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 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 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 35: Raspberry Pi creator Eben Upton shares ideas for the Pi Zero

Sure it’s a week after Thanksgiving, but we are all about Pi with this week’s episode. Yes, I went there! With the launch of the Raspberry Pi Zero, the cheapest Linux computer yet at $5, we invited Raspberry Pi founder Eben Upton on the show to discuss how Google’s Eric Schmidt helped inspire the cheaper computer, when it might be available to buy again and his ideas for connected projects. We also discussed what’s missing and how to add things like connectivity and battery life. He also gives a bit of advice for engineers and non-engineers alike.

The Raspberry Pi Zero. Photographer: Matt Richardson
The Raspberry Pi Zero.
Photographer: Matt Richardson

But before we get to Pi, Kevin and I discuss the VTech hacks and a scary survey from SEC Consult, that lays out how many vendors of connected products are sharing code and thus, sharing static keys used for encryption. This is a big problem as connected devices proliferate, and one the industry is already addressing. Still, it’s worth delving into. We also got a little holiday cheer going, as I described how I used my Amazon Echo and SmartThings (or Wink) plus my GE/Jasco outdoor modules and Wemo indoors to create a voice command that lets me “Turn on Christmas.” So please, listen up and enjoy the show.

Hosts: Kevin Tofel and Stacey Higginbotham
Guest: Eben Upton, creator of the Raspberry Pi

  • Exploited kids accounts and everything is vulnerable
  • Have a connected holiday with Alexa
  • What on earth is the Raspberry Pi?
  • Let’s talk about specs
  • Whew, now let’s talk about how this whole cheap computer thing happened

Episode 34: All I want for the holidays is a smarter home

The holidays are rapidly approaching so as you’re prepping your Thanksgiving dinner or wallowing in that special feeling of torpor that only comes after downing three servings of stuffing and a piece of pumpkin pie, check out Kevin and my selections for holiday gifts. This week’s episode doesn’t have any guest so we could focus on the gadgets, but next week, the show will be back to its normal format.

Kevin and Stacey at CES in 2015. Kevin's hair is longer and so are my bangs.
Kevin and Stacey at CES in 2015. Kevin’s hair is longer and so are my bangs.

I’m not going to lie, I’ve already realized that I left off a few ideas, so you’re going to want to stay tuned for new devices and a few more gift ideas in the coming episodes as well. No one would accuse Kevin and I of being overly organized. And in honor of Thanksgiving, Kevin and I just want to take a moment to thank you guys for listening to us. This is a labor of love created after Gigaom exploded, done because we like the topic, and because we got so much feedback from our listeners that they enjoyed the show and found it valuable. So keep the feedback coming, keep listening, and we’ll keep it up.

Enjoy the show!

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 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