Episode 382: Is Helium full of hot air?

We start this week’s show with a deep dive into a popular post from this week about the Helium network. The report pointed out that Helium only made $6,500 in the month of June from data rates. We explain why that’s not a surprise and what it will take to get those numbers up. Then we talk about Apple’s Air Tags and their potential use to track thieves and suitcases. Then Kevin reviews the Eve Motion with Thread sensor and then we focus on the excellent article from CNET that documents when Ring, Nest, Arlo and other camera companies will share your video data with police. The we cover shorter stories from Drover AI, two satellite deals including a $3.4 billion European acquisition deal, and updated lighting features from GE Cync. We then answer a listener question about Insteon’s plan for an annual fee for cloud connectivity and services.

My suitcase and obligatory Air Tag. Image courtesy of A. Allemann.

Our guest this week is Jim Ethington, CEO of Arable, a precision agriculture company. He’s on the show to talk about Arable’s $40 million in funding, and what Arable has learned in the last six years of operation. We also talk about the myth of using data to create “perfect predictions” and what sorts of predictions are more realistic when discussing how farm sensors can help farmers increase yields. Then we discuss why farmers are looking beyond simple ROI measurements when adopting technology and how sensor platforms such as Arable’s can help make their investments in sustainability or traceability pay off. We end with a list of hardware that Ethington would like to see for future field sensors. These include better connectivity options and sensors that provide more options for detecting different wavelengths of light. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Jim Ethington, CEO of Arable
Sponsors: InfluxData and Intent

  • Helium is a legit business, but is it worth $1.2 billion?
  • The Air Tag is a tool for good or evil
  • How Ring and Google decide what videos to share with police
  • The future of precision farming goes far beyond greater yields
  • Sensors with different spectral ranges will let us better monitor plant health

Episode 381: Alexa and Qualcomm embrace ambient tech

This week’s show kicks off with our discussion of several announcements from Amazon’s Alexa Live developers’ conference held Wednesday. Alexa is getting several features as part of the launch of the Matter smart home interoperability protocol that should launch in the fall. For example, users will be able to name a device once and put it in a group and that nomenclature will work across Alexa, manufacturer apps, and other controllers such as Google Home or Apple’s Siri. Amazon also shared new ways for developers to access context in the home thanks to its new Ambient Home Dev Kit and new ways for developers to build Routines for Alexa. Also ahead of Matter, Thread is getting an update, so Kevin and I explain what that entails before turning to Qualcomm’s new wearables chip.

The Google Glass AR prototype. Image courtesy of Google.

One of the keywords for Qualcomm’s new wearable platform is ambient, as the chipmaker has moved several features to a low-power always-on processor to ensure that smart watches built using the platform have always-on sensing, wake-word detection, and a nice display without compromising on battery life. Then we talk about FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel’s inquiry into data-gathering and sharing practices by cell phone providers, especially when it comes to location data. We also discuss Google’s new plans for AR glasses, using the IoT to detect forest fires, and yet another security flaw. This time it’s in a GPS tracker from a Chinese provider. We also say goodbye to Microsoft’s Sam George who retired from his role leading Microsoft Azure IoT. We end by answering a listener question about tracking the temperature of a fish pond.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Sponsors: InfluxData and Intent

  • With new features Alexa is a smarter brain for the smart home
  • Thread’s getting an update ahead of Matter
  • Qualcomm’s wearable chip is better late than never
  • The FCC wants to know what carriers want with your location
  • Google’s new glasses respect the camera shy

Episode 377: Why there were 56 OT vulnerabilities this week

This week we cover the Ericsson mobility report that offers some stats on cellular IoT connections, including the surprising nugget that we won’t see 4G/5G connections surpass 2G/3G connections until some time next year. Then we hit another report. This one is from NPR and covers the state of audio and smart speakers. It proves that growth is slowing for smart speakers and that we may not do as many things with voice as we think. In dystopian news we cover China using COVID tracking apps to lock down protesters, and Microsoft stopping sales of some facial recognition tools. In new product news we talk about the latest Philips Hue gear, a new material that could generate electricity for wearables, and new MCUs from NXP. We also address the closure of SmartDry and explain how Google’s update on the Nest Max Hub may break your Nest x Yale lock. We end by answering a listener question about more accurate motion sensors.

