with the Matter smart home interoperability protocol. I think Kevin is a bit more optimistic than I am. We also got some small updates on Amazon’s Sidewalk Network plans, which we discuss. After that, we talk about some news from Silicon Labs, and why folks in the IoT should keep an eye on Apple’s satellite plans. Then we talk about Lutron’s new smart paddle switch and dimmer that will fit right into existing home decor as well as how long certain device lifespans should be in the wake of Eero canceling support for its first-generation mesh routers. We then look at what is likely the next-generation wired Nest Hello doorbells, and look at some new resources for mapping out smart building capabilities before discussing funding for industrial IoT middleware provider Litmus Automation. We end by answering a listener’s question about smart smoke alarms and sending notifications to a phone.

The new Diva paddle switch and dimmer. Image courtesy of Lutron.

Our guest this week is Prashant Kanhere, the CTO of PayRange. PayRange provides a Bluetooth-based module that installs on a vending machine, washing machine, or pool table and replaces coin payments with electronic payments. I’ve followed this company for years and was stoked to see they had half a million devices under management now. With that scale, the company has figured out how to monitor those devices and how to update their firmware over tiny sips of connectivity. It’s a process that could come in handy for other IoT devices on low data-rate networks that need security or feature updates. We also discuss how the app works and the future of smart pool tables for a bit of fun. Enjoy the show.

Host: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Prashant Kanhere, the CTO of PayRange
Sponsors:  Infineon and Silicon Labs

  • Matter may be too little, too late
  • The IoT should keep an eye on Apple’s satellite ambitions
  • Lutron’s new switch will fit right in
  • Dynamic pricing could come for commercial laundromats
  • Smart pool tables are in the future

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 385: Google Cloud kills IoT Core and hearing aids get smart

This week’s show kicks off with a whispered bang that Kevin will soon hear, thanks to the FDA approving over-the-counter hearing aids. We talk about what happened and what it means for innovation in wearables before then tackling Google killing off its Google Cloud IoT Core service that manages device data and connects that data to Google’s Cloud Platform. Then we turn to security news including a John Deere hack shared at Defcon last week and an “Evil PLC” attack that affects industrial controllers from all major vendors. The smart home also gets a cool project called Fluid One that will create a network of ultra wideband sensors in a home which then lets you control devices by pointing a phone in their direction. With Omdia stating that this year there will be 2 billion smart home devices globally, we should figure out easier ways to control them. Finally, we talk about research that lets you power wearable sensors with sweat. It’s gross, but also really useful. We end the show by answering a listener question about continuous video recording on Apple’s HomeKit Secure Video.

Hearing aids can now be sold over the counter, which should lower costs and drive more innovation.

Our guest this week is Chris Albrecht, the founder and editor of Ottomate, a newsletter dedicated to food robotics. We talk about where you’re likely to see food robots first, and what they might look like. He then discusses how many places that already have robots serving diners and frying their food. Plus, we get a glimpse of a future food court comprised of meal-making vending machines that could line the lobby of a hotel, providing hot food even if the hotel doesn’t offer room service. And of course, we talk about delivery robots and how inefficient it is to use a two-ton vehicle to deliver two tacos. Our automated world of food delivery and cooking awaits us, and I’m honestly eager to see it. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Chris Albrecht, founder and editor of Ottomate.news
Sponsors: Silicon Labs and Impinj

  • We’re excited for more innovation in hearing aids.
  • Our favorite hacks from Defcon.
  • Powering wearables could become a sweaty business.
  • All the places food vending machines could thrive.
  • Where is my robot delivery driver, and how far might it travel?