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 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 394: This company thinks TinyML will be big

TinyML is about to get really big, or at least that’s what a startup thinks, as we explain on this week’s podcast. Useful Sensors is the company that’s making inexpensive, low-powered edge sensors in a way that protects privacy. We discuss why we agree with that approach. Next up are our thoughts on why 5G really hasn’t taken the IoT market by storm yet. You’ll want to hear our reasons for this because there are several. We then turn to Apple, as the company is reportedly working on an iPad smart display of sorts, similar to the recently announced Google Pixel Tablet. Kevin then points out something important about the newest Apple TV 4K devices if you plan to have a Thread network for Matter devices in your house. And speaking of Matter, there’s a new USB dongle for HomeAssistant: It adds multiple radios for both Matter and Zigbee support. If you’d rather go with an integrated solution, we can point you to Aeotec as we share news of its SmartThings hub upgrade for Matter. Health data and algorithms also make the show this week as there’s a unique project to track which algorithms are better than others. Lastly, we discuss Verizon’s free new service for its internet customers: Verizon routers can now detect physical disruptions in your network, indicating the movement of people. Before closing out the news portion of the show, we answer a listener’s question about people controlling smart home devices in vacation homes.

Image courtesy of Verizon.

Our guest this week is Pete Warden, CEO of Useful Sensors, a company that’s bundling a sensor with predetermined machine learning algorithms for recognizing people, faces, gestures, and more. Warden explains the challenges of TinyML; the act of embedding machine learning algorithms on constrained, power-sipping devices; and how he hopes Useful Sensors can help companies that build devices figure out compelling uses for the technology. TinlyML  has a huge amount of promise for the IoT, but it’s hard to find use cases outside of the ubiquitous wake-word detection. By offering a $10 sensor that can provide person and face detection to makers, Warden hopes to jumpstart new ideas for TinyML. We might see those in future appliances, televisions, toys, and more. We also talk about how he’s thinking about respecting consumer privacy and what it will take to make people feel comfortable in a world with millions of tiny cameras, microphones, and other sensors embedded in everyday objects. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Pete Warden, CEO of Useful Sensors
Sponsors: Nordic Semiconductor and Firewalla

  • 5G will come to some IoT devices, but only some
  • More Matter updates coming our way
  • Verizon embraces Wi-Fi sensing for security
  • With Tiny ML the IoT may not always need the internet
  • How to create trust in a world of millions of tiny cameras and microphones

Episode 393: Why Roku needs the smart home

The biggest news this week is probably the launch of a line of inexpensive smart home products from Roku, the smart TV and set-top box maker. We talk about the products, its deal with Wyze and where you can get them. Then we move on to Matter, specifically when you might get Matter on your devices, and the new pact between Google and Samsung SmartThings, that will make using either Google Home’s app or the SmartThings’ app as a controller seamless for your smart home. Then we discuss the results of the Eclipse Foundation’s IoT Developer survey in detail, including popular real time operating systems and messaging protocols, before getting an update on smart home device adoption from Parks Associates. We aren’t too concerned with Prime Day deals but we did notice that the Amazon Smart Air Quality Monitor has a new feature. In related news, we talk about other indoor air quality products and frustrations with Kevin’s Ecobee indoor air quality monitoring. After that we mention Lufthansa’s decisions to ban AirTags (it unbanned them after we recorded the show), an ITU approval for wireless over-the-air charging in the 900 MHz band, and the soon-to-be announced cybersecurity label from The White House. Finally, we answer a listener question about viewing Wyze cameras on a Google display.

Connectivity is still hard for IoT developers according to the Eclipse Foundation survey.

Our guest this week is Janko Roettgers, a senior reporter at Protocol, who explained the role that the TV currently plays and will likely play in the smart home. This is especially helpful because, as he explains to me, my home is a bit weird when it comes to televisions. He discusses how TV makers are looking for new forms of revenue, including advertising, while tech firms are getting into making TVs for similar reasons. He also puts Roku’s move into the smart home with devices and services into context. Specifically it’s because TVs are super low-margin and if it doesn’t move into the smart home it’s rivals will. Actually, they are already as he clearly explains. He also explains how TVs will handle smart home navigation and offers a little scoop on Google’s display plans. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Janko Roettgers, a senior reporter at Protocol
Sponsors: Nordic Semiconductor and Firewalla

  • Roku gets into the smart home with help from Wyze
  • Developers are still pretty fragmented when it comes to everything at the edge
  • Kevin discovers the limits of indoor air quality monitoring
  • The TV may be the next battlefront for smart home vendors
  • What Matter will mean for TV makers

Episode 392: Matter is here. Now what?

