Episode 399: Alexa’s drama and our holiday gift guide

The biggest news in the internet of things this week was the staggering story about Amazon’s Alexa business being responsible for the majority of an estimated $10 billion loss in the year ahead. So Kevin and I discuss what Amazon pulling back on Alexa might look like and what it means for voice and the smart home. Then we talk about how a newly available Amazon device signals Amazon’s problem and the potential solutions to that problem. After talking about voice, we take a look at a new controller from Aqara that uses gestures and share our thoughts about the form factor.  After all our user interaction talk, we then cover some news, such as the FIDO Alliance planning to work on security and authentication issues for the IoT, Google’s plans for aggregating fitness data, and a new dev kit from T-Mobile. We also talk about new devices from Wyze and Firewalla. Finally, we answer a listener’s question about connecting LED fairy lights. Then it’s time to talk about the holidays.

The Aqara Cube T1 Pro costs $22.99, and is a fancy button that you can press, roll and shake. Image courtesy of Aqara.

Every year we choose 10 devices that we think make good holiday gifts for our audience and their loved ones. This year we suggest a few in the first part of the show, such as the JaxJox kettlebell and my perennial favorite, the Ember mug. (I gave this to my mom in 2019, and she still uses it every day.) This year’s gifts include a smart plug designed for Matter, a device to reboot your router, and multiple options for smart buttons from Philips Hue and Shortcut Labs. We also include a Nanoleaf option because we’re such fans of the devices as gifts for teens. We also include some fancier gifts for chefs and dog owners. There are more options in this week’s newsletter, but before we sign off we also want to thank our listeners for the gift of their time this year, and the nine years that Kevin and I have been producing this show. Y’all are awesome.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Sponsors: Arm and Silicon Labs

  • Voice is a user interface, not a platform
  • I don’t want to roll the dice on my home routines
  • Google aggregates health data in a better format
  • We love buttons and lights for smart home gifts
  • We also love cooking tech, and pet tech too

Episode 397: Arduino Opta adds a little IT to the OT

This week’s show kicks off with a discussion of the lawsuit between Arm and Qualcomm amid accusations that Arm is changing its licensing model. We cover what has been said, and what it might mean for the IoT before heading into some industrial news. Arduino has announced a programmable logic controller (PLC) in conjunction with Finder called the Arduino Opta. It’s part of a larger trend of convergence between the IT and OT, as is news from Marvell that it has built an integrated networking chip for industrial clients that uses Ethernet. We talk about how Marvell made Ethernet appealing to the industrial world, and then shift to smart home news. First, Vivint reported financial results and previewed some new products coming in 2023, including integrated indoor lighting. Then we talk about the new Eufy trackers that use Apple’s Find My network and new connectors for the Nanoleaf Lines. And before we finished this segment, we also talked about last week’s Matter launch, including the news that more device types were coming. We end by answering a listener’s question about building DIY devices that will talk to Matter devices.

The Eufy tracker is less expensive than an AirTag, and it has a hole you can use to attach it to things. Image courtesy of Eufy.

Our guest this week is Matt Rose, the CEO of Apana, a company that tracks water usage for commercial clients. The company has more than 800 customers including Costco Wholesale, Coca-Cola, and Fetzer. Rose talks about how business is booming thanks to Environment, Social and Government (ESG) directives and growing corporate concern about water usage. He explains how the focus has moved from ROI to ESG and how to parse over a billion points of data into something front-line workers can take action on. He also talks about the scaling challenges early on and moving from wired to wireless connections for his company’s sensors. Finally, we discuss his switch from private LoRa connectivity to LoRaWAN and how that should expand his business going forward. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Matt Rose, CEO of Apana
Sponsors: Arm and Silicon Labs

  • Arm’s suit against Qualcomm is pretty crazy
  • The industrial IoT will have to embrace IP
  • More Matter device types are coming next year!
  • This company’s digital twin can save on water consumption
  • LoRaWAN has matured, and it’s about time

