Episode 395: I’m running Matter. Now what?

We kick off the podcast with more conversation about the planned White House-led cybersecurity label for consumer IoT devices. Contrary to what I wrote last week, it seems that privacy won’t be as big of a focus, which is disappointing. Then we move into a bunch of updated product news, such as the launch of IKEA’s new Home Smart app and Dirigera hub. SmartThings has a Matter update, which I installed, and Google is updating its Home Assistant AI, adding older cameras to its Google Home App and its newer cameras to the web. We also share how to create routines on the new Google Home app using devices and offer some troubleshooting possibilities. In other device news, Ecobee is said to be preparing a video doorbell, which is confusing to us. There’s also a new crypto-affiliated LoRaWAN miner on the block. We then talk about Level locks and Home Key, and the end of one of my favorite devices of all time. Finally, we take a listener question about how Matter will handle security.

The IKEA Dirigera hub is available now in some markets. Image courtesy of IKEA.

Our guest this week is Mike Nelson, VP of IoT security at DigiCert, who joins me to discuss what Matter will require from a security standpoint. We talked about it for a story two weeks back, but in the show we also discuss what the next iteration of Matter security might include as the specification matures with later versions. The current version of security with Matter is one of several progressive steps the industry has taken toward boosting security of connected devices, but regulators are also getting involved. So I ask Nelson his thoughts on the White House plans for a cybersecurity label for consumer IoT devices. He isn’t sure a detailed label makes much sense but talks about what he’d like to see for consumer IoT, and for other industries such as healthcare. It’s an important conversation.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Mike Nelson, VP IoT security at DigiCert
Sponsors: Arm and Silicon Labs

  • What we think a cybersecurity label needs
  • Everyone is preparing for Matter
  • Why is Ecobee adding a video doorbell?
  • Here’s what we may see in future Matter security requirements
  • Why a nutrition-style cybersecurity label for IoT won’t work

Episode 391: Amazon’s turning Alexa into the brains of the home

This week’s show focuses on Amazon’s new devices and services launched Wednesday. Kevin and I talk about Amazon’s direction with Alexa as the manager of your life. We also gawp at the price iRobot is charging for its latest iteration of the Roomba robotic vacuum, although Kevin convinces me it’s not too crazy. Then we move into a discussion of the energy grid, sharing data from Itron on how utilities are thinking about the future electric grid, and how a partnership between Itron and Samsung SmartThings is an example of long-term thinking. Then I talk about the latest reporting from Forbes on Helium, and apologize for not being more wary about the chicanery that went on in the beginning by Helium’s executives. We then talk about my experience with the latest Yale lock. We end by answering a listener question about Ecobee thermostats that start heating or cooling before you intended.

The new Roomba is both a vacuum and mop. Image courtesy of iRobot.

Our guest this week is Elizabeth Parks, president and CMO of Parks Associates, a research firm focused on emerging technologies. Parks discusses how COVID changed the home security market as well as how monitored security providers have moved downmarket while DIY security companies have expanded upward into offering monitored security. All of this jostling has expanded the overall market. We also talk about the coming demand for energy management services as well as trends in new home building. Expect more connected devices! We end with a quick overview of what to expect from the CEDIA Expo happening this week in Dallas. It’s a fun conversation.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Elizabeth Parks of Parks Associates
Sponsors: Nordic Semiconductor and Firewalla

  • Amazon’s home robot is really Alexa
  • Why energy is becoming a hot topic in the smart home
  • A mea culpa on Helium
  • The security market is expanding thanks to the smart home
  • What to expect from CEDIA

 

Episode 388: Insurers come for the smart home

This week launched with a bang for those interested in the role insurers might play in the smart home as State Farm agreed to make a 1.2 billion equity investment in security firm ADT. This follows on the heels of Google’s equity investment in ADT in 2020 and signals a shift in the way insurance companies are thinking about the smart home. Google also said it would add more money to its ADT partnership. We then discuss a Matter demonstration at IFA and give some updates on what to expect from the protocol. After that we discuss the upcoming Google event and the Apple event from this week before taking a quick break.

The Flair vents work with a temperature-sensing puck. Image courtesy of Flair.

