Episode 369: Amazon’s $1B industrial IoT fund

We kick off the show this week with Insteon’s comments about its abrupt closure and asset sale before trying to salvage some good news from Arm’s latest chip news. We’re getting a new M-class processor that’s going to be super capable for machine learning at the edge and other jobs. We also give you a preview of next year’s hottest tech, wireless charging for smart home devices. Then we pivot to industrial news with Amazon’s newly announced $1 billion fund for industrial innovation. So far Amazon is investing in computer vision and robotics startups, but warehouse automation, supply chain technology and logistics are all of interest for the fund. Amazon also released a new Alexa talent for the smart home, Sense raised $105 million for smarter home energy monitoring and Wyze introduced a garage door controller. We close out the news with a found Pixel watch, an update on the Sigfox sale, and Kevin reviewing an Airthings View Pollution air quality monitor. On the hotline this week we answer a question about a HomeKit hub that’s stuck in standby mode.

Wireless charging is coming to Belkin devices. Image courtesy of Wi-Charge.

Our guest this week is Willem Sundblad, CEO of Oden Technologies. Oden Technologies is an industrial IoT startup that tries to bridge the gap between operational technology data and IT data. We discuss how its clients are using the software to help track the quality of their batch processes, and how software is helping its customers with supply chain challenges and sustainability goals. Paper manufacturing and plastics companies are facing issues getting enough raw materials with supply chains mucked up, and so are trying to use more recycled materials. But changing inputs means adjusting the process, which can be difficult and lead to poor yields while the manufacturer adjusts the recipe. Oden’s customers are able to tweak their processes for new inputs faster and without as much waste, which is something to be excited about. It’s one of the things I had hoped the IoT was going to enable, and I’m glad to see it happening.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Willem Sundblad, CEO of Oden Technologies
Sponsors: Impinj and InfluxData

  • Insteon’s final goodbye is pretty frustrating
  • Alexa has a new talent and is going to share it with Google Nest devices
  • This $200 air quality monitor does too little for so much
  • Industrial IoT software can help with sustainability goals
  • More data can lead to more confident plant operators

Episode 366: Meet a robot that weeds your garden

This week’s podcast starts with an update on the state of Bluetooth adoption courtesy of the Bluetooth SIG. We discuss adoption of Bluetooth in the smart home, adoption of Bluetooth mesh and why Kevin prefers NFC to Bluetooth for secure keys. From there we discuss a new effort by the U.S. Congress to make it easier for medical device companies to keep their devices secure and up-to-date. We then talk about a new chip that handles a lot of the complexities associated with energy harvesting chips, and a new partnership program from Wiliot to enable other companies to put their postage-stamp-sized computers on products. We also talk about how the chip shortage can have negative impacts on R&D, building off of conversations I have had recently, and this article. In product news we discuss using picture-in-picture for Apple’s HomeKit camera feeds, Eufy’s new battery-powered camera that has a cellular subscription, and whether we should be done with Wyze gear or not. Kevin also reviews the Wyze gun safe and finds that its connectivity doesn’t offer much value. We end the first half of the show by answering a listener question about creating a do-not-disturb option for connected devices.

The Bluetooth SIG estimates that Bluetooth will be in 552 million smart home devices shipped in 2022. Chart courtesy of the Bluetooth SIG.

Our guest this week is Helen Greiner, a co-founder of iRobot and CEO of Tertill, a weeding robot. We discuss what she learned building a robot designed for the mass market, and how to think about introducing new capabilities over time. We also discuss how the Tertill works. It’s surprisingly low-tech for a robot, but that’s intentional to keep the price low enough to convince skeptical consumers to shell out $349 for a robot designed to keep gardens weed-free. We also talk about adding a subscription business model to the company’s mix and why that matters today. We end with Greiner’s vision for the smart garden of the future. It’s a fun interview just in time for spring.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Helen Greiner, CEO of Tertill
Sponsors: Save our Standards and RAKwireless

  • Whatever happened to Bluetooth mesh?
  • Congress wants to make medical devices more secure
  • The chip shortage may be hurting innovation
  • What the creator of a weeding robot learned from robotic vacuums
  • Tomorrow’s smart garden has plenty of sensors and solar-powered robots

Episode 361: IoT builds a better mousetrap

This week’s show kicks off with a discussion about smarter robots and new funding for a Canadian general purpose robotics platform. Then we talk about Amazon’s further healthcare ambitions in a deal with Teledoc that lets you ask Alexa to call a doctor. We also give an update on the Sigfox receivership process since bids were due on Feb 25. We then hit some bad news from Wyze regarding its professional monitoring subscriptions and the recall of 1.7 million Fitbit Ionic watches. We also have a lot of new product news starting with Lutron’s new honeycomb smart shades, a smart mosquito-killing system, a new HomeKit and HomeKey-compatible lock and a review from Kevin on a connected mousetrap. We end the show by answering a listener question about reliable smart lighting options and the best HomeKit gadgets for those new to the ecosystem.

