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 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 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 349: AWS overload and Libelium embraces the cloud

This week’s show kicks off with a bunch of IoT-related news from Amazon’s re:Invent conference happening this week in Las Vegas. We cover the launch of a fleet management service, a digital twin service, an easy way to securely connect hardware to Amazon’s cloud, a way to manage massive robot deployments, and the launch of three analytics services that are now serverless. We then discuss new funding for Ember and its plans for that money before highlighting one of the most consumer-friendly device shutdowns I have ever seen from Schneider Electric. Because every yin has a yang, we also covered Owlet’s decision to stop selling its baby-monitoring sock after the FDA called it out for misleading marketing. In smaller news, Twinkly’s smart holiday lights now support HomeKit, the Raspberry Pi Trading Group has hired bankers to possibly go public and the UK passed a cybersecurity law aimed at smart devices that will fine manufacturers for poor security practices. Also, Allegion Ventures has created a second fund with $100 million for IoT companies. We end the show by answering a listener’s question about keeping teenagers from turning off all the lights in a home.

The Ember mug was the best gift I’ve ever given. Image courtesy of S. Higginbotham.

Our guest this week is Alicia Asin, the co-founder and CEO of Libelium, which this week launched its own cloud service. She is on the show to talk about Libelium’s shift from making hardware sensors for the IoT to building a complete IoT platform that includes devices, connectivity, and the cloud. She also shares her perspective on the changes in the marketplace over the last decade and then in the last two years with the pandemic. Finally, she discusses her future plans for Libelium, which include several acquisitions in the coming 24 months as Libelium adds consulting services that require industry expertise. She talks about what verticals make sense and more in this interview. Stay tuned!

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Alicia Asin, the co-founder and CEO of Libelium
Sponsors: Twilio and Juniper Networks

  • Amazon re:Invent has lots of IoT news so far
  • Schneider Electric deserves an award for its Wiser thermostat shut down
  • Will the FDA crack down on companies selling digital snake oil?
  • As the IoT matures, having a platform matters
  • Why Libelium plans on buying up smaller IoT firms

Episode 346: Three IoT acquisitions and the infrastructure bill

This week’s show focuses on three big deals happening in the IoT sector and a meaty enterprise IoT report. First up, we discuss ADT buying SunPro Solar for $825 million, which represents yet another deal bringing energy management to the smart home. We then talk about Level Home’s acquisition, the state of smart home deals, and the multifamily dwelling unit market before digging into an enterprise IoT report from Oracle that offers some good surprises. For the final acquisition of the show, we cover Viasat’s $7.3 billion buy of Inmarsat and explain a bit of the satellite economics I’ve written about recently. In smaller news, Kevin has found a neat HomeKit app and service, Wyze has a new outdoor light and camera, and GE’s ovens are getting capabilities familiar to June users. We also share our gift guide picks and other ideas for the holidays. Finally, we hear from a listener with low vision who is bummed about Facebook getting out of facial recognition.

GE will deliver a software update to its connected ovens that will make cooking a turkey a breeze. Image courtesy of GE.

Our guest this week is Karen Lightman, the executive director of the Metro21 Smart Cities Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. She’s on the show to talk about the passage of the $1.2 billion infrastructure bill by Congress. We talk about the impact this will have on smart cities and specific policy recommendations to ensure we get wide-reaching equitable broadband access. Because you can’t have a smart city or even the internet of things without the internet. She also shares a bit about the backlash that the smart cities movement experiences as citizens grew concerned about their privacy and the rise of surveillance states, and talks about her hopes that companies will do more to build that trust. Myself, I think that’s going to take government action, but we’ll see. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Karen Lightman of the Metro21 Smart Cities Institute
Sponsors: Very

  • The four categories that count in the smart-energy-aware home
  • Level Home is trying a practical pivot
  • Oracle’s data on enterprise IoT is worth reading
  • Why broadband funding also needs new regulations
  • Why now is the right time to invest in tech-capable infrastructure

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 336: Australia’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad surveillance law

We start this week’s show with a look at a new surveillance law in Australia that seemingly obliterates a lot of protections around how law enforcement officials can access data and what they can do with it. We also talk about a survey conducted in the U.S. that shows how willing many Americans are to share their data in exchange for cheaper insurance. From there we cover new fundings for Brilliant, Wirepas, and Carbon Robotics. For those eager for an update on Helium’s 5G plans, the Freedom Fi hotspots will hit the market on Sept. 28. We also have updates on new products and features from the maker of Philips Hue devices, Spotify, Google, and Amazon Alexa. We end with a question from David about how to avoid the problems associated with adding new devices or hubs to his smart home network.

Brilliant, the maker of smart home light switches, has raised $40 million. Image courtesy of Brilliant.