We don’t have a guest this week so we dove right back into the news with a trio of big fundings for the internet of things. First up is funding for a satellite IoT company called OQ that is special because it can use existing NB-IoT and LTE-M radios. The second funding is $140 million for Morse Micro, a chip company that is making chips for Wi-Fi HaLow deployments. The final funding is for Flair, a maker of connected HVAC vents for the home, which raised $7.6 million. We then talk about Ring adding end-to-end encryption for its wireless doorbell and video camera products, new ways to address your Nest Hub Max without saying “Hey Google” first, and new lights from Philips Hue. I also review the Hue Tap Dial Switch and realize my love of buttons is going to force me to do some serious work when Matter arrives. We end the show by answering a listener question about a smart button (or maybe a dumb one) for a smart garage door opener.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Sponsors:  Infineon and Silicon Labs

  • With the smart home, insurers can make sure you’re staying secure
  • Matter previewed at IFA
  • Wi-Fi HaLow got a big boost with Morse Micro funding
  • Climate change and energy conservation is driving smarter HVAC
  • I really love the Hue Tap Dial Switch

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 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?

Episode 384: Here’s why Amazon really bought iRobot

This week’s show kicks off with our discussion of Amazon’s planned acquisition of iRobot, the maker of Roomba robotic vacuums for $1.7 billion. We then talk about a survey from Parks Associates that indicates almost a third of people using AirTag-style trackers to track people without their knowing and why users and companies must focus on consent. Then we hit on another ethics issue associated with a connected Epson printer that stops working after a set period of time, also unbeknownst to the user. In non-ethics news, Feit has purchased LIFX assets, Energous got FCC approval for sending up to 15 watts of power over the air for wireless charging and Qualcomm signed a deal with Global Foundries to ensure its chip supply through 2028. While on the topic of chips, we talk about software that runs on existing ESP32 that uses Wi-Fi for person detection and sensing, and future Apple products for the smart home. We end with a listener question about whether he should buy a new DIY hub and devices, or wait for Matter gear.

LIFX assets are now owned by Feit. Image courtesy of LIFX.

Our guest this week is Mark Benson, the head of Samsung SmartThings US. Benson is on the show to explain how SmartThings plans to eliminate the use of Groovy apps on hubs. The way forward is using APIs for cloud-to-cloud integrations, and LUA-based event handlers for smart apps that run locally. The final shift from Goovy takes place Sept. 30 so get ready for disruption if you have an older, niche routine or app on SmartThings, or update before then. Benson also shares more information on how SmartThings plans to support Matter and what it will mean for Samsung’s overall strategy in the smart home. We dig into what it means to be a Matter controller versus a Matter bridge and what role SmartThings will play. It’s a good show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guests: Mark Benson, the head of Samsung SmartThings US
SponsorsSilicon Labs and Impinj

  • Amazon buys iRobot to build out the next generation of the smart home
  • I’m surprised to see how many people are secretly tracking others
  • We need expiration dates for smart devices
  • SmartThings gets ready for its final goodbye to Groovy
  • How SmartThings plans to adopt Matter

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 380: Here’s what we think with Wink on the blink

This week’s show comes to y’all from Paris and the English seaside, with Kevin and I wondering exactly what happened to Wink. We also offer options for the few remaining holdouts on the platform. We then discuss Hive’s decision to pull back on smart home devices and its new smart thermostat (Hive plans to continue making smart energy devices). Then we focus on surveillance news starting with San Francisco’s Rule’s Committee broadening support for law enforcement agencies to access Ring camera data. Then we share how often police got access to Ring device footage without the owner’s permission. The Federal Trade Commission has a warning for companies that say they anonymize their data when in fact, they do not, and Home Assistant now has a program for formal integrations. We also share our perspectives on BMW charging a monthly fee for access to heated seats. We end by answering a listener question about network extenders.

What the heck is up with Wink? We still don’t know.

Our guest this week is Pilgrim Beart, CEO of DevicePilot, which works with companies to provide service assurance for connected devices. We discuss what the heck service assurance actually is, as well as the challenges of the smart home. Beart was the former CEO of AlertMe, which provided the back end for Lowes’ Iris and the Hive smart home systems. He talks about how his companies both shifted from a focus on smart home devices to smart energy. Then we talk about why the energy market is so ripe for disruption from players willing to take advantage of embedded intelligence. We end with a discussion about the role of regulators in the connected energy markets and how they should approach the job. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Pilgrim Beart, CEO of DevicePilot
Sponsors: InfluxData and Intent

  • It’s time to dump Wink and here’s what to choose instead
  • Police have gotten data from Ring 11 time in the last year without owner permission
  • The FTC thinks your data anonymization claims are sus
  • Why the smart home was destined to fail
  • We need to think about resiliency when bringing smarts to the grid

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.

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