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

Episode 38: A holiday troubleshooting guide under your tree

Just in case you open a few Christmas goodies in the coming days or decide to use the holidays as an excuse to set up a few connected devices, Kevin and I decided to offer the gift of our experience. We’ve condensed our stupid mistakes (like not reading the box for device compatibility) and more advanced tricks (like making sure all the devices are on the 2.4 gigahertz Wi-Fi network) into a relatively quick podcast that might one day help you solve your connectivity problems.

At the very least it will remind you that you are not alone as you struggle to set up your connected door locks or your ZigBee sensors. I just spent an hour on the phone with some very smart and helpful support folks trying to figure out why my WeMo outlet decided to stop connecting to my Amazon Echo. The experts decided that it must be some weird modem issue that will require Belkin to buy my model of modem and visit the testing lab. So know that this stuff is hard. In your network, with your stuff, as you get more wacky and crazy, your stuff will fail. Be patient, have fun, and keep listening. Kevin and I look forward to hearing your stories.

Alexa, Turn on Christmas from Stacey Higginbotham on Vimeo.

I’m also including above, a holiday demonstration of Alexa’s capabilities using the Wink hub ($50), a Lutron dimmer switch in the dining room chandelier ($45), four Hue bulbs in the living room ($260) and 3 GE Jasco outdoor switches ($40 each). I could have used a WeMo outlet or my SmartThings outlet, but neither would connect via the Echo, and so I just swapped out my outdoor ones for the sake of the video and figured I’d troubleshoot over the holidays.

Episode 37: Philips Hue drama and plan to fail even as you hope for success

Phillips caused a kerfuffle this week when it stopped supporting third-party light bulbs with its Philips Hue bridge and software. It has since reversed the decision after customers complained, but because the crazy time travel that Kevin and I undergo each week to bring the podcast to you had to record an update. However the conversation about third-party support and standards still remains relevant for the smart home today. We also dig into IBM’s new program that brings the Watson set of cognitive computing services to the industrial internet and Kevin’s crazy Bitcoin mining operation on a Raspberry Pi.

Kevin's Bitcoin mining operation using a Raspberry Pi and a custom dongle.
Kevin’s Bitcoin mining operation using a Raspberry Pi and a custom dongle.

Our guest this week is Santiago Merea who just sold his startup, the Orange Chef Co. to Yummly for an undisclosed amount. Merea discusses the future of the Prep Pad connected scale made by his company, and the future of Yummly. He also talks about the importance of having a plan for failure when you start out building a connected product. It’s a great show, so please enjoy.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Santiago Merea of Yummly

  • What’s wrong with Philips Hue?
  • IBM’s calling in Watson for a job on the industrial internet.
  • How to make 4 cents a day using your Raspberry Pi and a $35 dongle.
  • What’s next for recipe provider Yummly after swallowing a connected device company.
  • When building hardware, think about failing even as you plan for success.

Episode 34: All I want for the holidays is a smarter home

The holidays are rapidly approaching so as you’re prepping your Thanksgiving dinner or wallowing in that special feeling of torpor that only comes after downing three servings of stuffing and a piece of pumpkin pie, check out Kevin and my selections for holiday gifts. This week’s episode doesn’t have any guest so we could focus on the gadgets, but next week, the show will be back to its normal format.

Kevin and Stacey at CES in 2015. Kevin's hair is longer and so are my bangs.
Kevin and Stacey at CES in 2015. Kevin’s hair is longer and so are my bangs.

I’m not going to lie, I’ve already realized that I left off a few ideas, so you’re going to want to stay tuned for new devices and a few more gift ideas in the coming episodes as well. No one would accuse Kevin and I of being overly organized. And in honor of Thanksgiving, Kevin and I just want to take a moment to thank you guys for listening to us. This is a labor of love created after Gigaom exploded, done because we like the topic, and because we got so much feedback from our listeners that they enjoyed the show and found it valuable. So keep the feedback coming, keep listening, and we’ll keep it up.

Enjoy the show!

Episode 32: Amazon for the kitchen and Apple for the living room?

