Episode 278: Amazon’s Alexa Developer news and 5G’s next wave

This week’s show digs into the announcements made during Amazon’s Alexa Live event held Wednesday. We explain the Connect Kit hardware and Alexa skill upgrades and try to offer a bit of context about what it means for users and developers. After that, we move to Wyze’s ask for donations and our fears over its business model. Then Kevin and I talk about big soda bringing QR codes back in the U.S. Next, we cover Ford, Fitbit, a new lighting brand at Best Buy, and new smart plugs from Belkin Wemo. Finally, we answer a question about automating a Schlage lock and Zigbee lights using SmartThings.

New Wemo outlets are smaller, and if you buy a 3-pack, cheaper. Image courtesy of Wemo.

Our guest this week is John Smee, the VP of engineering and head of cellular research at Qualcomm, who explains everything you need to know about 5G for the IoT. We discuss the recently approved release 16 version of the 5G standard and how it helps with enterprise and industrial IoT. That release includes the ability to combine licensed and unlicensed spectrum, offers better positioning  and lower latency. And then we move onto the Release 17 standard that will come out in 18 months. This standard is what I call the Goldilocks standard that will provide a mix of capabilities between the superfast multi-gigabit 5G on phones today and the very low-data-rate NB-IoT capabilities. You’ll learn what it will enable and when to expect it. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: John Smee, the VP of engineering and head of cellular research at Qualcomm
Sponsor: Very

  • Amazon’s Alexa updates make it smarter and put Alexa inside apps
  • Wyze wants its “friends” to donate for person detection
  • Smart lighting and outlets get two new products
  • This upcoming 5G update will give us 100 Mbps speeds for IoT devices
  • 5G will do away with buying a bucket of data

Episode 277: Does your house need a mouse?

This week on the show Kevin and I start with a speculative Google project dubbed the “house mouse” by researchers at Google’s ATAP group. Then we cover a bit on Google’s proposed acquisition of Fitbit, Amazon’s new smart cart, Amazon’s developer event next week, and how Amazon can compete in the digital assistant game without a phone. We also talk about SiteWise, the AWS service for industrial IoT equipment monitoring, and Microsoft and Samsung partnering on real estate in the smart home and apartment world. From there, we discuss a proposed cybersecurity law for connected devices in the UK, Zoom’s fancy new hardware, Arm’s proposed sale or IPO,  and another device to prevent your smart speakers from eavesdropping. We also answer a listener question about smart outlets.

 

The Zoom hardware costs $599 and has three cameras, eight mics, and a 27-inch screen.

This week’s guest is Jonathan Cobb, the CEO of Ayla Networks, who explains how companies need to think about the connected tech they are adding to their offices to keep employees safe after the pandemic. We talk about what he’s doing at Ayla, what he recommends other leaders think about when trying to bring employees back, and why companies probably shouldn’t buy this stuff in haste. We also discuss security, privacy, and what you don’t want to know about your employees. It’s a helpful interview.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Jonathan Cobb, the CEO of Ayla Networks
Sponsors: Very and Very

  • Google’s house mouse may give point and click new meaning
  • Amazon’s SiteWise for IIoT is designed to lock you in
  • Who would buy Arm and would it be a good investment?
  • Define your business problem and then buy IoT
  • What should a business consider before surveilling workers

Episode 276: Google inches toward a smarter home

This week Kevin and I discuss the news from Google’s smart home event, and what it means for the big players in the game, standards efforts, your television, and whether Amazon can compete without a smartphone when it comes to the smart home. From there we talk about Arm’s decision to spin out its IoT services businesses and Synaptics buying Broadcom’s wireless IoT business. An update for Alexa, insecure smart cameras, and a skinny new codec round out the news segment this week. For the IoT Podcast Hotline, we answer a listener question about creating routines based on sunrise and sunset.

Augury’s sensor forms the basis of the Halo system. Image courtesy of Augury.