Episode 396: Here’s when you’ll get Matter on your devices

This week’s episode kicks off what I hope is a flurry of news from vendors about their Matter plans. We hear when and how vendors such as Amazon, Eve, Nanoleaf, and Schneider Electric plan to roll out Matter to new and old devices. We also call out companies that haven’t yet shared information and what you’re likely to see get support first. Then we go to other news such as leaked photos of Amazon’s Ring Car Alarm, a privacy lawsuit against Amazon going forward and new security and camera devices from Arlo. In less exciting news, we talk about a lock-picking lawyer’s discovery that the HomeKey version of the Level Home lock (the Level Lock+) can be easily picked with a simple lock pick or a bump key. Also in the bad news department, Orro Systems, the makers of a smart lighting switch and system, is looking for more investment and will stop distributing its gear so as to support existing customers. This looks like the beginning of the end. Kevin got his hands on Google’s Nest Wifi Pro, and decides that people on existing Wi-Fi 6 mesh systems probably won’t benefit much from this update, but those coming from older Wi-Fi 5 systems (like Google’s prior mesh Wi-Fi kit) will. Finally, we answer a listener question about Matter on smoke alarms.

Arlo’s new all-in-one multi-sensors and Keypad Security Hub. Image courtesy of Arlo.

Our guest this week is Peggy Carrieres, VP of Sales Enablement at Avnet, who is coming on the show to discuss what the changes in the chip sector mean for hardware designers. Carrieres spoke with me a year and half ago to talk about the chip shortage, and now has new data thanks to a survey of Avnet customers. The survey shows that 29% of respondents believe chip prices will continue to rise and that 26% expect to see more supply shortfalls. We talk about what’s driving challenges in sourcing chips and components for hardware as well as how engineers are starting to change how they design products amidst the shortage. We also point to some software developments that may help. It’s a nerdy interview, but worth the time if you’re building hardware.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Peggy Carrieres, VP of Sales Enablement at Avnet
Sponsors: Arm and Silicon Labs

  • Matter is coming to Amazon, Nanoleaf, Eve and more
  • Amazon’s next device may have a cellular data plan
  • I’m worried about Orro Systems and its future
  • Why chip shortages continue to cause problems for designers
  • Steps to help make hardware design easier in times of shortages

Episode 393: Why Roku needs the smart home

The biggest news this week is probably the launch of a line of inexpensive smart home products from Roku, the smart TV and set-top box maker. We talk about the products, its deal with Wyze and where you can get them. Then we move on to Matter, specifically when you might get Matter on your devices, and the new pact between Google and Samsung SmartThings, that will make using either Google Home’s app or the SmartThings’ app as a controller seamless for your smart home. Then we discuss the results of the Eclipse Foundation’s IoT Developer survey in detail, including popular real time operating systems and messaging protocols, before getting an update on smart home device adoption from Parks Associates. We aren’t too concerned with Prime Day deals but we did notice that the Amazon Smart Air Quality Monitor has a new feature. In related news, we talk about other indoor air quality products and frustrations with Kevin’s Ecobee indoor air quality monitoring. After that we mention Lufthansa’s decisions to ban AirTags (it unbanned them after we recorded the show), an ITU approval for wireless over-the-air charging in the 900 MHz band, and the soon-to-be announced cybersecurity label from The White House. Finally, we answer a listener question about viewing Wyze cameras on a Google display.

Connectivity is still hard for IoT developers according to the Eclipse Foundation survey.

Our guest this week is Janko Roettgers, a senior reporter at Protocol, who explained the role that the TV currently plays and will likely play in the smart home. This is especially helpful because, as he explains to me, my home is a bit weird when it comes to televisions. He discusses how TV makers are looking for new forms of revenue, including advertising, while tech firms are getting into making TVs for similar reasons. He also puts Roku’s move into the smart home with devices and services into context. Specifically it’s because TVs are super low-margin and if it doesn’t move into the smart home it’s rivals will. Actually, they are already as he clearly explains. He also explains how TVs will handle smart home navigation and offers a little scoop on Google’s display plans. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Janko Roettgers, a senior reporter at Protocol
Sponsors: Nordic Semiconductor and Firewalla

  • Roku gets into the smart home with help from Wyze
  • Developers are still pretty fragmented when it comes to everything at the edge
  • Kevin discovers the limits of indoor air quality monitoring
  • The TV may be the next battlefront for smart home vendors
  • What Matter will mean for TV makers

Episode 392: Matter is here. Now what?

