Episode 198: Check out CES and a smart KB Home

Kevin and I are at CES this week ready to embrace the future of consumer technology. But so far, we haven’t found much that is new. We discuss the domination by Google at the show, a bunch of news about Amazon’s Alexa ecosystem and a smattering of news from smart home providers. By this point in the show, we had seen several demos of smart home systems, tried on the connected glasses from North and tasted bread baked by a robot. Kevin also rode the ride marketing Google’s Assistant.  This time we conducted the show from a bar in Vegas while we were rehashing our thoughts from the last few days and figured we might as well just hit record. It’s a bit loosey-goosey, but it will help you feel like you’re there.

Google announced a smaller clock display at CES as well as ways to bring the Google Assistant into the car.

This week’s guest was also in Las Vegas, showing off a new concept home from KB Home. Jacob Atalla, vice president of sustainability at KB Home, joined us to share the details of KB Home’s concept house in Vegas that combines connected products, wellness-focused AI, pre-fabrication techniques and walls that move to create new rooms on demand. The concept home has air quality sensors built into the walls, lights that are tuned to circadian rhythms and connected an HVAC system that tries to make the house as healthy as possible. Atalla explains the tech and which of these technologies you might see in future homes.

Hosts: Kevin Tofel and Stacey Higginbotham
Guest: Jacob Atalla, vice president of sustainability at KB Home
Sponsors: FairCom and Afero

  • Google may have the biggest news at CES and that’s sad
  • Alexa is also stealing the show with partnerships galore
  • Smarter kitchens are coming whether you want them or not
  • KB Home has built a house with a wall that moves and solar power
  • How to future-proof sensors built into walls

Episode 196: The holiday Q&A extravaganza!

This week Kevin and I took some time off to prepare for the CES and get ready for 2019. It’s going to be awesome! But we can’t leave you guys without a show, so we selected almost a dozen listener questions from the IoT Podcast Hotline and tried to answer them. You’ll learn about some in-ceiling speaker mounts for Alexa or Google devices, turning lights off after a motion-detection event turns them on and two requests that the Amazon Alexa team should listen for because they’d make good features.

We get so many questions about Alexa, y’all.

We also gave some advice and opinions on popular DIY smart home programs, mesh Wi-Fi systems and our favorite outdoor temperature systems. We had a caller who wanted advice on the best ways to get middle schoolers working with Alexa, and Kevin was happy to share his tips. We also had someone trying to outfit a long driveway with some kind of detection system for their smart home. All in all, we learned a lot researching this episode and are in awe of your ideas and methods for making your homes smarter. There is a long tail of needs out there that we hope we helped with a bit.

This entire voicemail effort, plus the locks that our questioners are able to win each month are made possible by our sponsorship from Schlage. Kevin and I would like to thank Schlage for its support over this last year. And a big thanks to all of our listeners who send dozens of questions each month. We’ll keep trying to answer as many of them as we can.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Sponsor: Schlage

Episode 195: We’re switching to Google’s Home

Kevin is back this week and we kick off the show discussing GE’s decision to spin out its industrial IoT business. From there we talk about the closure of Lighthouse, the smart camera maker, a critical update for Hue bulbs and Qualcomm’s new IoT chip. Then we dive into a swath of Alexa related news, including updates that tailor routines for locations, a new wall clock and the beta program from Amazon’s Guard security feature. The show isn’t all about Alexa. Kevin shares his thoughts on the Google Home Hub and I get excited about being able to see my G Suite calendar data on my Google Smart Display. (Here’s that Norm photo album we talked about.) We also handle the rather late-breaking news about Ring’s lack of camera footage security. We also answer a listener question about why some connected devices don’t work with mesh Wi-Fi systems.

The Amazon Alexa wall clock costs $30.

My guest this week is my family. My husband and daughter come on the show each year to discuss what they like and don’t like from the world of smart devices. While we love Alexa and use it often, we’re switching over to Google Home after seeing the Nest gear and how well it performs with the Google Smart Displays. We also discuss our thoughts about what to take with us when we move and which devices we’ll miss most. I hope you enjoy the show, and the holidays!

Host: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Andrew and Anna Allemann
Sponsors: Digicert and Afero

  • What the new GE IIoT business needs to do
  • Thank you Hue!
  • Alexa gets a lot of cool features and integrations
  • There’s a smart bulb in my room?
  • Yes, they are still talking about the June oven

Episode 193: Inside Calgary’s sensor network

This week we tackle a bunch of device news, the rebranding of TrackR, the end of ARM’s Cordio Bluetooth IP and Nokia’s latest data on IoT botnets. We also ask what y’all think about network security devices and services for the connected home. We don’t currently consider them a must-have device, but should we? In device news, we mention Arlo’s new 4K security camera, iHome’s new mirror and alarm clock, IKEA’s $10 smart plug, Bose’s connected sunglasses, and Free ISP’s new Freebox Delta. We also discuss Kevin’s purchase of the Google Home Hub and my review of the First Alert Onelink Safe & Sound smoke detector and smart speaker. Finally, we answer a question about what connected tech belongs in the bedroom.

