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.

Episode 43: This smart home needs an email address

Freak out! This week’s episode isn’t about disco, it’s all about the security of your things. Or insecurity as the case may be. We talk about Shodan, the search engine for connected devices and the creation of a security framework for connected devices by the researchers at I am the Cavalry. Go read the story at Ars Technica and scroll all the way down to the Cavalry stuff. After we talk about that, we discuss a new programming interface for Raspberry Pi’s from myDevices called Cayenne, Amazon opening up its new Dash Replenishment Service to everyone, and the big news that could shake up the building automation market.

The Cayenne dashboard.
The Cayenne dashboard.

For those of you guys who love thinking about the smart home, I brought Scott Jenson, a UX designer from Google, to join us to talk about his personal thoughts on how connected devices change a home’s design and how to avoid having to give your home an email account just to make it functional as a connected entity. Jenson blogs about some of these topics here, such as why he doesn’t think we should look to smart homes to recreate butlers. Find out why he thinks that, and some of his other ideas in this week’s episode.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Scott Jenson, Google

  • IoT security blows up or just blows
  • Sensors that phone Amazon and the birth of a new industrial internet powerhouse
  • The smart home isn’t a butler, but it still has plenty of value
  • Why Jenson had to give his home an email address

Episode 42: These are the two biggest challenges facing the smart home

There is no winner takes all in the smart home yet, because none of the products and services available have the scale yet says Om Malik, this week’s guest on the Internet of Things Podcast. Malik, who is a partner at True Ventures and wrote a great article in the New Yorker on the virtuous cycle of fast infrastructure leading to more users and more data, which leads to better algorithms, which leads to more customers and more data, ad infinitum. We talked about what it would take to get to that point for the Internet of things and the devices he would like to see. He also discussed the challenges ahead, and if you are making products you better listen up.

The UA Health Box sells for $400.
The UA Health Box sells for $400.

Before he and I chatted, Kevin Tofel and I broke down the week’s news including the Amazon Echo’s new ability to read your Kindle books aloud, Nest glitches, and Kevin’s random purchase of the Quirky egg minder. Kevin also reviews the new Under Armour health box that includes a Wi-Fi scale, a fitness band, a heart rate monitor and in his case a pair of running shoes. At the behest of a listener I also found the only two Wi-Fi leak detection sensors on the market to see if they made sense for his needs. So stay turned and listen up.

  • The Nest has new issues, so what is a homeowner to do?
  • Finding a Wi-Fi water sensor is harder than it looks
  • Reviewing the Under Armour gear kit (Now with IBM Watson!)
  • Will the Internet of things build its own monopoly players?
  • Om’s two biggest threats for the Internet of things startups are ….

Episode 41: Can a $20 device stop the spread of disease?

After a week at CES, the giant technology trade show in Las Vegas I’m beat, but full of observations about the future of the Internet of things. I wrote up a few over at Fortune, but Kevin and I talked about some of them on this week’s show as well. We covered some new news, including my conversations with Wink and the news that Amazon is planning to add support for thermostats to the Echo next. And speaking of amazon, both Kevin and I think a smaller Echo needs to have some way of offering always-on listening to really carry over on the benefits of the product. But if it does, we’d both buy it.

The $20 wired Kinsa thermometer.
The $20 wired Kinsa thermometer.

After spending most of our time on the smart home, we move into connected health with Inder Singh, the CEO of Kinsa, the maker of connected thermometers, as this week’s guest. But it would be a mistake to think of Kinsa a connected thermometer company, since the thermometer is merely a means to an end. It’s a way to get data about the spread of disease. Singh’s actual goal is to use that data to help stop the spread of disease, starting with childhood illnesses. To learn more about the future of epidemiology packaged as a $20 or $60 connected thermometer, listen to this week’s show.

Hosts: Kevin Tofel and Stacey Higginbotham

  1. Local control is coming for the Wink!
  2. Really tiny, self-sufficient computer at CES.
  3. What a tiny Amazon Echo needs to have to succeed.
  4. Kinsa is a disease prevention device disguised as a connected thermometer
  5. How to figure out how to build the right device for the data you need.

Episode 40: The Amazon Echo and AI take a starring role at CES

This week I was at CES, the huge consumer electronics trade show held in LAs Vegas. Kevin wisely stayed home, but monitored the news. It’s actually easier to do that from 2,000 miles away. There’s more news than we can cover in one show, but we started with the links between Ford and the Amazon Echo and all of the other tie ups with Alexa that were showed off at the event. We then moved to our doubts about the new Wi-Fi standard for the Internet of Things called HaLow and the news that ZigBee and Thread were trying to work a little more closely together and what that means for you.

Finally, we delved into the gadgets and partnership news that caught our eye. Most of it focused on the hot new cameras in odd places, such as inside fridges and outside. But we also spent time discussing IBM’s new partnerships for Watson announced at the show. We’ll come back next week with more insights based on my final days at the show and time spent walking the show floor, but already I think we’re seeing a gradual maturation of the industry. Unfortunately it’s not in the direction we may have wanted in terms of everyone embracing open standards. Interoperability is going to come slowly through custom integrations.

Hosts: Kevin Tofel and Stacey Higginbotham

  • Alexa is the star of CES this year
  • Can you hear me now? Radios get gussied up for IoT
  • Put a camera in it!
  • Did I saw Alexa was the star? Maybe I meant IBM’s Watson.

