Episode 403: Matter upgrades aren’t ready for prime time

We tried Matter for the first time late last week, and have a lot to share with our listeners about what we and other journalists learned through the process. The early verdict is that most people should not update for a while because the process is tedious at best and downright frustrating at worst. But if you want to update, we provide tips. Then we focus on a story about iRobot’s Roomba vacuums that shows how a larger ecosystem of tech partners are taking device data and potentially sharing it in places consumers wouldn’t be comfortable with. Next up, we cover the acquisition of Notion by Pepper IoT, which wants to help insurers build policies around the smart home. We also cover some news bits such as an Amazon employee becoming the new chairman of Z-Wave Alliance, delays for the next generation of Raspberry Pi hardware, and further updates on the Eufy camera security snafus. We conclude the first segment of the show by answering a listener question about how far apart Thread devices should be in the home.

The Homey hub will launch in the U.S. at CES. Image courtesy of Homey.

Our guest this week is Stefan Witkamp, the commercial director at Athom, the company behind the Homey smart home hub. Witkamp explains Honey’s privacy-focused smart home hub and the plan to launch the latest generation of the Homey Pro hub at CES. This will be the first time Homey is available in the U.S. after six and half years of availability for the original Homey hub in Europe. Homey Pro has all of the radios that a smart home needs, including Thread and IR. For listeners who care about privacy, Witkamp explains how Athom created a business model that allows the company to respect user privacy. This means the $399 pro version of the hub is more expensive than other options on the market, and the cheaper version comes with a monthly subscription. We talk about what it costs to keep a home hub running and how investors can push a company to choose alternative business models. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Stefan Witkamp, Commercial Director for Homey
Sponsors: Arm and Silicon Labs

  • Wait a minute before updating to Matter
  • Will a Roomba story get everyone to care more about device privacy?
  • The smart home meets insurance in this acquisition
  • Why the Homey hub decided to focus on privacy
  • When your data isn’t for sale, the consumer pays

 

Episode 402: Google begins its Matter roll out

This week’s show is a celebration of Matter actually hitting devices, with Google announcing its Matter roll out and Eve allowing users to update its devices to Matter as well. We’re super excited to play with Matter, and you’ll read more about in the newsletter or hear us chat about it next week. We also discuss how Z-Wave’s open-source efforts have gone, and the first port of Z-Wave technology to a third party chip. Energy management is becoming a compelling use case for smart home tech given the high price of heat this winter, so we share what might help and how it may change the conversation around connected devices. Then we dig into a new Comcast report on home security that points out the things you’re worried about getting hacked in your smart home are not necessarily what’s getting hacked. In smaller news, we cover gestures and accessibility features for the Echo Show, smarter alarm systems, and a new sensor that’s itty-bitty. We close with chip news about a new RISC-V microcontroller, a new integrated Matter chip from NXP, and Qualcomm’s new LTE Cat 1 modem for IoT. We end the first segment of the show by answering a listener question about outdoor smart lights for cold climates.

Data from Comcast focused on what people think they should worry about, and what they actually do worry about when it comes to home cybersecurity.

Our guest this week is Sean Petterson, the CEO and founder of StrongArm Tech, a company that makes wearable safety devices for industrial and warehouse workers. We talk about the company’s history of building exoskeletons and its pivot to data analytics and wearables, and then the challenges associated with converting worker safety into an ROI. Petterson makes the case that analytics can drive home the importance of keeping workers healthy despite the costs of the system and the perceived costs in terms of productivity. He gives a good example from a warehouse customer using StrongArm’s analytics to send workers home after they meet their quota for the day, even if it means they get sent home early. Petterson says it’s simply not efficient or smart from an ROI perspective to keep them working. We also talk about the ethics of such software and how StrongArm tries to make sure its data isn’t used to retaliate against poor performers. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Sean Petterson, the CEO and founder of StrongArm Tech
SponsorsArm and Silicon Labs

  • Matter hits Google and Eve devices, but wait a second before updating
  • Don’t worry about someone hacking your voice assistant or robot vacuum
  • Check out this new RISC-V microcontroller
  • Keeping workers healthy improves ROI  and this company can prove it
  • What happens when worker data gets really detailed?