A chart from Nokia’s Threat Intelligence report showing the increase in detection botnets using IoT devices.

Our guest this week is Heather Reed-Fenske, the chief information technology officer at the City of Calgary. She talks about how Calgary has built a sensor network on top of its existing city-wide fiber network. Calgary is using LoRa radios that cost about $45,000, and is layering all kinds of new services on top of the network. She talks about what that has meant for city workers, trees and even concert promoters. We also discuss privacy and how governments should think about deploying smart tech in municipal settings. It’s a fun show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Heather Reed-Fenske, the CITO at the City of Calgary
Sponsors: Digicert and Afero

  • Bluetooth trackers are boring, so those companies are changing
  • Should a network defense product be part of your smart home?
  • First Alert’s smart smoke detector is pricey and smart
  • How Calgary uses its LoRa network to keep trees alive
  • Real time noise sensors keep outdoor concerts in line

Episode 191: Lowe’s wants to dump Iris

This week on the show, Kevin and I talk about Lowe’s putting the Iris smart home system on the block, Apple buying Silk Labs and why now is a perfect time to pull the trigger on the smart home device you’ve been eyeing. We then dug deep on a swath of Alexa-related news such as the ability to bring Bluetooth devices to the Alexa ecosystem, Anki’s Vector robot getting Alexa integration and the new Alexa Wake-on LAN commands. Google also has some new features to discuss such as an ability to replace Siri on an iOS and a new developer board with microcontrollers linked to Google’s cloud. We also teased our gift guide coming out on Friday in the Stacey on IoT newsletter and shared the new Abode security device plus a new Google Assistant Smart Display from LG. In this week’s voicemail, we advise a dad about what smart home gear he should buy his two daughters for their first apartments.

The Iota gateway and camera from Abode costs $259. Image courtesy of Abode.

November is National Diabetes Month, and so I brought on Mike Nelson who is the head of IoT security at DigiCert, but for the show purposes, is a father whose 4-year-old daughter has diabetes. He does too. Nelson talks about how connected devices have changed the way he manages his illness and what it means for him as a parent. He also shows how insecure devices, especially medical devices, can become deeply concerning for patients and parents. It’s a good interview that will bring home the need for better security.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Mike Nelson of DigiCert
Sponsor: Bitdefender and Cognizant

  • What went wrong with Lowe’s Iris
  • Why Apple bought a smart home hub company
  • Alexa and Google add new IoT talents
  • How IoT changed the world of diabetes care
  • Why security really, really matter for medical devices

Episode 188: How to design a better smart home

Smart home hubs are dying, DIY will become increasingly niche and smart companies are prepping for this. For example, Honeywell’s smart home spin out Resideo went public this week with an eye to removing complexity from smart homes. Meanwhile, Calix unveiled a gateway device and a service to make it easier for ISPs to deliver the smart home. In other failed IoT efforts, Kevin and I talk about the fall of beacons and point out what might take its place. Google’s new deal with iRobot comes up, and then we segue into Microsoft’s plans for a smart office followed by some of the more recent security breaches. We end with a low-power AI chip and by answering a listener’s question about a Wi-Fi motion sensor to work with his LIFX bulbs.

Roomba i7 robots will share mapping information with Google if users agree.

Our guest this week has written a new book on the smart home. We welcome Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino, who is an industrial designer and author of Smarter Homes: How Technology Will Change Your Home Life. We talk about more than a century of smarter homes, how the term has changed and why today’s efforts are not succeeding. She also asks us to question our current design methodologies for digital assistants and explains what might replace them. It’s a fun show.

Hosts: Kevin Tofel and Stacey Higginbotham
Guest: Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino, author of Smarter Homes: How Technology Will Change Your Home Life
Sponsors: Bitdefender and Cognizant

  • To normalize smart homes, DIY will die
  • Google’s getting home mapping data from robotic vacuums
  • Google’s Home Hubs compromised? How to think about risks.
  • We’ve been pitched the smart home for more than a century
  • Digital assistants should be helpers, not servants

Episode 185: Google’s news and smart kitchens

This week Kevin kicks off the show with his thoughts from the Google event, including a lot of information on the new Google Home Hub. Kevin talks about what it means for Google and the smart home race between Amazon, Apple and now Facebook. Yes, we discuss the Facebook Portal as well. Also the latest software updates from both Amazon and Google on the respective digital assistant apps. We finish the first segment of the show with GE’s new connected light bulbs designed for the Google ecosystem.

The Google Home Hub comes out just in time to show off Google’s new Home app.

