Episode 388: Insurers come for the smart home

This week launched with a bang for those interested in the role insurers might play in the smart home as State Farm agreed to make a 1.2 billion equity investment in security firm ADT. This follows on the heels of Google’s equity investment in ADT in 2020 and signals a shift in the way insurance companies are thinking about the smart home. Google also said it would add more money to its ADT partnership. We then discuss a Matter demonstration at IFA and give some updates on what to expect from the protocol. After that we discuss the upcoming Google event and the Apple event from this week before taking a quick break.

The Flair vents work with a temperature-sensing puck. Image courtesy of Flair.

We don’t have a guest this week so we dove right back into the news with a trio of big fundings for the internet of things. First up is funding for a satellite IoT company called OQ that is special because it can use existing NB-IoT and LTE-M radios. The second funding is $140 million for Morse Micro, a chip company that is making chips for Wi-Fi HaLow deployments. The final funding is for Flair, a maker of connected HVAC vents for the home, which raised $7.6 million. We then talk about Ring adding end-to-end encryption for its wireless doorbell and video camera products, new ways to address your Nest Hub Max without saying “Hey Google” first, and new lights from Philips Hue. I also review the Hue Tap Dial Switch and realize my love of buttons is going to force me to do some serious work when Matter arrives. We end the show by answering a listener question about a smart button (or maybe a dumb one) for a smart garage door opener.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Sponsors:  Infineon and Silicon Labs

  • With the smart home, insurers can make sure you’re staying secure
  • Matter previewed at IFA
  • Wi-Fi HaLow got a big boost with Morse Micro funding
  • Climate change and energy conservation is driving smarter HVAC
  • I really love the Hue Tap Dial Switch

Episode 387: Is Kickstarter still relevant for smart devices?

This week we start off talking about the Federal Trade Commission suing a data broker for sharing sensitive location data. It’s a topic we’re following closely, in part because location information can’t be anonymized even when companies promise that it strips identifying information from it. With that in mind, Fight for the Future, a nonprofit focused on consumer privacy, is asking the FTC to prevent large tech firms from getting access to car data. In more data-sharing news, we talk about Adrich, a Pennsylvania company that has found some success selling Bluetooth tags that track how much of a product has been used and can reorder them for consumers. But it also shares product data usage with the company making the product. Then we kick off the IFA conference with some news bits from the Home Connectivity Alliance adding new members and a plug fest, as well as updated products from Eve. Also, Tado has created a subscription plan to optimize low-energy prices. For those interested in the evolution of the security business, check out ADT’s deal with Uber to monitor drivers and riders on request. And for those who want to understand the consolidation happening in the IoT connectivity sector, we talk about Telit’s latest acquisition. We then answer a listener question about what he needs to run Hue bulbs even when the internet is out.

Image courtesy of Woosh.

This week’s guest is Winston Mok, the founder and product lead of Woosh, a company making a connected air filter. We talk about how Woosh works, its focus on sustainability, and how it plans to integrate within existing smart home services. We also talk about Mok’s decision to use Kickstarter to launch the connected air filter, a decision that would have been a no brainer back in 2014, but seems almost quaint now. Mok explains why he thinks Kickstarter was a good option for Woosh and shares some of the benefits he got from launching on the platform. He also discusses how it it helped prepare for manufacturing at scale amidst the chip shortage, and shared advice on dealing with that situation. It’s a really useful interview.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Winston Mok, founder and product lead, Woosh
Sponsors: Infineon and Silicon Labs

  • The FTC is taking action against sellers of location data
  • This company can tell how quickly you eat your peanut butter
  • A standard for connected appliances gets a boost
  • Smart air filters? Why not?
  • Is Kickstarter still relevant for launching a smart device?

Episode 383: Meet Insteon’s new CEO

Last week, we kicked off the podcast with a discussion on the Helium peer-to-peer IoT network, and this week we did the same thing. This time we dug into the disclosures that Helium didn’t actually have Lime or Salesforce.com as current customers, despite having listed them prominently on its web site. Nova Labs CEO Amir Haleem tried to explain what happened in a Twitter thread, but since the crypto industry is full of scammers, it feels like a company should aspite to higher levels of integrity. Then we discuss the planned Semtech acquisition of Sierra Wireless and explain what it might mean for LoRaWAN. Then we talk about the creation of a new connectivity and hardware company thanks to the combination of Telit and Thales’ connectivity business. From there we highlight the mailbox of the future, some cool battery tech, a secret Google device, a broken Google integration and ADT’s Google partnership. Then we note that Home Assistant’s latest hardware option, the Home Assistant Yellow is now shipping to early buyers, and discuss a smart scarf deployed by a UK soccer team to measure fans’ feelings during a match. We end by answering a listener question about how to track their laundry in the wake of Smart Dry’s closure.

The new Dronedek mailbox has a section for postal delivery and a climate-controlled chamber for food delivered via drone. Image courtesy of Dronedek.

