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

Episode 312: Cricut’s switch up, Google’s new hub, and the end of the HomePod

This week on the show we return to the classic story of a company trying to use a software update to limit the functionality of a connected product after someone has purchased it. The latest example is Cricut, which makes a connected craft cutting device. The company recently said users would have to start subscribing to its service if they wanted to continue uploading more than 20 patterns to its software each month. After an outcry, it shifted its stance. We also talk about Apple stopping sales of the original HomePod, and new products from Ring. We then cover updates to the Particle platform, a self-sanitizing door handle, and Apple’s potential plan for light switches. We also answer a listener question about HomeKit-compatible indoor cameras.

Deako plug-n-play light switches are contracted to be installed into 1 out of every 8 new single-family homes built in the U.S.

Our guest this week is Derek Richardson, CEO of Deako, a company that builds modular light switches for home builders. The company just raised a $12.5 million funding round, so Richardson and I discuss the plans for the money and the changes happening in the builder market when it comes to smart devices. We then talked about what it takes to build a long-lived device and why you may one day pack your light switches when you move. We closed with a bit on Thread and the potential that Project CHIP might have. It’s a fun interview and offers a very different perspective on smart lighting.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Derek Richardson, CEO of Deako
SponsorSwitch Always On

  • Cricut angers a lot of users with new subscription push
  • Do you want to let Google watch you sleep?
  • Particle entices developers with free connectivity for the first 100 devices
  • What has changed in the last five years of selling smart homes to builders
  • Will you one day bring your light switches when you move?

Episode 310: Thanks to the IoT, everything’s a subscription now

We kick off this week’s show with the news of SmartThings device depreciation and Amazon’s Alexa Conversations feature finally making it to general availability. After that, we talk about the rising revenue from subscriptions in the consumer IoT and in manufacturing based on a new survey from Zuora. Then we discuss how police departments feel about connected doorbells such as Ring and a new consumer privacy law in Virginia. Both NXP and Silicon Labs shared news at the embedded world event this week, while rumors about a new Nest display hit the press. We closed with conversations on Tuya filing to go public, Beam’s funding for connected dental insurance, and Kevin’s review of some Meross HomeKit outlets. On the IoT Podcast Hotline, we answered a listener’s question about a connected doorbell that doesn’t collect video data.

Zuora’s end of ownership report looks at the increasing consumer interest in subscription services.

Our guest this week is Tien Tzuo, CEO of Zuora. He’s on the show to explain why the ownership model is going away and how companies can make the shift to charging subscriptions for products ranging from cars to steam traps. We talk about how subscriptions and software updates change marketing, finance, and innovation inside companies with Tzuo offering some excellent examples. We then talk about how to set pricing, and what that might look like in the years ahead. Tzuo thinks the cell phone providers are a good model, but I hate my carrier’s opaque pricing. There’s a lot of food for thought here.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Tien Tzuo, CEO of Zuora
Sponsor: Very

  • SmartThings’ changes make now a good time to evaluate other hubs
  • Virginia’s new privacy law is a lighter version of California’s CCPA
  • NXP’s secure IoT chips are coming and gigahertz MCUs are here
  • How selling subscriptions changes the way a company thinks about innovations
  • Consumer trust and systemic thinking are essential to building a subscription service

Episode 305: Alexa Hunches, Tiny ML and a new wireless standard

This week’s podcast is full of nerdy wonder. We start off with news from Amazon regarding proactive Hunches and the new Guard Plus service before mentioning that the Echo Show 10 is now available for pre-order. Then, in honor of the Tiny ML movement, we highlight new deals from Edge Impulse to put its software on Silicon Labs’ chips and chips from Nordic Semiconductor. Meanwhile, Qualcomm has created a toolkit to shrink AI models for 8-bit inference! Then we introduce you to a scalable LPWAN based on Wirepas’ technology that is now an ETSI standard. After that, we discuss biodegradable displays and disable sensors for COVID-19 detection. Then we hit the news briefs with Wink going down, the new $60 Ring doorbell, roaming on LoRa networks, and Homepods getting a UWB handoff to iPhones. To close out the news, Kevin discusses what buyers should look for when it comes to securing home cameras from errant employees. We end by answering a listener question from a high school student who’s looking for resources to learn more about the IoT.

Span’s electrical panel combines computing and circuit breakers. Image courtesy of Span.

Our guest this week is Arch Rao, CEO and founder of Span, which raised $20 million in venture funds this week. Span’s product is a rethink on traditional electrical panels that adds computing and internet connectivity to the box. The idea is that people will put more electrical load on homes as homes and our transportation networks electrify. Adding a breaker box that understands what’s using power and providing computing to orchestrate the flow of power around the home helps reduce energy usage during peak times, but also can help a home avoid upgrading their electrical systems. Rao explains this and talks about building a connected device designed for a thirty-year life. It’s a glimpse into a future I’d like to live in.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham
Guest: Arch Rao, CEO and founder of Span
SponsorsTeraCode and Techmeme

  • How Amazon is taking the guesswork out of hunches
  • Why Tiny ML is such a big deal now
  • This is a LPWAN that really scales
  • The grid of the future needs a more proactive electrical panel
  • Why solar installs and batteries may be the key to Span’s growth

Episode 292: We play with Whoop bands and Wyze cams

First up on this week’s show are Forrester’s predictions for the year ahead in IoT, followed by me talking about my latest tech gadget, the Whoop Strap. Whoop recently raised $100 million in funding for its subscription-based band designed for hardcore athletes. From there we talked about the new Arduino Oplà IoT Kit, the real steps we’d like to see companies take with their green gadget efforts, and the FCC’s decision to allocate spectrum for both unlicensed use and cellular connected-car technology. In our news bits, we talk about Amazon, Mercedes, Google Nest, and Starlink. From there, Kevin reviews the latest version of the Wyze Camera that launched this week. We close by answering a listener question about smart light sockets.

The Whoop strap is a fitness tracker/coach that requires a monthly subscription.

Our guest this week is Nate Clark, the CEO of Konnected. Three years ago he launched the company with a Kickstarter project: A replacement for motherboards inside old alarm systems, turning the existing panel and sensors into a smart security system. DIYers love the ability to control their existing sensors and Clark explains where the product is going and how he handled SmartThing’s transition from its Groovy IDE to the cloud. He ends with advice for anyone who wants to build a business in the smart home.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Nate Clark, the CEO of Konnected
Sponsors: Silicon Labs and Very

  • Forrester predicts COVID-19 making IoT pretty ubiquitous
  • Whoop is a different kind of fitness tracker
  • Wyze’s third-generation cam looks familiar
  • SmartThings’ platform shift explained by a developer
  • Advice for people building a niche connected product