Episode 423: Why Wemo is a no go for us

We start this week’s show with a conversation about Latch, the company that is acquiring Jamie Siminoff’s stealth startup. Siminoff, who also founded Ring, left Amazon (which had acquired Ring in 2018) this week ahead of the planned deal. He will become the CEO of Latch after the deal closes. Then we discuss Google I/O and wonder why we didn’t hear more about Google Assistant, and explore what it means to bring large language models to the smart home. Surveillance is a possibility. And for residents of public housing in the U.S., surveillance is a reality as landlords use cameras and AI to evict residents for minor infractions. They are weaponizing the internet of things. Also in depressing news, we recommend you never buy Belkin Wemo gear again and toss the Wemo gear you own after poor handling of security vulnerabilities by the company. In smaller news, Infineon has purchased TinyML company Imagimob, Amazon has lost a robotics executive and launched new Echo gear, and Eve has two new products. Finally, we answer a listener question about a message users might hear from their Google devices as Google sunsets a program called Conversational Actions.

Amazon introduced a new Echo device called the Echo Pop that will sell for $39.99. Image courtesy of Amazon.

Our guest this week is Doug Roberson, the chief operating officer at Shelly. We talk about Shelly and its history, as well as the products it offers. Roberson explains Shelly’s focus on relays designed to connect outlets and light switches with sensors and other devices to manage electrical consumption in homes and businesses. He talks about how enterprises are using Shelly’s products and what consumers can do with them. He also gives us a tutorial on connecting your dryer to the internet to detect when your clothes are done. We end with an update on Matter and a sneak peek at coming Shelly products, including a water shut-off device. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Doug Roberson, the chief operating officer at Shelly
Sponsors: Computex and Blues Wireless

  • Latch has a bunch of issues. Will Siminoff solve them?
  • Google Assistant was missing at Google I/O
  • When smart cameras can see everything, which laws do police enforce?
  • We recommend Shelly gear often, what is this company?
  • Shelly’s U.S. business has an enterprise, integrator, and DIY audience

Episode 416: What the heck is an IoT hyperscaler?

With this week’s show I feel like we’re singing the same old tune. Philips Hue maker Signify is delaying its implementation of Matter while it waits for others to implement features it needs. Meanwhile Eve has started selling plugs that are Matter-ready from the get go, and will sell new Matter-ready contact and motion sensors starting April 17. In related news, we tout the fact that the Thread Group has now certified 200 devices. We also see a new integrated DIY home security product from Google and ADT, which is a culmination of their $600 million partnership signed three years back. In enterprise news, we discuss Kore’s acquisition of Twilio’s IoT assets and try to figure out what an IoT hyperscaler is. Amazon has also opened up its Sidewalk Network, a free LPWAN for connecting devices (it’s free because it sends your data to AWS). We talk about what I saw with regards to Sidewalk coverage in my travels around Seattle and the Bay Area. We then hear about Kevin’s frustrations with HomeKit and the latest Apple iOS upgrades that broke his smart home, and new features from the Home+ app which Kevin uses to manage his devices. I then review the Homey Bridge, a DIY smart home hub. Finally, we answer a listener question about Shelly products.

The ADT/Google start bundle which retails for $220. Image courtesy of ADT.

Our guest this week is Chuck Sabin, the head of market development for the Bluetooth SIG. He is on the show to discuss the newly launched Bluetooth standard for Electronic Shelf Labels. We discuss what electronic shelf labels will enable for consumers and retailers, as well as the different services and profiles that the SIG has built into the standard. After extolling the potential benefits for Instacart shoppers, we then talk about smart tags and the concept of ambient IoT. You’ll be hearing that phrase a lot more often. The SIG is working on a standard around smart tags, as well as updating its networked smart lighting standard. You’ll get a good sense of what Bluetooth plans to bring to the IoT, so enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Chuck Sabin, the head of market development for the Bluetooth SIG
Sponsors: InfluxData and Silicon Labs

  • Why is Matter taking so long, and what problems should you expect?
  • What is an IoT hyperscaler, again?
  • Amazon’s Sidewalk network is live for developers.
  • How Bluetooth’s electronic shelf label standard works.
  • The Bluetooth SIG also plans updates for smart tags and networked lighting.

