Episode 407: Does the IoT mean the end of privacy?

This week’s show kicks off with a discussion about Carnegie Mellon’s research into detecting people’s movements through walls using Wi-Fi. As part of the discussion we also talk about the use of stick figures to protect privacy and how little trust consumers have in companies when it comes to the use of their data. That lack of trust might explain why so few consumers connect their smart appliances, or perhaps it’s simply because appliance makers don’t offer consumers a good reason. We then share the results of our audience survey about how y’all create routines. Most of y’all (86%) use a hub rather than the device application. Reliability and funding for Memfault, a startup helping companies build more reliable connected devices, is the next topic of conversation, which also features a funny smart lock failure from a fellow smart home reporter. In smaller news, we talk about a security camera which will use the new Wi-Fi HaLOW standard, Google asking for opinions on Google Home, and new security settings to view Nest camera feeds. We also discuss Apple’s revamp of its botched HomeKit architecture update, and Kevin’s experience using the Apple AirPods Pro 2nd gen earbuds as a hearable device. Finally, we answer a listener question about how to set up a light or smart speaker notification to attract attention when an important person calls.

We asked, and 79 of y’all answered what hub system you use for creating smart home routines. Apparently, a lot of y’all use Hubitat.

Our guest this week is Matt Rogers, the co-founder and CEO of Mill, a startup using a connected kitchen bin to fight food waste. We talk about the problem of food waste and who will pay $33 a month for the bin and concurrent service. Rogers also explains the math behind the service, and talks about why he chose to use a subscription model to fund the business. He also tells me why this isn’t a composting device, since it’s designed to keep food in the food system, and explains why that is so important. Finally, he shares how challenging it was to build a hardware startup during the pandemic. It’s a fun chat.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Matt Rogers, co-founder and CEO of Mill
Sponsor: Akenza

  • Researchers use Wi-Fi to track movement through walls
  • Half of us don’t connect our smart appliances
  • Maybe you don’t need hearing aids just yet?
  • Why Matt Rogers went from smart thermostats to fighting food waste
  • Rogers tried to keep manufacturing during the pandemic local

 

Episode 406: Return of the HomePod

This week’s show kicks off with a discussion of Apple’s new HomePod, which has some cool machine learning capabilities and new sensors built into it, plus a higher price tag than most smart speakers. Then we talk about a survey out of the UK that asked 119 appliance makers about their plans to continue updating software over the life of the appliance, finding out that some won’t commit to updates. A former Nest employee has a new connected composting startup that we have some questions about. Then we talk about some deals in the enterprise and industrial sector with the $1.2 billion acquisition of Sierra Wireless by Semtech completed, and a $7 billion hostile takeover of National Instruments by Emerson. In smaller news, we talk about what it means that Google’s new Chromecast 4K remote does away with batteries, Wyze’s new connected cameras that bring back the $20 price tag, and Kevin’s review of the Govee Smart Kettle purchased by his wife. Finally, we answer a listener question about motion sensors that don’t always work, which inspired us to create a survey asking where y’all build your smart home automations.

The new Apple HomePod will ship on Feb. 3. Image courtesy of Apple.

Our guest this week is Ivo Rook, COO of 1NCE, a company that provides device connectivity for 10 years at a cost of $10. Obviously this isn’t for smart phones or cameras, but for many IoT devices, this type of flat-rate pricing over a long time period makes it easy for developers to create a device and predict exactly how much it will cost to support. Rook discusses how the 1NCE mindset differs from the traditional carrier a-roach and explains the rationale behind a new operating system that 1NCE announced at CES. It’s not exactly an OS, but more of an abstraction layer for data traveling from the device to the cloud. It’s a good idea and the open, developer-friendly ethos 1NCE has is pretty exciting. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Ivo Rook, COO of 1NCE
Sponsor: Silicon Labs

  • How long will your appliances get software updates?
  • Why Emerson would want National Instruments
  • Kevin’s wife bought a smart kettle, and it’s pretty cool
  • Rethinking the telco business model
  • Is the new 1NCE OS really an OS? Does it matter?

