Episode 272: Let’s talk about anonymity by design

This week’s podcast starts off with IBM’s decision to stop selling facial recognition software (we recorded before Amazon made a similar announcement) and then shifts to a discussion on neuromorphic computing. From there we discuss Lutron’s new wooden blinds, turning a Commodore 64 into a home automation system,  insights on water use during the pandemic,  more integrations from RoomMe, and funding for Drop’s kitchen operating system. We also touch on industrial news with a scaled-out Bluetooth deployment and PTC, Microsoft, and Rockwell Automation offering Factory Insights as a service. Kevin then shares some thoughts on the next big things necessary for smart homes to advance. Finally, we hear from a listener who wants to find a way to make his smoke alarms smarter.

Lutron adds smart wooden blinds to its Serena line of smart window coverings. Image courtesy of Lutron.

Our guest this week is Andrew Farah, CEO of Density, a startup that provides sensors for people tracking. We last chatted more than five years ago and since then he’s built out the company, created a product for commercial real estate and found time to advocate for building IoT products that are anonymous by design. We talk about how companies are using his service and sensors to keep occupancy rates below the legal limits during the pandemic and why sensors are much better than cameras. You’ll enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Andrew Farah, CEO of Density
Sponsors: Calix and Very

  • IBM’s decision to stop selling facial recognition software is a start
  • This enterprise hub can read 12,000 Bluetooth tags in a minute
  • Three things that will move the smart home forward
  • This sensor has 800 components and can tell how many people are in a room
  • Why we need to build things with anonymity at the forefront

Episode 271: Surveillance scares and a nutrition label for IoT security

This week’s show kicks off with a discussion of what’s happening in the U.S. with protests, police brutality, and the role connected tech can play in smart cities, including the role image recognition can and does play. We then tackle the IoT news starting with Nest’s addition of Google’s advanced protection program and a GPS tracker that seems like a good buy. Then we discuss funding for a smart oven, a pool sensor, another HomeKit enabled security camera, a subscription service for monitoring the health of your HVAC system, cheap sensors, and a new doorbell from Wyze. We then move onto Amazon killing the Echo Look camera and its new intercom feature before breaking out the deep science for windows that can adjust to different light levels automatically. In our IoT Podcast Hotline segment, we answer a question about using a connected sprinkler to ward off animals.

The nutrition-style label that helps users figure out how secure a connected device is.

This week’s guest is Lorrie Cranor, director of the CyLab Security and Privacy Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, who is on the show discussing the newly created nutrition-style label researchers created for IoT devices. Researchers tried to convey about 47 relevant pieces of information that relate to a device’s security and privacy qualifications and crammed as many as they could onto an easy-to-read-label that’s designed to fit on a product’s packaging. The label doesn’t convey all 47 elements, but it does capture several key pieces of information about how long a device will get security updates, the types of sensors it has, and how the company treats its data. Other elements are relegated to a deeper privacy fact sheet that a consumer can access via a web site or QR code. Cranor explains the label, the methodology, and asks for help turning the research into something useful for the industry at large. Let’s make it happen.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest:  Lorrie Cranor, director of the CyLab Security and Privacy Institute at Carnegie Mellon University
Sponsors: Calix and Edge Impulse

  • We need to talk about how to enforce laws when IoT can see everything
  • This is a really nice GPS tracker for the masses
  • $10 Zigbee sensors? Yes, please!
  • What should a security label measure?
  • How can we get this label on our devices?

Episode 215: What Google killing Works with Nest means

This week’s show is a long one, thanks to both Google I/O and Microsoft Build happening this week. We kick off with news from I/O about local processing and gesture controls before digging deep into what it means that Google is killing its Works with Nest program. We explain what it means for consumers, the industry, and for developers. From there we move to the privacy one can expect in Amazon’s Echo products and generally what Amazon knows about you. We also talk about the new Amazon Blink XT2 indoor/outdoor wireless camera. The enterprise gets a lot of love from Microsoft at Build with new conversational talents, a way to migrate old embedded devices to the modern Windows 10 IoT OS and support for robots and Windows 10 IoT. We end with news bits including an update on Bluetooth’s success and an update on the lawsuit over landlords installing smart locks. I also review Wyze Sense sensors.

The new Amazon Blink XT2 indoor/outdoor wireless camera will sell for $89.99.

This week’s guest is Kiva Allgood, the new head of IoT and Automotive at Ericsson. She has worked at GE Ventures and at Qualcomm, so she’s familiar with the history of the IoT. She discusses agile factories that will be enabled by 5G networks, why we need industry-wide standards for the IoT and explains why adoption has been slow. We also talk about the importance of resiliency in the industrial IoT, something that is occasionally lost on the IT folks.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Kiva Allgood of Ericsson
Sponsors: Dell Technologies and Nordic Semiconductor

  • Consumers should only buy Nest gear if they are Google-only homes
  • Would you dump your digital assistant?
  • At last Azure Sphere security service is being used in the real world!
  • Standards will make the industrial IoT profitable
  • With 5G you can reprogram your factory like you reprogram software

Episode 204: Apple’s next big market and Silicon Labs’ CEO

This week Kevin and start the show with an educated guess about what comes next for Apple after the iPhone and then discuss the leadership transition at IFTTT. In the wake of Google saying that it didn’t disclose the microphone inside the Nest Guard box, Kevin and I reiterate our take from last week, which is that cameras and microphones should always be disclosed in the specs. We also talk about Osram being for sale, smart circuit breakers, Libellium’s embrace of NB-IoT and what Google needs to do to catch up to Amazon in the digital assistant race. Finally, we answer a question from a listener about creating panic buttons for the home.

