Episode 372: Ecobee embraces radar sensors!

Did y’all know that almost a quarter of people who buy a smart home device, hire a professional to install it? That’s just one of the facts I learned at the Parks Associates event happening this week in Dallas. We talk about that before focusing on Google’s plans for Matter and SmartThings new Matter testing program. After that we talk about Ecobee’s new thermostats and a HomeKit sensor that uses millimeter wave sensing. In enterprise news, we mention a new real-time asset tracking network service from MachineQ, sub-$2 battery-powered Bluetooth tags from Wiliot, and LoRaWAN getting IPv6 functionality. We close with a review of Eve’s new outdoor camera, and a reminder to stay safe if you’re going to handle smart home installs yourself. In our hotline segment, we answer a listener’s question about moving from Alexa to HomeKit, and finding a garage door opener that works.

Image courtesy of Samsung.

Our guest this week is Stuart Lombard, the CEO of Ecobee and president of Generac connected devices. In our interview we dig into the new thermostats’ industrial design and why Ecobee replaced its PIR sensor with radar. Lombard also explains why services are essential for smart home providers and what Matter may do for the creation of new home services. We end with a discussion of Generac’s acquisition and why the combination of Ecobee and an energy storage and resiliency company makes sense. He didn’t share any specific products but he also gave us a hint about what to expect from the two companies going forward. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Stuart Lombard, the CEO of Ecobee and president of Generac connected devices
Sponsors: LoRaWAN World Expo and InfluxData

  • Google’s preparations for Matter includes two new SDKs
  • Cheap Bluetooth tags are about to be everywhere
  • Eve’s outdoor camera for HomeKit a good choice
  • Why radar is better for people sensing
  • How smart homes will lead to energy resiliency

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 342: Explaining the IoT’s latest $11B deal

The industrial automation world got a jolt of news with Emerson combining some of its industrial IoT software businesses with AspenTech in an $11 billion transaction. We explain why the deal matters and what it means, before hopping over to discuss Best Buy’s acquisition of Current Health. Then we review large funding rounds for Plume and Magic Leap. On the product news front, AT&T will provide connectivity for Blues Wireless, Tile’s new trackers have Ultrawideband, and Ecobee has added Siri support for its voice thermostat. Apple is also thinking about health sensors inside its AirPods, although this has been a dream of headphone companies for years, and Amazon Alexa has new Halloween routines. I’m less excited about the routine and more excited that Amazon has found an easy mechanism to share routines. We close out the news segment of the show by answering a listener question about smart devices for woodworking workshops.

Tile uses AR to help find your lost objects. Image courtesy of Tile.

Our guest this week is Jim Carroll, who is the CEO of Sendal, a fairly new smart home company that wants to create services built on the backs of popular connected devices. We discuss the planned business model, why people will pay for good user experiences in the smart home, and how to share revenue among many device makers. We also get Carroll’s perspective on the smart home from his time as the CEO of Savant until now. Like me, he’s disappointed at where we’re at and hopes to change it. We then discuss how you can differentiate a true IoT company from a hardware company, and how to graduate from thinking like a device maker to a services company. It’s a fun interview, and I always enjoy a good Boston accent.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Jim Carroll, CEO of Sendal
Sponsors: Trek10 and Ayla Networks

  • Why Emerson’s deal with AspenTech matters for the industrial IoT
  • Best Buy aims to be the connected device integrator for remote healthcare
  • Why Magic Leap got more money
  • After Savant, this is the smart home problem Jim Carroll wants to solve
  • Are you a real IoT company or just a pusher of connected hardware?

 

 

Episode 326: It’s about ethics in smart devices

Kevin and I start this week’s show with a discussion of his Amazon Prime Day purchases and then talk about the kerfuffle over smart thermostats and demand-response energy programs in Texas. I happened to be there at the time, and there is a definite right and wrong way to enroll people in the program. We also mentioned a more egregious example of digital overreach with Massachusettes pushing COVID-tracking apps to Android devices. After that, we explain Senator Amy Klobuchar’s interest in the Matter smart home protocol,  Arm’s confidential compute plans and share plans for a new LoRaWAN network. We round out the rest of the show with an update on Ecobee thermostat’s smarts and new devices from Wyze. We close by answering a listener question about the Ting fire safety device.

