Episode 370: How to build the infrastructure for public tech

This week’s show kicks off with research suggesting Amazon uses data from Alexa devices to advertise its own products, and that Amazon is selling some of the insights derived from Alexa requests to third parties. This is disturbing, but so is John Deere’s ability to decommission tractors stolen by Russians from a Ukraine dealership. We talk about why this sort of power makes me nervous. And in a final story about digital rights, we discuss the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention buying location data from private companies so it can see how effective some of its COVID policies were. From there we go into basic product news, starting with new wellness features coming to your Google Nest Hub screen ahead of Google I/O next week, a new room sensor from Wyze, new light switches from Leviton that don’t require a neutral wire, and new Wi-Fi 7 chips from Qualcomm. Kevin then shares a new smart home purchase and his thoughts on the Schlage Encode Plus with Home Key door lock. We finish by answering a listener’s question about if we’ll get a custom sound detection from Amazon’s Alexa.

The Wyze room sensor has a screen, and tracks temperature, humidity and motion. Image courtesy of Wyze.

Our guest this week is Bianca Wylie, who is a partner with Digital Public, a public interest firm focused on technology. She wrote an article calling for the end of Canada’s COVID contact tracing application and explains why she thinks it’s time to sunset the app. I think her ideas are important to discuss as our governments invest in digital infrastructure without necessarily having a plan for maintaining or auditing it. The COVID-tracking apps are a great case study that we can learn from. For example, when governments implement new technology they need to figure out how they plan to maintain it and ensure that it is doing the job it was intended to do. As citizens, we need to participate in the process of buying technology, working with government officials to set the requirements and limitations of the tech our government is buying. This is a really good interview for all of us to listen to.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Bianca Wylie
Sponsors: Impinj and InfluxData

  • Amazon is selling Alexa voice data to advertisers
  • We need to classify more data as Personally Identifiable Information (PII)
  • Wi-Fi 7 chips are here but don’t upgrade your network
  • What’s wrong with Canada’s COVID contact-tracing app
  • Smart cities incur technical debt too

Episode 369: Amazon’s $1B industrial IoT fund

We kick off the show this week with Insteon’s comments about its abrupt closure and asset sale before trying to salvage some good news from Arm’s latest chip news. We’re getting a new M-class processor that’s going to be super capable for machine learning at the edge and other jobs. We also give you a preview of next year’s hottest tech, wireless charging for smart home devices. Then we pivot to industrial news with Amazon’s newly announced $1 billion fund for industrial innovation. So far Amazon is investing in computer vision and robotics startups, but warehouse automation, supply chain technology and logistics are all of interest for the fund. Amazon also released a new Alexa talent for the smart home, Sense raised $105 million for smarter home energy monitoring and Wyze introduced a garage door controller. We close out the news with a found Pixel watch, an update on the Sigfox sale, and Kevin reviewing an Airthings View Pollution air quality monitor. On the hotline this week we answer a question about a HomeKit hub that’s stuck in standby mode.

Wireless charging is coming to Belkin devices. Image courtesy of Wi-Charge.

Our guest this week is Willem Sundblad, CEO of Oden Technologies. Oden Technologies is an industrial IoT startup that tries to bridge the gap between operational technology data and IT data. We discuss how its clients are using the software to help track the quality of their batch processes, and how software is helping its customers with supply chain challenges and sustainability goals. Paper manufacturing and plastics companies are facing issues getting enough raw materials with supply chains mucked up, and so are trying to use more recycled materials. But changing inputs means adjusting the process, which can be difficult and lead to poor yields while the manufacturer adjusts the recipe. Oden’s customers are able to tweak their processes for new inputs faster and without as much waste, which is something to be excited about. It’s one of the things I had hoped the IoT was going to enable, and I’m glad to see it happening.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Willem Sundblad, CEO of Oden Technologies
Sponsors: Impinj and InfluxData

  • Insteon’s final goodbye is pretty frustrating
  • Alexa has a new talent and is going to share it with Google Nest devices
  • This $200 air quality monitor does too little for so much
  • Industrial IoT software can help with sustainability goals
  • More data can lead to more confident plant operators

Episode 368: So long Insteon

This week we start the show with the end of Insteon, which is probably the biggest smart home story this week. We talked about what we know (which isn’t much) and why saving cloud-based smart home services is not as easy as escrowing code and hoping a community continues to support the product. In other bad business news, the company that purchased LIFX has hired a consulting firm to explore a possible sale. We also get an update on the total number of smart homes in Europe and the U.S. It’s more than I thought. In small product news, Wyze has a new door lock and Senet has expanded its partnership with Helium to expand its low-power wide-area network. We didn’t have a voicemail this week because we wanted to provide options for Insteon users who have been left out in the cold.