My guest this week takes us to the manufacturing floor where his company is enabling insurance providers to better assess risk and price policies accordingly. Saar Yoskovitz, co-founder and CEO at Augury, joins me to talk about the company’s new guarantee that is backed by Hartford Steam Boiler, a division of Munich Re, that pays customers IF Augury fails to anticipate a machine breakdown. We also discuss the role the pandemic has played for Augury’s business and how the company ended up launching a new product for its customers to help them keep production employees working remotely. Instead of just helping manufacturers keep an eye on the health of their machines, Augury has a web-based communication tool that lets production managers keep an eye on their plant and schedule workers. It’s a cool story.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Saar Yoskovitz, co-founder and CEO at Augury
Sponsor: Very

  • Google’s integration with Android reminds me of Apple
  • Arm’s decision to spin out its IoT services makes sense
  • A new codec could help cut down on smart camera data demand
  • When IoT meets an insurer’s moral obligation
  • Why Augury found itself building a Slack for manufacturing

Episode 275: Does the smart home need glasses?

This week Kevin and I talk about my recent move and what I am looking for in a video doorbell before diving into our thoughts on Google’s planned smart home event for next week. Then we cover the big IoT acquisitions of the week from Google, lululemon(!), and Amazon. After that, we discuss Qualcomm’s new chip for wearables, Netgear’s mid-range Orbi router, Amazon’s new space services, Nest installations, and companies giving up on 360 video for VR. Kevin then shares his thoughts on the Echo Frames, which is Amazon’s attempt to put Alexa on your face. We conclude the news segment by answering a question about why we like color-changing light bulbs.

The North Focals glasses cost $999 and now belong to Google. Image by North.

Our guest this week is Que Dallara, President and CEO of Honeywell Connected Enterprise, who came on the show to discuss the partnership Honeywell signed last month with SAP to combine operations data from buildings with business data. She explains that this deal is about bringing the analytics common in the IT world to the action-oriented information from the OT world, allowing companies to understand how their buildings affect their bottom line. She talks about the details of the partnership but also explains what’s behind the IT/OT convergence and shares her thoughts on how far companies can get with a horizontal solution for enterprise IoT. Enjoy the show.

Host: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Que Dallara, President and CEO of Honeywell Connected Enterprise,
Sponsor: Very and Very

  • Which video doorbell did I buy?
  • Google buys North and gets another pair of glasses
  • Kevin tries on Amazon Echo Frames
  • What’s behind the new SAP and Honeywell partnership
  • How COVID-19 pushed Honeywell and SAP to focus on smart buildings

Episode 274: Apple embraces IoT and SmartThings shakes things up

This week’s show is a whopper, starting with the news from Apple’s WorldWide Developers Conference. We talk about how Apple is playing the long game by integrating sensors and machine learning across devices to give contextual experiences, Apple’s updates to HomeKit, and some details about Apple opening up its FindMy network. From there we talk about SmartThings’ evolution and eventual shut down of some beloved services and the new Wyze Cam Outdoor camera. On the enterprise side, Microsoft acquires CyberX, and Deutsche Telekom spins out its IoT business. We also cover news from Google related to Hue devices, Misty Robotics, Tuya, and Segway. Kevin gives a preview of Amazon’s Echo Frames and we answer a quick question about viewing your Ring doorbell on an Apple TV.

The new Wyze Cam Outdoor is battery-powered and cheap. Image courtesy of Wyze.

This week’s guest is Mark Benson, head of engineering at Samsung SmartThings, who joins us to discuss the changes coming to the platform later this year. He lays out why SmartThings is going to end support for some features as it tries to move toward delivering a more intuitive smart home. For example, on the hardware side, your hub will still exist but SmartThings will also put its software on hubs made by other vendors and we’ll see other manufacturers make SmartThings’ branded devices. On the software side, it’s moving from the current Groovy programming environment to an API, which is going to upset some developers and DIY folks. Benson explains why this change is needed and what developers will gain and lose. You’re going to want to listen.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Mark Benson, head of engineering at SmartThings
Sponsors: Very and Very

  • Apple’s using its chips and closed ecosystem to deliver context to devices
  • Why Microsoft purchased CyberX
  • How long will the Zigbee Alliance keep its name?
  • 2020 is the turning point for the smart home
  • Why SmartThings wants to trade Groovy for an API

