Episode 53: How to prevent good devices from being killed

This week’s show deals with recurring themes such as whether or not you should trust the cloud, device lifespan, the Amazon Alexa platform and more lighting than a Times Square billboard. Our guest this week is Mike Pessina, the co-CEO of Lutron. He shares his recipes for great lighting (at the very end) and talks about the role of Lutron’s proprietary wireless protocol for lighting control in a world that is rapidly embracing Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Before we learn about Lutron, Kevin Tofel and I discuss the news that Nest plans to shut down all Revolv smart home hub devices that are in the field, turning the $299 device into a hunk of metal and plastic scrap.

A Lutron Caseta dimmer switch (left) installed near the Osram Lightify wireless dimmer switch (right). A regular rocker switch is in the middle.
A Lutron Caseta dimmer switch (left) installed near the Osram Lightify wireless dimmer switch (right). A regular rocker switch is in the middle.

While Revolv sold fewer than 10,000 units, those who own one are upset. We came up with a few suggestions that might help other connected device companies avoid alienating their users in case of failure or a sale. On the brighter side, Amazon’s Alexa platform is gaining new smarts, with the Smart Home API now available to anyone. We also tell you how to control your TV with Alexa and review the Amazon Dot. This week you also get a second review, of the Osram Lightify dimmer switch, which renters and folks who aren’t keen on replacing their wired switches will like. And once again, we ask that you take our survey if you have a chance.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham
Guest: Michael Pessina, Co-CEO of Lutron

  • The Revolv fiasco is bad for the smart home.
  • Where did you put your Amazon Dot?
  • Get Alexa to turn on your TV with Yonomi.
  • Who should buy this $30 Osram dimmer switch?
  • What’s next for Lutron

Episode 52: These 9 ideas can secure the smart home

Security is a big deal for the Internet of things, which is why we’re so pumped about having Beau Woods, the deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative, on the show to discuss nine new recommendations for securing smart home devices. The Atlantic Council and security research group I Am The Cavalry created the report to as the beginning of what they hope will become a formal framework for smart home devices. Some are basic such as design with security in mind, but others help data privacy and what happens when a device becomes disconnected form the Internet (or the app governing it). For a full list of recommendations please check the report or my summary in PCMag.

The August doorbell cam courtesy of August.
The August doorbell cam courtesy of August.

Before we delve into security, Kevin Tofel and I cover the big Nest drama from last week that extended into this one when former Dropcam CEO Greg Duffy defended the Dropcam employees from Nest CEO Tony Fadell’s insults. Nest isn’t the only company that acts as a smart home platform that had drama. If This Then That also ruffled some feathers as it sent out notices to longtime developers that it was changing the way it requested information from their APIs. I emailed Linden Tibbets, the IFTTT CEO, and got a quick comment, but still have questions. As Kevin and I await our Amazon Dot’s coming the day this show airs, we discussed the Amazon Dash expansion, the longer wait for June connected ovens, a connected wine bottle and the new August doorbell. We end with a plea for y’all to take our survey and tell us what you think. So enjoy the show, and please click here if you’d like to take the survey. (It’s super short).

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham & Kevin Tofel
Guest: Beau Woods, The Atlantic Council

  • Nest is run like Apple and that’s not a good thing.
  • If this, then … drama!
  • I like the August doorbell.
  • Security woes are keeping people from the smart home.
  • Here’s how to make the smart home more secure.
  • Take our survey, please!

Episode 51: This CEO killed his hardware startup to start a wireless network

This week we have a two for one in the guest portion of the show, with Daniel Conrad, the CEO of Beep Networks explaining how he decided to stop making a connected device, take his VC funding and find a new business model. That’s part one. Part two is all about LoRa, the wireless radio technology used for low power wireless area networks, which is what his business is now built on. Conrad explains a classic entrepreneurial dilemma and then educates us all on up-and-coming networking technology that transmits small amounts of data over fairly long distances. Is this the perfect network for the Internet of things?

The Bernooli bottle top.
The Bernooli bottle top.

Before you get to Conrad, Michael Wolf is guest hosting in place of Kevin, and we discuss the lack of HomeKit news at the Apple event Monday, some cool connected bartending gear I saw at SXSW and Bosch’s new cloud for the internet of things. Bosch is spending $548 million on R&D in innovation tech, which is less than 1 percent of its annual revenue, but still nothing to sneeze at. For the gadget lovers, Mike and I discussed b8ta, the new retail concept for selling connected devices and tried to consider what Target’s secretive Project Goldfish is.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Mike Wolf of The Smart Home Show
Guests: Daniel Conrad of Beep Networks

  • What’s the right retail model for selling the smart home?
  • Make a drink with Bernooli
  • Killing the dream of a connected speaker
  • What is LoRa?
  • The best startup opportunity around.

 

Episode 50: Are your devices being held hostage?

This week, Kevin Tofel and I discuss the challenges of treating connected hardware like software. Nest is experiencing one of those challenges this week as it requests users accept new terms and conditions in order to use their Nest. If you don’t agree, you don’t get the app, which is frustrating users who feel that Nest is reducing the functionality of the product. Twitter users are calling this holding the device hostage, but it is a legal necessity if you change certain features. Kevin and I propose a solution.