A three-gang Brilliant switch is $499.99, but it’s pretty powerful. Image courtesy of Brilliant.

Our guest this week is Aaron Emigh, CEO of Brilliant, who is on the show to discuss Brilliant’s plan to sell its smart home control system to DIYers, builders, and apartment owners. Brilliant makes a smart home control system that’s packed into a light switch with the lighting control, a screen, cameras, and microphones. Emigh shares why Brilliant exists and how it’s trying to meet the market’s need for smart home controls that are easier for the mainstream to work with. We also discuss business models, Matter, and the end of Insteon for an interview that covers a lot of the big issues associated with the smart home today.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Aaron Emigh, CEO of Brilliant
Sponsors: Impinj and InfluxData

  • Insteon is dead so what do you do?
  • What is happening at LIFX?
  • The chip shortage strikes the Helium network.
  • Why Brilliant teamed up with Resideo to combine the home’s OT and IT systems
  • What can other device companies learn from Insteon?

Episode 366: Meet a robot that weeds your garden

This week’s podcast starts with an update on the state of Bluetooth adoption courtesy of the Bluetooth SIG. We discuss adoption of Bluetooth in the smart home, adoption of Bluetooth mesh and why Kevin prefers NFC to Bluetooth for secure keys. From there we discuss a new effort by the U.S. Congress to make it easier for medical device companies to keep their devices secure and up-to-date. We then talk about a new chip that handles a lot of the complexities associated with energy harvesting chips, and a new partnership program from Wiliot to enable other companies to put their postage-stamp-sized computers on products. We also talk about how the chip shortage can have negative impacts on R&D, building off of conversations I have had recently, and this article. In product news we discuss using picture-in-picture for Apple’s HomeKit camera feeds, Eufy’s new battery-powered camera that has a cellular subscription, and whether we should be done with Wyze gear or not. Kevin also reviews the Wyze gun safe and finds that its connectivity doesn’t offer much value. We end the first half of the show by answering a listener question about creating a do-not-disturb option for connected devices.

The Bluetooth SIG estimates that Bluetooth will be in 552 million smart home devices shipped in 2022. Chart courtesy of the Bluetooth SIG.

Our guest this week is Helen Greiner, a co-founder of iRobot and CEO of Tertill, a weeding robot. We discuss what she learned building a robot designed for the mass market, and how to think about introducing new capabilities over time. We also discuss how the Tertill works. It’s surprisingly low-tech for a robot, but that’s intentional to keep the price low enough to convince skeptical consumers to shell out $349 for a robot designed to keep gardens weed-free. We also talk about adding a subscription business model to the company’s mix and why that matters today. We end with Greiner’s vision for the smart garden of the future. It’s a fun interview just in time for spring.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Helen Greiner, CEO of Tertill
Sponsors: Save our Standards and RAKwireless

  • Whatever happened to Bluetooth mesh?
  • Congress wants to make medical devices more secure
  • The chip shortage may be hurting innovation
  • What the creator of a weeding robot learned from robotic vacuums
  • Tomorrow’s smart garden has plenty of sensors and solar-powered robots

Episode 363: How will DST affect the IoT?

This week, the U.S. Senate passed a bill that would make it possible for states to use Daylight Saving Time all year round, so we discuss what it means for IoT devices and whether or not it will be a return to Y2K. For current crises, we cover China’s latest COVID outbreak and what it means for the supply chain. We then talk about ARM’s layoffs and Google’s new design for Google Home. In privacy news, Carnegie Melon researchers have shown how sensors can easily figure out what people are doing based on their movements. We also cover funding for Copper Labs, an energy intelligence company, the first development board for Wi-Fi HaLow, the first device that will use Z-Wave long range, IKEA’s new smart shades, and a new gun safe from Wyze. For the IoT Podcast Hotline, we tackle a listener question about Wi-Fi switches that don’t require formal wiring.

The Wyze gun safe is $154.99. Image courtesy of Wyze.