Episode 398: Bluetooth bets on 6 GHz and TP-Link hops on Wi-Fi 7

Amazon has started laying off workers, including some working on Alexa and in Amazon’s devices business. We discuss this as well as IBM following in Google’s footsteps and shutting down its IoT cloud business. We move from bad news to innovation with the news that the Bluetooth Special Interest Group is investing in new Bluetooth capabilities using the recently available 6 GHz spectrum. We also discuss the latest in Wi-Fi and TP-Link getting the jump on the next generation of Wi-Fi with its new Wi-Fi 7 mesh routers. Also out with new routers is Wyze, which appears to be giving Eero a run for its money. In acquisition news, semiconductor firm Nexperia has acquired energy harvesting chip company Nowi, while energy harvesting device maker EnOcean plans to go public via a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC). We then discuss the radios inside upcoming Nest speakers, HomeKit locks that won’t get Matter upgrades, and a new Matter-certified smart plug from Meross that won’t be available until next year. Kevin also shares his thoughts on the latest Apple TV 4K and its use in a smart home. Finally, we clarify our answer to last week’s question about DIY Matter devices and answer a question about keeping Matter devices certified.

The Meross outlets won’t ship until January, but you can order them today. Image courtesy of Meross.

Our guest this week is Michele Pelino, a principal analyst at Forrester. She’s on the show to share four predictions about the IoT, edge computing, and connectivity in the coming year. We discuss the technologies that will entice city planners and lead to more municipal deployments in the hopes of bringing people back to cities. She also shares some bad news about future IoT device failures and the creation of millions of IoT bricks. We also hear predictions and advice on securing the internet of things with a focus on confidential computing and zero-trust security. Finally, she shares her thoughts on the connectivity company to watch in 2023 as satellite wins over companies looking for connectivity in rural and thinly populated areas. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Michele Pelino, a principal analyst at Forrester
Sponsors: Arm and Silicon Labs

  • The Bluetooth SIG eyes spectrum currently used for Wi-Fi 6E
  • Big moves in the world of energy harvesting devices
  • Does your smart home need the new Apple TV 4K?
  • Why cities will invest in tech next year
  • Holes in 5G coverage pave the way for Starlink

Episode 389: Is Matter ready for its close up?

I’m in Austin this week, for Silicon Labs’ Works With event, and while there I hosted a panel that provided a good sense of what is going to happen with the Matter smart home interoperability protocol. I think Kevin is a bit more optimistic than I am. We also got some small updates on Amazon’s Sidewalk Network plans, which we discuss. After that, we talk about some news from Silicon Labs, and why folks in the IoT should keep an eye on Apple’s satellite plans. Then we talk about Lutron’s new smart paddle switch and dimmer that will fit right into existing home decor as well as how long certain device lifespans should be in the wake of Eero canceling support for its first-generation mesh routers. We then look at what is likely the next-generation wired Nest Hello doorbells, and look at some new resources for mapping out smart building capabilities before discussing funding for industrial IoT middleware provider Litmus Automation. We end by answering a listener’s question about smart smoke alarms and sending notifications to a phone.

The new Diva paddle switch and dimmer. Image courtesy of Lutron.

Our guest this week is Prashant Kanhere, the CTO of PayRange. PayRange provides a Bluetooth-based module that installs on a vending machine, washing machine, or pool table and replaces coin payments with electronic payments. I’ve followed this company for years and was stoked to see they had half a million devices under management now. With that scale, the company has figured out how to monitor those devices and how to update their firmware over tiny sips of connectivity. It’s a process that could come in handy for other IoT devices on low data-rate networks that need security or feature updates. We also discuss how the app works and the future of smart pool tables for a bit of fun. Enjoy the show.