Episode 39: CES bound and the Internet of postage

If you haven’t gone totally paper free on your bills yet, it’s highly likely that the envelope that arrives via the mail has been touched by a Pitney Bowes machine. Pitney Bowes is a $4 billion company that makes mail its business, and Roger Pilc, its chief innovation officer, came on the show this week to explain how it thinks about the Internet of things, how it works with startups and invests in them to rethink how it manages mail. He also talks about how he’s challenging the company to improve by signing up startups as customers who demand services that are a year or two ahead of the curve.

The Samsung /SmartThings line up. Courtesy of Samsung.
The Samsung /SmartThings line up. Courtesy of Samsung.

Before we get to Pilc, Kevin and I talk about Samsung’s decision to turn its 2016 Wi-Fi TVs into hubs for the connected home and its introduction of the SmartThings Extend dongle that will add Z-Wave and ZigBee to the TV. In the show we were trying to figure out if the current hub was running Tizen, and the answer is a definitive no. The SmartThings software is ported to run on Tizen OS for the TVs. As for the rest of the show, we hit the anticipated high points of CES and I delve into my experience with the Saeco Gran Baristo Avanti Bluetooth Connected Coffee Maker. We also discuss a new idea in why non of our gadgets work together from Bruce Schneier who penned a good article over at The Atlantic.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guests: Roger Pilc, Chief Innovation Officer, Pitney Bowes

Episode 38: A holiday troubleshooting guide under your tree

Just in case you open a few Christmas goodies in the coming days or decide to use the holidays as an excuse to set up a few connected devices, Kevin and I decided to offer the gift of our experience. We’ve condensed our stupid mistakes (like not reading the box for device compatibility) and more advanced tricks (like making sure all the devices are on the 2.4 gigahertz Wi-Fi network) into a relatively quick podcast that might one day help you solve your connectivity problems.

At the very least it will remind you that you are not alone as you struggle to set up your connected door locks or your ZigBee sensors. I just spent an hour on the phone with some very smart and helpful support folks trying to figure out why my WeMo outlet decided to stop connecting to my Amazon Echo. The experts decided that it must be some weird modem issue that will require Belkin to buy my model of modem and visit the testing lab. So know that this stuff is hard. In your network, with your stuff, as you get more wacky and crazy, your stuff will fail. Be patient, have fun, and keep listening. Kevin and I look forward to hearing your stories.

Alexa, Turn on Christmas from Stacey Higginbotham on Vimeo.

I’m also including above, a holiday demonstration of Alexa’s capabilities using the Wink hub ($50), a Lutron dimmer switch in the dining room chandelier ($45), four Hue bulbs in the living room ($260) and 3 GE Jasco outdoor switches ($40 each). I could have used a WeMo outlet or my SmartThings outlet, but neither would connect via the Echo, and so I just swapped out my outdoor ones for the sake of the video and figured I’d troubleshoot over the holidays.

Episode 37: Philips Hue drama and plan to fail even as you hope for success

Phillips caused a kerfuffle this week when it stopped supporting third-party light bulbs with its Philips Hue bridge and software. It has since reversed the decision after customers complained, but because the crazy time travel that Kevin and I undergo each week to bring the podcast to you had to record an update. However the conversation about third-party support and standards still remains relevant for the smart home today. We also dig into IBM’s new program that brings the Watson set of cognitive computing services to the industrial internet and Kevin’s crazy Bitcoin mining operation on a Raspberry Pi.

Kevin's Bitcoin mining operation using a Raspberry Pi and a custom dongle.
Kevin’s Bitcoin mining operation using a Raspberry Pi and a custom dongle.

Our guest this week is Santiago Merea who just sold his startup, the Orange Chef Co. to Yummly for an undisclosed amount. Merea discusses the future of the Prep Pad connected scale made by his company, and the future of Yummly. He also talks about the importance of having a plan for failure when you start out building a connected product. It’s a great show, so please enjoy.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Santiago Merea of Yummly

  • What’s wrong with Philips Hue?
  • IBM’s calling in Watson for a job on the industrial internet.
  • How to make 4 cents a day using your Raspberry Pi and a $35 dongle.
  • What’s next for recipe provider Yummly after swallowing a connected device company.
  • When building hardware, think about failing even as you plan for success.

Episode 36: A total breakdown in connected gadgets and the Hiku review

This week it seemed that many of my devices and some other people’s devices were experiencing some troubles. My Nest thermostat decided to roast my family in bed at night and it seemed I wasn’t alone. Kevin and I discussed Nest’s response as well as why switching to the Ecobee might require a little extra work on the part of a consumer as well. I also shared my disappointment with the SmartThings’ hub, which has turned into a product that only works about 80% of the time when it comes to turning on my devices on a schedule, some news about Wink and why consumers may not be the ultimate buyer for the smart home.

The Hiku and its app. --Image courtesy of Hiku.
The Hiku and its app. –Image courtesy of Hiku.

We started a new program this week of reviews from other reviewers who aren’t Kevin and I (although Kevin did discuss his Fire TV purchase). The idea is that because connected devices are best used and lived with, it’s worth getting opinions from people who have tried the stuff out for a few weeks and knows what they are looking for. Since I don’t do the grocery shopping in my house, I had my husband on to review the Hiku, a device that recognizes speech and scans bar codes to grab your grocery list and import it into your phone. Stay tuned for that, and let me know what you think of the segment. I’d love to get some user reviews of connected sprinklers and some of the packages for aging in place.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: The Hiku Review from Andrew Allemann

  • What’s up with Nest, Ecobee and SmartThings?
  • Flextronics closed its acquisition of Wink!
  • If consumers don’t buy a smart device, who will?
  • An in-depth review of the Hiku. Is it for you?