Our guest this week is Daniel dos Santos, head of security research at Vedere, a business unit of Forescout. He’s on the show to discuss why Forescout released 56 new OT vulnerabilities dubbed ICEFALL. He shares the design flaws that led to these vulnerabilities and more importantly, explains what needs to happen if compromised controllers or devices can’t be fixed. He also shares a startling stat about how many industrial customers are actually updating their devices after a vulnerability has been disclosed, and how to encourage more of them to address security flaws. If you want to learn more abut securing critical infrastructure, this is a good place to start.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Daniel dos Santos, head of security research at Forescout
Sponsors: Nordic Semiconductor and Wirepas

  • There are still more 2G and 3G IoT connections than 4G/5G ones
  • With smart speakers it’s the same as it ever was
  • Are the new Hue track lights for you?
  • The ICEFALL vulnerabilities are a sign of progress actually.
  • This vendor says only one in ten patch their OT gear

Episode 376: Senator calls out video doorbells … again

This week’s show kicks off with another look at Ring’s potential to become a surveillance tool, this time prompted by a letter from Senator Ed Markey who wants Amazon to answer some questions. We then talk about a new capability for InfluxData’s time series database and explain why it matters before encouraging everyone who listens to the show or visits the site to get comfortable with doing things yourself. We then give a brief update on Insteon’s buyer and what it might mean before covering two industrial stories. First up is Siemens’ acquisition of Senseye, a company that provides predictive maintenance software, and then we discuss a remote factory experiment between Finland and South Korea. In smaller news we discuss the number of smart locks in U.S. households, Orro signing a deal with RTI for smarter light switches, and a new HomeKit enabled smart plug from TP-Link. We close by answering a listener question about the best smart lighting options to use in a new home.

Image courtesy of Parks Associates.

Our guest this week is Evan Kaplan, CEO of InfluxData, who is talking about the demand for time series data for the internet of things. InfluxData makes a time series database for storing trading and sensor data. We discuss how companies are using time series data as part of closed loop systems, and what the future tech stack for the IoT will be. He also shares his strategies to get developers interested in a platform and why he thinks appealing to developers will be essential for success in the industrial IoT. It’s a fun show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guests: Evan Kaplan, CEO of InfluxData
Sponsors: Nordic Semiconductor and Wirepas

  • Senator Markey wants more information about Ring’s capabilities
  • Be bold, and try to DIY your next project
  • Remote factory project has incredibly low latency
  • Why the IoT loves time series data
  • What we need to build better architectures for a real-time IoT

Episode 375: Arduino gets $32 million for enterprise IoT

This week’s show is an exercise in controlled chaos, as I am once again quarantined in a hotel room (this time with my teen). Kevin and I discuss Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference and Apple’s claim that HomeKit is the foundation of the upcoming Matter smart home protocol. Insteon users got a shock this week when their formerly dead hubs mysteriously turned on and their cloud-based integrations began working. We explain what we know. SmartThings is getting a new app, and Microsoft signed a multi-year deal to help Procter & Gamble with its digital transformation. In security news, we discuss new ransomware that starts on the IT side but can move over to the OT side to wreak havoc, as well as a new program from Dragos to help small businesses secure their OT networks. Finally, in chip news radar chip company Vayyar raised $108 million and Arm launched a new low-power image sensor for embedded vision. During the IoT Podcast Hotline, we answer a listener question about how to prepare his smart home for a move.

Arduino launched the Portenta line of boards for the enterprise a year and half ago. Image courtesy of Arduino.

