Episode 274: Apple embraces IoT and SmartThings shakes things up

This week’s show is a whopper, starting with the news from Apple’s WorldWide Developers Conference. We talk about how Apple is playing the long game by integrating sensors and machine learning across devices to give contextual experiences, Apple’s updates to HomeKit, and some details about Apple opening up its FindMy network. From there we talk about SmartThings’ evolution and eventual shut down of some beloved services and the new Wyze Cam Outdoor camera. On the enterprise side, Microsoft acquires CyberX, and Deutsche Telekom spins out its IoT business. We also cover news from Google related to Hue devices, Misty Robotics, Tuya, and Segway. Kevin gives a preview of Amazon’s Echo Frames and we answer a quick question about viewing your Ring doorbell on an Apple TV.

The new Wyze Cam Outdoor is battery-powered and cheap. Image courtesy of Wyze.

This week’s guest is Mark Benson, head of engineering at Samsung SmartThings, who joins us to discuss the changes coming to the platform later this year. He lays out why SmartThings is going to end support for some features as it tries to move toward delivering a more intuitive smart home. For example, on the hardware side, your hub will still exist but SmartThings will also put its software on hubs made by other vendors and we’ll see other manufacturers make SmartThings’ branded devices. On the software side, it’s moving from the current Groovy programming environment to an API, which is going to upset some developers and DIY folks. Benson explains why this change is needed and what developers will gain and lose. You’re going to want to listen.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Mark Benson, head of engineering at SmartThings
Sponsors: Very and Very

  • Apple’s using its chips and closed ecosystem to deliver context to devices
  • Why Microsoft purchased CyberX
  • How long will the Zigbee Alliance keep its name?
  • 2020 is the turning point for the smart home
  • Why SmartThings wants to trade Groovy for an API

Episode 268: Subscription news from Wink and Nest

This week’s show is all about subscriptions! First Kevin and I share thoughts on Wink’s decision to charge a subscription fee after giving customers a week’s notice and threatening to shut down their devices if they don’t convert. We also detail Nest’s new subscription plan and keep on the Alphabet/Google topic by discussing the end of the Toronto smart city effort from Sidewalk Labs and a new Google Assistant skill.  After that, we cover a new Teensy board with Ethernet, an acquisition in the smart apartment world, and get details on how reopening is going in Texas from the B8ta point of view. I talk about my experience with the new, smaller Wi-Fi August lock, and then we answer a listener question about how to build a smart home from scratch.

The brains of Johnson’s smart home are packed away in custom-made benches. Image courtesy of Jason Johnson.

Our guest this week is Jason Johnson, the co-founder of August Home. He’s not on the show to discuss the new lock but to talk about his new home and the systems he uses for automation. Like many of us, Johnson went the DIY route and says he spends about five or more hours a week tweaking his set up. He explains why he chose the platforms he uses and how he has routines and automation set up. For those curious about what’s governing the 138 nodes in his home, I encourage you to listen and find out.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Jason Johnson, co-founder August Home
Sponsors: Very and Edge Impulse

  • Is Wink’s new subscription worth it? Nest’s?
  • Apparently, a few people still need their gadget fix in Texas
  • August’s new lock is great for renters, but may not work for everyone
  • Three organizing principles for a smart home
  • Device longevity is a problem for the smart home

Episode 267: How to build your own IoT device

This week on the show, Kevin and I start with a potential privacy bill in the Senate related to COVID-19 track and trace and then discuss the challenges legislation and Bluetooth track-trace efforts will face. We then talk about a possible acquisition by Microsoft of an industrial IoT security company. Kevin shared his hope for a smart home with common sense based on advances in AI research before we dig into new IoT malware called Kaiji. In news, Nordic Semiconductor is touting new smart gear for hospitals, Nest is requiring all users to use multi-factor authentication, Ring has a new $99 doorbell, and Automatic joins other companies in shutting down because of the pandemic. This week on the IoT Podcast hotline, we answer a question about Z-Wave repeaters and buggy mesh networks.