Episode 273: Ripple20 and Helium goes global

This week’s show features a guest co-host, Chris Albrecht, editor at The Spoon. We kick off the show discussing the latest IoT security vulnerability Ripple20 and why you need a software Bill of Materials for your connected products. We then focus on COVID-19 contract tracing, using wireless signals to monitor patients remotely, Intel’s updated robotic vision platform, and my personal robotic nightmare that’s now for sale. Then, we talk about the new Philips Hue gear that’s out and why Chris doesn’t want smart light bulbs. Are you ready for Apple’s WWDC or the launch of a new Wyze product? Plus, Google countersues Sonos, consumers like their storebought routers better, and National Instruments changes its name and a bit of its business strategy. Finally, we answer a user question about making cameras a bit more private.

Spot will cost as much as a luxury car at $74,500, but anyone can buy one. Image courtesy of Boston Dynamics.

This week’s guest is Amir Haleem, the CEO and co-founder of Helium, which operates a network for the IoT.  Haleem explains why he’s chosen to build a network using a mixture of cryptocurrency, decentralized hotspots and LoRa devices. On the show, he announces Helium’s new tracker hardware and the launch of the Helium network in Europe. We talk about business models, Europe’s IoT efforts, and whether or not I will get any LoRa sensors that can deliver low-power connectivity at a greater distance from my house. It’s a good show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Chris Albrecht
Guest: Amir Haleem, CEO and co-founder of Helium
SponsorsCalix and Very

  • The Ripple20 vulnerabilities are bad. Here’s how to make it easier to patch
  • Let’s talk about delivery robots
  • Philips Hue’s new gear is worth a look
  • Why low power IoT networks have a business model challenge
  • Helium didn’t want to get into hardware, but it ultimately caved

Episode 272: Let’s talk about anonymity by design

This week’s podcast starts off with IBM’s decision to stop selling facial recognition software (we recorded before Amazon made a similar announcement) and then shifts to a discussion on neuromorphic computing. From there we discuss Lutron’s new wooden blinds, turning a Commodore 64 into a home automation system,  insights on water use during the pandemic,  more integrations from RoomMe, and funding for Drop’s kitchen operating system. We also touch on industrial news with a scaled-out Bluetooth deployment and PTC, Microsoft, and Rockwell Automation offering Factory Insights as a service. Kevin then shares some thoughts on the next big things necessary for smart homes to advance. Finally, we hear from a listener who wants to find a way to make his smoke alarms smarter.

Lutron adds smart wooden blinds to its Serena line of smart window coverings. Image courtesy of Lutron.

Our guest this week is Andrew Farah, CEO of Density, a startup that provides sensors for people tracking. We last chatted more than five years ago and since then he’s built out the company, created a product for commercial real estate and found time to advocate for building IoT products that are anonymous by design. We talk about how companies are using his service and sensors to keep occupancy rates below the legal limits during the pandemic and why sensors are much better than cameras. You’ll enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Andrew Farah, CEO of Density
Sponsors: Calix and Very

  • IBM’s decision to stop selling facial recognition software is a start
  • This enterprise hub can read 12,000 Bluetooth tags in a minute
  • Three things that will move the smart home forward
  • This sensor has 800 components and can tell how many people are in a room
  • Why we need to build things with anonymity at the forefront

Episode 270: Wink is a bad boyfriend and what about Wi-Fi HaLow?

This week’s show starts off with Wink’s new pricing plan (although it feels less like a plan and more like watching a toddler trying to chase a soccer ball.) After that, we talk about Wemo’s decision to address a known security issue by pushing users to create accounts, We also discuss the future of remote work and augmented reality as filtered through an industrial lens and as planned by Mark Zuckerberg. In other news, SoftBank is trying to sell industrial IoT software company OSISoft, while NXP has a new CEO. Professional smart home provider Savant says it will acquire GE’s Lighting biz, and we have thoughts. Plus, Kevin actually reviews a few GE smart bulbs. We close by answering a question about what to use instead of Wink.

Wemo is asking users to adopt accounts to improve security.