Episode 404: CES has more Matter and many voices

Kevin and I are at CES 2023 this week and eager for the show floor to open to see all of the new and crazy gear. But before we see the show floor, we had to slog through the planned news and media events, which we’re talking about in this week’s show. Matter is everywhere so far with most companies choosing to announce new Matter products that will arrive in the coming months. We cover news from Nanoleaf, Eve, Govee, Samsung, Lutron (no update on Matter plans), and SwitchBot. We then talk about Amazon’s Sidewalk expansion news and its work with two partners for voice interoperability in an automotive platform and with Josh.ai. Also in voice news, Home Assistant will add voice control for its platform in the coming year. And now, prepare for the rush of product news including new Ring cameras, ADT’s app with upgraded Nest integration, Cync lights, and Moen’s new sprinkler and soil sensors. We also discuss Arlo’s new end of life plans for older cameras, which the user community is upset with. Then we talk about a larger trend emerging at CES of building smart devices, such as Masonite’s new powered door, into the home itself. I don’t think we’re ready for this, but the consumer electronics industry is eager to provide these products. Finally, we get more details on Thread’s range from a listener calling in on the Internet of Things Podcast hotline.

Nanoleaf has smart switches and an intelligent Matter over Thread hub. Image courtesy of K. Tofel

Our guest this week is Gimmy Chu, CEO of Nanoleaf. He’s on the show to discuss Nanoleaf’s new Sense+ Controls light switches that contain sensors and additional buttons to manage the growing complexity of color lighting. These are also key components for Nanoleaf’s new Nanoleaf Automations Learning Assistant (Nala), which is an effort to let your lights automate themselves. The idea is that sensors inside the switches will indicate presence, based on time of day, ambient light and stated preferences, then add more information to get the appropriate lighting for that moment. As a person who has been testing smart lights for a decade, I’m eager to see if Nanoleaf has the goods. We’ll have to wait until the third quarter until these are out to test it, but Chu explains what he’s aiming for. We also talk about the future of lighting and how color will play a larger role. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Gimmy Chu, CEO of Nanoleaf
Sponsor: Silicon Labs

  • The promise of Matter is everywhere at CES. The devices, not so much
  • Amazon’s adding LoRa connectivity parters to its Sidewalk program
  • You’re getting more options on the voice assistant front
  • Nanoleaf’s plans for intuitive controls are compelling
  • Why Nanoleaf is waiting to deploy Matter to existing gear

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 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 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 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 382: Is Helium full of hot air?

We start this week’s show with a deep dive into a popular post from this week about the Helium network. The report pointed out that Helium only made $6,500 in the month of June from data rates. We explain why that’s not a surprise and what it will take to get those numbers up. Then we talk about Apple’s Air Tags and their potential use to track thieves and suitcases. Then Kevin reviews the Eve Motion with Thread sensor and then we focus on the excellent article from CNET that documents when Ring, Nest, Arlo and other camera companies will share your video data with police. The we cover shorter stories from Drover AI, two satellite deals including a $3.4 billion European acquisition deal, and updated lighting features from GE Cync. We then answer a listener question about Insteon’s plan for an annual fee for cloud connectivity and services.

My suitcase and obligatory Air Tag. Image courtesy of A. Allemann.

Our guest this week is Jim Ethington, CEO of Arable, a precision agriculture company. He’s on the show to talk about Arable’s $40 million in funding, and what Arable has learned in the last six years of operation. We also talk about the myth of using data to create “perfect predictions” and what sorts of predictions are more realistic when discussing how farm sensors can help farmers increase yields. Then we discuss why farmers are looking beyond simple ROI measurements when adopting technology and how sensor platforms such as Arable’s can help make their investments in sustainability or traceability pay off. We end with a list of hardware that Ethington would like to see for future field sensors. These include better connectivity options and sensors that provide more options for detecting different wavelengths of light. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Jim Ethington, CEO of Arable
Sponsors: InfluxData and Intent

  • Helium is a legit business, but is it worth $1.2 billion?
  • The Air Tag is a tool for good or evil
  • How Ring and Google decide what videos to share with police
  • The future of precision farming goes far beyond greater yields
  • Sensors with different spectral ranges will let us better monitor plant health

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