Episode 341: Smart cities and smart fridges galore

Welcome to the weekly podcast! We’re moving Black Friday to October thanks to chip shortages and shipping delays. Meanwhile, Amazon is working on a smart fridge, Google is trying to use a $10 monthly subscription and Nest thermostats to help people go green and also launching new cameras and ways to surf its displays. The Starling Home Hub gets a new feature that lets you watch your Nest cameras on HomeKit gear, and consumers interested in mining Helium Network Tokens or participating in building a LoRaWAN network for IoT have another option thanks to RAK Wireless. Kevin and I also discuss a really cute Kickstarter version of the Boston Robotics Spot robot. When it’s a small, open-source robot for kids, it doesn’t seem so scary. We also discuss some cybersecurity research on industrial controls from Nozomi. We end by answering a listener question about where to sell your old smart home gear and how to prep it for sale.

The Mini Pupper is a small and cute spin on a much larger and scarier robot. Image courtesy of Mini Pupper.

This week’s guest is Sanjeet Pandit, global head of smart cities and digital transformation at Qualcomm. He’s on the show a week after Qualcomm held a smart cities event where it added new SaaS-based smart city services. We talk about how the pandemic has changed what municipalities want from technology firms, and how they are redefining what it takes to make a city smart. Pandit didn’t answer a lot of my questions about how cities are paying for these services or which ones were deploying some of the more futuristic services such as predictive traffic management, telling me that the cities get to decide when they talk about their deployments. But he assures me that many cities are making investments that go well beyond smart lighting, and I suppose for now, I’ll have to believe him and hope to see what municipalities start making announcements.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Sanjeet Pandit, global head of smart cities at Qualcomm
Sponsors: Trek10 and Ayla Networks

  • Why you want to start your holiday shopping now
  • Does anyone think an Amazon fridge could be trusted?
  • Would you trust a tiny open-source version of Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot?
  • What smart cities want after the pandemic
  • Several use cases for smart cities that don’t involve lighting!

 

Episode 340: Amazon wants you to trust its devices

This week’s podcast is all about Amazon (with a few other stories for variety). We start the show with a rundown of the devices and services Amazon launched at its device drop on Tuesday. We then explain what it means for the smart home and ask if this is what we want. We also question if the Astro robot is really all it seems before offering a public service announcement about updating to iOS 15 beta software. After that, we cover a new Helium miner called Finestra, designed for the mainstream consumer. As an added bonus, the company behind the new miner, Mimiq, is also building LoRaWAN devices, which is desperately needed if we want these networks to actually provide real value. After that, we talk about a smaller satellite signal module that works indoors and an incredibly irritating marketing campaign for the new Flic Twist device that puts me off from what is actually a good idea. Then, Kevin talks about his experience with the new Wyze Cam Pan 2. We close the news segment by answering a listener request for a Spanish-speaking smart home.

Amazon launched a $1,000 robot. Image courtesy of Amazon.

Our guest this week continues the Amazon theme. We have Anne Toth, head of Alexa Trust to discuss how Amazon is trying to introduce friction into the Alexa experience as a way to promote privacy and help consumers open up to Alexa at their own pace. She didn’t answer my question about the number of false positives or give me a convincing reason why Alexa keeps interrupting me with suggestions about other things I can do with the device, but she does a good job talking about the challenges of explaining what Alexa does and doesn’t know about people and why people may want Alexa to know more. It’s a good interview, even if I didn’t get all the information I’d like.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Anne Toth, Head of Alexa Trust at Amazon
SponsorsTrek10 and Ayla Networks

  • Ambient intelligence is code for stop looking at your smartphone
  • There’s a looming wave of new Helium miners
  • Flic has a cool new device coming, but finding out about it is annoying
  • Amazon does care what you think about privacy
  • Alexa talks back so you know all of the cool things it can do

Episode 338: Wyze comes back from the edge

I need to warn y’all in advance that we don’t discuss Apple news at all this week because nothing really jumped out at us for the IoT. But we did have a lot of other big news starting with Wyze raising $100 million and sharing the precariousness of its situation over the last 18 months. We then talk about a political risk for Tuya and what that might mean for your devices, and three pieces of news from Silicon Labs’ Works With event that have big implications for radios, Matter, and security. After the chip news, Kevin sets the record straight on a story that got Matter wrong, I get excited by new chips coming out of a stealthy startup, and there’s an acquisition that will help developers work with more IoT devices.  Google has a new digital twin service for supply chains, Whoop has a new fitness wearable with a fancy battery, and Yale added HomeKit support for its cabinet lock. We end the segment by answering a listener question about new smart home cameras.

The Luci device fits onto existing power wheelchairs. Image courtesy of Luci.