Matter is now official after almost three years of waiting, and Kevin and I are super excited. Well, I am. Kevin is more measured, but we talk about what to expect and when to expect Matter to start changing your smart home. In related news, we discuss Google’s new doorbell, mesh router, and plans for the Home app. Google is also adding more sensing capabilities to the smart home through its existing hubs. In November, IKEA plans to launch its latest smart home hub, the Dirigera, which will cost about $60. This will replace the Trådfri hub, but will also let users bridge their older IKEA devices to the Matter protocol. Kevin gets to tell me that he told me so, as Amazon kills the Glow video-calling device for kids, and we lay out the five principles that are part of a new U.S. blueprint for legislation related to AI. We end by answering a question from a listener about using their SmartRent Hub as a secondary Z-wave controller.

Like other big name smart home vendors, Google already has plans for Matter. Image courtesy of Google.

Our guests this week are both from John Deere. We have Tracy Schrauben, manager, manufacturing emerging technologies at John Deere, who represents the operational technology side of the manufacturing plant. Also joining is Jason Wallin, principal architect at John Deere, who is handling IT. Both are on the show for an exclusive look at how the agricultural company is deploying the CBRS spectrum it purchased in 2020. In its Moline, Ill. plant, John Deere has deployed 14 microcells that today provide LTE connectivity to various pieces of equipment. But the plan is to get to an all-5G network as end devices become available. Our guests explain why they are unwiring the factory, some of the use cases, and what it’s like to build and manage your own private wireless network. This is a must-listen for folks who care about factory 5G.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guests: Tracy Schrauben and Jason Wallin of John Deere
Sponsors: Nordic Semiconductor and Firewalla

  • Matter is live, and now we get to test it in our homes!
  • Google’s new Home app is a much needed improvement
  • The U.S. now has a good framework for AI legislation
  • Why John Deere invested in its own spectrum for factory 5G
  • How John Deere plans to unwire its factories

Episode 391: Amazon’s turning Alexa into the brains of the home

This week’s show focuses on Amazon’s new devices and services launched Wednesday. Kevin and I talk about Amazon’s direction with Alexa as the manager of your life. We also gawp at the price iRobot is charging for its latest iteration of the Roomba robotic vacuum, although Kevin convinces me it’s not too crazy. Then we move into a discussion of the energy grid, sharing data from Itron on how utilities are thinking about the future electric grid, and how a partnership between Itron and Samsung SmartThings is an example of long-term thinking. Then I talk about the latest reporting from Forbes on Helium, and apologize for not being more wary about the chicanery that went on in the beginning by Helium’s executives. We then talk about my experience with the latest Yale lock. We end by answering a listener question about Ecobee thermostats that start heating or cooling before you intended.

The new Roomba is both a vacuum and mop. Image courtesy of iRobot.

Our guest this week is Elizabeth Parks, president and CMO of Parks Associates, a research firm focused on emerging technologies. Parks discusses how COVID changed the home security market as well as how monitored security providers have moved downmarket while DIY security companies have expanded upward into offering monitored security. All of this jostling has expanded the overall market. We also talk about the coming demand for energy management services as well as trends in new home building. Expect more connected devices! We end with a quick overview of what to expect from the CEDIA Expo happening this week in Dallas. It’s a fun conversation.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Elizabeth Parks of Parks Associates
Sponsors: Nordic Semiconductor and Firewalla

  • Amazon’s home robot is really Alexa
  • Why energy is becoming a hot topic in the smart home
  • A mea culpa on Helium
  • The security market is expanding thanks to the smart home
  • What to expect from CEDIA

 

