Episode 391: Amazon’s turning Alexa into the brains of the home

This week’s show focuses on Amazon’s new devices and services launched Wednesday. Kevin and I talk about Amazon’s direction with Alexa as the manager of your life. We also gawp at the price iRobot is charging for its latest iteration of the Roomba robotic vacuum, although Kevin convinces me it’s not too crazy. Then we move into a discussion of the energy grid, sharing data from Itron on how utilities are thinking about the future electric grid, and how a partnership between Itron and Samsung SmartThings is an example of long-term thinking. Then I talk about the latest reporting from Forbes on Helium, and apologize for not being more wary about the chicanery that went on in the beginning by Helium’s executives. We then talk about my experience with the latest Yale lock. We end by answering a listener question about Ecobee thermostats that start heating or cooling before you intended.

The new Roomba is both a vacuum and mop. Image courtesy of iRobot.

Our guest this week is Elizabeth Parks, president and CMO of Parks Associates, a research firm focused on emerging technologies. Parks discusses how COVID changed the home security market as well as how monitored security providers have moved downmarket while DIY security companies have expanded upward into offering monitored security. All of this jostling has expanded the overall market. We also talk about the coming demand for energy management services as well as trends in new home building. Expect more connected devices! We end with a quick overview of what to expect from the CEDIA Expo happening this week in Dallas. It’s a fun conversation.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Elizabeth Parks of Parks Associates
Sponsors: Nordic Semiconductor and Firewalla

  • Amazon’s home robot is really Alexa
  • Why energy is becoming a hot topic in the smart home
  • A mea culpa on Helium
  • The security market is expanding thanks to the smart home
  • What to expect from CEDIA

 

Episode 390: The FTC eyes Amazon’s iRobot buy

The Federal Trade Commission is looking into Amazon’s decision to purchase the maker of Roomba vacuum cleaners for $1.7 billion. The agency this week asked Amazon and iRobot for more information about the deal, so Kevin and I took a moment to explain exactly what the FTC should worry about. Then we talk about Wi-Fi sensing showing up in Signify’s WiZ lightbulbs, and a wireless power provider paired with smart tags enabling a new retail experience — all without batteries. We touch on Nvidia’s continued forays into the metaverse and its plans to create digital twins for retailers with its new Omniverse services. We also cover two surveys this week from MachineQ and Hitachi Vantara. Those surveys focus mostly on enterprise IoT adoption and things that stand in the way of them. We also cover Helium’s new deal to bring its decentralized 5G wireless network to T-Mobile and then discuss Tile’s new QR code stickers to create a tech-savvy label for your stuff that might get lost. It’s better than sewing your name in your underwear. Kevin then discusses his review of a LoRa-based IoT development kit from Blues Wireless. We end by answering a listener question about leak monitoring and water shut off tools.

Image courtesy of MachineQ.

Our guest this week is Rob Davies, the chief insurance officer at Vivint. We start the interview by asking what a monitored security company is doing in the insurance sector, and move on to discuss what data might be most useful in building new insurance products. We also talk about how an insurance company might use smart home data to become more proactive about alleviating risk as opposed to paying out once the worst has happened. Davies uses the example of someone who has forgotten to lock their door. With Vivint’s platform, the insurance provider can let the homeowner know their door is unlocked before someone tries to break in. This creates a new relationship between insurers and their clients, and it will be interesting to see how far insurance companies take this idea. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Ron Davies, chief insurance officer Vivint
Sponsors:  Infineon and Silicon Labs

  • Why Robot OS could become Amazon’s anti-competitive advantage
  • Buy IoT gear is tough, and having customer support matters
  • This LoRa development kit was easy to set up and get data from
  • Why a monitored security firm is interested in offering insurance
  • Owning your own devices is useful for building new insurance products

Episode 384: Here’s why Amazon really bought iRobot

This week’s show kicks off with our discussion of Amazon’s planned acquisition of iRobot, the maker of Roomba robotic vacuums for $1.7 billion. We then talk about a survey from Parks Associates that indicates almost a third of people using AirTag-style trackers to track people without their knowing and why users and companies must focus on consent. Then we hit on another ethics issue associated with a connected Epson printer that stops working after a set period of time, also unbeknownst to the user. In non-ethics news, Feit has purchased LIFX assets, Energous got FCC approval for sending up to 15 watts of power over the air for wireless charging and Qualcomm signed a deal with Global Foundries to ensure its chip supply through 2028. While on the topic of chips, we talk about software that runs on existing ESP32 that uses Wi-Fi for person detection and sensing, and future Apple products for the smart home. We end with a listener question about whether he should buy a new DIY hub and devices, or wait for Matter gear.