Episode 401: Two big smart home deals explained

The end of the year is a busy time for M&A as companies rush to get deals done before the start of a new tax year, and this week the smart home sector saw Assa Abloy sell its Yale and August smart lock and some other brands to Fortune Brands for $800 million. We explain why the deal happened and why we can blame Matter and the DoJ for the sale. Then we discuss NRG Energy’s $2.8 billion planned acquisition of Vivint, and why it is a big signal for the future of energy management as part of the smart home.  Fundings also happen ahead of the new years, and Phlux Technologies, which makes infrared sensors and Reach, a company building wireless over-the-air power transmitters both scored venture capital this week. In smart home news, we discuss a new mixer from GE that’s super smart and super pricey, and Samsung’s plans for CES this year. In security news, there’s a new botnet out there to worry about. And for developers, there’s a new $200 kit from Swarm that provides satellite connectivity. Finally, we answer a listener question about Matter and local control.

The GE Profile mixer is smart, but expensive. Image courtesy of Crate and Barrel.

Our guest this week is Cathy Pearl, a conversation designer at Google and the author of the O’Reilly book Designing Voice User Interfaces. We discuss the history of voice interactions and what changed to make Amazon’s Alexa such an innovation. We also discuss how voice can help make technology less complicated, what type of conversations people want from a voice interface and how voice also drives accessibility. Then we discuss the ethics of creating voice companions for lonely people and a time that Pearl was stuck at an airport talking to a chatbot for 20 minutes. We then end after I ask if voice is going anywhere after the upheavals in Amazon’s Alexa business. Her answer will not surprise you. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Cathy Pearl, a conversation designer at Google
Sponsors: Arm and Silicon Labs

  • Assa Abloy slams the door on Yale and August brands
  • Why NRG wants to buy Vivint
  • Using antimony to make more accurate LiDAR
  • How context dictates what we want to say and hear
  • Can digital assistants provide companionship?

Episode 400: How to pronounce IKEA’s Dirigera hub

This week’s show starts off with a review of news from AWS Re:Invent which is happening now in LAs Vegas. We cover the general availability of support for the latest version of the MQTT messaging protocol, the launch of LoRaWAN and other connectivity technologies as part of AWS Device Location services, and there will be more in the newsletter as the conference concludes. We then talk about whether or not it makes sense to buy a cheap smart plug today or wait until we get more with Matter support. It’s just that those smart plugs are so cheap right now! We also debate whether or not it’s a good thing that the Hubitat smart home hub will start supporting HomeKit, and mention Samsung’s new capabilities that link its phones to a UWB door lock. Then we cover funding news from Sanctuary, which is trying to build general purpose robots; Morse Micro, which is making Wi-Fi HaLow chips; and Deepgram, which is developing a new natural language processing algorithm built on vocal utterances as opposed to text. I then explain what I’m using right now in my home for security and monitoring of my many connected devices. Finally, we hear from a listener offering a tip on creating a simple pill tracker using an open/close sensor.

IKEA’s Dirigera hub is now available. Image courtesy of IKEA.

Our guest this week is Rebecca Töreman, business leader of the IKEA Home Smart business. Töreman first teaches me how to pronounce Dirigera, the name of IKEA’s new smart home hub. We then talk about why IKEA has chosen to focus on products that includes lights and connected blinds, but not security cameras. After a discussion on connected air purification devices, we talk about what the IKEA Home Smart team learned from its prior five years with the Trådfri smart home hub and how that influenced the design of the Dirigera device. We clarify a few points about how IKEA plans to introduce Matter to its hub and then close out. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Rebecca Töreman, business leader of the IKEA Home Smart
Sponsors: Arm and Silicon Labs

  • It’s our 400th episode!!!!
  • Should you buy a cheap smart plug without Matter?
  • A HomeKit compatible home may be less flexible, but it’s also less work
  • Why IKEA needed a new smart home hub
  • What IKEA learned about provisioning and communication with Trådfri