Our guest this week is Beau Legeer, the director of imagery and remote sensing from GIS software provider Esri. He explains the infrastructure behind the maps we use every day and then talk about how companies are using satellites as part of their IoT sensing infrastructure. Most of us are aware of the potential for using satellite imagery to track all kinds of things, but satellites are launching now that measure heat, various gases and more. We talk about why putting sensors in the sky can help augment those on the ground or supplant them. We also talk about using satellite data as a trigger. And if you’re a startup, we talk about Esri’s partnerships with startups and charities. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Beau Legeer, director of imagery and remote sensing, Esri
Sponsors: Save our Standards and RAKwireless

  • Will year-round daylight saving time affect the IoT?
  • Here comes the Nvidia/ARM merger failure fallout
  • Two new wireless standards hit the real world
  • See something on satellite? Trigger a drone!
  • Satellite can provide more than just image data

Episode 361: IoT builds a better mousetrap

This week’s show kicks off with a discussion about smarter robots and new funding for a Canadian general purpose robotics platform. Then we talk about Amazon’s further healthcare ambitions in a deal with Teledoc that lets you ask Alexa to call a doctor. We also give an update on the Sigfox receivership process since bids were due on Feb 25. We then hit some bad news from Wyze regarding its professional monitoring subscriptions and the recall of 1.7 million Fitbit Ionic watches. We also have a lot of new product news starting with Lutron’s new honeycomb smart shades, a smart mosquito-killing system, a new HomeKit and HomeKey-compatible lock and a review from Kevin on a connected mousetrap. We end the show by answering a listener question about reliable smart lighting options and the best HomeKit gadgets for those new to the ecosystem.

Thermacell’s new Liv mosquito-repelling system works with Alexa and Google Assistant. Image courtesy of Thermacell.

Our guest this week is Bob Marshall, the CEO of Whisker Labs. the company behind the Ting fire detection device. Marshall has been working with sensor data for more than a decade, so we talk about his earlier company and where the idea for Ting came from. We also discuss how to get in business with insurance companies and why Ting has elected to build a subscription business. We also discuss what types of service you need to provide if you do plan to charge a subscription. I like the Ting device, so was excited to chat with Marshall. I hope you enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Bob Marshall, CEO of Whisker Labs
SponsorsSomfy and Pantacor

  • Sanctuary feels like a moonshot, not a startup
  • Alexa can connect you to medical care
  • Murder mice humanely with a smarter mouse trap
  • How Ting built a business built on insurance companies
  • How Marshall pivoted from weather to fire prevention

Episode 357: Too many companies are paying ransomware

This week we kick off the show with an explainer on Sigfox’s receivership before delving into grim news from Claroty, a cybersecurity firm.  Claroty surveyed 1,100 IT and OT (operational technology) pros and discovered that three out of five of them worked at companies that paid up after a ransomware attack. I can’t believe it, but the research offers compelling reasons why. We then move over to some Matter news, starting with an update from Assa Abloy on backward compatibility for its Yale locks, and concluding with an update from Nanoleaf, which is delaying some of its products thanks to Matter being delayed. We then cover Walmart teaming up with Angi to install some smart home products for consumers as part of the rush to invest in smart devices that we discussed last week with Angi’s CEO. In quick news, we talk about a new IoT satellite service, an acquisition by connected health company Withings, and Peloton’s new $90 smart heart rate monitor. We conclude the show with a good idea from one of our listeners who set up a sort of call system using Wyze outlets and smart bulbs.

Withings purchased a subscription workout app to add to its wellness hardware. Image courtesy of Withings.

Our guest this week is Simon van der Jagt, CEO of Nowi. Nowi makes an energy harvesting chip that is easier to use in a variety of sensors. We talk about why, before moving to a discussion of plug and forget devices, and what those will entail. The idea is that companies can build energy-harvesting sensors that could last for the life of a road or container or other product, and thus we can forget about them. We also talk about trends in designing chips for the IoT such as sales challenges and the growing demand for highly specific chips that can consume the least amount of power while getting the work done. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Simon van der Jagt, CEO of Nowi
SponsorsRightpoint and Hologram

  • What led to Sigfox’s “bankruptcy”
  • You’ll never believe the size of these ransoms
  • Is Matter causing product delays?
  • What kind of chips does the IoT need?
  • Let’s design plug and forget devices

Episode 353: Virtual CES extravaganza

It’s CES week, and neither Kevin nor I are physically there for the second year running. That makes it really tough to get a macro sense of cool tech and upcoming trends outside of press releases and product launches. Normally, we spend so much time trawling for the weird or futuristic in the demos and report on the stuff that isn’t pre-packaged in a release. Maybe we can return to that next year. In the meantime, there are a lot of stories, but the biggest trends in the smart home relate to the upcoming launch of the Matter interoperability standard for the smart home, a bunch of new products that will support HomeKit, and new products for Amazon Alexa and the Google ecosystems. We are also are excited about the newly launched Home Connectivity Alliance and what it might mean for future product features and energy consumption in the home.

Arlo’s new DIY security system includes an all-in-one sensor and keypad. Image courtesy of Arlo.

