Episode 300: Get excited for our annual Q&A episode

It’s time for the end-of-year question and answer episode where Kevin and I tinker, search Google, and ask companies for help answering your questions about the smart home. We start with a broad category of questions related to your needs outside that mostly require some kind of low power wide area network to work. Then we focus on Wi-Fi by answering a question about what to look for in a mesh Wi-Fi router and automating your home using your phone attaching to the in-home Wi-Fi as opposed to using GPS.

Arlo makes a high-end and high-quality outdoor camera that can go the distance. Image courtesy of Arlo.

For the second half of the show, we touch twice on my favorite topic — lighting! We answer a question for help finding a few smart bulb options that are super bright. Then we talk about smart bulbs that you could take on the road, because why not make your hotel room or Airbnb smart? We get tactical with specific sensors to address a request for a hidden open/close sensor for a door and steer y’all away from a product that seemed too good to be true. Finally, we talk about why you might see declining stocks of SmartThings hubs. It’s not because SmartThings is going away, it’s just that Samsung, which owns the company, isn’t focusing on building its own hardware anymore. Enjoy the show, and we’ll be back next week with our traditional format!

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel

  • I need a smart driveway, shed, or garden soil sensor outside of Wi-Fi range
  • Help me find a camera for the great outdoors
  • What features matter in a Wi-Fi router?
  • Can you find a smart bulb that’s more than 1,000 lumens?
  • I need a hidden door sensor
  • Why can’t I find SmartThings hubs in stock?

Episode 299: LoRaWAN tries to co-opt Amazon Sidewalk

This week’s show kicks off with us discussing a fascinating interview with the head of the LoRa Alliance about its efforts to bring Amazon’s Sidewalk network into compliance with the LoRaWan standard. We then discuss Apple’s app privacy labels, a similar option for Google users, and the nutrition-style label for connected device security. Then it’s on to NIST’s cybersecurity standards, Aquanta’s smart water heaters, Amazon’s Energy Hub, and Amazon’s live translations. We then cover the new Wyze outdoor plug, the gen 2 Flic buttons, and easier Google Routines before diving into using IoT for vaccine tracking. A startup called Tive received funding and Forrester underlined the current best practices. Kevin then shares the latest news from Home Assistant’s conference this past weekend. We conclud the first half of the show by answering a listener question about how to use a light sensor to make bulbs turn on before sunset on cloudy days.

The Flic buttons are $29.99 for a single button or can be sold as a package with multiple buttons and a hub. Image courtesy of Flic.

Our guest this week is Geoff Wylde, lead, IoT and Urban Transformations at the World Economic Forum. We are discussing the latest WEF report, The State of the Connected World 2020, which was pretty much rewritten in the last few months to focus on how IoT can help us respond to the global pandemic. Wylde talks about the role collaboration plays in solving problems with IoT, the report’s findings around social equity, and the concept of compromised consent, as it relates to sharing data. There’s a lot of good info in the interview and much more in the report, which you can find here. Check both out.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Geoff Wylde, the head of IoT and Urban Transformations at the World Economic Forum
Sponsors: Calix and Plume

  • Will Amazon’s Sidewalk ever be part of LoRaWAN?
  • Can nutrition labels help with privacy and IoT device security?
  • Let’s all read the NIST cybersecurity suggestions!
  • How IoT Can help us during the global pandemic
  • What is compromised consent and how can I avoid it?

Episode 298: SmartThings works with Google Nest again!

This week’s podcast starts with good news. Samsung’s SmartThings platform will once again work with Google devices starting in January. We discuss SmartThings a bit more to cover how sensor company Aeotec is launching a new smart home hub that will work with SmartThings before we move on to Logitech’s new HomeKit-enabled video doorbell. Wyze has launched a home security monitoring service, and ISP equipment provider Calix has teamed up with Arlo. Google reminded us that its Fuschia OS exists, even if we still don’t know what it’s for, and software-based programmable logic controllers are about to hit the industrial IoT. In smaller news bits we cover Google’s Look to Speak, LoRa adding support for QR code provisioning, Apple Music landing on Nest speakers, and Amazon’s new ML service for business metrics. We conclude the show by answering a question about Nest doorbells and LIFX bulbs.

The Logitech Circle View Doorbell will cost $199.99. Image courtesy of Logitech.