This week had so much connect home and internet of things news Kevin and I covered everything from a brand new way to turn your old smoke detectors into connected smoke detectors using a $35 battery replacement to new chip design from ARM that could make the Internet of things more secure. In the middle of all of that we talked about being able to buy the Amazon Echo in retail stores, the new Tag Heuer connected watch partnership with Intel and Gartner’s latest data on the Internet of things.

The Roost battery.
The Roost battery.

After Kevin and I run through the news, I turned to my friend Chris Albrecht, who was the emcee at the Smart Kitchen Summit held last week in Seattle. The event was awesome, and brought a good mix of old-school appliance folks together with Silicon Valley startups trying to remake the kitchen. Chris doesn’t love the connected kitchen, so he’s a good person to discuss what seemed worth buying and what seemed like hype. He also offered a bonus review of the Sonos Truplay feature at the end. That feature listens for your Sonos speakers’ sound quality in your room, and tweaks it so they sound as good as they can given their placement in the room. Find out what Chris says about it by listening to show (it’s iOS only, so Android lovers, need not apply).

Host: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Chris Albrect of OneHub

Episode 30: My SmartThings hub must be haunted

Does your office need more conference rooms? Or maybe there’s wasted space where the printer and several reams of paper sit. In this week’s podcast we discuss how companies can use connected sensors in their lights to make better decisions about their real estate while also saving money on their energy costs with Joe Costello, the CEO of Enlighted. Before we talk to Costello, Kevin Tofel and I cover the SmartThings version 2 hub.

The SmartThings Monitoring kit.
The SmartThings Monitoring kit.

After the show aired I got on the phone with SmartThings and swapped out the hub, but my initial experience was terrible (you’ll hear). Since the show was recorded, I’ve since managed to join most of the sensors to the network using the new hub and will keep testing. Kevin and I also talk about Verizon’s plans for the Internet of things and a list the National Association of Realtors put together to help people sell their smart homes without compromising their data. You can find it here!

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Joe Costello, CEO of Enlighted

  • My SmartThings hub isn’t behaving like it should.
  • Learn about how to talk about your smart home to prospective buyers
  • Verizon has an IoT cloud and new pricing plans
  • Smart office buildings are coming and it starts with LEDs
  • How to solve conference room overbooking using sensors

Episode 29: The smart home may one day have a debt to NASA

If you’ve ever wondered how to get started on a smart home of your own, Kevin Tofel and I share a few ways to get started, answering some questions about hubs outlets and how to think about buying connected gadgets for the first time. We also discuss a few new development boards and why I went on a rant about the issues with the smart home in Fortune last week. Finally we talked about Korner, a really simple to use home security product for $98 that seems to have a lot going for it.

Korner tag being applied to a window. -- Image courtesy of Korner.
Korner tag being applied to a window. — Image courtesy of Korner.

For those looking for my SmartThings review, please wait another week. I set it up and became a little too ambitious and didn’t test out the more common use cases before going straight to some really fancy things that most people wouldn’t do and caused some problems for myself. Next week it will be ready for the full run down. As for this week’s guest, We have Jim Hepplemann, the CEO of PTC, whose company just said it would acquire the Vuforia augmented reality platform from Qualcomm. PTC has also acquired ThingWorx and Axeda, both IoT platforms for businesses as part of remaking the former industrial design software company into a one-stop-shop for the connected world.

Heppleman shares this idea of creating a digital twin in AR for every physical product, chock full of data that product might be generating. So under AR, your smart devices might one day share information about their connections with other devices and services, their histories and stats that aren’t visible to you and more. In industrial settings it’s far more powerful. So listen to the podcast and be wowed.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Jim Hepplemann, CEO of PTC

  • Let’s put the consumer first and stop issuing new standards that require people to constantly buy new stuff.
  • How to set up a smart home? We tell you how to think about it.
  • Check out new dev boards and a the Korner home security set up.
  • Thinking about how to use augmented reality in the smart home and industrial internet.
  • The concept of a digital twin and the IoT’s debt to NASA.