Ecobee participates in demand response programs such as those that caused frustration in Texas. Image courtesy of Ecobee.

Our guest this week is Mary Beth Hall, director of wireless strategy and marketing with Panasonic. We dig into the reality of 5G deployments inside manufacturing plants and what it will take to actually see real deployments instead of mere pilots. She’s responsible for putting 5G inside Panasonic’s line of Toughbook handheld computers used in industrial settings, so she has good insights into what’s real and what’s hype. She also shares her thoughts about what 5G will offer manufacturing customers when they finally adopt it. But she can’t actually tell us when that moment will come. I enjoyed her honesty.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Mary Beth Hall from Panasonic
Sponsors: Bsquare and Edge Impulse

  • Smart thermostats aren’t the problem in Texas, communication is
  • The Senate wants more information on smart home interoperability. Us too.
  • Why I’m excited for Arm’s confidential compute plans
  • Why most factories are fine with 4G wireless
  • Why 5G will help carriers deliver five nines

Episode 324: HomeKit and Home Assistant embrace Matter

We start this week’s show with a quick update on Amazon’s Sidewalk and then focused on the smart home news from Apple’s WWDC event earlier this week. We’re excited about third-party devices getting Siri support. We then cover the EU’s thoughts on anticompetitive behavior by IoT device companies, as well as the launch of a new standard that allows for low-power, highly-dense, mesh networks for 5G and Bluetooth. While on the topic of networking, we explain why Qualcomm’s new cluster of IoT chips is pretty cool. Then we talk about Google backing off AR Measure and Helium getting a new customer. I also review the new Nanoleaf Elements light panels and explain why you might want them, despite their cost. We close by highlighting a caller’s demand for two-factor authentication on smart home devices, specifically the Moen Flo products.

Ecobee’s SmartThermostat will be one of the first third-party devices to support Siri. Image courtesy of Ecobee.

Our guest this week is Paulus Schoutsen, the creator of Home Assistant, a smart home platform for DIYers. He talks about why he built the service as well as plans for new hardware later this year. We also discuss his plans for the Matter protocol and difficulty implementing the available Matter code on Github. Schoutsen also shares his recommendations on what buyers should look for in a connected product, especially one that connects back to the cloud. We end with a bit about Home Assistant’s business model, and with me asking for his help on a common listener question. It’s a fun show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Paulus Schoutsen, the creator of Home Assistant
Sponsors: Bsquare and Edge Impulse

  • Apple’s bringing Siri to more devices and opens up on Matter
  • The EU isn’t keen on walled gardens in the smart home
  • This new low-power, highly-dense wireless network is worth a look
  • The folks at Home Assistant are working on new hardware
  • Will Home Assistant support Matter? You betcha!

 

Episode 264: Wyze gear and everything’s coming up COVID

This week’s Internet of Things Podcast kicks off with a discussion of all the ways that IoT companies are evolving their products and pitches for the pandemic. We cover handwashing sensors, door sensors, and Raspberry Pis before moving onto discuss the Apple and Google contact tracing efforts. Then it’s on to product news from Ecobee (the new security camera, sensors, and service); Apple (a new iPhone), the Wyze outdoor camera, and bandwidth reductions for your Nest cameras. After the product news, we cover Google’s explanation of when and how to use its TensorFlow Lite machine learning framework. I then talk about my initial thoughts on the Wyze Scale and Wyze Band (I’ll do a full review in the newsletter on Friday). We end by answering a question about setting up your own LoRaWAN network.

Ecobee launched a few new products and a new security service. Image courtesy of Ecobee.

My guest this week is Dave Crosby, co-founder and head of marketing at Wyze Labs. We kick off with an explanation of why Wyze has released a scale and the fitness band, which is a bit of a pivot for the smart home device maker. Crosby teases the timing for the outdoor camera and we talk about how low-cost devices could open up a lot of creativity for users. We then discuss how the coronavirus is affecting the business before ending the conversation with the Connected Home over IP standard. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guests: Dave Crosby, co-founder and head of marketing at Wyze Labs
Sponsors: Calix and Ayla Networks

  • Everything in the IoT has been touched by the coronavirus
  • The pros and cons of Google and Apple’s contact tracing plans
  • Wyze scale is cool, but the band needs work
  • Low-cost devices could open up the DIY smart home of my dreams
  • Surgical masks? Thermometers? How Wyze is trying to help with the pandemic

