Episode 391: Amazon’s turning Alexa into the brains of the home

This week’s show focuses on Amazon’s new devices and services launched Wednesday. Kevin and I talk about Amazon’s direction with Alexa as the manager of your life. We also gawp at the price iRobot is charging for its latest iteration of the Roomba robotic vacuum, although Kevin convinces me it’s not too crazy. Then we move into a discussion of the energy grid, sharing data from Itron on how utilities are thinking about the future electric grid, and how a partnership between Itron and Samsung SmartThings is an example of long-term thinking. Then I talk about the latest reporting from Forbes on Helium, and apologize for not being more wary about the chicanery that went on in the beginning by Helium’s executives. We then talk about my experience with the latest Yale lock. We end by answering a listener question about Ecobee thermostats that start heating or cooling before you intended.

The new Roomba is both a vacuum and mop. Image courtesy of iRobot.

Our guest this week is Elizabeth Parks, president and CMO of Parks Associates, a research firm focused on emerging technologies. Parks discusses how COVID changed the home security market as well as how monitored security providers have moved downmarket while DIY security companies have expanded upward into offering monitored security. All of this jostling has expanded the overall market. We also talk about the coming demand for energy management services as well as trends in new home building. Expect more connected devices! We end with a quick overview of what to expect from the CEDIA Expo happening this week in Dallas. It’s a fun conversation.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Elizabeth Parks of Parks Associates
Sponsors: Nordic Semiconductor and Firewalla

  • Amazon’s home robot is really Alexa
  • Why energy is becoming a hot topic in the smart home
  • A mea culpa on Helium
  • The security market is expanding thanks to the smart home
  • What to expect from CEDIA

 

Episode 331: Safe words for smart homes and cheap mesh

We start this week’s show with a $200 million funding for Wiliot, a company I profiled back in 2017 as one of the vanguards of low-power sensing. Then we tackle a creative idea that could see consumers create safe words for their smart homes to indicate when they might be in trouble. Next up is President Biden’s National Security Memorandum on securing cyberinfrastructure. Like coffee? This connected coffee machine raised $20 million.  If coffee’s not of interest, perhaps you’ll want to hear about research into the incidental users of smart home gear and what we owe them, or how to change Alexa to Ziggy and get a new voice option. I also talk about a new dev kit that will let you hook up Swarm’s satellite connectivity to a variety of sensors. Or maybe you’d like to hear Kevin’s review of the $60 Vilo mesh Wi-Fi system or about the upcoming Firewalla Purple device. We end the news segment by answering a listener question about the Firewalla Purple.

The Swarm Eval kit could be yours for $499 plus the $60 annual connectivity fee. Image courtesy of Swarm.

Our guest this week is Jason Shepherd, the VP of Ecosystem with Zededa, a container orchestration company for the industrial internet of things. It’s been a while since Shepherd has been on the show, so I asked him for an update on the IT and OT divide that we talked about four years ago. Both sides are coming together, but there are still challenges when it comes to bringing IT to scale in operations. We talk about heterogeneity, security, the challenges of remote access, and more differences worth thinking about when we put computers in industrial equipment. We also talk about the challenges of scaling machine learning models at the edge, and especially those designed to adapt to changing real-world conditions. It’s a fun interview.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Jason Shepherd, the VP of Ecosystem with Zededa
Sponsors: Very

  • Does your smart home need a safe word? Or an emergency alert?
  • Biden wants to secure our infrastructure from cyberattacks
  • Want to try a satellite connection for your sensors?
  • Four ways IT folks have to adapt to the real world of OT needs
  • How to scale machine learning for the edge

Episode 226: Google’s Nest exec isn’t into smart homes

This week’s show kicks off with Kevin and I discussing how Google’s head of IoT isn’t a believer in the smart home. Except he is. He just calls it something else, and we explain his rationale for doing so. We also explain why I am so excited about Microsoft’s new contracts for sharing data and why Tile just scored $45 million in funding. From there we wonder if Google’s machine learning-based approach to recognizing electricity use in appliances is cool, who would buy the OmniFob smart keychain, and why Wyze is building a scale. Then we move to news from Huawei, Abode going deeper with Google Assistant, Adobe’s voice study and LG adding HomeKit to new TVs. Kevin shares his impressions of the Firewalla device, and then we answer a listener question about bring smart bulbs outside and finding wireless switches that work. It must be summer, based on these outdoor inquiries.

The OmniFob can replace your car keys, your house keys and control your smart home.

Our guest this week is Yana Welinder, co-founder and CEO of Kraftful, a newly launched startup building apps for smart home devices. Kraftful is a company at YCombinator that is working with big brands to make the apps for connected devices work better. She explains what features mainstream consumers want, why big companies aren’t building these apps themselves and why her business isn’t a feature of a larger tech stack. It’s a good intro to a new company.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Yana Welinder, co-founder and CEO of Kraftful
Sponsors: Dell Technologies and Afero

  • Call it intuitive, smart or helpful, just make it happen
  • Microsoft’s contracts serve a burgeoning need for enterprises
  • Firewalla makes a big impression
  • Why do so many smart device apps suck?
  • Can Kraftful turn app development into a scalable business?