Episode 65: All about Wink and Alexa’s new Skills

Are you curious about Wink? On June 11 it started selling its Relay switch, a light switch that contains a screen and two soft programmable switches for $99 each. Two cost $149 and also double as an intercom. So we talked to Nathan Smith, Wink’s co-founder and CTO, about what happened to bring Wink out back into the game and what to expect next.

The Relay switch from Wink.
The Relay switch from Wink.

Kevin Tofel and I also discussed another Wi-Fi light switch from Plum as part of a discussion on switches and a home without hubs. Before we got there we cover Amazon’s makeover of the Alexa App to highlight Skills, the new Dash buttons and an update on Wi-Fi. Just for fun, I covered my doorbell review that ran in the Wirecutter.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Nathan Smith of Wink
Sponsor: Ayla Networks

  • Alexa’s new skills
  • Here come new Wi-Fi light switches
  • Wi-Fi is getting better!
  • What belongs on a glanceable interface?
  • Some fun Wink robots for y’all

Episode 63: Two summertime gadget reviews and wisdom on wearables

This week is all about health and wearables, starting with Kevin Tofel discussing his frustration with fitness trackers that aren’t sharing everything. This ties into this week’s guest, Ernesto Ramirez, who just received a doctorate in public health and is an expert on how people and companies are using wearables. Ramirez and I spoke about fitness trackers’ accuracy, their utility and then moved on to questions about how employers might use them for good and ill. We also talk about Kevin’s issue of being able to transfer your data because you should own it.

Kevin bought a Fitbit Charge.
Kevin bought a Fitbit Charge.

Aside from the health and wearables chatter, I reviewed the Ilumi color-changing outdoor BR30, which was pretty great, but had one flaw, and brought on my father-in-law who was testing the Rachio sprinkler system in his yard (since I don’t have one). Both of these gadgets are great for summer! Kevin and I didn’t get to the Apple HomeKit news this week, but we will next, so enjoy this show and you’ll have something to look forward to in the next one.

Hosts: Kevin Tofel and Stacey Higginbotham
Guests: Greg Allemann and Ernesto Ramirez

  • You’ll never believe why Kevin bought a Fitbit!
  • 3 awesome things about the Ilumi and 1 bad one.
  • Never install a smart sprinkler without checking this one thing!
  • Check out how wearables are changing healthcare
  • This story about your boss and fitness trackers will terrify you!

Episode 58: How to stop vampire power consumption

Since a quarter of residential energy use is consumed by gadgets that are “off”, Kevin and I discuss how to measure and cut back on that power consumption with a few connected devices. We also talk about Apple’s rumored Home app for HomeKit, the launch of OpenThread, the open source version of Nest’s Thread protocol and the new Almond router from Securifi. We also touch on HP Enterprises‘ hop into the internet of things and Hitachi’s new formal IoT group.

The Almond 3 router. --Image courtesy of Securifi.
The Almond 3 router. –Image courtesy of Securifi.

Then we go to Rich Brown, who is the executive editor of CNET’s smart home and appliance coverage, to discuss how the news site set up a smart house in Louisville, Kentucky, the site’s favorite gadgets and how the Amazon Echo has democratized access to the smart home. The big theme of our conversation was compromise, as in, if you want a smart home you are going to have to make compromises.

Hosts: Ken Tofel and Stacey Higginbotham
Guest: Rich Brown, Executive Editor, CNET

  • A smart home may be a wasteful home
  • Deciphering OpenThread
  • Everyone is hopping into the Industrial Internet pool
  • CNET’s favorite smart home devices
  • The smart home isn’t a democracy

Episode 56: How Ericsson plans to remake its business for a networked era

After a beating on the stock market last week, I spoke with Ericsson’s CEO Hans Vestberg to understand how the company’s 5-year-old plan to change its business is going. The company has just announced a restructuring as it tried to convince Wall Street that it was making progress, so Vestberg discussed that, the role of the internet of things in its new business, and how he defines 5G. Ericsson saw the shifts in its business from the internet of things almost a decade ago, and is working hard to adapt the 140-year-old business.

Hans Vestberg, CEO of Ericsson. Image courtesy of Ericsson.
Hans Vestberg, CEO of Ericsson. Image courtesy of Ericsson.

Before we get to the interview with Vestberg, Kevin and I spend time discussing lights. Phillips Hue has a new app that actually is worthwhile. Stack Lights introduces a new ultrasound sensor that lets it do motion detection through a lampshade, and Ilumi offers an outdoor-rated color-changing floodlight. We also discuss Nokia’s acquisition of Withings, Tile’s impressive revenue and integration with a car, and products you should buy mom for Mother’s Day instead of a Nest.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Hans Vestberg, CEO of Ericsson

  • So much lighting!
  • Nokia’s Withings buy is good, but the price seems low
  • Don’t buy your mom a Nest for Mother’s Day. Buy these gadgets instead.
  • Ericsson on its digital transformation
  • What the heck is 5G?