Image of the MailPig mailbox sensor courtesy of Christine Sunu.

Our guest this week is Christine Sunu, who got a lot of attention a week or two ago with the creation of a sourdough fitness tracker called Sourd.io. She joined us to walk us through the creation of a sensor to detect if your mail has arrived (specifically if your mailbox has been opened). As an IoT developer community engagement manager with Twilio, and a former developer engagement manager with Particle, Sunu has been making connected devices for years, so she helps with the terms you might want to Google and how to get over common barriers standing in the way of a final project. It was so much fun to talk to her, and she has written a blog post to go with the interview in case you need more than the auditory guidance.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Christine Sunu
Sponsors: Very and Liveworx

  • The latest on COVID-19 track and trace news
  • Is Microsoft getting more serious about industrial IoT?
  • Ring’s got a new doorbell
  • How to build a connected mailbox sensor
  • Two common barriers to finishing your projects

 

Episode 262: Use your wearable data to detect COVID-19

This week Kevin and I kick off the show with a discussion of who should be tracking you during the pandemic and what rules companies and governments should use in order to protect user privacy. We also dig into the importance of APIs after Apple purchased the Dark Skye weather app. Then we explain the tightening relationship between carriers and the cloud with Microsoft’s preview launch of Azure Edge Zones. From there we dig into how social media can influence people during the pandemic, the best home Wi-Fi system, the new Fitbit, turning your Wyze Cam into a webcam, and a discussion of what we want broadband to be in the world we want to live in after the pandemic. We close on Kevin talking about Home Assistant integrations and his answer for a question on the IoT Podcast Hotline about how secure Home Assistant is.

The Fitbit Charge 4 will be out on April 13 and cost $149.95. Image courtesy of Fitbit.

This week’s guest is Steve Steinhubl, the director of digital medicine at the Scripps Research Translational Institute. Scripps is trying to recruit people who have a Fitbit or other wearable to participate in a study to detect COVID-19 using variations in resting heart rate. We talk about the DETECT study (which you can sign up for from the link) as well as how to design a legitimate health study that includes consumer wearables. We also discuss the use of data and data privacy for those who want to understand those things before dedicating data to science. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Steve Steinhubl, the director of digital medicine at the Scripps Research Translational Institute
Sponsors: Calix and Ayla Networks

  • Should Google and Apple implement contact tracing using our phones?
  • Azure Edge Zones are an example of the carriers and clouds getting closer
  • Home Assistant integrations are all over the map
  • What doctors look for when building studies around wearables
  • Why the DETECT study matters and how it’s data practices work

Episode 261: Set up a secure IoT network and Wyze has new gear

With the spread of COVID-19 and people staying home, robots are gaining ground in jobs, so Kevin and I discuss what jobs are at risk and what happened with automation during the last three recessions. We also talk about the rules that need to be in place if we want to track people during the pandemic in the U.S. and in other Western democracies. Then we cover a Russian botnet, racist digital assistants, confidentiality with Alexa, a new Arduino module, and the new scale and activity tracker from Wyze. Kevin and I take some time from the current worries about the coronavirus to envision the world we want when all this is over and discuss medical device privacy.  We end with a listener question about the new Nest subscription plans expected sometime soon.

Ready for a new IoT prototyping device? Check out this Kickstarter project. Image courtesy of Frame.IoT.