The Nest Guard’s hidden mic became apparent after Google announced it offered Google Assistant.

This week’s guest is Tyson Tuttle, the CEO of Silicon Labs (NASDAQ: SLAB), a semiconductor firm that is making a big bet on IoT. Tuttle talks about the role of various radios in the smart home and in industrial settings. He also explains why he’s not worried about the tech giants snapping up gadget-makers that are using his chips. We end with a discussion on how we need to rethink tech and innovation for the edge. It’s a good chat.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Tyson Tuttle, CEO of Silicon Labs
Sponsors: Urban-X and Western Digital

  • Apple’s HomePod feels like a gimmick
  • Mics and cameras shouldn’t come as a surprise
  • Smart circuit breakers are still a hard sell
  • Are Z-wave and ZigBee doomed?
  • What happens when Amazon buys up your customer?

 

 

Episode 196: The holiday Q&A extravaganza!

This week Kevin and I took some time off to prepare for the CES and get ready for 2019. It’s going to be awesome! But we can’t leave you guys without a show, so we selected almost a dozen listener questions from the IoT Podcast Hotline and tried to answer them. You’ll learn about some in-ceiling speaker mounts for Alexa or Google devices, turning lights off after a motion-detection event turns them on and two requests that the Amazon Alexa team should listen for because they’d make good features.

We get so many questions about Alexa, y’all.

We also gave some advice and opinions on popular DIY smart home programs, mesh Wi-Fi systems and our favorite outdoor temperature systems. We had a caller who wanted advice on the best ways to get middle schoolers working with Alexa, and Kevin was happy to share his tips. We also had someone trying to outfit a long driveway with some kind of detection system for their smart home. All in all, we learned a lot researching this episode and are in awe of your ideas and methods for making your homes smarter. There is a long tail of needs out there that we hope we helped with a bit.

This entire voicemail effort, plus the locks that our questioners are able to win each month are made possible by our sponsorship from Schlage. Kevin and I would like to thank Schlage for its support over this last year. And a big thanks to all of our listeners who send dozens of questions each month. We’ll keep trying to answer as many of them as we can.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Sponsor: Schlage

Episode 190: The Federal government takes on consumer privacy

We kick off this week with an in-depth discussion of the NTIA’s suggestions for regulating consumer privacy in a digital era. It’s a long discussion, but one worth having, and we welcome your thoughts as well. From there, we talk about botnets, neural networks on a stick, and then Alexa’s new talents and devices. Then some Google Home and Wi-Fi news makes the cut as well as a new Withings activity tracker and new services from IFTTT. From there we end with some enterprise security stats and a new effort to bring IoT to the enterprise. This time the platform is intelligent windows! Instead of answering a listener question we offer a suggestions from a listener that may solve some outdoor camera and sensor problems.

The Withings Pulse HR costs $129.95 and has a projected 20-day battery life!

Our guest this week is Emily Silverman, a program manager for Denver’s smart city efforts. Silverman explains how Denver is thinking about smart infrastructure and how to provide new citizen services. She also details how the city is trying to safeguard citizen privacy and protect data. Some vendors aren’t keen on the plans, but Silverman says the attitude is changing. It’s a good interview and important for anyone who wants to be an informed citizen.

Hosts: Kevin Tofel and Stacey Higginbotham
Guest: Emily Silverman, program manager for the City and County of Denver
Sponsors: Bitdefender and Cognizant

  • Here’s how the feds want to boost consumer privacy
  • Why Alexa’s new talents matter
  • Why not add another enterprise IoT platform?
  • Some vendors aren’t ready to let go of your data
  • How Denver anonymizes traffic data. Really.

Episode 189: Meet the Digital Standard for IoT security and privacy

The battle for more secure IoT products will get its day in court now that a judge has rejected requests for summary judgment in a case pitting the FTC against D-Link. The agency called out D-Link for making insecure routers and cameras. Now, the courts will decide. A smart glass maker gets a whopper of an investment, we discuss two new cellular modules from Sierra Wireless and Gemalto and there’s a creepy new twist on insecure IP cameras. Microsoft is switching things up for Cortana, and there’s a good idea for getting 9-1-1 calls on your Echo or Google Home. Finally, Kevin shares a tip on getting Alexa to notify you of events in the home using a new skill and IFTTT.

Dallas Fort Worth International Airport uses smart glass from View to reduce heat and glare from the sun.