Our guest this week is Jered Dean, who is a co-founder and CTO of Luci, a startup making a smart addition for power wheelchairs. First, Dean explains why power wheelchairs are so dangerous and why he created Luci. Then we dive into other challenges of building specialized millimeter-wave radar sensors for the device and specialized ultrasonic sensors and how challenging it is to combine those sensors and cameras into one view of the world. We also talk about why Dean added integrations to connect Luci with health monitoring platforms and digital assistants. And finally,  we talk about what it could mean if Luci shared data about what it “sees” with smart city or mapping platforms. I really had fun with this one.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Jered Dean, co-founder and CTO of Luci
Sponsors: Silicon Labs and Infineon

  • Wyze shares the details of its near-death experience
  • Silicon Labs has new radios, a new security option and software for a unified smart home
  • JFrog’s Upswift buy is good news for the IoT
  • Why this startup had to build its own sensors to see the world
  • How smart cities could help people using smarter wheelchairs

 

 

Episode 327: Amazon’s Halo health push and more Matter

Any Amazon Halo subscriber can try Amazon’s Movement Health service now, so Kevin and I explain what it is and what Amazon’s decisions around the Halo fitness tracker signal about the company’s interest in healthcare. We then cover the good news that Google will support connected Nest devices with security updates for up to five years after launch and Google’s new location tracking app for its Wi-Fi routers. Kevin wonders why Verizon needs its own smart display and tells us about Lenovo’s latest Google clock display while I share news of a smart building startup getting funding. We end with the news that ADT and Ring have settled their lawsuit about Ring’s use of the trademarked blue ADT octagon. After the news, we answer a listener’s question about changing Wi-Fi SSIDs and passwords and what that might mean for his smart home devices.

The Lenovo Smart Clock 2 can charge your phone using a Qi dock. Image courtesy of Lenovo.

Our guest this week is Nathan Dyck, chief product officer at Nanoleaf. We kick off the segment by focusing on the future of lighting before digging into a discussion of the Thread protocol. He talks about why Thread is such a positive choice for the smart home, and then we talk about Matter. He explains what the multi-admin feature is and tells us why he’s excited about the distributed ledger for tracking the provenance of a device. We end with a look ahead at some of the features he expects to see in smart lights after Matter is established. Enjoy the show.

Host: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Nathan Dyck, chief product officer Nanoleaf
Sponsors: Silicon Labs and Trek10

  • Amazon’s Halo isn’t about fitness, it’s a about health
  • How long should a thermostat get security updates?
  • Could Verizon’s new display offer a path to Amazon’s Sidewalk?
  • Nanoleaf didn’t start out making smart lights
  • Matter may make new features easier to develop

Episode 322: Google’s Fuchsia looks promising for the IoT

Did you know that Roku aims to get into the smart home game? We discuss that along with a new set of vulnerabilities in Bluetooth during the first part of the show, before moving onto Google’s new Fuchsia OS and some updates from Google I/O. After that, we discuss surveillance technology from China and the need for more discussion and disclosure around new technology purchases by local governments. We touch on a proposed data privacy law, new HomeKit support for the Eero 6 routers, and Wyze night lights. We end the news segment by answering a listener question about the Wyze security system and Yale locks.

A DroneExpress drone and package. Image courtesy of DroneExpress.

Our guest this week is Beth Flippo, CTO at Telegrid, which owns DroneExpress. DroneExpress has built a drone delivery service based on drone and radio technology built by Telegrid for the military. With DroneExpress, Flippo aims to build a business delivering items weighing less than five pounds within a small radius. This month Kroger announced it was trying the service for grocery delivery. We discuss why Teregrid decided to sell a service as opposed to the technology, what niche drone delivery serves, and even how widespread drone delivery could change consumer packaging. We also talk about the limitations of drones and Flippo’s belief that drone delivery could reinvigorate brick and mortar businesses.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Beth Flippo, DroneExpress
SponsorVery

  • What will Roku do in the smart home?
  • Kevin thinks Google’s Fuchsia OS will be good for the IoT
  • Technology is a tool, but we need to understand its potential uses
  • Why sell hardware when you can sell a service?
  • How drone delivery might influence the size of consumer packaged goods

Episode 309: Why your IoT device shipments are delayed

We’re really excited about radar in this week’s episode, so we discuss Ring’s new doorbell that added it for motion detection and Apple’s patent that plans to use radar for detecting vital signs. We also talk about radar being a feature that Plume plans to add to its Wi-Fi devices in the near future while discussing the company’s $270 million funding round. We then discuss Portland ditching smart city software, the Echo Show 10 reviews, HomeKit support for two sets of devices, and the coming ability to talk to Google’s Assistant even when the screen is locked. I then explain how you can stop some of the unwanted comments from Alexa if she’s telling you about low batteries in your smart home devices or asking you to rate a product you have purchased on Amazon. We end by answering a listener’s question about bringing Wi-Fi to his detached garage.

Ring’s new doorbell will cost $249.99 and ships on March 31. Image courtesy of Ring.

Our guest this week is Chris Carney, the co-founder and CEO of Abode. Carney explains why companies are experiencing so many delays in shipping products and why many of your favorite devices might be out of stock. The chip shortage plays a role, but so do delays at ports and challenges faced by last-mile delivery networks like the US Postal Service, FedEx and UPS. He explains how his company is trying to adapt, and when we can expect to see these shortages ease up. He also offers some advice to other companies affected by similar challenges. Enjoy the show while waiting for your latest gadget to arrive.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Chris Carney, co-founder and CEO of Abode
Sponsor: Very

  • Ring’s new doorbell gets a fancy new feature
  • Plume’s funding could lead to small acquisitions
  • How to reduce Alexa’s spam
  • Chips, ships, and delayed trips
  • When will supply chains get back to normal?