Episode 399: Alexa’s drama and our holiday gift guide

The biggest news in the internet of things this week was the staggering story about Amazon’s Alexa business being responsible for the majority of an estimated $10 billion loss in the year ahead. So Kevin and I discuss what Amazon pulling back on Alexa might look like and what it means for voice and the smart home. Then we talk about how a newly available Amazon device signals Amazon’s problem and the potential solutions to that problem. After talking about voice, we take a look at a new controller from Aqara that uses gestures and share our thoughts about the form factor.  After all our user interaction talk, we then cover some news, such as the FIDO Alliance planning to work on security and authentication issues for the IoT, Google’s plans for aggregating fitness data, and a new dev kit from T-Mobile. We also talk about new devices from Wyze and Firewalla. Finally, we answer a listener’s question about connecting LED fairy lights. Then it’s time to talk about the holidays.

The Aqara Cube T1 Pro costs $22.99, and is a fancy button that you can press, roll and shake. Image courtesy of Aqara.

Every year we choose 10 devices that we think make good holiday gifts for our audience and their loved ones. This year we suggest a few in the first part of the show, such as the JaxJox kettlebell and my perennial favorite, the Ember mug. (I gave this to my mom in 2019, and she still uses it every day.) This year’s gifts include a smart plug designed for Matter, a device to reboot your router, and multiple options for smart buttons from Philips Hue and Shortcut Labs. We also include a Nanoleaf option because we’re such fans of the devices as gifts for teens. We also include some fancier gifts for chefs and dog owners. There are more options in this week’s newsletter, but before we sign off we also want to thank our listeners for the gift of their time this year, and the nine years that Kevin and I have been producing this show. Y’all are awesome.

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

  • Voice is a user interface, not a platform
  • I don’t want to roll the dice on my home routines
  • Google aggregates health data in a better format
  • We love buttons and lights for smart home gifts
  • We also love cooking tech, and pet tech too

Episode 398: Bluetooth bets on 6 GHz and TP-Link hops on Wi-Fi 7

Amazon has started laying off workers, including some working on Alexa and in Amazon’s devices business. We discuss this as well as IBM following in Google’s footsteps and shutting down its IoT cloud business. We move from bad news to innovation with the news that the Bluetooth Special Interest Group is investing in new Bluetooth capabilities using the recently available 6 GHz spectrum. We also discuss the latest in Wi-Fi and TP-Link getting the jump on the next generation of Wi-Fi with its new Wi-Fi 7 mesh routers. Also out with new routers is Wyze, which appears to be giving Eero a run for its money. In acquisition news, semiconductor firm Nexperia has acquired energy harvesting chip company Nowi, while energy harvesting device maker EnOcean plans to go public via a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC). We then discuss the radios inside upcoming Nest speakers, HomeKit locks that won’t get Matter upgrades, and a new Matter-certified smart plug from Meross that won’t be available until next year. Kevin also shares his thoughts on the latest Apple TV 4K and its use in a smart home. Finally, we clarify our answer to last week’s question about DIY Matter devices and answer a question about keeping Matter devices certified.

The Meross outlets won’t ship until January, but you can order them today. Image courtesy of Meross.

Our guest this week is Michele Pelino, a principal analyst at Forrester. She’s on the show to share four predictions about the IoT, edge computing, and connectivity in the coming year. We discuss the technologies that will entice city planners and lead to more municipal deployments in the hopes of bringing people back to cities. She also shares some bad news about future IoT device failures and the creation of millions of IoT bricks. We also hear predictions and advice on securing the internet of things with a focus on confidential computing and zero-trust security. Finally, she shares her thoughts on the connectivity company to watch in 2023 as satellite wins over companies looking for connectivity in rural and thinly populated areas. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Michele Pelino, a principal analyst at Forrester
Sponsors: Arm and Silicon Labs

  • The Bluetooth SIG eyes spectrum currently used for Wi-Fi 6E
  • Big moves in the world of energy harvesting devices
  • Does your smart home need the new Apple TV 4K?
  • Why cities will invest in tech next year
  • Holes in 5G coverage pave the way for Starlink

