Episode 33: Better Bluetooth and an AI for the smart home

If you’ve learned anything from this podcast, you’ve probably learned that the smart home is pretty much a mess if you want everything to work together in some sort of seamless, easy-to-use way. Amazon’s Echo helps. HomeKit has a roadmap, but it’s still got a ways to go. This week, our guest Alex Capecelatro, CEO of Jstar, a company developing a voice-controlled artificial intelligence for the smart home discusses how to build an intuitive self-learning home. Our conversation will teach you a lot about how machines learn and the limitations of voice for controlling your home.

The Misfit Shine.
The Misfit Shine.

Before we get to that, Kevin and I spend time breaking down the big news of the week including Lowe’s updated Iris home hub and the updated Bluetooth roadmap which includes speed updates and a mesh. We also break down Fossil’s reasons for buying Misfit, the company behind the Shine wearable device. So get comfortable, and listen up.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guests: Alex Capecelatro, CEO of Jstar

  • Lowe’s updates its Iris Smart Home Hub
  • Bluetooth is getting meshy and faster
  • Why on earth did Fossil buy Misfit?
  • Building a better Alexa with Josh.ai
  • How does machine learning even work?

Episode 32: Amazon for the kitchen and Apple for the living room?

This week had so much connect home and internet of things news Kevin and I covered everything from a brand new way to turn your old smoke detectors into connected smoke detectors using a $35 battery replacement to new chip design from ARM that could make the Internet of things more secure. In the middle of all of that we talked about being able to buy the Amazon Echo in retail stores, the new Tag Heuer connected watch partnership with Intel and Gartner’s latest data on the Internet of things.

The Roost battery.
The Roost battery.

After Kevin and I run through the news, I turned to my friend Chris Albrecht, who was the emcee at the Smart Kitchen Summit held last week in Seattle. The event was awesome, and brought a good mix of old-school appliance folks together with Silicon Valley startups trying to remake the kitchen. Chris doesn’t love the connected kitchen, so he’s a good person to discuss what seemed worth buying and what seemed like hype. He also offered a bonus review of the Sonos Truplay feature at the end. That feature listens for your Sonos speakers’ sound quality in your room, and tweaks it so they sound as good as they can given their placement in the room. Find out what Chris says about it by listening to show (it’s iOS only, so Android lovers, need not apply).

Host: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Chris Albrect of OneHub

Episode 31: Walmart gets connected and this is what you want for Christmas

This week’s guest Rob Katcher is working with Wal-Mart to take a little of the pain out of grocery shopping with the Hiku connected fridge magnet. I chatted with Katcher to understand how he decided to create an entirely new category of deviceā€”a button that sticks to your fridge and lets you scan or tell it what you need. It then adds it to a shopping list that is available on a mobile app. With a new deal to link its magnet to Wal-Mart’s curb-side pick up in parts of the country and Peapod’s grocery delivery, Hiku is creating a service that consumers will love and a new revenue stream.

In the first half of the show, Kevin and I take a Mulligan on the SmartThings hub, after discovering a hub replacement solved many of my issues. We also discuss a new integration with the Ring doorbell, Google’s Brillo OS and finally talk about Kevin’s new toy. It isn’t connected, but you watch the snippets of him riding around above and tell me that you don’t want one of these things. Actually, I am sure I’ll hear from y’all. Please enjoy the show.

  • Replacing my SmartThings hub made it a whole new experience.
  • What is Google Brillo good for?
  • Self balancing scooters are pretty hot right now.
  • What it’s like to build a category defining device (you hope).
  • How to build a connected device and get paid.

Episode 30: My SmartThings hub must be haunted

Does your office need more conference rooms? Or maybe there’s wasted space where the printer and several reams of paper sit. In this week’s podcast we discuss how companies can use connected sensors in their lights to make better decisions about their real estate while also saving money on their energy costs with Joe Costello, the CEO of Enlighted. Before we talk to Costello, Kevin Tofel and I cover the SmartThings version 2 hub.

The SmartThings Monitoring kit.
The SmartThings Monitoring kit.

After the show aired I got on the phone with SmartThings and swapped out the hub, but my initial experience was terrible (you’ll hear). Since the show was recorded, I’ve since managed to join most of the sensors to the network using the new hub and will keep testing. Kevin and I also talk about Verizon’s plans for the Internet of things and a list the National Association of Realtors put together to help people sell their smart homes without compromising their data. You can find it here!