Thermacell’s new Liv mosquito-repelling system works with Alexa and Google Assistant. Image courtesy of Thermacell.

Our guest this week is Bob Marshall, the CEO of Whisker Labs. the company behind the Ting fire detection device. Marshall has been working with sensor data for more than a decade, so we talk about his earlier company and where the idea for Ting came from. We also discuss how to get in business with insurance companies and why Ting has elected to build a subscription business. We also discuss what types of service you need to provide if you do plan to charge a subscription. I like the Ting device, so was excited to chat with Marshall. I hope you enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Bob Marshall, CEO of Whisker Labs
SponsorsSomfy and Pantacor

  • Sanctuary feels like a moonshot, not a startup
  • Alexa can connect you to medical care
  • Murder mice humanely with a smarter mouse trap
  • How Ting built a business built on insurance companies
  • How Marshall pivoted from weather to fire prevention

Episode 353: Virtual CES extravaganza

It’s CES week, and neither Kevin nor I are physically there for the second year running. That makes it really tough to get a macro sense of cool tech and upcoming trends outside of press releases and product launches. Normally, we spend so much time trawling for the weird or futuristic in the demos and report on the stuff that isn’t pre-packaged in a release. Maybe we can return to that next year. In the meantime, there are a lot of stories, but the biggest trends in the smart home relate to the upcoming launch of the Matter interoperability standard for the smart home, a bunch of new products that will support HomeKit, and new products for Amazon Alexa and the Google ecosystems. We are also are excited about the newly launched Home Connectivity Alliance and what it might mean for future product features and energy consumption in the home.

Arlo’s new DIY security system includes an all-in-one sensor and keypad. Image courtesy of Arlo.

After a quick break, we share our non-amazement of John Deere’s automated tractor. It’s cool, but it has also been half a decade in the works, so it’s not like it comes as a huge shock. We then discuss new products from Samsung (an energy harvesting remote and a tablet for the smart home), Schneider Electric’s update to its energy management software, a new assistive robot, and Arlo’s smart home security system with an all-in-one sensor. Outside of product news, the Wi-Fi Alliance has released an update to the Wi-Fi 6 standard with more uplink capacity and better power management. This will ensure that Wi-Fi 6 is more relevant for IoT devices and perhaps ensure those chips get used in more end devices, especially in cameras and video doorbells. Masonite also showed off its smart door at CES so we share our impressions. Finally, we answer a question from a listener about power consumption in IoT devices.

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

  • Matter may be late, but it’s looking much better
  • All three digital assistants got a lot of love from new product launches
  • John Deere’s robot tractor shows how technical farming has gotten
  • Wi-Fi 6 gets an update custom-made for the IoT
  • How much energy does Alexa or Siri consume?

Episode 349: AWS overload and Libelium embraces the cloud

This week’s show kicks off with a bunch of IoT-related news from Amazon’s re:Invent conference happening this week in Las Vegas. We cover the launch of a fleet management service, a digital twin service, an easy way to securely connect hardware to Amazon’s cloud, a way to manage massive robot deployments, and the launch of three analytics services that are now serverless. We then discuss new funding for Ember and its plans for that money before highlighting one of the most consumer-friendly device shutdowns I have ever seen from Schneider Electric. Because every yin has a yang, we also covered Owlet’s decision to stop selling its baby-monitoring sock after the FDA called it out for misleading marketing. In smaller news, Twinkly’s smart holiday lights now support HomeKit, the Raspberry Pi Trading Group has hired bankers to possibly go public and the UK passed a cybersecurity law aimed at smart devices that will fine manufacturers for poor security practices. Also, Allegion Ventures has created a second fund with $100 million for IoT companies. We end the show by answering a listener’s question about keeping teenagers from turning off all the lights in a home.

The Ember mug was the best gift I’ve ever given. Image courtesy of S. Higginbotham.

Our guest this week is Alicia Asin, the co-founder and CEO of Libelium, which this week launched its own cloud service. She is on the show to talk about Libelium’s shift from making hardware sensors for the IoT to building a complete IoT platform that includes devices, connectivity, and the cloud. She also shares her perspective on the changes in the marketplace over the last decade and then in the last two years with the pandemic. Finally, she discusses her future plans for Libelium, which include several acquisitions in the coming 24 months as Libelium adds consulting services that require industry expertise. She talks about what verticals make sense and more in this interview. Stay tuned!

