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 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?

CES 2018 was about more than voice

CES is full of stories if you know where to look. This year we had to look beyond companies putting Alexa in everything from toilets to toothbrushes. If you did, you could find out all kinds of fascinating things, such as the big opportunities in the enterprise internet of things or what Comcast is doing with its purchase of Stringify. While roaming the halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Sands Expo, I asked people what they were excited about, what they were looking for and what they think the future might hold.

Once again, we bring you the less obvious side of CES.

The results are in this podcast, with interviews with Alex Hawkinson, CEO of SmartThings; Nate Williams, an EIR at Kleiner Perkins; a CEO who sold his camera startup to Ooma, and many more. I also share my favorite device from CES, which is not exactly something you can buy at Best Buy. But if we’re lucky, we could soon see it in something from Amazon. I hope you enjoy. If you do, thank the Open Connectivity Foundation which sponsored the entire episode, and gave an update on that standard effort.

Host: Stacey Higginbotham
Guests: There are a lot
Sponsor: Open Connectivity Foundation

  • Comcast explains what’s next for Strinigfy
  • Alexa Hawkinson on Samsung’s plans for SmartThings
  • Ben Nader of Butterfleye on how to pick a buyer
  • Nate Williams on enterprise tech
  • Willy Pell on how to architect machine learning at the edge

Episode 75: What connected cars can learn from tractors

Nest is in the news again this week with a clarification on what its software engineers are really up to and new products. Its outdoor camera is launching as are thermostats in 3 new colors. It’s also unveiling a new software product that looks pretty cool. I’m still worried about the hardware innovation we can expect. Kevin and I also discuss Verizon’s new IoT network, leaked news of a new Wink hub and Kevin’s review of his Wink Relay light switch.

The new, Outdoor Nest Cam.
The new Outdoor Nest Cam.

I interview Cory Reed, senior vice president of intelligent solutions at John Deere, to discover what connected car executives can learn from the company that pioneered a self-driving tractor. Reed and I also discuss how John Deere thinks about connectivity adding value to the business and how it prices connected products. Also, farmers are pretty sophisticated consumers of technology. From the diverse range of agricultural equipment and tractors farmers use to make their jobs easier, to the revolutionary developments in cultivation software, these are exciting times for the farming community.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Cory Reed, senior vice president of intelligent solutions at John Deere
Sponsor: Macadamian

  • Will LTE Cat M1 pose a threat to other IoT networks?
  • News from Nest
  • Kevin’s thoughts on the Wink Relay
  • How to think about building connected products from production to pricing
  • What John Deere can teach us about building autonomous cars