Our guest this week is Ken Fairbanks, the CEO of Insteon Technologies Inc. who is ready to share what happened between the end of Insteon in April and his acquisition of the assets in June. He also discloses what comes next for the new Insteon and explains why customers were caught off guard by the abrupt closure and the equally abrupt return of service for their hubs. Fairbanks is still trying to piece together the assets he purchased, but is also trying to talk to users about what they want to see for the smart home service. He also explains why he had to charge a subscription and how he plans to move forward. If you’re an Insteon customer take a listen, and if you are smart home user you might learn why it’s so hard to restart a dying connected home business.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Ken Fairbanks, the CEO of Insteon Technologies Inc.
Sponsors: Silicon Labs and Impinj

  • Who’s using the Helium network?
  • Two big mergers in industrial and enterprise IoT
  • Good news from Google and some bad news from Google
  • Behind the scenes during the Insteon sale
  • Insteon has plans for Matter

Podcast 378: Welcome to the industrial metaverse

It’s been a minute since we’ve discussed the metaverse, but this week we cover Siemens’ deal with Nvidia to create the metaverse for the industrial IoT. It’s part of several announcements this week from Siemens that include an acquisition and a new product launch for smart buildings. We also dig into some Apple rumors about a new HomePod, whether or not you’ll want to use the iPad as a home hub, and Kevin’s advice for folks trying to adopt HomeKit. Then we ask if you want to pay for a subscription to Insteon’s cloud and explore how the ADT partnership with Google is working. From there we talk talk about the new Raspberry Pi Pico W device with Wi-Fi. For $6, they are a steal. In smaller news, we talk about wireless power research and new sounds that help your Nest doorbell celebrate the Fourth of July. We also answer a listener question about automating his water heater.

Siemens Process Simulate (left) connects to NVIDIA Omniverse (right) to enable a photorealistic, real-time digital twin. Image courtesy of Nvidia. 

Our guest this week is Alok Bhanot, the CTO of ParkourSC, a company trying to create digital twins for the supply chain. We discuss the current state of the supply chain and why we’re moving into what Bhanot calls supply chain 2.0. He explains how companies are going beyond merely tracking their products and instead are trying to predict problem areas in advance and automate their response to those problems. This takes sensors and connected devices, but it also takes deep integration across the entire logistics, transportation and product ecosystem. We also explain how these solutions can’t predict everything, but for many companies, the goal is to optimize for easing the delivery of the most important things. We also discuss why ParkourSC decided to stop making its own hardware.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Alok Bhanot, CTO of ParkourSC
SponsorsNordic Semiconductor and Wirepas

  • Will the industrial IoT use the metaverse?
  • Do you want a new HomePod or an iPad for HomeKit?
  • There’s a new Raspberry Pi for the IoT.
  • What the heck is supply chain 2.0?
  • Why this startup decided to stop building sensors.

Episode 355: Get ready for an active FTC and energy storing appliances

The big story this week in IoT was the joint venture between Ford and ADT to add smart home security to cars through an in-vehicle security system. Then we discuss the FTC and Department of Justice reconsidering how they evaluate mergers. We also explain variations on Wi-Fi, from the launch of new Wi-Fi 6E gear to the coming Wi-Fi 7 standard. We include a blast from the past with an update on Misty Robotics and, in other robot news, we cover research from the MIT Media Lab on giving robotics a personality. We’re also sharing news about energy harvesting Bluetooth company Atmosic, which has a new product and $72 million in funding. In smaller news, we are excited about smart home company Tado going public, and a new way of handling IR sensing that could figure out the nutritional value of food. We stick with the food topic by discussing my latest purchase, a smart induction range from GE Appliances. Finally, we listen to a question from Kevin in St. Louis about using Amazon Sidewalk or LoRaWAN in wearables.

Furhat Robotics has acquired Misty Robotics for better social robotics. Image courtesy of Furhat. 

Our guest this week is Kailas Nair, a co-founder and director at Plentify. The South African startup is trying to help power companies store energy generated by renewable sources for later use by home appliances. Nair discusses how his startup is trying to use sensors and data analysis to make it possible to power a fridge, a heat pump, or a water heater when power is cheap and clean, for use when renewable energy isn’t available. He also explains how important it is to manage energy across many homes, not just on an individual basis. For the last five years, Plentify has sold its electronics and algorithms for water heaters in South Africa, and now he’s bringing the tech to the U.S. and hoping to convince appliance manufacturers to put the Plentify tech into their own products.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Kalais Nair, co-founder and director at Plentify
Sponsors: Rightpoint and Hologram

  • Canopy will bring smart home security to cars
  • U.S. merger guidelines are set to change
  • Let’s talk about Wi-Fi 6E and Wi-Fi 7
  • Smart appliances will become a source of stored energy
  • How Plentify will use insurers and utilities to bring energy storage to homes

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 345: Ecobee’s big deal and climate-friendly chips

The big news in IoT this week was the announced acquisition of Ecobee by Generac, so Kevin and I share our thoughts on the deal and what it means for the smart home. After that, we were excited to see Amazon launching a smart air quality monitoring device for $70 as well as publically state its support for Matter. We also cover Facebook’s decision to stop using facial recognition and believe that more companies will seek to prove they are trustworthy in hopes of getting even closer to us as consumers. Then we talk about the EU’s addition of new categories to its cybersecurity rules, the new Flic Twist campaign, Tempo’s smaller, cheaper home gym, ADT’s security service for DoorDashers, and a $500 kid’s toy that I really want. We also note that the Espresif ESP32s now formally support the Zephyr RTOS. We end by answering a question about whether or not you need the device app to update HomeKit-compatible products.