Host: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Prashant Kanhere, the CTO of PayRange
Sponsors:  Infineon and Silicon Labs

  • Matter may be too little, too late
  • The IoT should keep an eye on Apple’s satellite ambitions
  • Lutron’s new switch will fit right in
  • Dynamic pricing could come for commercial laundromats
  • Smart pool tables are in the future

Episode 388: Insurers come for the smart home

This week launched with a bang for those interested in the role insurers might play in the smart home as State Farm agreed to make a 1.2 billion equity investment in security firm ADT. This follows on the heels of Google’s equity investment in ADT in 2020 and signals a shift in the way insurance companies are thinking about the smart home. Google also said it would add more money to its ADT partnership. We then discuss a Matter demonstration at IFA and give some updates on what to expect from the protocol. After that we discuss the upcoming Google event and the Apple event from this week before taking a quick break.

The Flair vents work with a temperature-sensing puck. Image courtesy of Flair.

We don’t have a guest this week so we dove right back into the news with a trio of big fundings for the internet of things. First up is funding for a satellite IoT company called OQ that is special because it can use existing NB-IoT and LTE-M radios. The second funding is $140 million for Morse Micro, a chip company that is making chips for Wi-Fi HaLow deployments. The final funding is for Flair, a maker of connected HVAC vents for the home, which raised $7.6 million. We then talk about Ring adding end-to-end encryption for its wireless doorbell and video camera products, new ways to address your Nest Hub Max without saying “Hey Google” first, and new lights from Philips Hue. I also review the Hue Tap Dial Switch and realize my love of buttons is going to force me to do some serious work when Matter arrives. We end the show by answering a listener question about a smart button (or maybe a dumb one) for a smart garage door opener.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Sponsors:  Infineon and Silicon Labs

  • With the smart home, insurers can make sure you’re staying secure
  • Matter previewed at IFA
  • Wi-Fi HaLow got a big boost with Morse Micro funding
  • Climate change and energy conservation is driving smarter HVAC
  • I really love the Hue Tap Dial Switch

Episode 382: Is Helium full of hot air?

We start this week’s show with a deep dive into a popular post from this week about the Helium network. The report pointed out that Helium only made $6,500 in the month of June from data rates. We explain why that’s not a surprise and what it will take to get those numbers up. Then we talk about Apple’s Air Tags and their potential use to track thieves and suitcases. Then Kevin reviews the Eve Motion with Thread sensor and then we focus on the excellent article from CNET that documents when Ring, Nest, Arlo and other camera companies will share your video data with police. The we cover shorter stories from Drover AI, two satellite deals including a $3.4 billion European acquisition deal, and updated lighting features from GE Cync. We then answer a listener question about Insteon’s plan for an annual fee for cloud connectivity and services.

My suitcase and obligatory Air Tag. Image courtesy of A. Allemann.

Our guest this week is Jim Ethington, CEO of Arable, a precision agriculture company. He’s on the show to talk about Arable’s $40 million in funding, and what Arable has learned in the last six years of operation. We also talk about the myth of using data to create “perfect predictions” and what sorts of predictions are more realistic when discussing how farm sensors can help farmers increase yields. Then we discuss why farmers are looking beyond simple ROI measurements when adopting technology and how sensor platforms such as Arable’s can help make their investments in sustainability or traceability pay off. We end with a list of hardware that Ethington would like to see for future field sensors. These include better connectivity options and sensors that provide more options for detecting different wavelengths of light. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Jim Ethington, CEO of Arable
Sponsors: InfluxData and Intent

  • Helium is a legit business, but is it worth $1.2 billion?
  • The Air Tag is a tool for good or evil
  • How Ring and Google decide what videos to share with police
  • The future of precision farming goes far beyond greater yields
  • Sensors with different spectral ranges will let us better monitor plant health

Episode 341: Smart cities and smart fridges galore

Welcome to the weekly podcast! We’re moving Black Friday to October thanks to chip shortages and shipping delays. Meanwhile, Amazon is working on a smart fridge, Google is trying to use a $10 monthly subscription and Nest thermostats to help people go green and also launching new cameras and ways to surf its displays. The Starling Home Hub gets a new feature that lets you watch your Nest cameras on HomeKit gear, and consumers interested in mining Helium Network Tokens or participating in building a LoRaWAN network for IoT have another option thanks to RAK Wireless. Kevin and I also discuss a really cute Kickstarter version of the Boston Robotics Spot robot. When it’s a small, open-source robot for kids, it doesn’t seem so scary. We also discuss some cybersecurity research on industrial controls from Nozomi. We end by answering a listener question about where to sell your old smart home gear and how to prep it for sale.