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Joe Costello, CEO of Enlighted

  • My SmartThings hub isn’t behaving like it should.
  • Learn about how to talk about your smart home to prospective buyers
  • Verizon has an IoT cloud and new pricing plans
  • Smart office buildings are coming and it starts with LEDs
  • How to solve conference room overbooking using sensors

Episode 29: The smart home may one day have a debt to NASA

If you’ve ever wondered how to get started on a smart home of your own, Kevin Tofel and I share a few ways to get started, answering some questions about hubs outlets and how to think about buying connected gadgets for the first time. We also discuss a few new development boards and why I went on a rant about the issues with the smart home in Fortune last week. Finally we talked about Korner, a really simple to use home security product for $98 that seems to have a lot going for it.

Korner tag being applied to a window. -- Image courtesy of Korner.
Korner tag being applied to a window. — Image courtesy of Korner.

For those looking for my SmartThings review, please wait another week. I set it up and became a little too ambitious and didn’t test out the more common use cases before going straight to some really fancy things that most people wouldn’t do and caused some problems for myself. Next week it will be ready for the full run down. As for this week’s guest, We have Jim Hepplemann, the CEO of PTC, whose company just said it would acquire the Vuforia augmented reality platform from Qualcomm. PTC has also acquired ThingWorx and Axeda, both IoT platforms for businesses as part of remaking the former industrial design software company into a one-stop-shop for the connected world.

Heppleman shares this idea of creating a digital twin in AR for every physical product, chock full of data that product might be generating. So under AR, your smart devices might one day share information about their connections with other devices and services, their histories and stats that aren’t visible to you and more. In industrial settings it’s far more powerful. So listen to the podcast and be wowed.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Jim Hepplemann, CEO of PTC

  • Let’s put the consumer first and stop issuing new standards that require people to constantly buy new stuff.
  • How to set up a smart home? We tell you how to think about it.
  • Check out new dev boards and a the Korner home security set up.
  • Thinking about how to use augmented reality in the smart home and industrial internet.
  • The concept of a digital twin and the IoT’s debt to NASA.

Episode 28: Warm and fuzzy drones and living with Apple’s HomeKit

Several HomeKit devices finally arrived in the house and were installed with relative ease. I had the Lutron bridge that had come out earlier this summer paired with two dimmer switches, a lamp module and my Nest thermostat, the new Philips Hue bridge that is HomeKit enabled paired to five Hue lights and a Schlage Sense lock installed on my back door. It was a good smattering of devices, but unfortunately it was the wrong smattering, because none of the apps seemed to have a way to bring all of the individual devices together, unless it was through Siri. Listen up as Kevin and I discuss a full review of the products on this week’s podcast.

The outside-facing side of my HomeKit-enabled Schlage Sense lock.
The outside-facing side of my HomeKit-enabled Schlage Sense lock.

We also cover August smart lock’s new video doorbell, keypad and access plans and Savant’s new DIY home automation system. But most of our time is spent on HomeKit, Apple and little bit of comparison between that and other solutions on the market, such as the Amazon Echo. Our guest for the week covers the topic of helping people age in place through the use of drones. Not today’s drones, but a warmer, fuzzier version that is autonomous. Naira Hovakimyan, a professor in Mechanical Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois discusses her research in developing autonomous drones that work with people and don’t frighten people. Listen up to find out how she plans to transition from farming to helping the elderly.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guests: Naira Hovakimyan, a professor in Mechanical Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois

Episode 27: Early adopters will suffer for their love of the smart home

This week the smart home got some new capabilities with Philips Hue announcing a new HomeKit enabled bridge that also will be upgraded to support the newly announced Nest Weave protocol. Kevin Tofel and I discuss both the new bridge and the new Nest Weave protocol and whether or not we want to keep investing in new gear to upgrade our networks. We also touch on the new cloud offerings announced by Amazon and Microsoft for developers looking to build connected products.

designswarm_profile_alex

Our guest this week Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino (pictured above), who is a design consultant and the creator of the Goodnight Lamp, joined me to discuss consumerism and selling the internet of things. We touched on product lifecycles, again on the Hue bridge and even about designing for sustainability and the responsibility that connected device designers have to consumers and the environment. She came to a pretty grim conclusion, but it’s good food for thought, especially if you haven’t bought into the connected device bonanza yet.