Matter is now official after almost three years of waiting, and Kevin and I are super excited. Well, I am. Kevin is more measured, but we talk about what to expect and when to expect Matter to start changing your smart home. In related news, we discuss Google’s new doorbell, mesh router, and plans for the Home app. Google is also adding more sensing capabilities to the smart home through its existing hubs. In November, IKEA plans to launch its latest smart home hub, the Dirigera, which will cost about $60. This will replace the Trådfri hub, but will also let users bridge their older IKEA devices to the Matter protocol. Kevin gets to tell me that he told me so, as Amazon kills the Glow video-calling device for kids, and we lay out the five principles that are part of a new U.S. blueprint for legislation related to AI. We end by answering a question from a listener about using their SmartRent Hub as a secondary Z-wave controller.

Like other big name smart home vendors, Google already has plans for Matter. Image courtesy of Google.

Our guests this week are both from John Deere. We have Tracy Schrauben, manager, manufacturing emerging technologies at John Deere, who represents the operational technology side of the manufacturing plant. Also joining is Jason Wallin, principal architect at John Deere, who is handling IT. Both are on the show for an exclusive look at how the agricultural company is deploying the CBRS spectrum it purchased in 2020. In its Moline, Ill. plant, John Deere has deployed 14 microcells that today provide LTE connectivity to various pieces of equipment. But the plan is to get to an all-5G network as end devices become available. Our guests explain why they are unwiring the factory, some of the use cases, and what it’s like to build and manage your own private wireless network. This is a must-listen for folks who care about factory 5G.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guests: Tracy Schrauben and Jason Wallin of John Deere
Sponsors: Nordic Semiconductor and Firewalla

  • Matter is live, and now we get to test it in our homes!
  • Google’s new Home app is a much needed improvement
  • The U.S. now has a good framework for AI legislation
  • Why John Deere invested in its own spectrum for factory 5G
  • How John Deere plans to unwire its factories

Episode 388: Insurers come for the smart home

This week launched with a bang for those interested in the role insurers might play in the smart home as State Farm agreed to make a 1.2 billion equity investment in security firm ADT. This follows on the heels of Google’s equity investment in ADT in 2020 and signals a shift in the way insurance companies are thinking about the smart home. Google also said it would add more money to its ADT partnership. We then discuss a Matter demonstration at IFA and give some updates on what to expect from the protocol. After that we discuss the upcoming Google event and the Apple event from this week before taking a quick break.

The Flair vents work with a temperature-sensing puck. Image courtesy of Flair.

We don’t have a guest this week so we dove right back into the news with a trio of big fundings for the internet of things. First up is funding for a satellite IoT company called OQ that is special because it can use existing NB-IoT and LTE-M radios. The second funding is $140 million for Morse Micro, a chip company that is making chips for Wi-Fi HaLow deployments. The final funding is for Flair, a maker of connected HVAC vents for the home, which raised $7.6 million. We then talk about Ring adding end-to-end encryption for its wireless doorbell and video camera products, new ways to address your Nest Hub Max without saying “Hey Google” first, and new lights from Philips Hue. I also review the Hue Tap Dial Switch and realize my love of buttons is going to force me to do some serious work when Matter arrives. We end the show by answering a listener question about a smart button (or maybe a dumb one) for a smart garage door opener.

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

  • With the smart home, insurers can make sure you’re staying secure
  • Matter previewed at IFA
  • Wi-Fi HaLow got a big boost with Morse Micro funding
  • Climate change and energy conservation is driving smarter HVAC
  • I really love the Hue Tap Dial Switch

Episode 385: Google Cloud kills IoT Core and hearing aids get smart

This week’s show kicks off with a whispered bang that Kevin will soon hear, thanks to the FDA approving over-the-counter hearing aids. We talk about what happened and what it means for innovation in wearables before then tackling Google killing off its Google Cloud IoT Core service that manages device data and connects that data to Google’s Cloud Platform. Then we turn to security news including a John Deere hack shared at Defcon last week and an “Evil PLC” attack that affects industrial controllers from all major vendors. The smart home also gets a cool project called Fluid One that will create a network of ultra wideband sensors in a home which then lets you control devices by pointing a phone in their direction. With Omdia stating that this year there will be 2 billion smart home devices globally, we should figure out easier ways to control them. Finally, we talk about research that lets you power wearable sensors with sweat. It’s gross, but also really useful. We end the show by answering a listener question about continuous video recording on Apple’s HomeKit Secure Video.

Hearing aids can now be sold over the counter, which should lower costs and drive more innovation.

