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 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 256: The tech industry is growing up

This week Kevin is back and we’re digging into Ring’s decision to listen to its critics and change some of its security features. It’s a welcome sign of overall maturity in the tech industry. At the same time, it’s unclear if the Ring cameras are that helpful to law enforcement. We then discuss the rise in smart speaker sales, a privacy-focused bracelet, funding for cool new technology, and how China’s handling of the coronavirus shows off the pros and cons of IoT in society. We hit some news bits related to 5G networks, a way for ISPs to make sure your IoT gear is working, funding for Bluetooth chips, and a cybersecurity warning for healthcare. Kevin also shares his planned Home Assistant project. We end with a way to keep your Google Assistants on your home devices from fighting with your Pixel.

The prototype is a self-contained wearable comprised of ultrasonic transducers, a signal generator, a microcontroller, a battery, a voltage regulator and a 3W amplifier. Image courtesy of the University of Chicago. 

This week’s guest is Taj Manku, CEO of Cognitive Systems, who comes on to share details of the firm’s technology and to discuss how the company is trying to respect user privacy. Cognitive Systems has developed technology that measures disruptions in a home Wi-Fi network and uses those disruptions as a way to track actions in the home. Currently, ISPs and router makers can use the technology to offer motion sensing for security purposes, but eventually, it might offer a way to detect falls or even motion as subtle as a baby breathing. That level of insight also creates privacy concerns, so Manku explains exactly how the firm handles consumer data and the steps it has taken to ensure even law enforcement can’t see inside the home. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Taj Manku, CEO of Cognitive Systems
SponsorsDigiCert and Very

  • Ring has decided to listen to consumer security complaints
  • China’s surveillance state is one version of our IoT future
  • Kevin’s planning to embrace Home Assistant
  • How to see inside a home without using cameras
  • A cloud-to-cloud approach and encryption are some ways to protect your privacy

Episode 253: Smart cities, Ring, and the new surveillance state

On this week’s show, privacy was a big theme beginning with our conversation about Ring’s sharing of certain user data with third-party tracking sites, a plea from 40 organizations for the U.S. to stop using facial recognition technology, and a new way to think about smart cities. Kevin and I also discussed proposed device security rules for the U.K. and security challenges associated with LoRaWAN networks. We touched upon new water sensors for HomeKit homes, Ciscos’s new security service for industrial IoT, another satellite network for IoT, and Verizon’s deal to put 4G modems on Honeywell’s smart meters. Kevin also found a ring that doubles as an activity tracker. In this week’s IoT Podcast Hotline, we answer a question about how to build a smart home that works for visitors.

A rendering of a home in a KB Home planned community near Seattle. Image courtesy of KB Home.

My guest this week is Dan Bridleman, a senior vice president with KB Home. As a home builder, KB Home has started to integrate some smart devices into their portfolio. Bridleman explains what those options are and how KB plans to support (or offload the support) of a smart home. He also shares what he’s excited about in the home sector and why newer technologies could do away with expensive home infrastructure like copper wiring to switches.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Dan Bridleman, a senior vice president with KB Home
SponsorsMachineQ and IoT World

  • Ring is bad, but it’s hardly the only offender
  • Smart cities are the opposite of a smart home
  • The U.K. may mandate a device expiration date!
  • No one comes in wanting a smart home
  • New tech could replace a lot of expensive home wiring

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

 

Episode 228: Ring uses police as a sales channel

We should name our show the Internet of Privacy Violations Podcast. This week Kevin and I talk about Apple and Microsoft sending voice utterances to contractors and what the industry overall has done to clarify this fact to consumers and also let folks opt-out. We also talk about Microsoft’s discovery that IoT devices are an entry point for hackers and ask for feedback on whether a printer is an IoT device. Then we follow up on Ring’s work with police departments, which doesn’t make me feel good at all. In more fun news we finally discover what Google’s Mistral is, we find a new device from Walmart and discuss a new tech alliance. From there we talk about a new hub for your cameras, Arlo Pro getting HomeKit support and a new roving digital assistant from Asus. We close by answering a question about connected weather stations.

Our guest this week is Meirav Oren, CEO and co-founder of Versatile Natures. She explains how to get non-tech firms to adopt AI and IoT and why she thinks cameras are not the best IoT sensor to use. She also tells me how she thinks the construction industry will evolve over the next decade as it adopts new technology. You’ll gain a lot from this interview.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Meirav Oren, CEO and co-founder of Versatile Natures
Sponsors: Nutanix and DigitalOcean

  • Is a printer an IoT device? We want to know.
  • Ring has turned police officers into its sales channel and that isn’t okay
  • What’s Walmart’s Project Franklin?
  • To get non-tech people to adopt AI, you need trust
  • The future of construction can be found in chip manufacturing

Episode 220: The future of surveillance includes hacked data and biased AI

This week Kevin and I offer a take on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency hack and what it means in terms of biometric data, broader security trends and how it relates to policing that can rely on connected AR glasses. Basically, it’s going to be a dystopian hellscape. Especially when you consider Spotify selling data about your emotional state, Amazon’s work on a wearable that detects your emotions, and Facebook trying hard to make a version of the Portal system that could sell. In other news, we discuss whether Uber’s air taxis need 5G, Amazon halting sales of its new Blink XT2 video camera and a new environmental sensing board from Google. And, in our IoT Podcast listener hotline, we answer a question about underrated smart home features. By definition, our answers should surprise you.