After that we spend time discussing the New Philips tunable white lights, the C by GE lights and the Stack lights, which I am trying out and still learning how to use.

Paying with a Callaway golf glove with MasterCard payment tech inside. --Image courtesy of MasterCard.
Paying with a Callaway golf glove with MasterCard payment tech inside. –Image courtesy of MasterCard.

Our guest this week is Sherri Haymond, Senior Vice President of Digital Payments & Labs at MasterCard, who discusses the future of payments and how MasterCard’s partners are putting the ability to buy things in surprising places. Callaway, the maker of golf gear, has put payment tech into a golf glove while a fashion designer is embedding the technology in hats, handbags and jewelry. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Kevin Tofel and Stacey Higginbotham
Guest: Sherri Haymond, Senior Vice President of Digital Payments & Labs, MasterCard

  • We need granular permissions for new connected device features
  • Lights, lights and more lights
  • Early thoughts on the Stack lights
  • You can pay with anything!
  • How to secure the Internet of payments

Episode 49: Did you buy an Amazon Dot?

This week’s podcast is chock full of smart home stuff with updates from Nest, new products from Amazon and some new tech on the Wi-Fi front. Mozilla is getting into the Internet of things, with four ideas for possible open-source products that range from a smart home hub to voice recognition services. Kevin isn’t sold on the need for more options, but if Mozilla doubles down on security and privacy it might be worth looking at.

amazondot

We don’t have a guest this week since I am traveling, but Kevin and I spent a lot of time discussing Amazon’s new hardware. The launch of the Amazon Dot and Amazon Tap aren’t totally unexpected, but we’re not sure about the rationale for the portable Amazon Tap. We did both shell out $90 for the squat Amazon Dot. We also briefly discussed the semiconductor industry getting set to pass 1 trillion devices sold in 2018 and a future low-power Wi-Fi technology. So, listen up and enjoy this week’s show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel

Episode 48: Realtors ready for the smart home

We’ve talked about how whether you should take your connected devices with you when you move on previous shows, but on this week’s show Chad Curry, managing director at the center for Realtor Technology at the National Association of Realtors, takes things further. Much further. Curry discusses the future of MLS listings and how your next real estate transaction might end up with you receiving the gift of a smart hub. From there we discuss the future of home listings and what items will disappear from the home of the relatively near future. And for those who missed it, check out the work Curry’s team did on helping people who move deauthenticate their smart devices. Most of our listeners should probably bookmark this checklist.

The future MLS listing with smart home data--GIF provided by the National Association of Realtors.
The future MLS listing with smart home data–GIF provided by the National Association of Realtors.

Before we get to Curry, Kevin and I discuss the new Raspberry Pi with integrated Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, which people are saying is THE Pi for the internet of things, the new FitBit smart watch and price cuts at the Pebble Time. We also run through some of the features on the Sony Xperia agent prototype shown off at Mobile World Congress which reminded Kevin a lot of the Amazon Echo. And I finally remembered to tell y’all about the future of the new standards setting organization that formed two weeks ago with Intel, Qualcomm, Microsoft and more. So listen up, and don’t worry, next week, Kevin and I will discuss the new Amazon Echo products.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Chad Curry, managing director at the center for Realtor Technology at the National Association of Realtors

  • A new Raspberry Pi for the internet of things
  • Sony’s Amazon Echo prototype and watching the smartwatches
  • The AllJoyn engineers went to Intel and OCF is the result
  • Are you ready for connected drywall?
  • How MLS listings might change thanks to connected sensors

Episode 47: New money for IoT startups, new routers for homes and Eero’s CEO

This week was so full of small news items Kevin and I could barely keep up. We kicked off the show with a review of the Eero routers that launched on Tuesday, that I tried for this show and wrote about for PCMag, and we also had Eero CEO Nick Weaver on the show to explain why previous routers have sucked for so long, what Eero is doing about security woes and why the company is not focusing on software to help manage devices … yet. Weaver has a lot to say about Wi-Fi in the home and the state of the industry, especially about security, so check him out.

The Eero router 3-pack.
The Eero router 3-pack.

But first, Kevin and I heard back from Philips about its messed up Android app that we discussed last week, we covered Verizon’s surprising gains in the Internet of things and Nokia’s launch of a $350 million fund for startups interested in building technologies that help make a highly distributed and connected world a reality. We also talked about some Mobile World Congress news, such as AT&T’s partnership with Intel to test new LTE-enabled drones, a new IoT network from Ingenu, and a new chip design from ARM for wearables. We also snuck in a business idea for anyone who wants it. Maybe you can take it to Nokia’s new fund. So give a listen and we hope you enjoy.