This week’s guest is Vahid Manian, the COO of Morse Micro, a company building a radio chip for Wi-Fi HaLow. If you are unfamiliar with the standard, that’s because after the Wi-Fi Alliance launched it in 2017, no one got excited about the so-called Wi-Fi for IoT. So far, I can’t think of a single company pushing forward with Wi-Fi HaLow devices or silicon, outside of Morse Micro. But Manian explains what Wi-Fi HaLow is good for, and why we might see it used for sending video over longer distances. I don’t know if I’m sold, but he says we can expect some devices using the tech in the middle of next year, so I’m willing to wait and see. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Vahid Manian, the COO of Morse Micro
SponsorsCalix and Edge Impulse

  • My dysfunctional relationship with Wink
  • AR for work can be smart, but shouldn’t be surveillance
  • Why Savant is buying GE Lighting and GE is selling
  • What the heck is Wi-Fi HaLow?
  • How many versions of Wi-Fi do we need?

Episode 269: Wyze wants to bulk up and Microsoft Build news

This week’s show is all about Seattle-area companies. First up, Wyze wants to raise money, so it shared its sales from last year and plans for 30 more smart home products. Kevin and I talk about the company and its impact on the industry. Then we shift to Microsoft and its Build event, which took place this week. We discuss the IoT news including Azure RTOS, an update to Azure IoT Central (the SaaS IoT platform for Azure), and more.  We also took a side trip to explore a new consortium dedicated to digital twins. We then discuss what $4.99 a month buys you from Wink, a new wearable for contact tracing from Nodle and Avnet, the new Logitech Circle View camera, and Google Assistant getting new skills for appliances. We conclude by answering an email from Australia about door locks for rentals.

The new Logitech Circle View camera works with Apple’s HomeKit Secure Video service and sells for $159. Image courtesy of Logitech.

This week’s guest is Dr. Ben Calhoun, co-founder, and co-CTO at Everactive. I profiled the company a few years back when it had a different name but the same mission — building battery-free sensors that are powered via energy harvesting. The company has sold its steam trap sensor since 2018 and is now launching a vibration sensor. We talk about how to build a sensor that can harvest enough energy to monitor factory conditions, how COVID-19 is changing the demand for industrial IoT, and what changes once plant managers get a continuous stream of data about their operations. It’s a fun show, and you’ll learn all about steam traps!

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Dr. Ben Calhoun, co-founder, and co-CTO at Everactive
SponsorsVery and Edge Impulse

  • Wyze sold $95 million in gear last year
  • Microsoft’s really building out an end-to-end IoT infrastructure
  • Wink is charging me $5 a month so my voice assistants integrate better
  • Why we need energy harvesting sensors
  • How to sell a big name on a startup’s tech

 

Episode 267: How to build your own IoT device

This week on the show, Kevin and I start with a potential privacy bill in the Senate related to COVID-19 track and trace and then discuss the challenges legislation and Bluetooth track-trace efforts will face. We then talk about a possible acquisition by Microsoft of an industrial IoT security company. Kevin shared his hope for a smart home with common sense based on advances in AI research before we dig into new IoT malware called Kaiji. In news, Nordic Semiconductor is touting new smart gear for hospitals, Nest is requiring all users to use multi-factor authentication, Ring has a new $99 doorbell, and Automatic joins other companies in shutting down because of the pandemic. This week on the IoT Podcast hotline, we answer a question about Z-Wave repeaters and buggy mesh networks.

Image of the MailPig mailbox sensor courtesy of Christine Sunu.

Our guest this week is Christine Sunu, who got a lot of attention a week or two ago with the creation of a sourdough fitness tracker called Sourd.io. She joined us to walk us through the creation of a sensor to detect if your mail has arrived (specifically if your mailbox has been opened). As an IoT developer community engagement manager with Twilio, and a former developer engagement manager with Particle, Sunu has been making connected devices for years, so she helps with the terms you might want to Google and how to get over common barriers standing in the way of a final project. It was so much fun to talk to her, and she has written a blog post to go with the interview in case you need more than the auditory guidance.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Christine Sunu
Sponsors: Very and Liveworx

  • The latest on COVID-19 track and trace news
  • Is Microsoft getting more serious about industrial IoT?
  • Ring’s got a new doorbell
  • How to build a connected mailbox sensor
  • Two common barriers to finishing your projects