Our guest this week is Charles Young, the EVP and COO of Invitation Homes, a company that leases single-family homes. He’s on the show to discuss how Invitation Homes plans to add smart devices to its portfolio of 80,000 homes and to talk about the challenges of managing that many devices. We discuss the future of predictive maintenance across the portfolio, the savings the company has already achieved, and plans for new features such as video doorbells. We also talk about the perceived longevity for different device types in the smart home. And of course, we talk about how the company handles privacy.  It’s a fun interview.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Charles Young, the EVP and COO of Invitation Homes
Sponsors:  Silicon Labs and Infineon

  • In Australia, your data can be modified and searched by law enforcement
  • Alternative 5G networks and smart home devices raise VC funds
  • Alexa and Google both get new features
  • Why Invitation Homes thinks the smart home could help it be more efficient
  • It’s pretty difficult to manage 80,000 smart homes

 

 

Episode 332: The IoT gets a good idea and a bad idea

This week, news slowed down a bit so Kevin and I kick off the show talking about a connected manual device to physically press buttons or twist dials as needed to turn older appliances “smart.” After praising that idea we panned Amazon’s new soap dispenser for having a Wi-Fi chip that’s really underused. In other Seattle news, Wyze, the makers of so many connected devices, has raised $110 million from a venture firm associated with Jay-Z and IKEA launches an air-purifying side table. Sure. Philips Hue plans to launch a slightly brighter color-changing (and tunable white) bulb while Home Assistant has added energy-monitoring features as part of its latest update. We also talk about the creation of Alphabet’s industrial robot software startup Intrinsic and what innovation in robotics software could enable and end with Kevin’s take on the U.S. being behind in smart cities.

IKEA’s new air purifier is built into the side table. Image courtesy of IKEA.

Our guest this week is Shaun Cooley, CEO of Mapped, who is on the show explaining why smart buildings are getting more attention lately.  We talk about what matters for real estate with the ongoing pandemic (I can no longer bring myself to say Post-COVID, y’all) and a renewed focus on energy savings. For the nerds, we cover technologies and data layers such as Haystack, Brick, and Microsoft’s Real Estate Core for building digital twins. He also shares his thoughts on how buyers are maturing when it comes to evaluating the security of their tech purchases. It seems buyers are asking more questions and better questions, which can only be a good thing. I agree.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Shaun Cooley, CEO of Mapped
Sponsors: Very

  • We have a good idea/bad idea segment this week
  • Wyze has $110 million in new funding for AI
  • Home Assistant gets energy monitoring as a feature
  • Why smart buildings are having a moment
  • Which standards matter for smart buildings

 

Episode 331: Safe words for smart homes and cheap mesh

We start this week’s show with a $200 million funding for Wiliot, a company I profiled back in 2017 as one of the vanguards of low-power sensing. Then we tackle a creative idea that could see consumers create safe words for their smart homes to indicate when they might be in trouble. Next up is President Biden’s National Security Memorandum on securing cyberinfrastructure. Like coffee? This connected coffee machine raised $20 million.  If coffee’s not of interest, perhaps you’ll want to hear about research into the incidental users of smart home gear and what we owe them, or how to change Alexa to Ziggy and get a new voice option. I also talk about a new dev kit that will let you hook up Swarm’s satellite connectivity to a variety of sensors. Or maybe you’d like to hear Kevin’s review of the $60 Vilo mesh Wi-Fi system or about the upcoming Firewalla Purple device. We end the news segment by answering a listener question about the Firewalla Purple.

The Swarm Eval kit could be yours for $499 plus the $60 annual connectivity fee. Image courtesy of Swarm.

Our guest this week is Jason Shepherd, the VP of Ecosystem with Zededa, a container orchestration company for the industrial internet of things. It’s been a while since Shepherd has been on the show, so I asked him for an update on the IT and OT divide that we talked about four years ago. Both sides are coming together, but there are still challenges when it comes to bringing IT to scale in operations. We talk about heterogeneity, security, the challenges of remote access, and more differences worth thinking about when we put computers in industrial equipment. We also talk about the challenges of scaling machine learning models at the edge, and especially those designed to adapt to changing real-world conditions. It’s a fun interview.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Jason Shepherd, the VP of Ecosystem with Zededa
Sponsors: Very

  • Does your smart home need a safe word? Or an emergency alert?
  • Biden wants to secure our infrastructure from cyberattacks
  • Want to try a satellite connection for your sensors?
  • Four ways IT folks have to adapt to the real world of OT needs
  • How to scale machine learning for the edge

Episode 318: Lawsuits galore and Silicon Labs bets it all on the IoT

This week’s show starts off with two lawsuits: the first filed by ADT alleging trademark infringement against Ring, and the second a decision by the Seventh Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals related to police accessing cell phone location data without a warrant. Wemo’s new scene controller, Everactive’s energy harvesting sensors, a discussion about Helium’s tokens, and a new network partner are next. We then cover some financial news with Life360 acquiring Jiobit for $37 million, Safehub getting $9 million in funding, and $55 million for OpenSpace, a startup that brings the IoT to construction. Then, Kevin shares his thoughts on Eve Aqua, a HomeKit and Thread compatible faucet controller. Finally, we close with a listener question about whether your smart home should have its own email address.

An image taken from ADT’s lawsuit alleging trademark infringement by Ring.

This week’s guest is Matt Johnson, the newly named president of Silicon Labs. He and I discussed Silicons Labs’ divestiture of its automotive and industrial lines of business to Skyworks for $2.75 billion. With this deal, Silicon Labs is going all-in on the IoT, and we talk about what that means for the company. He shares his thoughts on what the IoT requires from chipmakers in terms of hardware and software. We also explore how Silicon Labs plans to continue adding security for the IoT and the growth of machine learning on edge devices, and how that will affect chip design.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Matt Johnson, president of Silicon Labs
Sponsors:  DigiCert and Qt

  • ADT files another lawsuit against Ring
  • Will we try Wemo’s new HomeKit-enabled scene controller?
  • Helium expands its mining and network operations
  • Why Silicon Labs sold off a big chunk of its business
  • The two biggest trends in the IoT are security and AI