Our guest this week is Chris Albrecht, the founder and editor of Ottomate, a newsletter dedicated to food robotics. We talk about where you’re likely to see food robots first, and what they might look like. He then discusses how many places that already have robots serving diners and frying their food. Plus, we get a glimpse of a future food court comprised of meal-making vending machines that could line the lobby of a hotel, providing hot food even if the hotel doesn’t offer room service. And of course, we talk about delivery robots and how inefficient it is to use a two-ton vehicle to deliver two tacos. Our automated world of food delivery and cooking awaits us, and I’m honestly eager to see it. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Chris Albrecht, founder and editor of Ottomate.news
Sponsors: Silicon Labs and Impinj

  • We’re excited for more innovation in hearing aids.
  • Our favorite hacks from Defcon.
  • Powering wearables could become a sweaty business.
  • All the places food vending machines could thrive.
  • Where is my robot delivery driver, and how far might it travel?

Episode 383: Meet Insteon’s new CEO

Last week, we kicked off the podcast with a discussion on the Helium peer-to-peer IoT network, and this week we did the same thing. This time we dug into the disclosures that Helium didn’t actually have Lime or Salesforce.com as current customers, despite having listed them prominently on its web site. Nova Labs CEO Amir Haleem tried to explain what happened in a Twitter thread, but since the crypto industry is full of scammers, it feels like a company should aspite to higher levels of integrity. Then we discuss the planned Semtech acquisition of Sierra Wireless and explain what it might mean for LoRaWAN. Then we talk about the creation of a new connectivity and hardware company thanks to the combination of Telit and Thales’ connectivity business. From there we highlight the mailbox of the future, some cool battery tech, a secret Google device, a broken Google integration and ADT’s Google partnership. Then we note that Home Assistant’s latest hardware option, the Home Assistant Yellow is now shipping to early buyers, and discuss a smart scarf deployed by a UK soccer team to measure fans’ feelings during a match. We end by answering a listener question about how to track their laundry in the wake of Smart Dry’s closure.

The new Dronedek mailbox has a section for postal delivery and a climate-controlled chamber for food delivered via drone. Image courtesy of Dronedek.

Our guest this week is Ken Fairbanks, the CEO of Insteon Technologies Inc. who is ready to share what happened between the end of Insteon in April and his acquisition of the assets in June. He also discloses what comes next for the new Insteon and explains why customers were caught off guard by the abrupt closure and the equally abrupt return of service for their hubs. Fairbanks is still trying to piece together the assets he purchased, but is also trying to talk to users about what they want to see for the smart home service. He also explains why he had to charge a subscription and how he plans to move forward. If you’re an Insteon customer take a listen, and if you are smart home user you might learn why it’s so hard to restart a dying connected home business.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Ken Fairbanks, the CEO of Insteon Technologies Inc.
Sponsors: Silicon Labs and Impinj

  • Who’s using the Helium network?
  • Two big mergers in industrial and enterprise IoT
  • Good news from Google and some bad news from Google
  • Behind the scenes during the Insteon sale
  • Insteon has plans for Matter

Episode 381: Alexa and Qualcomm embrace ambient tech

This week’s show kicks off with our discussion of several announcements from Amazon’s Alexa Live developers’ conference held Wednesday. Alexa is getting several features as part of the launch of the Matter smart home interoperability protocol that should launch in the fall. For example, users will be able to name a device once and put it in a group and that nomenclature will work across Alexa, manufacturer apps, and other controllers such as Google Home or Apple’s Siri. Amazon also shared new ways for developers to access context in the home thanks to its new Ambient Home Dev Kit and new ways for developers to build Routines for Alexa. Also ahead of Matter, Thread is getting an update, so Kevin and I explain what that entails before turning to Qualcomm’s new wearables chip.

The Google Glass AR prototype. Image courtesy of Google.

One of the keywords for Qualcomm’s new wearable platform is ambient, as the chipmaker has moved several features to a low-power always-on processor to ensure that smart watches built using the platform have always-on sensing, wake-word detection, and a nice display without compromising on battery life. Then we talk about FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel’s inquiry into data-gathering and sharing practices by cell phone providers, especially when it comes to location data. We also discuss Google’s new plans for AR glasses, using the IoT to detect forest fires, and yet another security flaw. This time it’s in a GPS tracker from a Chinese provider. We also say goodbye to Microsoft’s Sam George who retired from his role leading Microsoft Azure IoT. We end by answering a listener question about tracking the temperature of a fish pond.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Sponsors: InfluxData and Intent

  • With new features Alexa is a smarter brain for the smart home
  • Thread’s getting an update ahead of Matter
  • Qualcomm’s wearable chip is better late than never
  • The FCC wants to know what carriers want with your location
  • Google’s new glasses respect the camera shy