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 268: Subscription news from Wink and Nest

This week’s show is all about subscriptions! First Kevin and I share thoughts on Wink’s decision to charge a subscription fee after giving customers a week’s notice and threatening to shut down their devices if they don’t convert. We also detail Nest’s new subscription plan and keep on the Alphabet/Google topic by discussing the end of the Toronto smart city effort from Sidewalk Labs and a new Google Assistant skill.  After that, we cover a new Teensy board with Ethernet, an acquisition in the smart apartment world, and get details on how reopening is going in Texas from the B8ta point of view. I talk about my experience with the new, smaller Wi-Fi August lock, and then we answer a listener question about how to build a smart home from scratch.

The brains of Johnson’s smart home are packed away in custom-made benches. Image courtesy of Jason Johnson.

Our guest this week is Jason Johnson, the co-founder of August Home. He’s not on the show to discuss the new lock but to talk about his new home and the systems he uses for automation. Like many of us, Johnson went the DIY route and says he spends about five or more hours a week tweaking his set up. He explains why he chose the platforms he uses and how he has routines and automation set up. For those curious about what’s governing the 138 nodes in his home, I encourage you to listen and find out.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Jason Johnson, co-founder August Home
Sponsors: Very and Edge Impulse

  • Is Wink’s new subscription worth it? Nest’s?
  • Apparently, a few people still need their gadget fix in Texas
  • August’s new lock is great for renters, but may not work for everyone
  • Three organizing principles for a smart home
  • Device longevity is a problem for the smart home

Episode 261: Set up a secure IoT network and Wyze has new gear

With the spread of COVID-19 and people staying home, robots are gaining ground in jobs, so Kevin and I discuss what jobs are at risk and what happened with automation during the last three recessions. We also talk about the rules that need to be in place if we want to track people during the pandemic in the U.S. and in other Western democracies. Then we cover a Russian botnet, racist digital assistants, confidentiality with Alexa, a new Arduino module, and the new scale and activity tracker from Wyze. Kevin and I take some time from the current worries about the coronavirus to envision the world we want when all this is over and discuss medical device privacy.  We end with a listener question about the new Nest subscription plans expected sometime soon.

Ready for a new IoT prototyping device? Check out this Kickstarter project. Image courtesy of Frame.IoT.

Our guest this week is Josh Datko, founder and chief engineer at embedded security firm Cryptotronix who is here to school us all in IoT security. We start with his advice for consumers, including advice on splitting off a separate IoT network in your home. We then discuss the difference between embedded security and IT security and discuss the importance of security engineers in product design. We end with Datko explaining the difference between secure enclaves, trusted execution environments and other security terms that may mystify you. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Josh Datko, Cryptotronix
Sponsors: MachineQ and LiveWorx

  • Automation and robots get a boost from the coronavirus
  • How to handle sensor data during a pandemic
  • Yes, I bought the Wyze scale for some reason
  • Here’s how to secure your smart home
  • Why the embedded world needs security engineers

Episode 255: A deep dive into NIST’s new privacy framework

This week’s show features Chris Albrecht, editor in chief of The Spoon, as a guest host, which means there will be a review of a connected kitchen gadget — in this case, a connected smoker from Traeger. We kick off the show discussing the FTC’s surprising antitrust review and discuss IoT acquisitions that might get scrutinized. We also mention the Sprint and T-Mo merger and what that might mean for IoT. From there we dive into Nest’s plans to require two-factor authentication, ARM’s new AI edge chip designs, a new product from LIFX, and an NB-IoT module from Tuya. Chris then discusses the sale of a connected brewing appliance called PicoBrew before reviewing the Traeger smoker. We also answer a listener question about which connected doorbell to buy.

The new LIFX switch is pricey but beautiful. Image courtesy of LIFX.

Our guest this week is Naomi Lefkovitz, senior privacy policy advisor and lead for the Privacy Framework in the Information Technology Lab at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. She comes on the show to explain what the many, many pages actually mean and how companies should think about and adopt the framework. She also shares why she avoids connected devices in her own life. Unsurprisingly, the complex user agreements aren’t inspiring a lot of trust.  You’ll want to hear this show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Chris Albrecht of The Spoon
Guest: Naomi Lefkovitz, senior privacy policy advisor and lead for the Privacy Framework at NIST
Sponsors: DigiCert and Very

  • Apple and Google could see some smart home deals come under review
  • Nest’s two-factor decision could lead to better two-factor authentication methods
  • Should I spend $800 on a smart grill?
  • Breaking down the NIST privacy framework with a connected fridge
  • The new framework won’t make you legally compliant, but it can build user trust

Episode 242: Google explains itself and new Wyze gear!