After a quick break, we share our non-amazement of John Deere’s automated tractor. It’s cool, but it has also been half a decade in the works, so it’s not like it comes as a huge shock. We then discuss new products from Samsung (an energy harvesting remote and a tablet for the smart home), Schneider Electric’s update to its energy management software, a new assistive robot, and Arlo’s smart home security system with an all-in-one sensor. Outside of product news, the Wi-Fi Alliance has released an update to the Wi-Fi 6 standard with more uplink capacity and better power management. This will ensure that Wi-Fi 6 is more relevant for IoT devices and perhaps ensure those chips get used in more end devices, especially in cameras and video doorbells. Masonite also showed off its smart door at CES so we share our impressions. Finally, we answer a question from a listener about power consumption in IoT devices.

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

  • Matter may be late, but it’s looking much better
  • All three digital assistants got a lot of love from new product launches
  • John Deere’s robot tractor shows how technical farming has gotten
  • Wi-Fi 6 gets an update custom-made for the IoT
  • How much energy does Alexa or Siri consume?

Episode 351: Smart homes in the metaverse

What happens when the smart home meets the metaverse? We talk about the potential for better user interfaces and home mapping if we build digital twins of the home in a metaverse, while also discussing the potential of UWB to expand the amount of information contained in that digital twin. Then we discuss an excellent article on the Matter protocol and a new chip for Matter devices before noting Samsara’s successful public offering. In some anti-consumer news, Toyota is disabling features in its radio-controlled keyfobs unless people pay a subscription, leading us to wonder how we assess value in software as compared to hardware. We then look at LoRaWAN coverage maps for the combined Helium and Senet network, a new deal in the satellite IoT sector. Finally, we answer a listener question about Shelly RGBW modules for lighting and Home Assistant.

The Fi collar costs $149 and requires a subscription for its location-tracking feature. Image courtesy of Fi.

This week’s guest is Jonathan Bensamoun, the CEO and founder of Fi, a maker of a connected dog collar. We discuss the product and why people buy a connected collar. Then we cover the connectivity options and why the Fi collar uses cellular as opposed to some of the other low-power wide-area networks such as Amazon’s Sidewalk. Lastly, we talk about subscription options and how to build a plan that works for your audience. Whatever Bensamoun is doing works, because 93% of people who buy the collar subscribe to the service. That’s amazing! Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Jonathan Bensamoun, the CEO and founder of Fi
Sponsors: Twilio and Silicon Labs

  • Does the metaverse have a role in the smart home?
  • How UWB can help make the smart home better
  • Where there’s LoRaWAN coverage, and where there isn’t
  • Why cellular still beats Amazon Sidewalk and LoRaWAN
  • How to price a subscription for an IoT device

Episode 350: Lexmark shares how to manage millions of connected devices

Today’s show is our 350th episode, so we start off with a little bit of celebration before hitting half a dozen pieces of Amazon-related news, including the AWS outage that took out many smart home services, and a newly submitted FCC listing that could be a big deal for those needing a low-power wide-area network. Then we mention Amazon’s latest Halo device and the new Amazon Alexa Together service, which launched this week (it works with a radar sensor from Vayyar to monitor for falls). Then we talk about long-term support for FreeRTOS and an update bringing Alexa smart home capabilities to the FireTV platform. After all that time on Amazon, we then turn to some LiFi news and a bit on how LiFi could be adapted to become relevant for the IoT. Then, we celebrate again over Sonos’ plan to design its devices to last longer and be easily recycled when they reach the end of life.  We also cover some slimy data practices by Life360, a big round of funding for IoT platform Afero, and a new Thread-capable device from Eve. Finally, we end by answering a listener question about smart smoke detectors.

The sensor from Vayyar costs $250 and can work with Amazon’s Amazon’s Alexa Together service to track falls. Image courtesy of Amazon.

This week’s guest is Phil Carter, director of managed print and IoT services at Lexmark, the printer giant. He’s on the show to share what Lexmark has learned through more than a decade of managing millions of connected printers around the world. He shares how the company built a predictive maintenance program, uses sensor data from printers to redesign new printers to handle common problems, and even discusses how connected devices help with Lexmark’s sustainability goals. Lexmark has taken its expertise and created its own IoT platform called Optra. Lexmark launched the first Optra service this year, and Carter talks about why Lexmark launched the platform and why it felt that a consulting element was essential for the platform. It’s a very practical interview for those trying to build and manage a bunch of connected devices.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Phil Carter, director of managed print and IoT services at Lexmark
Sponsors: Twilio and Juniper Networks

  • So much Amazon news from data center outages to new devices
  • We’re really excited about how Sonos is designing gadgets for sustainability
  • Boo. Life360 forces people to opt-out of allowing it to share location data
  • Why Lexmark decided to launch an IoT platform of its own
  • How connected printers can help reduce Lexmark’s environmental impact