Host: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino of Design Swarm

  • Should you upgrade your Philips Hue bridge to the latest version?
  • A deep dive into the Nest Weave protocol
  • Consumerism and the IoT. Is this what we want?
  • If you buy your connected device today, be prepared to suffer.

Episode 26: A skeptic’s view on the smart home and how to build services, not products

This week I invited my husband to replace Kevin Tofel (it’s only for this week, y’all) to get a viewpoint from someone who isn’t exactly enamored of the connected home. Andrew Allemann (my husband) talks about the devices he likes and the things he doesn’t. If you’re building a product,he’s worth listening to, although his complaints are probably familiar to anyone whose spouse is tired of living with a bunch of gadgets in perpetual beta.

Some of Andrew's favorite products are the Hue lights.
Some of Andrew’s favorite products are the Hue lights.

Our guest is Nandini Nayak, who is with Fjord, and she came on the show to share research and insights about transitioning from selling products to selling services, which almost every single company building connected products will have to master. Nayak has helped create the concept of Living Services and Living Brands, which she explains on the show. The basic idea is that once connected, products can become personal and adapt over time to the needs of the buyer be it a consumer or a corporation. IT’s a powerful one and we explore it in depth. Please listen to the show for more.

Hosts: Andrew Allemann and Stacey Higginbotham
Guests: Nandini Nayak, Fjord

  • The perils of living in a smart home plus some of the perks.
  • Why this device is my husband’s favorite?
  • How do you define a living service?
  • Will startups or big companies be better at creating connected services?

What will happen with Wink and a review of Zuli’s presence-promoting smart outlets

In episode 25 companies are spending billions trying to figuring out how to use wearables to help seniors age in place so we asked Philips Digital Health solutions’ Liat Ben-Zur on the show to discuss some of the things the health giant is doing to rethink medicine for a connected era. She discussed how the venerable Lifeline program must adapt and why today’s wearables aren’t providing enough context for doctors to use them in healthcare settings. We also talked about medical clouds, data analytics and a bit about the looming healthcare crisis. Good times.

The Zuli smart plugs in action.
The Zuli smart plugs in action.

Meanwhile Kevin Tofel and I discuss the not-so-shocking bankruptcy of Quirky and what it means for Wink. So far Quirky has a $15 million bid for Wink from Flextronics, the company that built the actual hub, but there’s still too much uncertainty for me. And after more than 18 months I have gotten my hands on the $160 Zuli smart plugs that offer Bluetooth-based presence in the home. Listen up to learn what I thought about them.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Liat Ben-Zur, Philips

  • Why Flextronics isn’t going to try to destroy Wink
  • What are the best hub options if Wink does go down
  • Zuli smart plugs are a good way to bring presence into your home. But they could do more.
  • What’s next for Lifeline in an era of ubiquitous wearables and DIY
  • Why your wearable isn’t good enough for a doctor’s eyes just yet.

Episode 24: HomeKit surprise and no more passwords for the internet of things

Apple didn’t cover HomeKit in its massive event last week, but Kevin and spent a good chunk of time explaining what we we knew. Sadly, it’s not a lot, but it should be worth downloading iOS 9 and waiting a few more weeks. In enterprise news, we covered Salesforce’s IoT Cloud news, which will compete with IBM’s IoT foundation cloud. We also talked about a new access point from Samsung that adds Zigbee and Bluetooth to the mix before delving into a review of the OnHub router from Google. You’ll have to listen to the show and Kevin’s review to see if it’s worth the $199 price tag.

The OnHub router. Image courtesy of Tp Link.
The OnHub router. Image courtesy of TP Link.

After all of that, Paul Madsen, who works in the office of the CTO at Ping Identity, came onto the show to discuss the future of an identity layer for the Internet of things. This may sound esoteric, but it’s really important for all of us who hate having multiple passwords for every app on every device we have in the house. It also could help with guest authentication. The conversation gets a bit techie, but its worth it to understand how we may access our devices in the near future. He does threaten some kind of two-factor authentication for our smart home, guys. Enjoy.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guests: Paul Madsen of Ping Identity

  • HomeKit gets new tricks as part of iOS9 but where are the devices?
  • Comcast and AT&T are supporting new third-party devices.
  • Salesforce gets into the Internet of things and here’s why.
  • Does Kevin like the Google OnHub router?
  • Managing identity for smart home might look a lot like the web.
  • Are you ready for two-factor authentication in your home?