We had too much news to have a guest this week, so we continue the show with my tips from the Smart Kitchen Summit this week. I checked out an update from the June oven as well as a bunch of new screens on cooktops, range hoods and refrigerators. Plus, I tried out the Rotimatic flatbread-making robot and it’s expensive but good. We talk about cybersecurity, privacy and whether or not we are ready for the responsibilities associated with the internet of things. We close with an answer to a listener question about wireless doorbells and security cameras.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Sponsors: Cognizant and Auklet

  • Which Google hub is right for you?
  • This is the year of getting the smart home ready for normals
  • Facebook gets in your face
  • How many screens does a kitchen need?
  • What about a roti-making robot?

 

Episode 181: Are you ready for IoT to be a $520B business?

A lot of people are getting a smart speaker for the holidays. That’s one of the takeaways from a recent survey by Adobe that Kevin and I talk about this week. We follow that up with the new Sonos integration with IFTTT before covering a $6.7 billion semiconductor merger. Also on the chip side, we discuss Qualcomm’s new chip for smart watches and why I think it’s worth noting. On the security side, we cover a new security chip for Google IoT core, more botnets and a new security bill that awaits the signature of California’s governor. We update some older stories, cover IKEA’s possible smart blinds and talk about my experience with the new Brilliant Switch. We end the news segment of the show answering a question about programming lights to change color in response to the weather.

Adobe surveyed 1,000 consumers about smart speakers.

Our guest this week is Ann Bosche, a partner with Bain & Company. She discusses how IoT will become a $520 billion business by 2021 and which companies will get a piece of that pie. She also explains how vendors need to step up if we want to see more IoT pilots become integral parts of a business. Her suggestions and advice are practical and worth hearing. Enjoy the show.

Host: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Ann Bosche who is a partner with Bain & Company
Sponsors: SAS and Auklet

  • What weird things do you ask your smart speaker?
  • Renesas’ big bid for Integrated Device Technology
  • Is IKEA making smart blinds?
  • What companies will win in IoT?
  • To be good at IoT companies must focus

Episode 180: Alexa and Google are the real smart home standards

This week we learn more details about Lenovo’s smart home line and talk about Amazon’s new Alexa API for sensors and motion detectors. We touch on a combined router/smart speaker that has Kevin feeling vindicated and talk about the challenges new business models such as Target’s Fetch program face. The Open Connectivity Foundation’s latest version of the IoTivity standard also gets a mention. Security woes are back on the show this week with hacked enterprise door locks and another IoT botnet. We also discuss Relayr’s acquisition by Munich Re and a partnership between Jabil and Tibco to offer a complete electronics board for embedded devices. We then take a call about a builder who wants to place an Interlogix alarm system in a new home, and how the DIY buyer may want to proceed on the IoT Podcast Listener Hotline.

We love Lenovo’s Smart Display, but how will we feel about its new smart bulb, plug and camera?

Our guest this week tackles the challenges of indoor location, explaining why it matters and why it’s so hard. Vikram Pavate is CEO of Locix, a newly launched startup that has been working on this problem for the last four years. Pavate talks about using indoor location in typical use cases such as inventory management, but also to take away some of the manual labor associated with the smart home. I can’t be the only one who hates hand labeling the rooms for every light bulb in the house.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Vikram Pavate is CEO of Locix
Sponsors: SAS and Auklet

  • Amazon’s Alexa gets new skills and a bunch of devices
  • What makes an IoT standard?
  • Why Munich Re needs an IoT platform
  • Indoor location is hard but the context it provides is key

Episode 179: IFA news and bringing extreme wattage to your kitchen

This week in Germany, the IFA trade show is the place to be. Unfortunately Kevin and I aren’t there, but we share a lot of the news that came out from the first half of the show. This includes smart speakers at the high end and lower end, crazy connected kitchen tech and a HomeKit enabled air quality monitor. From there we discuss $50 million in funding for Puls and Kevin’s experience with the Philips Hue Outdoor Lights. We also talk about some disappointing experiences with various updates of our products, from latency to services breaking. After that we answer a question about what to give a student leaving for the dorms. I will confess that I forgot to recommend a Tile, but we did recommend this (affiliate link).

The Joule sous vide cooker packs a lot of power and plenty of connected smarts. But no physical interface. Image courtesy of ChefSteps.

Our guest this week is Chris Young, the CEO of ChefSteps, which operates a recipe site and makes the Joule sous vide cooker. We talk about why the Joule doesn’t have any external controls, and what happens if the company goes bust, as well as why ChefSteps doesn’t plan to license Joule’s tech to other appliance companies. He also shares a recipe that will change your perception of beef. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Chris Young, CEO of ChefSteps
Sponsor: Afero

  • All about IFA
  • When updates go wrong, or take too long
  • Gifts for college-bound kids for $50 or less
  • What is sous vide?
  • Putting the power of a nuclear reactor into your stock pot