Google’s IoT sensor board plugs into a Raspberry Pi and talks to Google’s Cloud IoT Core service.

This week’s guest is Dominique Guinard, the CTO of Evrythng, a platform that connects unique tags to the internet. Brands ranging from Coke to liquor giant Diageo use the Evrythng platform to track individual items and connect brands to customers. Guinard discussed how Evrythng has changed with the times in the internet of things, how a new standard could let consumer packaged good companies track individual items, and how the economics are finally in favor of connected tags.  We also discuss the tech needed to track a trillion connected objects,  salmon and why companies always turn to marketing first when it comes to IoT. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Dominique Guinard, the CTO of Evrythng
Sponsors: Dell Technologies and Nordic Semiconductor

  • The surveillance state isn’t very secure
  • This isn’t the data I really want to share with companies
  • How many sensors did Google cram onto this board?
  • Sensor tags are finally cheap enough for packaged good
  • Yes, it’s the internet of salmon

Episode 216: Your smart home data will lead to cheaper insurance

This week Kevin and I continue discussing the fall out from Google killing the Works with Nest program. We discuss alternative devices for those who want to replace their Nest devices. Next, we go into the Amazon Alexa updates that add the Guard security features and sunrise and sunset schedule. Then we look at the new NB-IoT networks from Verizon and AT&T before talking about the facial recognition ban in San Francisco. We mention Lenovo’s new IoT Edge gateway and cover the new Wi-Fi Home Certification for single-family homes and apartments. Finally, we answer a listener question about outdoor mesh Wi-Fi.

The Sonos One got Google Assistant and there’s one drawback. Photo by Kevin Tofel.

This week’s guest is Mariel Devesa, global head of business at Phyn who discusses why insurance firms have been slow to underwrite more smart home devices and what we can expect going forward. One potential future involves companies bidding for our business based on feeds of smart home data showing how low our risk profiles are. Because Phyn is a leak prevention sensor, she also spends a chunk of time talking about water damage and how to find algorithms to build a compelling product. Enjoy the glimpse into our future.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Mariel Devesa, global head of business at Phyn
Sponsors: Dell Technologies and Nordic Semiconductor

  • How should IoT devices remove features or privacy?
  • Sonos One adds Google Assistant but there’s a drawback
  • Verizon’s NB-IoT network seems pricey
  • Why insurance firms still won’t underwrite your smart home
  • One day your insurer might bid for your business

Episode 210: Hannover Messe and haptic IoT

This week’s show focuses on the tremendous amount of industrial IoT news coming out of the Hannover Messe event held in Germany. We cover Microsoft and BMW’s Open Manufacturing Platform and the similarly named Open Industry 4.0 Alliance as well as the prevalence of 5G news at the show. After explaining what is going on in the industrial world, Kevin and I discuss a patent for silencing drones from Amazon, news on Google’s shopping partnership extension with Wal-Mart, and a new Google Hub. Kevin also shares his scoop on Google’s new Mistral board. We then discuss surveillance in smart cities before revisiting our answer from last week’s voicemail to add more ways to connect your smart blinds to Alexa.

A figure from Amazon’s hot air balloon patent issued this week.

This week our guest is Keith Kirkland, CEO of Wearworks, which makes a product called the Wayband. The Wayband uses haptic feedback to guide visually-impaired people using haptic feedback. Kirkland explains what his team learned about building a product, the opportunities offered by haptic feedback and how other designers should think about adding haptic feedback to their devices. And all of this started because he just wanted to build a connected suit that would help him learn Kung Fu. It’s a fun interview!

Host: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Keith Kirkland, CEO of Wearworks
Sponsors: Software AG and IoT World

  • The IT industry digs into industrial IoT at Hannover Messe
  • Why wireless matters for industrial IoT
  • Kevin’s got a scoop on a possible Google device
  • Waterproofing is somewhat important
  • Touch isn’t the same everywhere on the body

Episode 208: IKEA’s smart home arrives in August

Kevin was out of town this week, so I co-hosted the podcast with my former colleague Chris Albrecht, who is managing editor at the Spoon, a foodtech site and the head of the Articulate conference all about kitchen robots.  We start the show with news about Vivint adding cars to its smart home product and Alexa getting contextual data from Echo devices. Then we discuss two pieces of federal legislation. The first covers IoT security and the second prevents companies from grabbing facial recognition data without permission. From there we talk about robot dogs, Nvidia’s new ML dongle that will be great for industrial IoT, Fibaro’s link up with SmartThings and  Qualcomm’s new chips for smart speakers. We close by answering a question on the Stich smart home hub from Monoprice.

Fibaro gear now works with SmartThings without you downloading a custom device handler.

Our guest this week is Bjorn Block, the head of development at IKEA Home Smart. Block returned to the show to give us the details on the new IKEA Fyrtur roller shades and some hints about its collaboration with Sonos for new smart speakers. We also talk about how IKEA plans to support smart home products at retail. It will unveil a new smart home section of the store in August along with the blinds and Sonos speakers.  In the wake of most big retailers shutting down their smart home efforts, I am eager to see how IKEA plans to plow ahead. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Chris Albrecht, managing editor of The Spoon
Guest: Bjorn Block, IKEA Home Smart
Sponsors: Afero and Western Digital

  • Alexa gets context clues in cars
  • The feds tack security and privacy legislation
  • Would you buy a $500 robot dog?
  • All the deets on IKEA’s smart blinds
  • August is a big month for IKEA’s smart home plans