Episode 397: Arduino Opta adds a little IT to the OT

This week’s show kicks off with a discussion of the lawsuit between Arm and Qualcomm amid accusations that Arm is changing its licensing model. We cover what has been said, and what it might mean for the IoT before heading into some industrial news. Arduino has announced a programmable logic controller (PLC) in conjunction with Finder called the Arduino Opta. It’s part of a larger trend of convergence between the IT and OT, as is news from Marvell that it has built an integrated networking chip for industrial clients that uses Ethernet. We talk about how Marvell made Ethernet appealing to the industrial world, and then shift to smart home news. First, Vivint reported financial results and previewed some new products coming in 2023, including integrated indoor lighting. Then we talk about the new Eufy trackers that use Apple’s Find My network and new connectors for the Nanoleaf Lines. And before we finished this segment, we also talked about last week’s Matter launch, including the news that more device types were coming. We end by answering a listener’s question about building DIY devices that will talk to Matter devices.

The Eufy tracker is less expensive than an AirTag, and it has a hole you can use to attach it to things. Image courtesy of Eufy.

Our guest this week is Matt Rose, the CEO of Apana, a company that tracks water usage for commercial clients. The company has more than 800 customers including Costco Wholesale, Coca-Cola, and Fetzer. Rose talks about how business is booming thanks to Environment, Social and Government (ESG) directives and growing corporate concern about water usage. He explains how the focus has moved from ROI to ESG and how to parse over a billion points of data into something front-line workers can take action on. He also talks about the scaling challenges early on and moving from wired to wireless connections for his company’s sensors. Finally, we discuss his switch from private LoRa connectivity to LoRaWAN and how that should expand his business going forward. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Matt Rose, CEO of Apana
Sponsors: Arm and Silicon Labs

  • Arm’s suit against Qualcomm is pretty crazy
  • The industrial IoT will have to embrace IP
  • More Matter device types are coming next year!
  • This company’s digital twin can save on water consumption
  • LoRaWAN has matured, and it’s about time

Episode 396: Here’s when you’ll get Matter on your devices

This week’s episode kicks off what I hope is a flurry of news from vendors about their Matter plans. We hear when and how vendors such as Amazon, Eve, Nanoleaf, and Schneider Electric plan to roll out Matter to new and old devices. We also call out companies that haven’t yet shared information and what you’re likely to see get support first. Then we go to other news such as leaked photos of Amazon’s Ring Car Alarm, a privacy lawsuit against Amazon going forward and new security and camera devices from Arlo. In less exciting news, we talk about a lock-picking lawyer’s discovery that the HomeKey version of the Level Home lock (the Level Lock+) can be easily picked with a simple lock pick or a bump key. Also in the bad news department, Orro Systems, the makers of a smart lighting switch and system, is looking for more investment and will stop distributing its gear so as to support existing customers. This looks like the beginning of the end. Kevin got his hands on Google’s Nest Wifi Pro, and decides that people on existing Wi-Fi 6 mesh systems probably won’t benefit much from this update, but those coming from older Wi-Fi 5 systems (like Google’s prior mesh Wi-Fi kit) will. Finally, we answer a listener question about Matter on smoke alarms.

Arlo’s new all-in-one multi-sensors and Keypad Security Hub. Image courtesy of Arlo.

Our guest this week is Peggy Carrieres, VP of Sales Enablement at Avnet, who is coming on the show to discuss what the changes in the chip sector mean for hardware designers. Carrieres spoke with me a year and half ago to talk about the chip shortage, and now has new data thanks to a survey of Avnet customers. The survey shows that 29% of respondents believe chip prices will continue to rise and that 26% expect to see more supply shortfalls. We talk about what’s driving challenges in sourcing chips and components for hardware as well as how engineers are starting to change how they design products amidst the shortage. We also point to some software developments that may help. It’s a nerdy interview, but worth the time if you’re building hardware.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Peggy Carrieres, VP of Sales Enablement at Avnet
Sponsors: Arm and Silicon Labs

  • Matter is coming to Amazon, Nanoleaf, Eve and more
  • Amazon’s next device may have a cellular data plan
  • I’m worried about Orro Systems and its future
  • Why chip shortages continue to cause problems for designers
  • Steps to help make hardware design easier in times of shortages

Episode 395: I’m running Matter. Now what?