Episode 55: Find out what Ford learned from Tesla

With ride-sharing, electric vehicles and millennials who aren’t super keen on owning a car all converging, the auto industry is in a panic. But Ford, led by both Bill Ford and Ford CEO Mark Fields has created a plan to keep the carmaker relevant, even if fewer people buy cars. In this week’s show I chat with Don Butler, executive director, Connected Vehicle and Services at Ford, about moving from making cars to delivering a transportation. Butler shares Ford’s thoughts on connecting the car, the integration with the Amazon Echo, and a few things Ford has learned from Tesla.

The 2017 Ford Escape is possibly the smartest car Ford has to offer said Butler.
The 2017 Ford Escape is possibly the smartest car Ford has to offer said Butler.

Before Butler and I get talking, Kevin Tofel and I discuss Intel’s job cuts and internet of things strategy as well as a Zigbee chipmaker’s acquisition. We then talk about the challenge of matching tech components to the long lifespan of some home products. Kevin bought a Pine 64 development board and we talk about what he should do with it, we add a few other updates on devices such as the Philips Hue lights and cover a new deal to bring connectivity to your clothes

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Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Don Butler at Ford

  • Can Intel matter in the internet of things?
  • My smart bulb’s radio broke so now it’s dumb
  • Connected clothes are coming
  • What Ford learned from Tesla
  • Discover Ford’s biggest asset as it seeks to transform its business

Episode 54: Fashion meets the internet of things

Do you want your smart jewelry to have a screen? If we have multiple pieces of connected jewelry how do you make it easy to program for the day? Or will you only have one sensor-laden wearable akin to to a smart watch that does everything? These are some of the questions Matt Manley, of Fjord tackles with me on this week’s show. We start off discussing jewelry, but veered off into how devices should deliver ambient information and the state of wireless power. Even if you aren’t into wearables, Manley’s comments on notifications is worth a listen.

The Aries bracelet from Ringly is one example of a smart jewelry.
The Aries bracelet from Ringly is one example of a smart jewelry.

Kevin and I kicked off the show with jewelry as well, discussing the newly launched Aries bracelet from Ringly. We then talked about the $12.5 million in funding for Luma, one of the companies trying to make a mesh router. This one offers parental controls and should be out in April. We also took a look at the Wirecutter’s review of the best smart switch (outlet). For those of you shopping, they liked the Belkin Wemo Insight Switch. We quickly discuss Pfizer’s plan to use existing sensors to monitor Parkinson’s patients and the lifesaving Fitbit data everyone was so excited about. And like the rest of you on SmartThings, we’re waiting for a fix of the system which has been broken for almost four weeks.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Matthew Manley, group design direct at Fjord

  • New smart jewelry and mesh networking routers!
  • Medicine embraces the internet of things. And off-the-shelf hardware.
  • The Wirecutter reviews connected outlets
  • Turning connected jewelry from functional to fashionable
  • Topshop has payment jewelry that only works at its store

Episode 53: How to prevent good devices from being killed

This week’s show deals with recurring themes such as whether or not you should trust the cloud, device lifespan, the Amazon Alexa platform and more lighting than a Times Square billboard. Our guest this week is Mike Pessina, the co-CEO of Lutron. He shares his recipes for great lighting (at the very end) and talks about the role of Lutron’s proprietary wireless protocol for lighting control in a world that is rapidly embracing Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Before we learn about Lutron, Kevin Tofel and I discuss the news that Nest plans to shut down all Revolv smart home hub devices that are in the field, turning the $299 device into a hunk of metal and plastic scrap.

A Lutron Caseta dimmer switch (left) installed near the Osram Lightify wireless dimmer switch (right). A regular rocker switch is in the middle.
A Lutron Caseta dimmer switch (left) installed near the Osram Lightify wireless dimmer switch (right). A regular rocker switch is in the middle.

While Revolv sold fewer than 10,000 units, those who own one are upset. We came up with a few suggestions that might help other connected device companies avoid alienating their users in case of failure or a sale. On the brighter side, Amazon’s Alexa platform is gaining new smarts, with the Smart Home API now available to anyone. We also tell you how to control your TV with Alexa and review the Amazon Dot. This week you also get a second review, of the Osram Lightify dimmer switch, which renters and folks who aren’t keen on replacing their wired switches will like. And once again, we ask that you take our survey if you have a chance.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham
Guest: Michael Pessina, Co-CEO of Lutron

  • The Revolv fiasco is bad for the smart home.
  • Where did you put your Amazon Dot?
  • Get Alexa to turn on your TV with Yonomi.
  • Who should buy this $30 Osram dimmer switch?
  • What’s next for Lutron

Episode 50: Are your devices being held hostage?