LIFX assets are now owned by Feit. Image courtesy of LIFX.

Our guest this week is Mark Benson, the head of Samsung SmartThings US. Benson is on the show to explain how SmartThings plans to eliminate the use of Groovy apps on hubs. The way forward is using APIs for cloud-to-cloud integrations, and LUA-based event handlers for smart apps that run locally. The final shift from Goovy takes place Sept. 30 so get ready for disruption if you have an older, niche routine or app on SmartThings, or update before then. Benson also shares more information on how SmartThings plans to support Matter and what it will mean for Samsung’s overall strategy in the smart home. We dig into what it means to be a Matter controller versus a Matter bridge and what role SmartThings will play. It’s a good show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guests: Mark Benson, the head of Samsung SmartThings US
SponsorsSilicon Labs and Impinj

  • Amazon buys iRobot to build out the next generation of the smart home
  • I’m surprised to see how many people are secretly tracking others
  • We need expiration dates for smart devices
  • SmartThings gets ready for its final goodbye to Groovy
  • How SmartThings plans to adopt Matter

Episode 374: Peekaboo offers privacy for the smart home

This week’s show kicks off with our favorite topic: bringing context into the smart home. This time it’s iRobot and its new operating system that aims to bring the smart home together. From there we discuss a merger between satellite IoT companies and a new idea for building a privacy-centric smart home from the folks at Carnegie Mellon. In more enterprise news, BT wants to stop being a telco and become a “tech-co” with a focus on digital transformation, while a group of chipmakers want to create a consortium to buy Arm. In smaller news bits we’ve got some more unsettling news around John Deere tractors, a smart blinds retrofit from Somfy and the end of Amazon’s Cloud Cam. We’re not mad. Kevin also reviewed Ecobee’s newest and fanciest thermostat and came to a surprising conclusion. In our IoT Podcast Hotline we answer a question from someone who is switching to HomeKit.

Image courtesy of iRobot.

Our guest this week is Ron Rock, CEO and co-founder of Microshare.io, who discusses why his company started building pre-packaged IoT solutions and selling the data, as opposed to trying for some horizontal IoT platform. He also talks about the next big use cases for enterprise IoT after COVID. First up is figuring out how to best use corporate real estate in a hybrid work environment and how to rightsize corporate real estate holdings post-pandemic. His third use case is my favorite. He talks about why ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) demands are driving companies to adopt IoT solutions across a wide variety of use cases and industries. We end with a bit of conversation about new building standards and how he expects those standards to develop in the next three to five years. It’s a fun show.

Host: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Ron Rock, CEO and co-founder of Microshare.io
Sponsors: LoRaWAN World Expo and InfluxData

  • Why iRobot could turn the smart home into a robot
  • The IoT satellite consolidation is here
  • Who should buy Arm? Everyone.
  • COVID drove enterprise IoT spending, but what’s next?
  • All your pre-2020 occupancy data is worthless now

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 207: The smart home at SXSW

This week’s show features a lot of little news bits starting with a discussion about Charter testing a new smart home device management platform and another chat about facial recognition. We then return to the lessons that Boeing’s 737 MAX saga have to teach the IoT industry before diving into Google news starting with continued conversations for Google Smart Displays, the new local transcription service and what it means for the smart home, and a cool service for the visually impaired. The Amazon purchase of Eero is now closed and an appliance maker added an easier way to connect its products to Wi-Fi, so keep an eye on that. We close by answering a question about an appropriate outdoor plug for a Wyze camera.

A huge thanks to Yonomi for hosting the event. People from left Stacey Higginbotham, Devren Hobbs, Jim Hunter, Hanns Anders, Dan Davis, and Mark Reimer. Image courtesy of Andrew Allemann.