Our guest this week, Andi Wilson Thompson, a policy analyst at New America’s Open Technology Institute, also hits on privacy and security of connected devices, discussing a new effort called The Digital Standard. The goal of this year-old effort is to offer specific criteria and tests that connected devices should follow in order to be considered secure. Consumer Reports is using it to evaluate products and I think we’ll start formally assessing products against it in our reviews. Learn more in this week’s show.

Host: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Andi Wilson Thompson from New America’s Open Technology Institute
Sponsors: Bitdefender and Cognizant

  • Is this case the key to better IoT security?
  • Want a private LTE network? It might be yours.
  • Here’s how to solve e911 for Amazon Echo devices or Google Homes
  • The Digital Standard is a real stab at a safer IoT
  • A solution for extending the life of unsupported devices

Episode 175: GE slims down and Otis tries Alexa in elevators

This week on the show Kevin and I speculate what digital assets GE will sell and discuss the sad bankruptcy of French smart home company Sen.se. After hitting the sad news, we talked about the latest HomePod feature expected in iOS 12 and the fact that Apple didn’t say much about HomePod in its latest financial results call. We shared a new smart home device for dedicated DIYers from Machinon, discussed Control4’s new intercom function and Lenovo’s application for the FCC to test a smart bulb. Kevin shared his initial thoughts on Lenovo’s Smart Display for Google Assistant and a pro tip for anyone with a connected home. We share another ridiculous IoT idea for the week and answer a question about connecting Wyze, IFTTT and SmartThings to turn on a light.

Kevin’s 10-inch Lenovo Smart Display can play YouTube videos, Netflix and images from his Nest cameras. Image by K. Tofel.

This week’s guest is Chris Smith, vice president of service innovation at Otis Elevator Company. He talks about how Otis connects its elevators, the architecture, and most importantly what it learned in trying to use data to predict failures. In addition to his practical knowledge he also answers everyone’s big question: Does the door close button on an elevator actually work? Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Chris Smith of Otis Elevator Company
Sponsors: NETGEAR and Afero

  • Is GE’s Predix for sale? And who would buy it?
  • Another smart home company bites the dust
  • The Lenovo Smart Display is really nice!
  • Predicting failure is a subtle art
  • Sure, let’s put Alexa in an elevator

 

Episode 134: KRACKed security and a river of sensors

This week began with a bang as researchers disclosed a vulnerability in the Wi-Fi protocol that could cause problems for smart device owners. The details of the KRACK vulnerability can be found here, and a list of connected devices affected here. After that, we discuss Bluetooth issues and the trouble with most trackers. Kevin reviews the Sonos One and I review Alexa’s ability to tell different people apart. We also share some ideas from IFTTT to turn your smart home into a spookier one in time for Halloween. News from GE and Apple, an update on smart home device penetration and a spin out of Honeywell’s home division round out the show.

Find out what Kevin thought of the new Sonos One. Photo by Kevin Tofel.

After that I interview John Miri, who is the chief administrator for the LCRA in Austin, Texas. In his role, he oversees 275 sensors spread out over 800 miles of river in Texas. These sensors are part of a real-time flood reporting system that I was glued to during Hurricane Harvey. Curious about how it was managed, I asked Miri to discuss how the agency built it, how they keep it running and what data he’d like to see next. The biggest takeaway from the interview wasn’t that the IoT aspects were hard, but that the operations and maintenance were perhaps the most challenging. It’s a great interview for anyone who thinks IoT is a magic wand that will generate the data to solve your business problems.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: John Miri of the LCRA
Sponsors: Qualcomm and SAP

  • What to do after KRACK broke Wi-Fi security
  • Samsung’s global tracker is cool, but can it do this?
  • IFTTT wants to help you automate a haunted Halloween
  • Measuring floods in real-time is harder than you think
  • Anyone want to build a new radio network for the LCRA?

Episode 129: Apple’s missing IoT news and adding blockchain to the energy grid

This week’s Apple announcement didn’t offer much for the IoT fans in the audience, although Kevin is deciding if he want’s the LTE-capable Apple Watch. We also talk about a big Bluetooth security vulnerability and Chamberlain’s decision to charge customers who want to create IFTTT integrations. We cover some news about EdgeX Foundry, a new energy monitoring product and an enterprise translation service that requires a “thing.” Finally, we answer a reader’s question about upgrading an old alarm system.

The Apple Watch with LTE and a set of Air Pods might be the future of computing.

Our guest this week talks about a particularly relevant topic given the recent hurricanes. David Martin, co-founder and managing director of Power Ledger, is building an energy trading market using blockchain, connected meters and a network of residential solar. He discusses the bifurcation of the energy market, the trend towards resiliency and how the blockchain can help generate revenue for consumers and the larger energy grid. But, as you’ll hear in this interview, it’s a disruptive concept.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: David Martin of Power Ledger
Sponsors: ForgeRock and Xively

  • Hey Apple, show me the HomeKit!
  • In which we shame Samsung on Blueborne missteps
  • What to do with an ancient security system? Rip it out.
  • How to use blockchain to make money on renewables
  • Building a more resilient grid starts with IoT (and the blockchain)

Have a question? Call the IoT Podcast hotline at 512.623.7424 and get an answer!