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 365: Helium gets a new name and $200 million

This week’s show was recorded on the road, but we still cover all of the big news starting with LoRaWAN network Helium changing its name to Nova Labs and raising $200 million. We then discuss research from MIT that offers privacy for people captured on video and several options for connecting beehives. I then get depressed about a UK startup offering incentives for being healthy, Kevin gets excited about Eufy’s latest combo video doorbell and door lock, and we both try to figure out who the new Arduino Pro Portenta X8 is for. We also discuss a security flaw in Wyze cams, remind people about best practices for securing connected devices and share news that Google is also trying to build the ability to discover Bluetooth trackers into Android. Finally, we answer a listener question about deleting phantom devices from HomeAssistant and Amazon Alexa.

The Beewise robotic beehive is ready for occupation. Image courtesy of Beewise.

Our guest this week is Doug Stovall, the CEO of Ossia, an over-the-air wireless power company. Ossia’s technology, called Cota, uses the 5.8 GHz spectrum to send 5 watts of power to devices that have a Cota chip and are able to accept it. There’s no charging pad or wire involved.nWe discuss the company’s recent FCC approval, which brings the technology to the U.S., as well as a deal with Archos, a French smart home device maker. Stovall says we’ll see Cota-enabled products in 2023 and maybe a smart home camera in time for the holidays. We dig in on how to think about efficiency when it comes to power delivery and what kind of impact over-the-air wireless could have before we play a game where I say a device and Stovall tells me how it should be powered. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Doug Stovall, the CEO of Ossia
Sponsors: Save our Standards and RAKwireless

  • Helium has a new name, $200 million and a mysterious revenue model.
  • What is it about IoT beehives?
  • Well, this is an innovation in smart locks.
  • Charge a smartwatch over-the-air? Sure.
  • Let’s play Name That Power Source.

 

Episode 364: Speed queens and Matter dreams

A week after the CSA said that the Matter smart home interoperability standard would be delayed we get a chance to talk about why the standard is delayed until fall, and what it means for consumers and smart home device makers. We then share Omdia data on how much ownership of different smart home devices has grown in the last year and explain what new design and privacy tweaks are coming to the Google Home app. In security-oriented news we share how radar might keep secured spaces clear of people and the latest CISA and FBI alert for infrastructure companies and satellite companies worried about cyberattacks. We then showcase how a new factory 5G network in Lexington, Kentucky deploying a private 5G network might signal the actual beginnings of 5G adoption in other manufacturing settings. In other wireless news, I reviewed the Eero Pro 6E routers mostly because I’m excited about 1,200 MHz of new spectrum for Wi-Fi. Finally, we answer a listener question about the Level Home locks and if it might get support for Apple’s HomeKey.

Omdia chart showing adoption of various smart home gadgets in the last year.

Our guest this week is Alex Hawkinson, CEO of BrightAI. Hawkinson is likely familiar to listeners as the founder and former CEO of SmartThings, the smart home platform purchased by Samsung. At his latest company, Hawkinson is continuing to try to add intelligence to the world by taking sensor data and turning it to insights. Only this time, he’s trying to tackle the challenge with more AI and an enterprise focus. We talk about what BrightAI is trying to do and how it ties back to Hawkinson’s history at SmartThings. He explains how BrightAI client CSC Serviceworks uses the internet of things to modernize its operations leading to a 10% to 20% growth in revenue. The case study is impressive, as is the vision of helping lots of older companies retrofit their operations with connected sensors and AI. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Alex Hawkinson, CEO of BrightAI
Sponsors: Save our Standards and RAKwireless

  • What it means that Matter is delayed again
  • The Google Home app is getting a redesign
  • Will 2022 and 2023 be the year 5G makes it in manufacturing?
  • How to turn 100,000 Speed Queens into smart washers
  • What’s next in sensor tech?

Episode 362: IoT security after Russia invaded Ukraine

This week’s show spends a lot of time on security in everything from an Amazon Echo to an infusion pump. But before we get to security stats, we offer a quick overview of Apple’s latest announcements. Then we pivot to discuss the Critical Infrastructure Defense Project, a series of free services enterprises can use to help protect their operations from attack. We also outline some vulnerabilities found in PTC’s Axeda remote management software and research showing that many infusion pumps have existing vulnerabilities. Finally, we discuss research showing that some popular consumer devices might be using vulnerable OpenSSL encryption technology. Then we talk about the end of another French unlicensed low-power wide area network and Space Force adding wearables to ensure the members of Space Force are fit. We also talk about a new predictive maintenance service from Xerox PARC called Novity. We close the news section by answering a listener question about getting rid of your old IoT devices while respecting your friends and the environment.