Episode 390: The FTC eyes Amazon’s iRobot buy

The Federal Trade Commission is looking into Amazon’s decision to purchase the maker of Roomba vacuum cleaners for $1.7 billion. The agency this week asked Amazon and iRobot for more information about the deal, so Kevin and I took a moment to explain exactly what the FTC should worry about. Then we talk about Wi-Fi sensing showing up in Signify’s WiZ lightbulbs, and a wireless power provider paired with smart tags enabling a new retail experience — all without batteries. We touch on Nvidia’s continued forays into the metaverse and its plans to create digital twins for retailers with its new Omniverse services. We also cover two surveys this week from MachineQ and Hitachi Vantara. Those surveys focus mostly on enterprise IoT adoption and things that stand in the way of them. We also cover Helium’s new deal to bring its decentralized 5G wireless network to T-Mobile and then discuss Tile’s new QR code stickers to create a tech-savvy label for your stuff that might get lost. It’s better than sewing your name in your underwear. Kevin then discusses his review of a LoRa-based IoT development kit from Blues Wireless. We end by answering a listener question about leak monitoring and water shut off tools.

Image courtesy of MachineQ.

Our guest this week is Rob Davies, the chief insurance officer at Vivint. We start the interview by asking what a monitored security company is doing in the insurance sector, and move on to discuss what data might be most useful in building new insurance products. We also talk about how an insurance company might use smart home data to become more proactive about alleviating risk as opposed to paying out once the worst has happened. Davies uses the example of someone who has forgotten to lock their door. With Vivint’s platform, the insurance provider can let the homeowner know their door is unlocked before someone tries to break in. This creates a new relationship between insurers and their clients, and it will be interesting to see how far insurance companies take this idea. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Ron Davies, chief insurance officer Vivint
Sponsors:  Infineon and Silicon Labs

  • Why Robot OS could become Amazon’s anti-competitive advantage
  • Buy IoT gear is tough, and having customer support matters
  • This LoRa development kit was easy to set up and get data from
  • Why a monitored security firm is interested in offering insurance
  • Owning your own devices is useful for building new insurance products

Episode 389: Is Matter ready for its close up?

I’m in Austin this week, for Silicon Labs’ Works With event, and while there I hosted a panel that provided a good sense of what is going to happen with the Matter smart home interoperability protocol. I think Kevin is a bit more optimistic than I am. We also got some small updates on Amazon’s Sidewalk Network plans, which we discuss. After that, we talk about some news from Silicon Labs, and why folks in the IoT should keep an eye on Apple’s satellite plans. Then we talk about Lutron’s new smart paddle switch and dimmer that will fit right into existing home decor as well as how long certain device lifespans should be in the wake of Eero canceling support for its first-generation mesh routers. We then look at what is likely the next-generation wired Nest Hello doorbells, and look at some new resources for mapping out smart building capabilities before discussing funding for industrial IoT middleware provider Litmus Automation. We end by answering a listener’s question about smart smoke alarms and sending notifications to a phone.

The new Diva paddle switch and dimmer. Image courtesy of Lutron.

Our guest this week is Prashant Kanhere, the CTO of PayRange. PayRange provides a Bluetooth-based module that installs on a vending machine, washing machine, or pool table and replaces coin payments with electronic payments. I’ve followed this company for years and was stoked to see they had half a million devices under management now. With that scale, the company has figured out how to monitor those devices and how to update their firmware over tiny sips of connectivity. It’s a process that could come in handy for other IoT devices on low data-rate networks that need security or feature updates. We also discuss how the app works and the future of smart pool tables for a bit of fun. Enjoy the show.

Host: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Prashant Kanhere, the CTO of PayRange
Sponsors:  Infineon and Silicon Labs

  • Matter may be too little, too late
  • The IoT should keep an eye on Apple’s satellite ambitions
  • Lutron’s new switch will fit right in
  • Dynamic pricing could come for commercial laundromats
  • Smart pool tables are in the future

Episode 387: Is Kickstarter still relevant for smart devices?