This week, Kevin Tofel and I discuss the challenges of treating connected hardware like software. Nest is experiencing one of those challenges this week as it requests users accept new terms and conditions in order to use their Nest. If you don’t agree, you don’t get the app, which is frustrating users who feel that Nest is reducing the functionality of the product. Twitter users are calling this holding the device hostage, but it is a legal necessity if you change certain features. Kevin and I propose a solution.

After that we spend time discussing the New Philips tunable white lights, the C by GE lights and the Stack lights, which I am trying out and still learning how to use.

Paying with a Callaway golf glove with MasterCard payment tech inside. --Image courtesy of MasterCard.
Paying with a Callaway golf glove with MasterCard payment tech inside. –Image courtesy of MasterCard.

Our guest this week is Sherri Haymond, Senior Vice President of Digital Payments & Labs at MasterCard, who discusses the future of payments and how MasterCard’s partners are putting the ability to buy things in surprising places. Callaway, the maker of golf gear, has put payment tech into a golf glove while a fashion designer is embedding the technology in hats, handbags and jewelry. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Kevin Tofel and Stacey Higginbotham
Guest: Sherri Haymond, Senior Vice President of Digital Payments & Labs, MasterCard

  • We need granular permissions for new connected device features
  • Lights, lights and more lights
  • Early thoughts on the Stack lights
  • You can pay with anything!
  • How to secure the Internet of payments

Episode 46: Barbie has a smart home and Sense gives your home computer vision

Andreas Gal, the CEO of Silk Labs has built what feels impossible. With the Sense hub he has created an artificially intelligent home hub that contains a camera, controls for other connected devices and a dedicated to privacy that means he can still offer services but still protect users from blanket surveillance. And the device is beautiful. Gal came on the show this week to talk about the Sense hub and why the world needs yet another connected camera and how he took his role as the former CTO of Mozilla and used that to inform the privacy features the camera offers. We also discussed how to implement AI models and learning on a device as opposed to in the cloud. Many of the challenges Gal has dealt with in his design are ones that hardware designers are thinking through as they implement their own AI or consider how to think about privacy in a world where the U.S. government has declared open season on stalking the Internet of Things.

The Sense camera and home hub from Silk. --Image courtesy of Silk.
The Sense camera and home hub from Silk. –Image courtesy of Silk.

And yes, Kevin Tofel and I discuss James Clapper’s comments before the Senate’s Armed Services Committee from last week in this episode, as well as a bunch of updates to some popular products. Some are good, such as the Wemo updates that boost reliability of the platform and Wink’s updates that bring lighting commands inside the home as opposed to between clouds. Some are frustrating, such as Philips Hue updating its Android app in a way that breaks it if users don’t want to share their location and photos. And some are just awesome, like the continued updates to Amazon’s Echo that include support for Spotify, Uber and the Ecobee3. And yes, Barbie has a smart home. So get set for your commute, your run or however you enjoy the show and have a listen.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guests: Andreas Gal, CEO of Silk Labs

  • Barbie’s smart home might rival yours
  • Amazon’s Echo gets better and updates gone crazy for Hue, Wemo and Wink
  • The Internet of things is a gift for spies
  • Meet the Sense home hub which uses computer vision to learn more about your home
  • Rethinking privacy for connected devices

Episode 43: This smart home needs an email address

Freak out! This week’s episode isn’t about disco, it’s all about the security of your things. Or insecurity as the case may be. We talk about Shodan, the search engine for connected devices and the creation of a security framework for connected devices by the researchers at I am the Cavalry. Go read the story at Ars Technica and scroll all the way down to the Cavalry stuff. After we talk about that, we discuss a new programming interface for Raspberry Pi’s from myDevices called Cayenne, Amazon opening up its new Dash Replenishment Service to everyone, and the big news that could shake up the building automation market.

The Cayenne dashboard.
The Cayenne dashboard.

For those of you guys who love thinking about the smart home, I brought Scott Jenson, a UX designer from Google, to join us to talk about his personal thoughts on how connected devices change a home’s design and how to avoid having to give your home an email account just to make it functional as a connected entity. Jenson blogs about some of these topics here, such as why he doesn’t think we should look to smart homes to recreate butlers. Find out why he thinks that, and some of his other ideas in this week’s episode.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Scott Jenson, Google

  • IoT security blows up or just blows
  • Sensors that phone Amazon and the birth of a new industrial internet powerhouse
  • The smart home isn’t a butler, but it still has plenty of value
  • Why Jenson had to give his home an email address