Our guest this week is Josh Datko, founder and chief engineer at embedded security firm Cryptotronix who is here to school us all in IoT security. We start with his advice for consumers, including advice on splitting off a separate IoT network in your home. We then discuss the difference between embedded security and IT security and discuss the importance of security engineers in product design. We end with Datko explaining the difference between secure enclaves, trusted execution environments and other security terms that may mystify you. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Josh Datko, Cryptotronix
Sponsors: MachineQ and LiveWorx

  • Automation and robots get a boost from the coronavirus
  • How to handle sensor data during a pandemic
  • Yes, I bought the Wyze scale for some reason
  • Here’s how to secure your smart home
  • Why the embedded world needs security engineers

Episode 259: Lights out for first-gen Hue hubs and Lightify

This week’s show starts off with Kevin and I explaining exactly what’s happening with the death of the first-gen Philips Hue hubs (which we mentioned way back in November) and the death of the cloud servers powering OSRAM’s Lightify products. We then talk about Kevin’s experience installing Home Assistant and mine with the Helium hotspot. In news, we’re discussing Amazon putting its Amazon Go tech up for sale, Google’s Jacquard finding a new home in sneakers, an update for Apple Watch, Google Assistant getting support for sensors, Arlo updating security, and new Ring doorbells. We end by answering a question from a landlord about monitoring his rental properties.

Google’s Jacquard is now inside an insole designed for soccer fans. Image courtesy of Google.

Our guest this week is Spencer Wright, the editor of The Prepared, a web site and newsletter dedicated to manufacturing (and other cool stuff). He’s sharing his and his community’s perspective on the COVID-19, what it means for Apple, big manufacturers and for companies starting on their product journey. It’s not all doom and gloom. He provides great reasons to get comfortable with making your product and suggests that like most crises, there could be opportunities. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guests: Spencer Wright, the editor of The Prepared
Sponsors: MachineQ and LiveWorx

  • Two smart lighting platforms are shutting off support
  • Kevin thinks Home Assistant needs some tweaks for normals
  • Google Jacquard’s price isn’t crazy high
  • COVID-19 could affect your holiday gift options and next year’s laptop
  • Why you should try to manufacturer your product if you can

 

Episode 254: Google goes enterprise with Glass

This week Kevin and I start the show with a focus on Google’s new Glass product for the enterprise, and a newly discovered smart hub from the Craftsman brand (h/t Jimmy Hawkins). We also cover the Starling smart hub that can link your Nest gear to your HomeKit account, and discuss Kevin’s reaction to Ring partnering with his local police force. In smaller news, there’s a new industrial hardware board for IoT, Google can help find your Tile, MIT has doubled wireless carrying capacity with a smart surface, and Philips Hue fixes a security flaw. We also muse on Google’s hardware numbers  — or lack thereof — and close with a question about Zigbee devices falling off a SmartThings’ network.

The Paranoid device turns off the mic on your smart speaker or spouts white noise that interferes with the speaker until you want to ask Alexa or Google for something.

My guest this week is one of the creators of a new device designed to stop your smart speaker from listening to your conversation. Demian Pimentel is an electrical engineer with Pleasant Solutions. The Candian software development firm has launched a device called Paranoid that sits on top of your smart speaker and either physically turns off the microphone or uses white noise to block the mic from listening in. When the user activates the Paranoid device using their voice the Paranoid either physically unmutes the smart speaker or stops generating white noise so Google or Alexa can hear the request. Pimentel explains why Pleasant built this and how it works for our listeners. It feels like a security blanket for people who are worried enough about their smart speaker to spend $49 for a Paranoid device but are still enamored by the convenience of their smart speaker.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Demian Pimentel is an electrical engineer with Pleasant Solutions
Sponsors: Digicert and Very

  • Can Google’s new Glass cut it in the enterprise?
  • Kevin discovers that Ring doorbells in his neighborhood may share with police
  • This industrial IoT board may double as a space heater
  • What is Paranoid, and will it protect my privacy?
  • Is this a necessary device or a patent grab?

Episode 242: Google explains itself and new Wyze gear!