We kick off the podcast with more conversation about the planned White House-led cybersecurity label for consumer IoT devices. Contrary to what I wrote last week, it seems that privacy won’t be as big of a focus, which is disappointing. Then we move into a bunch of updated product news, such as the launch of IKEA’s new Home Smart app and Dirigera hub. SmartThings has a Matter update, which I installed, and Google is updating its Home Assistant AI, adding older cameras to its Google Home App and its newer cameras to the web. We also share how to create routines on the new Google Home app using devices and offer some troubleshooting possibilities. In other device news, Ecobee is said to be preparing a video doorbell, which is confusing to us. There’s also a new crypto-affiliated LoRaWAN miner on the block. We then talk about Level locks and Home Key, and the end of one of my favorite devices of all time. Finally, we take a listener question about how Matter will handle security.

The IKEA Dirigera hub is available now in some markets. Image courtesy of IKEA.

Our guest this week is Mike Nelson, VP of IoT security at DigiCert, who joins me to discuss what Matter will require from a security standpoint. We talked about it for a story two weeks back, but in the show we also discuss what the next iteration of Matter security might include as the specification matures with later versions. The current version of security with Matter is one of several progressive steps the industry has taken toward boosting security of connected devices, but regulators are also getting involved. So I ask Nelson his thoughts on the White House plans for a cybersecurity label for consumer IoT devices. He isn’t sure a detailed label makes much sense but talks about what he’d like to see for consumer IoT, and for other industries such as healthcare. It’s an important conversation.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Mike Nelson, VP IoT security at DigiCert
Sponsors: Arm and Silicon Labs

  • What we think a cybersecurity label needs
  • Everyone is preparing for Matter
  • Why is Ecobee adding a video doorbell?
  • Here’s what we may see in future Matter security requirements
  • Why a nutrition-style cybersecurity label for IoT won’t work

Episode 375: Arduino gets $32 million for enterprise IoT

This week’s show is an exercise in controlled chaos, as I am once again quarantined in a hotel room (this time with my teen). Kevin and I discuss Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference and Apple’s claim that HomeKit is the foundation of the upcoming Matter smart home protocol. Insteon users got a shock this week when their formerly dead hubs mysteriously turned on and their cloud-based integrations began working. We explain what we know. SmartThings is getting a new app, and Microsoft signed a multi-year deal to help Procter & Gamble with its digital transformation. In security news, we discuss new ransomware that starts on the IT side but can move over to the OT side to wreak havoc, as well as a new program from Dragos to help small businesses secure their OT networks. Finally, in chip news radar chip company Vayyar raised $108 million and Arm launched a new low-power image sensor for embedded vision. During the IoT Podcast Hotline, we answer a listener question about how to prepare his smart home for a move.

Arduino launched the Portenta line of boards for the enterprise a year and half ago. Image courtesy of Arduino.

Our guest this week is Fabio Violante, the CEO of Arduino. Arduino raised €30 million ($32 million) this week as it seeks to add software and hardware to meet the needs of enterprise and industrial product designers. We discuss why Arduino is branching out from the DIY market, and how it differentiates itself from other computing platforms such as the Raspberry Pi or Nvidia’s Jetson Nano. Violante also shares his observations about the state of the market and the popularity of certain connectivity options, protocols and cloud platforms. It’s a good show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Fabio Violante, the CEO of Arduino
Sponsors: Nordic Semiconductor and Wirepas

  • Apple contributed a lot to HomeKit and we all will benefit
  • Who is the new Insteon owner?
  • Microsoft is helping Procter & Gamble make better paper towels
  • Good and bad news for OT security
  • Why Arduino is stepping up to the enterprise