Episode 371: Smart screws and massive IoT

This week’s show was recorded a few hours before the annual Google I/O event so we didn’t discuss the new Pixel Watch, but we do discuss Google’s thoughts on the Matter smart home standard from an article in The Verge, which Kevin also tied to a discussion about Sonos launching its own voice assistant. Then we discussed a new gesture-recognition and fall-detection system that combines my love of Tiny ML with RF sensing. In privacy news, we focused on the use of private data by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and why we need stronger laws to govern how state agencies use private data. In smaller news, Qualcomm launched a 5G-capable robotics platform, Inmarsat launches a program to sell its Elera satellite IoT network, and Augury acquires Seebo in an industrial IoT deal. We then turn to my favorite story of the week, the creation of smart screws and a bit on the concepts of Massive IoT. We then discuss a question from a listener about the potential to create ad-hoc mesh networks using LoRaWAN or Amazon’s Sidewalk network.

Vivint’s new doorbell camera will detect package thefts and sound an alarm when it happens. Image courtesy of Vivint.

Our guest this week is Mike Child, VP of Product Management at Vivint. This week, Vivint launched an array of new security cameras and accessories as well as a new feature called smart deter. Child is on the show to talk about the design decisions that went into building the new gear as well as what Vivint had to consider when trying to design its smart deter feature. We discuss why it’s important to own your own hardware when building novel AI-based services and what companies need to consider when evaluating partners for future integrations. He also explains why Vivint wasn’t ready to give consumers the ability to record just any message for intruders on their property. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Mike Child, VP of Product Management at Vivint
Sponsors: LoRaWAN World Expo and InfluxData

  • Google and others trying to reset expectations for Matter
  • Why this industrial IoT mashup makes sense
  • Smart screws are why we need tech for massive IoT
  • Why Vivint invested in an AI feature to deter criminals
  • Why building your own hardware is essential for advanced AI features

Episode 370: How to build the infrastructure for public tech

This week’s show kicks off with research suggesting Amazon uses data from Alexa devices to advertise its own products, and that Amazon is selling some of the insights derived from Alexa requests to third parties. This is disturbing, but so is John Deere’s ability to decommission tractors stolen by Russians from a Ukraine dealership. We talk about why this sort of power makes me nervous. And in a final story about digital rights, we discuss the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention buying location data from private companies so it can see how effective some of its COVID policies were. From there we go into basic product news, starting with new wellness features coming to your Google Nest Hub screen ahead of Google I/O next week, a new room sensor from Wyze, new light switches from Leviton that don’t require a neutral wire, and new Wi-Fi 7 chips from Qualcomm. Kevin then shares a new smart home purchase and his thoughts on the Schlage Encode Plus with Home Key door lock. We finish by answering a listener’s question about if we’ll get a custom sound detection from Amazon’s Alexa.

The Wyze room sensor has a screen, and tracks temperature, humidity and motion. Image courtesy of Wyze.

Our guest this week is Bianca Wylie, who is a partner with Digital Public, a public interest firm focused on technology. She wrote an article calling for the end of Canada’s COVID contact tracing application and explains why she thinks it’s time to sunset the app. I think her ideas are important to discuss as our governments invest in digital infrastructure without necessarily having a plan for maintaining or auditing it. The COVID-tracking apps are a great case study that we can learn from. For example, when governments implement new technology they need to figure out how they plan to maintain it and ensure that it is doing the job it was intended to do. As citizens, we need to participate in the process of buying technology, working with government officials to set the requirements and limitations of the tech our government is buying. This is a really good interview for all of us to listen to.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Bianca Wylie
Sponsors: Impinj and InfluxData

  • Amazon is selling Alexa voice data to advertisers
  • We need to classify more data as Personally Identifiable Information (PII)
  • Wi-Fi 7 chips are here but don’t upgrade your network
  • What’s wrong with Canada’s COVID contact-tracing app
  • Smart cities incur technical debt too

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 367: What do you want in a home robot?

In this week’s show we question whether or not we want Amazon’s Astro home robot after seeing a few reviews. We then note that Google has introduced gaze as signal to wake up Google Assistant, which is one of the first uses of gaze as a wake-up indicator for the smart home. Then we talk about wearables starting with a recollection from Eric Migicovsky, the founder of Pebble, about what went wrong ending up with Pebble’s assets sold to Fitbit. We compared the Pebble story to the latest funding for the Oura ring, and mentioned Fitbit’s new FDA-approved atrial fibrillation detection. Then we discuss smarter tags manufactured in a new Brazilian factory for Avery Denison before discussing two new options in air purifiers: one from Wyze and one containing a UV-filter from Xiaomi. In other product news, here’s a new smart grow lamp and watering system for houseplants and some smart trackers with a greener footprint. And for all of our Home Assistant fans, Kevin checks in on the platform after a one-year-hiatus. We close by answering a listener question about consolidating smart lights.

Amazon’s Astro robot roves around the home trying to be helpful. Image courtesy of Amazon.

Our guest this week is Dan Simpkins, CEO and co-founder of Dwellwell, a startup that aims to create a check-engine light for the smart home. Simpkins started the company in 2018 after experiencing a flood caused by frozen pipes, and realizing that many of the options available to monitor the home were too expensive and siloed. The solution he’s worked out is a SaaS product called Dwellwell that relies on custom-sensors that contribute data to several algorithms to check on the health of several home systems. We discuss how it works, why he chose to go after the multi-family and rental market and why he needs to use his own sensors. We also discuss the role Matter will play in the smart home and eventually, his platform. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Dan Simpkins, CEO of Dwellwell
Sponsors: Impinj and InfluxData

  • Is your home robot ready?
  • What we’ve learned in a decade of wearables
  • Home Assistant’s worth another look
  • Why companies should base their AI on their own sensors
  • How Dwellwell rethinks traditional maintenance devices