 

Episode 263: Insurance gets smart and Google Home gets local

Kevin and I kick off the show with the news that Google is moving ahead on its local control for certain smart home devices, which will be helpful for people who want faster response times and a bit more privacy. We also discuss the FCC’s approval to make Wi-Fi 6 E spectrum available. From there we speculate about the Ring Doorbox and Apple Tags products before jumping into news from Ecobee on support for multi-factor authentication and a new subscription filter business. After that, we explore the idea of a mesh network in space, a smart toilet and discuss a peer-to-peer app for track and trace. After all of this, we answer a question from a listener about how to handle smart devices during power outages.

Image courtesy of Google.

This week’s guest is Alex Kubicek, the CEO of Understory, a startup that began life as an IoT weather sensor company and is now an insurance provider. Kubicek talks about why the company had to build its own gear and bypass the insurance market in order to succeed. He also anticipates where we’re going to see data-driven insurance go next. As a bonus, he offers a detailed account of how hail insurance works in my former home state of Texas. Exciting!

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Alex Kubicek, the CEO of Understory
Sponsors: Calix and Ayla Networks

  • Why Google’s local SDK is so good for the smart home
  • What the heck is the new Ring Doorbox?
  • Yes, we did discuss the smart toilet seats that take a fingerprint of your backside
  • The connection between Texas, hail and some impressive insurance fraud
  • Data could drive the spread of parametric insurance

Episode 241: How a smarter edge can make schools safer

This week on the show, Kevin and I started with a discussion of reports of how smart speakers can receive remote commands from a hacker with a laser. We then shifted gears to talk about company research showing how much data your smart homes are sending and a brand new network product from Firewalla. Cortana’s pivot to productivity gets a mention, as does Kevin’s take on Google buying Fitbit. From there we reviewed the Twinklys smart lights, talked about new Ecobee features, smart apartment deals and the open-sourcing of Google’s Titan chip. We then answer a listener question about smart garage door opener alternatives for Chamberlain’s MyQ product.

The new Firewalla security device is now also a router. Image courtesy of Firewalla.

Our guest this week is Lee Odess, vice president of strategic partnerships at Allegion. We start off talking about smart edge capabilities that could be used to make schools, offices and other spaces safer. Then we discuss how smart home device manufacturers have changed their goals when trying to create partnerships. Before, the focus might be on marketing on one-off features, but manufacturers are becoming more sophisticated. Find out what’s new, and enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Lee Odess, vice president of strategic partnerships at Allegion.
Sponsors: Legrand and Afero

  • Using frickin’ lasers to hack Alexa
  • What do your devices do while you are sleeping?
  • Why Amazon should have purchased Fitbit
  • Stopping tailgaters at college requires smarts at the edge
  • Privacy is becoming a point of negotiation in the gadget world

Episode 155: New toys, Pi Day and insect-tracking LIDAR

We have reached the purported end of Broadcom’s bid for Qualcomm, so Kevin and I finally shared our thoughts on the topic. After that we discussed a murder that was solved using evidence from connected devices, Google Routines and Strava’s privacy clean up. We used the SmartThings outage to discuss whether or not we need a hub in the smart home before hitting an array of new devices, including the new Raspberry Pi Model B+, Ecobee’s new light switch, and a new security hub/camera from Abode. Kevin’s Nest Cam solved a crime as well and we answered a listener question about taking the first steps to learn about the IoT.

The Raspberry Pi Model 3 B+ has more computing power and still costs $35.

Our guest this week was Tobias Meene, the global head of digital farming at Bayer AG, who shared a bunch of insights about bringing sensors, machine learning and intelligence to farmers. He discussed how the firm has managed to remotely identify insects by their wingbeats using LIDAR, several startups working with Bayer to make farming more productive and how Bayer sees IoT remaking its business and business model. Plus, Bayer has built a cool app to identify weeds and problems called Xarvio. I couldn’t try the app because it’s not compatible with my devices, but I would love to. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Tobias Menne of Bayer
Sponsors: Samsung Artik and IoT World

  • Chip consolidation ain’t over yet
  • Google Routines is a step forward, but not far enough
  • This week’s crop of new devices is strong
  • The problem with using LIDAR to track insects
  • How Bayer finds customers who want to buy into its new business plan