Our guest this week is actually five guests who joined me for a smart home panel in Austin during South by Southwest. The panel was hosted by Yonomi and sponsored by Resideo, Schlage, and Gentex. Thank you to Yonomi, which also provided the recording. The panel covered who gets your data, why people are willing to accept microphones in their homes and what businesses get out of connected products. Our guests are Jim Hunter, CTO, Delos; Hanns Anders, investment director, iRobot; Devren Hobbs, director of product, Tendril; Dan Davis, director, IoT and Emerging Markets, LexisNexis Risk Solutions; and Mark Reimer, sr. director connected home and home security products, Charter Communications. You’ll feel like you’re at SXSW ready to catch some live music and a free beer.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guests: Jim Hunter, Delos; Hanns Anders, iRobot; Devren Hobbs, Tendril; Dan Davis, LexisNexis Risk Solutions; and Mark Reimer, Charter Communications
Sponsors: Afero and Western Digital

  • Facial recognition follies are all the rage this week
  • Will your future dishwasher phone home without your knowledge?
  • Why do manufacturers want to connect their devices?
  • The connected world should stop hiding behind terms and conditions
  • If your house can predict an illness who will it tell?

Episode 188: How to design a better smart home

Smart home hubs are dying, DIY will become increasingly niche and smart companies are prepping for this. For example, Honeywell’s smart home spin out Resideo went public this week with an eye to removing complexity from smart homes. Meanwhile, Calix unveiled a gateway device and a service to make it easier for ISPs to deliver the smart home. In other failed IoT efforts, Kevin and I talk about the fall of beacons and point out what might take its place. Google’s new deal with iRobot comes up, and then we segue into Microsoft’s plans for a smart office followed by some of the more recent security breaches. We end with a low-power AI chip and by answering a listener’s question about a Wi-Fi motion sensor to work with his LIFX bulbs.

Roomba i7 robots will share mapping information with Google if users agree.

Our guest this week has written a new book on the smart home. We welcome Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino, who is an industrial designer and author of Smarter Homes: How Technology Will Change Your Home Life. We talk about more than a century of smarter homes, how the term has changed and why today’s efforts are not succeeding. She also asks us to question our current design methodologies for digital assistants and explains what might replace them. It’s a fun show.

Hosts: Kevin Tofel and Stacey Higginbotham
Guest: Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino, author of Smarter Homes: How Technology Will Change Your Home Life
Sponsors: Bitdefender and Cognizant

  • To normalize smart homes, DIY will die
  • Google’s getting home mapping data from robotic vacuums
  • Google’s Home Hubs compromised? How to think about risks.
  • We’ve been pitched the smart home for more than a century
  • Digital assistants should be helpers, not servants

Episode 122: Roombas, an IIoT dictionary and IoT networks galore

Kevin Tofel and I crammed a fine mix of IoT news into the show this week, starting with news of an employer popping RFID tags into employees and ending with a dystopian book recommendation from Kevin. In between we discuss August’s new funding round, the death of an smart home startup and the acquisition of Arraynet by Prodea, a company trying to build smarts for service providers and enterprises. And yes, we did talk about iRobot selling your home’s layout to companies, and why this is a potential turning point for IoT. My Amazon Dash Wand review, Elon Musk’s boring elevator, an ARM paper and a discussion of the new Industrial Internet Consortium’s new dictionary round out the show.

August raised $25 million to expand its Access partnerships.

Don’t be tempted to tune out after all of that, because we’ve got more! This week Comcast’s MachineQ IoT network is in the spotlight. We talk about Comcast’s interest in LoRa networks and its plans for enterprise and industrial IoT with Alex Khorram, GM of MachineQ. Khorram explains LoRA networks and what they are good for, how they might be built and what other providers are doing with the technology. Not only will you learn about LoRA, but you’ll also know what Comcast plans to do with it. Enjoy the show!

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Alex Khorram, GM of MachineQ
Sponsors: Schlage and Smart Kitchen Summit

  • Roomba’s sucking up your data represent a turning point for IoT
  • Who is Prodea and what will it do with Arraynet?
  • My thoughts on the Amazon Dash Wand and Kevin’s book recommendation
  • Every thing you need to know about LoRa and LoRaWAN
  • Wait, is Comcast becoming a wireless carrier?