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Alicia Asin, the co-founder and CEO of Libelium
Sponsors: Twilio and Juniper Networks

  • Amazon re:Invent has lots of IoT news so far
  • Schneider Electric deserves an award for its Wiser thermostat shut down
  • Will the FDA crack down on companies selling digital snake oil?
  • As the IoT matures, having a platform matters
  • Why Libelium plans on buying up smaller IoT firms

Episode 348: We’re thankful for smart cows

Heading into the holiday weekend, Kevin and I share what we’re thankful for (mostly y’all, our sponsors, each other, and Thread), while also talking about the sad sale of Tile to Life360. We also discuss ClevrQeexo, and efforts to make AI accessible to people who can’t or don’t want to code. After that, I discuss my desire for a new activity tracker and the rise of Wear OS. We also talk about a new HomeKit camera from Aqara that’s pretty fancy without having a high-end price tag before diving into some of the financials and data from Samsara’s IPO filing. This week on the IoT Podcast Hotline, we answer a listener question about the anti-drunk driving provision in the Build Back Better legislation.

Smaxtec can track the health of cows for better milk and fewer farts.

Our guest this week is Stefan Scherer, the CEO of Smaxtec, a company making health sensors for dairy cows. First, we learn a lot about cows and how to assess temperature, motion, and data on acidity from a cow’s stomach and translate that into health metrics. Then we talk about the challenges of building a sensor that’s rugged enough to last three to five years in a cow’s stomach as well as the challenges of keeping such a device connected. With this data, farmers are able to track disease spread in dairy cows and prevent costly illnesses that could mean their milk gets tossed, while also tracking data that can help prevent cow farts from causing as much damage to the environment through the release of methane. You’re going to learn a lot about cows and a lot about solving a connectivity problem I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Stefan Scherer, CEO of Smaxtec
Sponsors: Twilio and Juniper Networks

  • Several things we’re thankful for
  • Why the Tile buy makes us a bit sad
  • How no-code AI will make information overload less of an issue
  • Rugged sensors can lead to smart cows, and smart milk prodiction
  • Smaxtec wants to optimize a cow to produce fewer carbon emissions

Episode 347: McKinsey reevaluates IoT’s impact

This week’s show has a lot of big numbers starting with $12.6 trillion, which is at the upper end of what McKinsey believes the economic impact from IoT will be by 2030. We cover the latest report, which is a reassessment of McKinsey’s famous 2015 report on the IoT that said it would be worth $11 trillion by 2015. That didn’t quite pan out. We also discuss Qualcomm’s plans for the IoT business to generate $9 billion in revenue by 2024. Still on the chip front, we cover additional delays in the ARM-Nvidia deal before discussing a weird Apple patent, and Apple losing its head of home services. Amazon also has news with brand new, cheap smart light switches for as low as $17.99 and an update for the latest Echo speakers and Echo Dots that lets them detect occupancy using ultrasound. We then talk about a dupe for the Nanoleaf lights available from Yeelight, a Xiaomi company, and Kevin shares his thoughts on a helpful app for HomeKit users that’s worth paying for. Finally, we end by answering a listener question about how to find a HomeKit-compatible method of connecting light strips to a sensor.

The Yeelight panels are dupes for the original Nanoleaf panels, but are half the cost at $97.99. Image courtesy of Yeelight.

Our guest this week is Jen Caltrider, lead on Mozilla’s Privacy Not Included list of creepy and not-so-creepy connected devices and apps. This year’s list was the largest ever with 147 services and devices, and I was actually surprised by how much improvement there has been in some of the security and data practices. Caltrider shares the methodology, particularly egregious devices, and where we seem to be heading on the security and privacy front. We also get advice for consumers that still want to buy these gadgets and recommendations for the companies making them. I was excited to see that list was compelled by a person who loves gadgets as much as I do, but who is still concerned about the impacts poorly secured products or lackluster data policies have on trust.

Host: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Jen Caltrider, Mozilla
Sponsors: Twilio and Juniper Networks

  • Okay, so maybe the IoT won’t be worth $11 trillion by 2025
  • Qualcomm is going to invest big in IoT and the edge
  • If you want advanced HomeKit controls, Kevin’s got an app for you
  • The good news is security is getting better but privacy lags behind
  • Local processing is making smart home devices less invasive

Episode 346: Three IoT acquisitions and the infrastructure bill

This week’s show focuses on three big deals happening in the IoT sector and a meaty enterprise IoT report. First up, we discuss ADT buying SunPro Solar for $825 million, which represents yet another deal bringing energy management to the smart home. We then talk about Level Home’s acquisition, the state of smart home deals, and the multifamily dwelling unit market before digging into an enterprise IoT report from Oracle that offers some good surprises. For the final acquisition of the show, we cover Viasat’s $7.3 billion buy of Inmarsat and explain a bit of the satellite economics I’ve written about recently. In smaller news, Kevin has found a neat HomeKit app and service, Wyze has a new outdoor light and camera, and GE’s ovens are getting capabilities familiar to June users. We also share our gift guide picks and other ideas for the holidays. Finally, we hear from a listener with low vision who is bummed about Facebook getting out of facial recognition.