Our guest this week is Sudhir Arni, senior vice president of business outcomes at Sight Machine. We start by talking about the ability to use data to help optimize for additional metrics such as sustainability. We then discuss how the ability to prioritize different metrics and more flexible production lines means that manufacturers are now able to create custom product runs designed for highly targeted audiences. We then discuss how such flexibility and customization will change the roles of manufacturing workers.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Sudhir Arni, senior vice president of business outcomes at Sight Machine
Sponsor: Calix

  • SmartThings works with Google’s Nest devices at long last
  • The first video doorbell with HomeKit Secure Video is from Logitech
  • The ACRN hypervisor makes its industrial debut
  • Manufacturers can use the IoT to optimize for more than yields or profitability
  • More data might mean factory operations staff can go remote

Episode 297: IoT news from Amazon’s Re:Invent and smarter cities

This week’s show kicks off with a lot of detail about the news coming out of Amazon’s Re:Invent event happening over the next few weeks. We talk about the new ML services for manufacturing, the deal with Research in Motion for car data, and Amazon’s Proton service and container plans. We then discuss the new Wyze Watch which is available for $19.99, and a funding for Wi-Fi HaLow chip provider Morse Micro. From there, we talk about 5G in factories, Nordic’s Wi-Fi acquisition, and a little bit more information about Amazon Sidewalk. We end by answering a question about Nest thermostats.

The Wyze Watch will ship in February. Image courtesy of Wyze.

Our guest this week is Scott Turnbull, director of technology at US Ignite. He’s on the show to help assess where we are at when it comes to smart city deployments. We discuss what’s holding us back, and the need for a citizen’s bill of rights before cities start buying gear. He also has an idea for a new job created to oversee the smart city. We also talk about what the city should own and how they should fund their deployments. If you care about the future of surveillance and cities this episode is a must-listen.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Scott Turnbull, director of technology at US Ignite
Sponsors: Calix and Lee Odess

  • The big IoT news at Amazon’s big event
  • Wyze just keeps those gadgets coming, y’all.
  • I make the case for leaving Amazon’s Sidewalk service on
  • How to ensure smart cities have citizen oversight
  • Why cities should own their technical infrastructure

Episode 296: Gifts galore and a recipe for smarter food prep

This week’s podcast is full of gift suggestions from our annual gift guide, many of which are aimed at those people on your list who have a green thumb. We then discuss my disappointment with Wemo after almost a decade of using its devices, and Kevin shares his plans to eliminate data-mining services from his life. On a related note, we do a deep dive into Amazon’s Sidewalk network plans and talk about trust. From there, we discuss new features for Google Assistant, an adorable AI bird feeder on Kickstarter, and my thoughts on the Chef IQ smart cooker. We end by answering a listener’s question about wearables and their accuracy.

The BirdBuddy feeder won’t ship until Sept. 2021, but I can’t wait to review it for next year’s gift guide. Image courtesy of BirdBuddy.

In honor of the American Thanksgiving holiday, our guest this week is Nick Holzherr, head of product for Whisk at Samsung Next, who talks about the future of the smart kitchen and food preparation. We discuss the role recipes can play as a standard for smarter kitchens, how to solve the problem of pantry management, and why it’s so hard to build updated kitchen experiences when everyone has kitchens that are from different eras. We even discuss the challenges of personalization and how to get users to trust the services to which they’re asked to give up their personal information. It’s a good show to listen to while prepping a meal.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Nick Holzherr, Head of Whisk at Samsung Next
SponsorsCalix and Teracode

  • Four gift ideas for people obsessed with their plants
  • Amazon’s Sidewalk isn’t as invasive as you might think
  • The ChefIQ smart cooker combines gadgets and makes cooking easier
  • The future of the connected kitchen is almost here
  • The big trend in kitchen gadgets is combo cookers

Episode 295: Project CHIP goes commercial and the Eero Pro review

This week’s podcast kicks off with the news that Project Connected Home over IP (CHIP) will also have a commercial element focused on offices, apartments, and public buildings.  Then we focus on edge computing with a new way to bring machine learning to the edge and Arm expanding its free IP license program to some of its edge ML chips. We also talk about the new IoT Cybersecurity bill that passed the Senate, a virus prediction score on Airthings devices, and another new Wyze product. We round out the news with LoRaWAN, facial recognition laws, telemedicine, an upgrade to Google Fit, and a new name for Plume’s Wi-Fi service. Kevin shares his thoughts on the Eero Pro Wi-Fi system, and a quick impression of the new HomePod mini. We end this segment by answering a question about updating old Z-wave switches.

This sensor is part of a network that will detect and monitor wildfires. Image courtesy of Katia Obraczka.

Our guest this week is Katia Obraczka, a professor of computer science and electrical engineering at UC Santa Cruz. She’s designing a sensor network to detect and monitor wildfires. She explains how she’s handling a lack of connectivity, power constraints, and budget constraints, all while trying to build in resiliency. After all, elements of this network are in fire-prone areas, and it stands to reason some of it will burn. She discusses how she’s using simulations of the network to figure out power budgets and what types of sensors she needs. She also talks about using drones as flying access points to build in more resiliency in case other forms of connectivity burn. It’s a good way to think about building a sensor network for a harsh environment.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Katia Obraczka, a professor of computer science and electrical engineering at UC Santa Cruz
Sponsors: Calix and Teracode

  • Project CHIP has commercial ambitions but needs a better name
  • TinyML is a big deal and the tools are getting better
  • Eero Pro is expensive but does provide quite the speed boost
  • What matters most in building a sensor network for detecting wildfire
  • Repurpose drones as flying Wi-Fi access points to make your network resilient

 

Episode 294: Let’s talk about Thread and digital twins

This week’s show starts off with a conversation about Thread because it’s clear that it’s going to become an important radio for the future of the smart home. We explain why before discussing an update to LoRaWAN and an alternative to the big voice-controlled smart speakers from Josh.ai. After that, we express frustration with exploding doorbells, discuss a fitness tracker that finally covers pregnancy, and get excited about a new robot vacuum. On the industrial side, I try to get excited about Hitachi Vantara’s deal with Amazon Web Services and explain why Honeywell is trying to become more than just a process manufacturing powerhouse. We conclude the show by answering a listener’s question about Wi-Fi.