Hosts: Kevin Tofel and Stacey Higginbotham
Guest: Nick Weaver CEO of Eero

  • Why the I love the Eero routers (for my very specific home)
  • Verizon is doing really well in IoT!
  • MWC news round up with Nokia, a new IoT network from Ingenu, AT&T and more!
  • Why existing routers have weak security and lame software
  • How to focus on what really matters in designing your consumer product

Episode 46: Barbie has a smart home and Sense gives your home computer vision

Andreas Gal, the CEO of Silk Labs has built what feels impossible. With the Sense hub he has created an artificially intelligent home hub that contains a camera, controls for other connected devices and a dedicated to privacy that means he can still offer services but still protect users from blanket surveillance. And the device is beautiful. Gal came on the show this week to talk about the Sense hub and why the world needs yet another connected camera and how he took his role as the former CTO of Mozilla and used that to inform the privacy features the camera offers. We also discussed how to implement AI models and learning on a device as opposed to in the cloud. Many of the challenges Gal has dealt with in his design are ones that hardware designers are thinking through as they implement their own AI or consider how to think about privacy in a world where the U.S. government has declared open season on stalking the Internet of Things.

The Sense camera and home hub from Silk. --Image courtesy of Silk.
The Sense camera and home hub from Silk. –Image courtesy of Silk.

And yes, Kevin Tofel and I discuss James Clapper’s comments before the Senate’s Armed Services Committee from last week in this episode, as well as a bunch of updates to some popular products. Some are good, such as the Wemo updates that boost reliability of the platform and Wink’s updates that bring lighting commands inside the home as opposed to between clouds. Some are frustrating, such as Philips Hue updating its Android app in a way that breaks it if users don’t want to share their location and photos. And some are just awesome, like the continued updates to Amazon’s Echo that include support for Spotify, Uber and the Ecobee3. And yes, Barbie has a smart home. So get set for your commute, your run or however you enjoy the show and have a listen.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guests: Andreas Gal, CEO of Silk Labs

  • Barbie’s smart home might rival yours
  • Amazon’s Echo gets better and updates gone crazy for Hue, Wemo and Wink
  • The Internet of things is a gift for spies
  • Meet the Sense home hub which uses computer vision to learn more about your home
  • Rethinking privacy for connected devices

Episode 45: A Playground for IoT and how to buy a data plan for your device

So you wanna build a connected device? If so, there’s apparently no better place for a startup to go than Andy Rubin’s new incubator/VC/design shop called Playground. With an in-depth profile in Wired, the former founder of Danger and the man behind Android has built a place for folks with a hardware idea. On this week’s show Kevin Tofel is out, so I called in my friend Carla Diana, a product designer of connected devices and robots to discuss Rubin’s new effort, connected coat racks, Max Braun’s Google Now mirror and fun projects in general. We have a good time, and you will too. Don’t get too attached to Carla (it’s hard, because she is awesome) as Kevin joins us again next week.

The electron module. - Image courtesy of Particle
The electron module. – Image courtesy of Particle

Our guest this week is Zach Supalla who is the CEO of Particle, which makes a series of development boards for connected devices. It seems like there used to be a dozen startups doing this, but Spark has so far, stayed around and added more products. The latest board out this week is it the Electron, which costs $59 and offers cellular connectivity for 99 cents per MB on a 3G connection. That’s pricey, but it has been pretty hard to find a cellular carrier willing to work with a startup or sell data in small batches, so this is a big deal. We ask Zach how he convinced the carriers to play ball. We also talk about other wireless standards out there for the internet of things, so stay tuned if you’re excited about alternative networks. And really, who isn’t?

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Carla Diana
Guest: Zach Supalla, CEO of Particle

  • Playground. We want to go to there.
  • Mirror, mirror on the wall, what data should we install?
  • Pitfalls of building a connected coat rack.
  • How to make a telco salesman hang up on you.
  • LoRa, Sigfox and LTE? Which wireless do you want?

Episode 44: Mandatory Fitbits and a new ISP with smart home aspirations

Last week the man who founded Aereo, a company that was aimed at bringing over the air television to the masses who couldn’t always get it, and then allowing them to time-shift that television by recording it, launched Starry. Starry is a new type of ISP that aims to deliver gigabit internet service to homes (in Boston at first) and will also sell a router, smart home hub combo device. Because any new hub device gets my attention–especially if it comes with gigabit broadband–Chet Kanojia, CEO of Starry, came on this week’s show to discuss his plans. We didn’t get too much into the technical details of the broadband, but did talk about why he’s adding a smart home component and what he learned from Aereo. It’s a good listen.

The Starry Station hub. --Image courtesy of Starry.
The Starry Station hub. –Image courtesy of Starry.

And of course, Kevin and I talked about the news of the previous week with Oral Roberts mandating Fitbits for students, which segued into insurance firms and the Internet of things. Then we moved onto the Alphabet earnings and what that meant for Nest. We were a little disappointed. We also discussed two really cool projects and hope someone out there tries to make the homemade Amazon Echo project or purchases the Pine64 smart home pack. If you do either of these things, email us at info at iotpodcast dot com to tell us about it. Next week Kevin and I will talk about Cisco buying Jasper for $1.4 billion as well as this awesome Google Now mirror Max Braun at Google built.

Host: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Chet Kanojia, CEO of Starry

  • Mandatory Fitbits and the future of insurance.
  • How many Nests are out there exactly?
  • Built your own Amazon Echo with Intel and a USB mic.
  • Why build an ISP with a smart home component?
  • How to avoid a single point of failure in your business.