Our guest this week is Fabio Violante, the CEO of Arduino. Arduino raised €30 million ($32 million) this week as it seeks to add software and hardware to meet the needs of enterprise and industrial product designers. We discuss why Arduino is branching out from the DIY market, and how it differentiates itself from other computing platforms such as the Raspberry Pi or Nvidia’s Jetson Nano. Violante also shares his observations about the state of the market and the popularity of certain connectivity options, protocols and cloud platforms. It’s a good show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Fabio Violante, the CEO of Arduino
Sponsors: Nordic Semiconductor and Wirepas

  • Apple contributed a lot to HomeKit and we all will benefit
  • Who is the new Insteon owner?
  • Microsoft is helping Procter & Gamble make better paper towels
  • Good and bad news for OT security
  • Why Arduino is stepping up to the enterprise

Episode 374: Peekaboo offers privacy for the smart home

This week’s show kicks off with our favorite topic: bringing context into the smart home. This time it’s iRobot and its new operating system that aims to bring the smart home together. From there we discuss a merger between satellite IoT companies and a new idea for building a privacy-centric smart home from the folks at Carnegie Mellon. In more enterprise news, BT wants to stop being a telco and become a “tech-co” with a focus on digital transformation, while a group of chipmakers want to create a consortium to buy Arm. In smaller news bits we’ve got some more unsettling news around John Deere tractors, a smart blinds retrofit from Somfy and the end of Amazon’s Cloud Cam. We’re not mad. Kevin also reviewed Ecobee’s newest and fanciest thermostat and came to a surprising conclusion. In our IoT Podcast Hotline we answer a question from someone who is switching to HomeKit.

Image courtesy of iRobot.

Our guest this week is Ron Rock, CEO and co-founder of Microshare.io, who discusses why his company started building pre-packaged IoT solutions and selling the data, as opposed to trying for some horizontal IoT platform. He also talks about the next big use cases for enterprise IoT after COVID. First up is figuring out how to best use corporate real estate in a hybrid work environment and how to rightsize corporate real estate holdings post-pandemic. His third use case is my favorite. He talks about why ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) demands are driving companies to adopt IoT solutions across a wide variety of use cases and industries. We end with a bit of conversation about new building standards and how he expects those standards to develop in the next three to five years. It’s a fun show.

Host: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Ron Rock, CEO and co-founder of Microshare.io
Sponsors: LoRaWAN World Expo and InfluxData

  • Why iRobot could turn the smart home into a robot
  • The IoT satellite consolidation is here
  • Who should buy Arm? Everyone.
  • COVID drove enterprise IoT spending, but what’s next?
  • All your pre-2020 occupancy data is worthless now

Episode 373: Matter’s security details explained

Our focus is on the Matter smart home interoperability protocol this week, specifically some of the security requirements that will be associated with the standard. I moderated a panel on Tuesday where we learned a lot about plans for security, controllers, provisioning, and how companies such as Amazon and Google plan to keep Matter devices working within their respective ecosystems. We also talk about IKEA’s upcoming smart home hub and what that might mean for existing Tradfri hubs. In the enterprise world, we cover Nokia’s plan to release 5G-capable devices to help drive adoption of private 5G and 5G networks in commercial settings, Verizon’s new Data Breach Investigation Report and edge-computing capabilities coming to the world of industrial robotics. We also answer a listener question about the future of motion sensors in the home.

Verizon now tracks eight types of attack patterns in its survey. Image courtesy of Verizon.

Our guest this week is Jonathan Beri, CEO and founder of Golioth, a hardware platform for IoT. We discuss his history at Google/Nest and Particle to discover why he thought the IoT world needs a platform like Golioth. From there we talk about choosing a real-time operating system, how companies can adapt to the continued chip shortage, and ideal networking platforms for the IoT. Surprisingly, he’s seeing a lot of interest in Thread for industrial clients. He shares a lot of practical advice for companies trying to optimize their IoT hardware, so if you’re building products, this is a good interview.  Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Jonathan Beri, CEO and founder of Golioth
SponsorsLoRaWAN World Expo and InfluxData

  • How Matter will handle security for devices
  • IKEA’s new hub should be Matter-compliant
  • Verizon finds that 82% of cyber attacks have a human element
  • How to decide the best RTOS for your IoT device
  • How to think about redesigning your hardware during the chip shortage

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.