Episode 297: IoT news from Amazon’s Re:Invent and smarter cities

This week’s show kicks off with a lot of detail about the news coming out of Amazon’s Re:Invent event happening over the next few weeks. We talk about the new ML services for manufacturing, the deal with Research in Motion for car data, and Amazon’s Proton service and container plans. We then discuss the new Wyze Watch which is available for $19.99, and a funding for Wi-Fi HaLow chip provider Morse Micro. From there, we talk about 5G in factories, Nordic’s Wi-Fi acquisition, and a little bit more information about Amazon Sidewalk. We end by answering a question about Nest thermostats.

The Wyze Watch will ship in February. Image courtesy of Wyze.

Our guest this week is Scott Turnbull, director of technology at US Ignite. He’s on the show to help assess where we are at when it comes to smart city deployments. We discuss what’s holding us back, and the need for a citizen’s bill of rights before cities start buying gear. He also has an idea for a new job created to oversee the smart city. We also talk about what the city should own and how they should fund their deployments. If you care about the future of surveillance and cities this episode is a must-listen.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Scott Turnbull, director of technology at US Ignite
Sponsors: Calix and Lee Odess

  • The big IoT news at Amazon’s big event
  • Wyze just keeps those gadgets coming, y’all.
  • I make the case for leaving Amazon’s Sidewalk service on
  • How to ensure smart cities have citizen oversight
  • Why cities should own their technical infrastructure

Episode 295: Project CHIP goes commercial and the Eero Pro review

This week’s podcast kicks off with the news that Project Connected Home over IP (CHIP) will also have a commercial element focused on offices, apartments, and public buildings.  Then we focus on edge computing with a new way to bring machine learning to the edge and Arm expanding its free IP license program to some of its edge ML chips. We also talk about the new IoT Cybersecurity bill that passed the Senate, a virus prediction score on Airthings devices, and another new Wyze product. We round out the news with LoRaWAN, facial recognition laws, telemedicine, an upgrade to Google Fit, and a new name for Plume’s Wi-Fi service. Kevin shares his thoughts on the Eero Pro Wi-Fi system, and a quick impression of the new HomePod mini. We end this segment by answering a question about updating old Z-wave switches.

This sensor is part of a network that will detect and monitor wildfires. Image courtesy of Katia Obraczka.

Our guest this week is Katia Obraczka, a professor of computer science and electrical engineering at UC Santa Cruz. She’s designing a sensor network to detect and monitor wildfires. She explains how she’s handling a lack of connectivity, power constraints, and budget constraints, all while trying to build in resiliency. After all, elements of this network are in fire-prone areas, and it stands to reason some of it will burn. She discusses how she’s using simulations of the network to figure out power budgets and what types of sensors she needs. She also talks about using drones as flying access points to build in more resiliency in case other forms of connectivity burn. It’s a good way to think about building a sensor network for a harsh environment.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Katia Obraczka, a professor of computer science and electrical engineering at UC Santa Cruz
Sponsors: Calix and Teracode

  • Project CHIP has commercial ambitions but needs a better name
  • TinyML is a big deal and the tools are getting better
  • Eero Pro is expensive but does provide quite the speed boost
  • What matters most in building a sensor network for detecting wildfire
  • Repurpose drones as flying Wi-Fi access points to make your network resilient

 

Episode 281: Manufacturing trends during the pandemic

This week on the IoT podcast we begin by talking about what the widespread adoption of ultrawideband chips in phones could mean for the IoT. From there, it’s on to Google’s always-listening software update, humans coming back into the QA loop, and earthquake detection on Android phones (there’s another earthquake project too!). Kevin also asks how much control you have over your smart home. We covered security news from DEFCON starting with traffic light hacks and ending with some scary security holes in the satellite network infrastructure. We also touched on news from SmartThings, Wyze, the UK, a new fitness device, and Apple. Finally, we answer a question about the security associated with having multiple device accounts.

The new Carbon Mirror is yet another fitness service disguised as a device. Image courtesy of Carbon.

Our guest this week is Bill Bither, CEO of MachineMetrics, which grabs data from factory machines. He discusses the impact that COVID-19 has had on manufacturing based on aggregated client data, and best practices for dealing with the pandemic. He also dug deep on the concept of a digital thread. The digital thread is the idea that manufacturers can gather enough data to follow the life of a product from material to finished good in the field, and use data from the manufacturing process to understand how to improve quality. We also talked about sharing data across supply chains, and why that isn’t yet happening. It’s a good show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Bill Bither, CEO of MachineMetrics
Sponsors: Very and Silicon Labs

  • NXP is all in on ultrawideband for the IoT
  • Gosh, darn it, Google!
  • DEFCON hacks the IoT yet again
  • What is a digital thread and why does it matter?
  • How COVID-19 is affecting manufacturing

 

 

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