The Alexa air quality monitor will cost $70 and ship in December. Image courtesy of Amazon.

Our guest this week is Sri Samavedam, who is the senior vice president of semiconductor technologies at imec, a semiconductor R&D consortium. We discuss imec’s new effort to research sustainability in chip manufacturing. You’ll learn how chips are made and why manufacturing ICs delivers such a blow to the environment. Samavedum explains why Apple has joined its efforts and how it plans to measure the carbon footprint of chipmaking. He also offers some advice for product manufacturers and consumers on how they can use chips more responsibly given how much they cost (in terms of environmental damage) to make. There’s no sugar-coating it, we need more data on this and we also need to think about using silicon for longer than we do today.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Sri Samavedam, imec
Sponsors: Very

  • What Generac’s Ecobee purchase means for the smart home
  • Amazon loves Matter
  • Would you buy your kid a $500 hoverboard?
  • Chip manufacturing is extremely bad for the environment
  • We should try to use our devices for as along as possible

 

 

Episode 328: The IoT is a privacy nightmare and more 5G

Imagine all of the potential problems associated with the internet of things, and then settle in, because I think we talk about all of them in this episode. We start by detailing research out of Northeastern University that shows old data isn’t deleted from hardware-reset Amazon Echo devices and then discuss a class action lawsuit going ahead against Google’s digital assistant. We toss in a disturbing stat from Microsoft and a school that’s deploying facial recognition to round it out. We also devote time to Facebook’s synthetic training environment for home robots, ADT suing Vivint, and  Brilliant’s connected light switches getting HomeKit support. Kevin also reviews the Wyze lock. We end by answering a listener question about developer access on Amazon’s Sidewalk network.

Brilliant’s smart lights. Image courtesy of Brilliant.

Our guest this week is Teppo Hemiä, the CEO of Wirepas. Hemiä explains what massive IoT is and where Wirepas’ network fits in with other IoT networks such as those from Amazon, Apple, or even proprietary industrial options. Instead of the physical radios, Wirepas makes a distributed, mesh network software that can run on other company’s radios. Hemiä shares some customer stories from a hospital and from a ball-bearing manufacturer to show the benefits of having access to a cheap, scalable connectivity layer. He then tries to explain how Wirepas technology is part of a new DECT-2020 new radio standard that was adopted by the ITU for 5G deployments. It’s a bit confusing but could lead to a non-cellular technology used as part of 5G networks. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Teppo Hemiä, the CEO of Wirepas
SponsorsSilicon Labs and Trek10

  • Researchers discover a privacy flaw in Echo devices
  • Wait, how many requests for user data does Microsoft get each day?
  • Can we train robots to handle the real world in virtual spaces?
  • What the heck is massive IoT?
  • How a non-3GPP standard is breaking into 5G

Episode 327: Amazon’s Halo health push and more Matter

Any Amazon Halo subscriber can try Amazon’s Movement Health service now, so Kevin and I explain what it is and what Amazon’s decisions around the Halo fitness tracker signal about the company’s interest in healthcare. We then cover the good news that Google will support connected Nest devices with security updates for up to five years after launch and Google’s new location tracking app for its Wi-Fi routers. Kevin wonders why Verizon needs its own smart display and tells us about Lenovo’s latest Google clock display while I share news of a smart building startup getting funding. We end with the news that ADT and Ring have settled their lawsuit about Ring’s use of the trademarked blue ADT octagon. After the news, we answer a listener’s question about changing Wi-Fi SSIDs and passwords and what that might mean for his smart home devices.

The Lenovo Smart Clock 2 can charge your phone using a Qi dock. Image courtesy of Lenovo.

Our guest this week is Nathan Dyck, chief product officer at Nanoleaf. We kick off the segment by focusing on the future of lighting before digging into a discussion of the Thread protocol. He talks about why Thread is such a positive choice for the smart home, and then we talk about Matter. He explains what the multi-admin feature is and tells us why he’s excited about the distributed ledger for tracking the provenance of a device. We end with a look ahead at some of the features he expects to see in smart lights after Matter is established. Enjoy the show.

Host: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Nathan Dyck, chief product officer Nanoleaf
Sponsors: Silicon Labs and Trek10

  • Amazon’s Halo isn’t about fitness, it’s a about health
  • How long should a thermostat get security updates?
  • Could Verizon’s new display offer a path to Amazon’s Sidewalk?
  • Nanoleaf didn’t start out making smart lights
  • Matter may make new features easier to develop

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