Space Force Guardians will wear wearable devices to track their physical fitness. Photo taken by Airman 1st Class Samuel Becker and provided by the U.S. Space Force.

Our guest this week is Bryson Bort, CEO and founder of Scythe, a cybersecurity firm. Bort is a former U.S. Army officer and a co-founder of the non-profit

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Bryson Bort, CEO and founder of Scythe
Sponsors: Somfy and Pantacor

  • Three tech firms get together to offer free cybersecurity tools
  • What isn’t vulnerable nowadays?
  • Are employee-mandated wearables okay if being fit is your job?
  • How ransomware fits into the invasion of Ukraine
  • How to shore up your cyber defenses in times of war (and peace)

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 359: Meet the man who “invented” the IoT back in 1985

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has finally released its plans for securing the IoT, so we discuss what the plans are for a consumer-oriented cybersecurity label. We then give a quick update on the Sigfox receivership and Intel’s plan to purchase Tower Semiconductor before spending a large chunk of time on Apple’s AirTags and how ubiquitous and cheap trackers change the game for privacy. We share new subscription plan revenue data for the manufacturing sector and for IoT devices, and unsurprisingly the folks at Zuora are optimistic. We then share some details on Anthony Levandowski’s plans to build a peer-to-peer cellular network for self-driving vehicles that looks a lot like Helium, and a sad story about bionic eyes made by a company that is going out of business. We end by answering a listener question about smart controls for 220-volt or 240-volt outdoor heaters.

Apple is trying to prevent folks from abusing AirTags to stalk people.

Our guest this week is Peter Lewis, who was a co-founder of Cellular One and the originator of the term “Internet of Things.” Lewis coined the term and described the connection between wireless sensors, cellular networks, and the internet, all the way back in 1985 during a speech he gave to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation 15th Annual Legislative Weekend in Washington, D.C. This week, you can hear the relevant segment of the speech and he shares why he was so eager to get things connected to the Internet 37 years ago. He also talks about what surprised him as the IoT really gained ground and discusses what he’s doing today. This is a great history lesson that everyone should know.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Peter Lewis, originator of the term “Internet of Things”
Sponsors: Somfy and Pantacor

  • What does NIST want for consumer IoT security? We tell you.
  • Who’s bidding for Sigfox?
  • Why Apple’s AirTags are such a problem
  • The IoT was created by a cellular executive to gain new subscribers
  • What the creator of the phrase “internet of things” didn’t see coming

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 345: Ecobee’s big deal and climate-friendly chips

The big news in IoT this week was the announced acquisition of Ecobee by Generac, so Kevin and I share our thoughts on the deal and what it means for the smart home. After that, we were excited to see Amazon launching a smart air quality monitoring device for $70 as well as publically state its support for Matter. We also cover Facebook’s decision to stop using facial recognition and believe that more companies will seek to prove they are trustworthy in hopes of getting even closer to us as consumers. Then we talk about the EU’s addition of new categories to its cybersecurity rules, the new Flic Twist campaign, Tempo’s smaller, cheaper home gym, ADT’s security service for DoorDashers, and a $500 kid’s toy that I really want. We also note that the Espresif ESP32s now formally support the Zephyr RTOS. We end by answering a question about whether or not you need the device app to update HomeKit-compatible products.

The Alexa air quality monitor will cost $70 and ship in December. Image courtesy of Amazon.

Our guest this week is Sri Samavedam, who is the senior vice president of semiconductor technologies at imec, a semiconductor R&D consortium. We discuss imec’s new effort to research sustainability in chip manufacturing. You’ll learn how chips are made and why manufacturing ICs delivers such a blow to the environment. Samavedum explains why Apple has joined its efforts and how it plans to measure the carbon footprint of chipmaking. He also offers some advice for product manufacturers and consumers on how they can use chips more responsibly given how much they cost (in terms of environmental damage) to make. There’s no sugar-coating it, we need more data on this and we also need to think about using silicon for longer than we do today.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Sri Samavedam, imec
Sponsors: Very

  • What Generac’s Ecobee purchase means for the smart home
  • Amazon loves Matter
  • Would you buy your kid a $500 hoverboard?
  • Chip manufacturing is extremely bad for the environment
  • We should try to use our devices for as along as possible