Wyze makes some of the most reasonably-priced smart-home gear on the market and said earlier this month that it was planning a smorgasbord of new products, which Kevin and I detail in this episode. We then cover low-power wide-area networks with news that Twilio’s NB-IoT network and boards are now generally available and news that Amazon has joined the LoRa Alliance. From there we cover a security flaw, the longevity and reliability of connected home devices and a story about automation and jobs. We close with talk about a fitness company raising $55 million and another attempt at delivering wireless power at a distance. We then answer a question about who should swap out their Nest account for a Google Account.

The Whoop 3.0 fitness band is a compelling device with a pricey service.

Our guest this week is Michele Chambers Turner, senior director Google Smart Home Ecosystem, who explains why Google had to kill its Works with Nest program and what it means for users. You’ll also learn how Google thinks about privacy, that it doesn’t keep device state data and how it cordons off home data from its advertising network. We also talk about the local SDK and making it easier to add devices to the Google Home network. It’s an essential episode for Google fans.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Michele Chambers Turner, senior director Google Smart Home Ecosystem
SponsorsLegrand and Afero

  • Wyze has a lock, doorbell, scale and more on the way
  • Amazon gets deeper into LPWAN
  • Why Google had to kill Works with Nest
  • What’s inside Google’s Home graph
  • What to expect with Google’s local efforts

Episode 238: Google’s smart home vision explained

This week Kevin and I discuss the aftermath of the big Google event, covering the new devices, the focus on ambient computing, and changes to the Nest subscription and Works with Assistant programs. From there we cover a new smart lock backed by Lennar Homes and Walmart, a new light bulb from LIFX and more security exploits. We hit on some industrial and enterprise news with an overview of Hitachi’s recent conference. Finally, we answer a listener question about what to include when selling a smart home.

The Level Home smart lock hides the electronics inside the door and deadbolt. Image courtesy of Level Home.

Our guest this week is Azhar Hussain, CEO of Hanhaa, a company that has created a tracking device for mail, a mobile network operator, and a way to plug sensor data easily into Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. We spend most of the time talking about the creation of the ParceLive service which provides subscribers with a postcard-sized device that customers drop into packages before they mail them. The device tracks the package and has several sensors affixed to it that can track temperature, humidity and more.  We talk about creating a sustainable company, the future of Wi-Fi in a 5G world and the engineering challenges associated with building the ParceLive product.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Azhar Hussain, CEO of Hanhaa
SponsorsNutanix and HiveMQ

  • Google’s taking its digital assistant beyond the smartphone
  • There are a lot of failed smart locks
  • Let’s talk about data lakes!
  • Why 5G will make Wi-Fi obsolete
  • How to build a sustainable tracking device

Episode 236: Yes, I want Amazon Alexa eyeglasses

This week we returned to the Amazon announcements from last week, so Kevin and I could share our thoughts in depth. We hit the popular gadgets, Sidewalk and even delved into the smart oven. We also covered funding news for two companies trying to build products for apartment buildings. IOTAS scored $8.5 million while SmartRent raised $32 million. We also discussed Microsoft’s powerful new earbuds, a new talent for Google Home products and industrial news from both Rockwell Automation and Emerson. We then answer a question about the best computing boards for teaching a teen to love STEM.

Microsoft’s earbuds are $249 and will have a few cool tricks.

Our guest this week is Simon Crosby, the CTO of Swim.ai, a company that provides machine learning at the edge for a variety of use cases. Crosby explains how Swim.ai works and then digs into the challenges the company has faced in trying to find a business model that works. His example of parsing through 60 terabytes of data a day from traffic lights only to sell the resulting insights for a quarter per intersection is pretty tough. He does offer hope in the form of new tech developments that we also talk about on the show. Enjoy!

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Simon Crosby, the CTO of Swim.ai
Sponsors: Control4 and HiveMQ

  • Find out what disappointed Kevin most from the Amazon announcements
  • Yes, I am still geeking out about Sidewalk
  • Why Rockwell bought MESTECH
  • How to architect a product for machine learning at the edge
  • The cost of parsing edge data doesn’t always match the value of the insights