Episode 162: Smart walls and dumb homes

This week Kevin and I discuss Amazon’s big security install reveal and how it made us feel. Plus, a smart home executive leaves Amazon and Facebook’s rumored smart speaker makes another appearance. China is taking surveillance even further and Kevin and I share our thoughts on the state of the smart home, and failed projects. In our news tidbits we cover a possible new SmartThings hub, a boost for ZigBee in the UK, the sale of Withings/Nokia Health, the death of a smart luggage company, and reviews for Google Assistant apps. We also answer a reader question about a connected door lock camera.

The Smart Wall research was conducted at Disney Research. The first step is building a grid of conductive materials. Later, researchers painted over it.

This week’s guest Chris Harrison, an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University, share his creation of a smarter wall, one that responds to touch and also recognizes electronic activity in the room. We discuss the smart wall, digital paper, how to bring context to the connected home or office, and why you may want to give up on privacy. It’s a fun episode.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Chris Harrison, an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University
Sponsors: MachineQ and Twilio

  • A surprise appearance from the Wink hub
  • What happens when IoT can read your thoughts?
  • Kevin swapped hubs and is pretty unhappy about it
  • A cheap way to make connected paper
  • Go ahead, rethink you walls

Episode 157: Why Foxconn is buying Belkin and the future of healthcare

We discuss two big news issues this week with the first being Foxconn’s offer to buy Belkin for $866 million. The deal would include the Wemo line of smart home devices and the Phyn leak detection joint venture. After that, data, privacy and surveillance rule the show in light of Facebook’s decision to delay its smart home speaker device. Before we lose hope in IoT entirely, Kevin brings up an effort in the UK to enshrine some basic consumer rights around the IoT including a device expiration date. We also talk about new Google Home skills, August’s updates, an acquisition by Particle, and Kevin’s thoughts on the Fibaro wall plug. We end our segment answering a question about smart door locks.

Particle’s recently launched mesh-enabled boards were part of a collaboration with the newly acquired RedBear Labs.

After the news segment, I interview Dr. Leslie Saxon who heads up the Center for Body Computing at USC, who believes that we’ll soon get 80 percent of our healthcare virtually. She talks about what we’ll need to make that happen and offers up a unique idea—a virtual version of herself that uses AI to provide basic care in her image and demeanor. The implications of all of this are pretty big, so we dig into two of the big ones; privacy and how it changes the relationship individuals have with healthcare. You’ll end up doing a lot more work. It’s an eye-opening episode.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Dr. Leslie Saxon of USC
Sponsors: Samsung ARTIK and Ring

  • Why Foxconn wants Belkin
  • Why would anyone want a Facebook smart speaker?
  • How the UK is advancing IoT security
  • The virtual doctor is in your pocket, your car and even your airplane seat
  • Get ready to take charge of your own healthcare

Episode 156: Lennar’s smart home and why it dumped Apple HomeKit

Like the rest of the tech media, Kevin and I kick off the show with a discussion about data collection and privacy in light of the allegations against Cambridge Analytica. It’s a stark reminder on what can be gleaned from your information as well as how much of your data is being gathered without your knowledge or real consent. We also talk about smart home lock in, Alexa’s new “brief” mode, shopping on Google Home and my IoT Spring Clean. IBM’s new crypto chip and Watson Assistant made the show as well as several industrial IoT news bits such as Foghorn’s industrial IoT integration with Google’s cloud and a new hardware platform for IIoT from Resin.io. We also answer a listener question about IoT for new parents.

The Nest Hello doorbell is now available, and sells for $239.

I’ve heard that smart home tech is the new equivalent of granite countertops (basically it’s a big deal for buyers) for several years now, but I had never investigated what that tech experience would look like or how it would come to be. It’s pretty complicated, as you’ll learn from David Kaiserman, president with Lennar Ventures, the investment arm of Lennar Homebuilders. Kaiserman walked me through a Lennar home outfitted with a bunch of smarts last month, and shares his thoughts on what matters to buyers and the gear inside. He also sheds light on Amazon’s Alexa-focused geek squad and explains why Lennar backed out of its plans for a Apple HomeKit home and banked on Alexa instead. Enjoy.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: David Kaiserman of Lennar Ventures
Sponsors: Samsung Artik and IoT World

  • Get ready for an IoT spring clean
  • Kevin thinks shopping with Google Assistant is “brilliant”
  • This board’s build for industrial use
  • How Amazon’s team of Alexa experts changes the smart home experience
  • Why Alexa beat out HomeKit for Lennar

Episode 143: The IoT dystopia episode

This week’s episode starts out with a pretty grim perspective, with Kevin Tofel and I discussing what the end of net neutrality means for the internet of things. We then talk about facial recognition technology in the U.S. and in China. We try  to lighten the mood with discussion of the IOTA blockchain for the internet of things, a $99 doorbell, the reviews of the Amazon Echo Spot, and new skills for Wink. We also discuss data on IoT device consumption. This week, we answer a listener question about why someone might want a hub for his or her smart home.

Blink offers a $99 video doorbell to go with its lines of battery-powered cameras.

In keeping with our dystopian worldview, the guest this week is Janice Tsai from Mozilla who discusses privacy for IoT and Mozilla’s Holiday Buyers guide. Janice  and I discuss what risks connected devices pose, the things consumers should look for and what she’d like to see companies do to protect user privacy. The show wasn’t quite what I imagined for right before the holiday, but maybe it’s a good way to head into the new year, ready to face the good and the bad that connected tech can bring.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Janice Tsai, senior HCI research scientist, Mozilla
Sponsors: ADT and FSG

  • What does face recognition at scale mean?
  • Check out what blockchain can offer IoT
  • Welcome to price pressure in the smart home
  • This rubber duck needs your location
  • What consumers need to know about device privacy

Episode 90: Spend the holidays with Stacey’s family

We’re heading into the holidays with a guest appearance from my family who share their thoughts on what it’s like to live in a smart home, the products they like and what’s missing so far. My husband has been on the show before, but I also invited my 10-year-old daughter on to talk about her favorite toys and what she thinks of Philips Hue bulbs and the Amazon Echo (and Google Home). It’s a short and sweet reality check for us all.

Zuckerberg’s Jarvis ties together several smart home systems. Image courtesy of Mark Zuckerberg.

Before bringing on my family, Kevin and I discuss Mark Zuckerberg’s smart home and how his Jarvis isn’t all that different from what’s already on the market. And because it’s Thursday, we’ve got another security flaw in routers to talk about. Then we hit a solid budget smart watch and the new GPS system that can fine tune location sensing to a few inches. Finally, Kevin and I share some of our go-to home automation tricks to help you get started in making your own home smarter.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guests: Andrew (Stacey’s husband) and Anna (Stacey’s daughter)
Sponsors: Samsung ARTIK and Level Education

  • Zuck built Jarvis and Stacey makes a confession
  • Check your router again
  • From toddlers to teens, we have some home hacks for you
  • The smart home needs more personality