The new Wyze vacuum has LIDAR and will cost $199 at first. Image courtesy of Wyze.

Our guest this week is Chris Nelson, VP of Software Development at OSIsoft. He explains what a digital twin is and isn’t and attempts to cut through some of the marketing hype about where we are in terms of building real-time updateable models of machines and manufacturing processes. If that gets too esoteric, he also tries to talk about what they mean for IoT business models and shares how digital twins might be helping us find a vaccine for COVID-19. It’s a good interview if you want to figure out what’s real and what is just marketing.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Chris Nelson, VP of Software Development at OSIsoft
Sponsors: Calix and Teracode

  • Why Apple cares about Thread and you should too
  • Why not put LIDAR on a vacuum cleaner?
  • What it means when Honeywell’s CEO says it’s a controls company now
  • What’s real and hype when it comes to digital twins
  • How digital twins can help us discover a COVID vaccine

 

Episode 293: Amazon’s Halo and the election and IoT

We kicked off the post-Election Day show with an update on ballot initiatives in Massachusetts, Maine, and California that have an impact on the internet of things. After that, we discussed Google’s ability to predict HVAC problems and the promise of smart thermostats. Then we focused on two devices worth covering, a smart lamp from Byte-Dance and a communications tool for outdoor adventures from Milo. Smarter AI in the form of voice detection and drones that can tell the number of people in a building rounded out the news. After that, I discussed my first impressions of the Amazon Halo fitness tracker and had a small break down over body fat percentages. We ended with a call from a football fan who wants to play AM radio over his smart speakers during the game.

The Amazon Halo is an activity tracker focused on wellness. Image courtesy of S. Higginbotham.

Our guest this week is Nick Kucharewski, VP and GM of wired and wireless infrastructure and networking at Qualcomm. He’s on the show to explain where Wi-Fi is heading in the next few years and why you should upgrade to Wi-Fi 6 if you’re in the market for a new router. He also makes the case for a new router even if you don’t think you need one. And he explains what we can expect from home Wi-Fi in the future such as security services, monitoring of the elderly, and more. But the next generation of Wi-Fi isn’t something that will come in a box; it’s something you’ll pay subscription fees for. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Nick Kucharewski of Qualcomm
Sponsors: Silicon Labs and Teracode

  • Ballot initiatives that impact the IoT
  • An expensive gift idea for outdoor fans
  • The Amazon Halo makes me feel a lot of things
  • What’s up with the latest Wi-Fi routers?
  • Why do I need Wi-Fi 6?

 

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

Episode 291: All about Amazon’s Sidewalk and the new Echo

This week we start and end with dying devices. First up, we talk about Google discontinuing its Nest Secure alarm system and sensors (it will still support existing systems in the field). We then talk about Nanoleaf’s new products including lights that support Thread. This week is full of smart speakers as we discuss the new Acer Halo and I offer my thoughts on Amazon’s fourth-generation Echo and the Echo Dot with clock. We also talk about the new Raspberry Pi compute module, ARM’s new edge processor, and Microsoft’s open-source project to support Kubernetes at the edge. Google adds support for multiple accounts on your display, there’s a new smart blind project coming, a recall, and we have an update on the Ring mailbox sensor. We end with a question from a reader that wants to reuse his Harman Kardon Invoke speakers after Microsoft discontinues Cortana. And now, we’ve come full circle.

The new Nanoleaf triangles and mini-triangles will work with the existing hexagon Shapes. Image courtesy of Nanoleaf.

Our guest this week is Manolo Arana, GM of Amazon’s Sidewalk network. He explains how the network will work for consumers and device makers. For now, you’ll need an Amazon device with a Sidewalk-compatible radio in it to connect devices to the network. We also talk about how much bandwidth Amazon wants to use on your network and which radios will support the Sidewalk protocol. For those wondering when we’ll see devices for the network and how much it will cost, he talks about that too. Enjoy.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Manolo Arana, GM of Amazon’s Sidewalk network
SponsorsSilicon Labs and Very

  • What do we do about dying smart home stuff?
  • Nanoleaf, shut up, and take my money!
  • The latest Echo hits the right (bass) notes
  • How Sidewalk differs from LoRaWAN and other LPWANs
  • Downed internet? Sidewalk might help.