GE will deliver a software update to its connected ovens that will make cooking a turkey a breeze. Image courtesy of GE.

Our guest this week is Karen Lightman, the executive director of the Metro21 Smart Cities Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. She’s on the show to talk about the passage of the $1.2 billion infrastructure bill by Congress. We talk about the impact this will have on smart cities and specific policy recommendations to ensure we get wide-reaching equitable broadband access. Because you can’t have a smart city or even the internet of things without the internet. She also shares a bit about the backlash that the smart cities movement experiences as citizens grew concerned about their privacy and the rise of surveillance states, and talks about her hopes that companies will do more to build that trust. Myself, I think that’s going to take government action, but we’ll see. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Karen Lightman of the Metro21 Smart Cities Institute
Sponsors: Very

  • The four categories that count in the smart-energy-aware home
  • Level Home is trying a practical pivot
  • Oracle’s data on enterprise IoT is worth reading
  • Why broadband funding also needs new regulations
  • Why now is the right time to invest in tech-capable infrastructure

Episode 345: Ecobee’s big deal and climate-friendly chips

The big news in IoT this week was the announced acquisition of Ecobee by Generac, so Kevin and I share our thoughts on the deal and what it means for the smart home. After that, we were excited to see Amazon launching a smart air quality monitoring device for $70 as well as publically state its support for Matter. We also cover Facebook’s decision to stop using facial recognition and believe that more companies will seek to prove they are trustworthy in hopes of getting even closer to us as consumers. Then we talk about the EU’s addition of new categories to its cybersecurity rules, the new Flic Twist campaign, Tempo’s smaller, cheaper home gym, ADT’s security service for DoorDashers, and a $500 kid’s toy that I really want. We also note that the Espresif ESP32s now formally support the Zephyr RTOS. We end by answering a question about whether or not you need the device app to update HomeKit-compatible products.

The Alexa air quality monitor will cost $70 and ship in December. Image courtesy of Amazon.

Our guest this week is Sri Samavedam, who is the senior vice president of semiconductor technologies at imec, a semiconductor R&D consortium. We discuss imec’s new effort to research sustainability in chip manufacturing. You’ll learn how chips are made and why manufacturing ICs delivers such a blow to the environment. Samavedum explains why Apple has joined its efforts and how it plans to measure the carbon footprint of chipmaking. He also offers some advice for product manufacturers and consumers on how they can use chips more responsibly given how much they cost (in terms of environmental damage) to make. There’s no sugar-coating it, we need more data on this and we also need to think about using silicon for longer than we do today.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Sri Samavedam, imec
Sponsors: Very

  • What Generac’s Ecobee purchase means for the smart home
  • Amazon loves Matter
  • Would you buy your kid a $500 hoverboard?
  • Chip manufacturing is extremely bad for the environment
  • We should try to use our devices for as along as possible

 

 

Episode 343: Return of the connected bunny!

We kick off this week’s podcast with a focus on chips and hardware starting with an explainer on Arm’s new Total Solutions for IoT and why it will help developers and device makers speed up time-to-market for connected products. We then talk about plans to put Linux on Arduino devices that were outed in a release from Foundries.io and plans for scalable ways to provision and secure connected devices at the manufacturing stage from Infineon. We skipped over to Amazon’s new Alexa Connect Kit SDK and what it means before tackling the new colors for Apple’s HomePod mini and a hew Apple hire. In smaller news, we discuss Tesla’s insurance plans, Wyze’s new battery-enabled doorbell, and why I should have purchased a Pixel 6 Pro, despite its giant size. We then share a crowdfunding campaign designed to bring one of the original connected devices of yesteryear back to life. Click here to resurrect your Nabaztag connected bunny. Finally, we talk about your responses to our question from the IoT Podcast Hotline related to connected devices for workshops.

The Nabaztag bunny gets resurrected. Image courtesy of Olivier Mével.

Our guest this week is John Cowan, co-founder and CEO of EDJX, a company building out a distributed software platform for developers. We start off talking about a new project EDJX is implementing with the military at Camp Mabry in Austin. We talk about the necessary hardware for sensor deployments in cities and how those might become the new infrastructure for edge computing. Cowan then explains why containers aren’t the correct match for a highly distributed computing platform at scale, and how serverless solutions can help answer this need. We discuss compute, networking and databases, so prepare to get nerdy. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: John Cowan, co-founder and CEO of EDJX
Sponsors: Very

  • Details on Arm’s plans to help the IoT
  • Amazon’s new SDK takes Alexa to more hardware
  • Bring a vintage IoT bunny back from the dead
  • Why the military needs low-latency edge computing today
  • How EDJX thinks about data decay and assurance