Wyze makes some of the most reasonably-priced smart-home gear on the market and said earlier this month that it was planning a smorgasbord of new products, which Kevin and I detail in this episode. We then cover low-power wide-area networks with news that Twilio’s NB-IoT network and boards are now generally available and news that Amazon has joined the LoRa Alliance. From there we cover a security flaw, the longevity and reliability of connected home devices and a story about automation and jobs. We close with talk about a fitness company raising $55 million and another attempt at delivering wireless power at a distance. We then answer a question about who should swap out their Nest account for a Google Account.

The Whoop 3.0 fitness band is a compelling device with a pricey service.

Our guest this week is Michele Chambers Turner, senior director Google Smart Home Ecosystem, who explains why Google had to kill its Works with Nest program and what it means for users. You’ll also learn how Google thinks about privacy, that it doesn’t keep device state data and how it cordons off home data from its advertising network. We also talk about the local SDK and making it easier to add devices to the Google Home network. It’s an essential episode for Google fans.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Michele Chambers Turner, senior director Google Smart Home Ecosystem
SponsorsLegrand and Afero

  • Wyze has a lock, doorbell, scale and more on the way
  • Amazon gets deeper into LPWAN
  • Why Google had to kill Works with Nest
  • What’s inside Google’s Home graph
  • What to expect with Google’s local efforts

Episode 239: Tuya, toilets and Twinklys

This week Kevin and I start with an update on Tuya full of a variety of news the company announced at a conference held this week in Shenzen, China. From there we discuss two updates with the maker of Philips Hue light bulbs that means you won’t need a hub with SmartThings or Google Home devices. On the Google front, we chat about builders ditching Nest, missing Google Actions, a new hack, and an updated machine learning board. Nvidia hits our radar this week with machine learning at the edge, as does Shine’s smart toilet device. Kevin shares his review of the Nest Mini and we answer a listener’s question about smart holiday lights.

The Shine Bathroom Assistant cleans and detects leaks. Image courtesy of Shine.

After all that, join our guest Rose Eveleth, journalist, and creator of the Flash Forward podcast for a discussion about the role science fiction writers play in shaping our understanding of technology, We talk about the role fiction should have in setting tech policy, the different types of sci-fi and where stories should help guide our understanding of tech.  It’s a deep discussion that ends with a few book recommendations. I hope y’all enjoy it.

Hosts: Kevin Tofel and Stacey Higginbotham
Guests: Rose Eveleth, journalist, and creator of the Flash Forward podcast
Sponsors: Nutanix and Afero

  • Tuya’s rapid rise as an IoT platform
  • Nvidia’s edge news was big for telcos and some IIoT
  • Here’s a smart take on the smart toilet
  • My sci-fi may not be your sci-fi
  • What can science fiction writers teach us about IoT?

Update on 10/24/2019: In the podcast, we mistakenly noted that the new SmartThings integration with Philips Hue bulbs doesn’t require a hub. Because the SmartThings Hub doesn’t support Bluetooth, a Philips Hue bridge is still required.

 

 

Episode 234: It’s M&A season for the smart home

This week alarm company Vivint went public through a reverse merger, with the aim of becoming a leader in the smart home and security space. We discuss the transaction and what it means for the small clutch of smart home companies that have one or two successful products but an unclear exit. From there we talk about rumors of the Nest Wi-Fi/Google Assistant combo device, a smart backpack, and Facebook’s new Portal devices. Then we share more dispiriting security news, a Philips Hue product for your TV and Amazon forcing people into arbitration. We end with some news bits from Avnet, Gatwick airport and North. In our IoT Podcast Hotline, we answer a question about what someone can and can’t do with your biometric data.

Facebook’s family of Portal devices for video calling.

