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.
Our guest this week is Cathy Pearl, a conversation designer at Google and the author of the O’Reilly book Designing Voice User Interfaces. We discuss the history of voice interactions and what changed to make Amazon’s Alexa such an innovation. We also discuss how voice can help make technology less complicated, what type of conversations people want from a voice interface and how voice also drives accessibility. Then we discuss the ethics of creating voice companions for lonely people and a time that Pearl was stuck at an airport talking to a chatbot for 20 minutes. We then end after I ask if voice is going anywhere after the upheavals in Amazon’s Alexa business. Her answer will not surprise you. Enjoy the show.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.