This week we start off talking about the Federal Trade Commission suing a data broker for sharing sensitive location data. It’s a topic we’re following closely, in part because location information can’t be anonymized even when companies promise that it strips identifying information from it. With that in mind, Fight for the Future, a nonprofit focused on consumer privacy, is asking the FTC to prevent large tech firms from getting access to car data. In more data-sharing news, we talk about Adrich, a Pennsylvania company that has found some success selling Bluetooth tags that track how much of a product has been used and can reorder them for consumers. But it also shares product data usage with the company making the product. Then we kick off the IFA conference with some news bits from the Home Connectivity Alliance adding new members and a plug fest, as well as updated products from Eve. Also, Tado has created a subscription plan to optimize low-energy prices. For those interested in the evolution of the security business, check out ADT’s deal with Uber to monitor drivers and riders on request. And for those who want to understand the consolidation happening in the IoT connectivity sector, we talk about Telit’s latest acquisition. We then answer a listener question about what he needs to run Hue bulbs even when the internet is out.

Image courtesy of Woosh.

This week’s guest is Winston Mok, the founder and product lead of Woosh, a company making a connected air filter. We talk about how Woosh works, its focus on sustainability, and how it plans to integrate within existing smart home services. We also talk about Mok’s decision to use Kickstarter to launch the connected air filter, a decision that would have been a no brainer back in 2014, but seems almost quaint now. Mok explains why he thinks Kickstarter was a good option for Woosh and shares some of the benefits he got from launching on the platform. He also discusses how it it helped prepare for manufacturing at scale amidst the chip shortage, and shared advice on dealing with that situation. It’s a really useful interview.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Winston Mok, founder and product lead, Woosh
Sponsors: Infineon and Silicon Labs

  • The FTC is taking action against sellers of location data
  • This company can tell how quickly you eat your peanut butter
  • A standard for connected appliances gets a boost
  • Smart air filters? Why not?
  • Is Kickstarter still relevant for launching a smart device?

Episode 383: Meet Insteon’s new CEO

Last week, we kicked off the podcast with a discussion on the Helium peer-to-peer IoT network, and this week we did the same thing. This time we dug into the disclosures that Helium didn’t actually have Lime or Salesforce.com as current customers, despite having listed them prominently on its web site. Nova Labs CEO Amir Haleem tried to explain what happened in a Twitter thread, but since the crypto industry is full of scammers, it feels like a company should aspite to higher levels of integrity. Then we discuss the planned Semtech acquisition of Sierra Wireless and explain what it might mean for LoRaWAN. Then we talk about the creation of a new connectivity and hardware company thanks to the combination of Telit and Thales’ connectivity business. From there we highlight the mailbox of the future, some cool battery tech, a secret Google device, a broken Google integration and ADT’s Google partnership. Then we note that Home Assistant’s latest hardware option, the Home Assistant Yellow is now shipping to early buyers, and discuss a smart scarf deployed by a UK soccer team to measure fans’ feelings during a match. We end by answering a listener question about how to track their laundry in the wake of Smart Dry’s closure.

The new Dronedek mailbox has a section for postal delivery and a climate-controlled chamber for food delivered via drone. Image courtesy of Dronedek.

Our guest this week is Ken Fairbanks, the CEO of Insteon Technologies Inc. who is ready to share what happened between the end of Insteon in April and his acquisition of the assets in June. He also discloses what comes next for the new Insteon and explains why customers were caught off guard by the abrupt closure and the equally abrupt return of service for their hubs. Fairbanks is still trying to piece together the assets he purchased, but is also trying to talk to users about what they want to see for the smart home service. He also explains why he had to charge a subscription and how he plans to move forward. If you’re an Insteon customer take a listen, and if you are smart home user you might learn why it’s so hard to restart a dying connected home business.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Ken Fairbanks, the CEO of Insteon Technologies Inc.
Sponsors: Silicon Labs and Impinj

  • Who’s using the Helium network?
  • Two big mergers in industrial and enterprise IoT
  • Good news from Google and some bad news from Google
  • Behind the scenes during the Insteon sale
  • Insteon has plans for Matter