Our guest this week is Dan Rozycki, the CEO and founder of The Transtec Group, a pavement engineering firm. He shares how he turned a simple Bluetooth sensor into a fifth of his company’s revenue and his hopes for the next generation of Bluetooth. He also talks about the future of roads from how we should redesign them for autonomous vehicles to new sensor technology needed to give our highways more intelligence. We close with a far-fetched project focusing on bioluminescent trees. Sure.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Dan Rozycki, the CEO and founder of The Transtec Group
Sponsors: Afero and Simple Commands

  • Four companies that are ripe for an acquisition
  • Google Assistant + Google Wi-Fi = Google’s new device?
  • Can Philips Hue make TV cool again?
  • How a connected product changed this firm’s business
  • Coming soon; roads that charge sensors and your car

 

 

Episode 231: What to do with Wi-Fi 6 and voice in the enterprise

What is Wi-Fi 6? Should you care? We tackle these questions first up in this week’s podcast. From there, Kevin and I discuss the Bluetooth KNOB vulnerability and our fears of how smart home data could affect a Chinese-style social credit score. To lighten things up I talk about my visit with Microsoft, and experience with the Hololens 2 as well as Microsoft’s digital twin strategy. In the news segments, we cover the new Eero security service, the Nest doorbell package detection, and Fitbit’s proposed health service. We then answer a listener question about smart spigots.

This Microsoft image shows one of the Guides Microsoft has created for industry partners using the Hololens 2.

Our guest this week is Mark Webster, who is a director of product at Adobe. He discusses how enterprises should view voice interactions. He shares his thoughts on why voice should be separated from the digital assistants that have become popular in the home and explains why enterprise software will lead to different interactions and UX design. As part of the conversation, he also talks about where voice stops being useful and when companies should think about a multi-modal user interface that includes voice, screens and even gestures. If the future of work interests you, then this is a good episode.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Mark Webster, who is a director of product at Adobe
Sponsors: Afero and SimpleCommands

  • Wait on Wi-Fi 6 routers until there are more devices
  • Explaining Microsoft’s digital twin plans and Hololens 2
  • Fitbit is planning a service to go with its devices
  • Voice UIs  should not be confused with digital assistants
  • When does voice stop being useful

Episode 230: Which IoT satellite efforts will fail?

This week I get excited about a new home water monitoring product from Phyn while Kevin migrated his Nest account over to a Google account. We also discussed the creation of IKEA’s new Home Smart business unit and Amazon’s dream of putting Alexa in every car. SimpliSafe adds a door lock, MIT researchers build an energy-harvesting underwater sensor and a Chinese IP camera company is taking worries about security and U.S. fears of Chinese brands seriously. We also answer a question about Walmart’s Merkury Innovation brand of connected products.

The Phyn Smart Water Assistant will cost $299 and tracks leaks.

Our guest this week is Tim Farrar, of TMF Associates, who is a consultant in the satellite industry. I’ve turned to Tim to answer questions about the rush of companies trying to offer connectivity to the IoT using satellites. Do the economics make sense? How many of these businesses can the industry support and what the heck happens if these companies fail? Plus, we address the issue of space trash. You’ll want to listen.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Tim Farrar of TMF Associates
Sponsors: Nutanix and DigitalOcean

  • This water monitoring device is worth a look
  • How Google’s Nest migration works
  • Will Chinese companies start locating IoT cloud services in the U.S.
  • The economics of satellite make broad IoT use cases tough
  • Why broadband satellite efforts may doom smaller IoT plans

 

Episode 216: Your smart home data will lead to cheaper insurance

This week Kevin and I continue discussing the fall out from Google killing the Works with Nest program. We discuss alternative devices for those who want to replace their Nest devices. Next, we go into the Amazon Alexa updates that add the Guard security features and sunrise and sunset schedule. Then we look at the new NB-IoT networks from Verizon and AT&T before talking about the facial recognition ban in San Francisco. We mention Lenovo’s new IoT Edge gateway and cover the new Wi-Fi Home Certification for single-family homes and apartments. Finally, we answer a listener question about outdoor mesh Wi-Fi.

The Sonos One got Google Assistant and there’s one drawback. Photo by Kevin Tofel.

This week’s guest is Mariel Devesa, global head of business at Phyn who discusses why insurance firms have been slow to underwrite more smart home devices and what we can expect going forward. One potential future involves companies bidding for our business based on feeds of smart home data showing how low our risk profiles are. Because Phyn is a leak prevention sensor, she also spends a chunk of time talking about water damage and how to find algorithms to build a compelling product. Enjoy the glimpse into our future.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Mariel Devesa, global head of business at Phyn
Sponsors: Dell Technologies and Nordic Semiconductor

  • How should IoT devices remove features or privacy?
  • Sonos One adds Google Assistant but there’s a drawback
  • Verizon’s NB-IoT network seems pricey
  • Why insurance firms still won’t underwrite your smart home
  • One day your insurer might bid for your business