The Mini Pupper is a small and cute spin on a much larger and scarier robot. Image courtesy of Mini Pupper.

This week’s guest is Sanjeet Pandit, global head of smart cities and digital transformation at Qualcomm. He’s on the show a week after Qualcomm held a smart cities event where it added new SaaS-based smart city services. We talk about how the pandemic has changed what municipalities want from technology firms, and how they are redefining what it takes to make a city smart. Pandit didn’t answer a lot of my questions about how cities are paying for these services or which ones were deploying some of the more futuristic services such as predictive traffic management, telling me that the cities get to decide when they talk about their deployments. But he assures me that many cities are making investments that go well beyond smart lighting, and I suppose for now, I’ll have to believe him and hope to see what municipalities start making announcements.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Sanjeet Pandit, global head of smart cities at Qualcomm
Sponsors: Trek10 and Ayla Networks

  • Why you want to start your holiday shopping now
  • Does anyone think an Amazon fridge could be trusted?
  • Would you trust a tiny open-source version of Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot?
  • What smart cities want after the pandemic
  • Several use cases for smart cities that don’t involve lighting!

 

Episode 335: Robots need a Myers-Briggs type

This week’s show starts off with old news that I forgot to tell y’all about last week: The Matter interoperability standard for the smart home is delayed until 2022. We talk about what that means and then turn to Google’s confusing fitness wearable strategy and the new Fitbit Charge 5 device. After that, we discuss human-computer interfaces and a new OT security report out from Honeywell. We also share an update on the Qi wireless power standard and I get angry about the Telsa robot marketing stunt designed to stop us from talking about the safety issues associated with the investigation of Tesla’s Autopilot by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. I end with a review of the Nest Cam and Nest Doorbell devices that are now each available for $179.99. We close the news segment with a question from a listener about buttons to turn off connected lights.

Surely, this understates the actual breaches, right? Image courtesy of Honeywell.

This week’s guest is Lionel Robert, Associate Professor of Information at the University of Michigan. He published a paper this month discussing how robots should best rebuild trust with humans after making a mistake. The paper is really interesting, and we spend a portion of this segment discussing why we need to trust robots and what is classified as a robot. From there we talk about the personality characteristics that Robert believes will work for different robots based on their form factors, their jobs, and the people they work with. We even talk about the ethics of making robots too trustworthy. It’s a lot of fun.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Lionel Robert, Associate Professor of Information at the University of Michigan
Sponsors: Silicon Labs and Infineon

  • Google’s wellness and wearables strategy is super messed up
  • Kevin thinks your IoT products should offer real-time feedback
  • Google’s new Nest cameras are good for Google homes, but there are other options
  • Should this robot be an ESTJ  or an INTJ?
  • What even is a robot, anyway?

Episode 327: Amazon’s Halo health push and more Matter

Any Amazon Halo subscriber can try Amazon’s Movement Health service now, so Kevin and I explain what it is and what Amazon’s decisions around the Halo fitness tracker signal about the company’s interest in healthcare. We then cover the good news that Google will support connected Nest devices with security updates for up to five years after launch and Google’s new location tracking app for its Wi-Fi routers. Kevin wonders why Verizon needs its own smart display and tells us about Lenovo’s latest Google clock display while I share news of a smart building startup getting funding. We end with the news that ADT and Ring have settled their lawsuit about Ring’s use of the trademarked blue ADT octagon. After the news, we answer a listener’s question about changing Wi-Fi SSIDs and passwords and what that might mean for his smart home devices.

The Lenovo Smart Clock 2 can charge your phone using a Qi dock. Image courtesy of Lenovo.

Our guest this week is Nathan Dyck, chief product officer at Nanoleaf. We kick off the segment by focusing on the future of lighting before digging into a discussion of the Thread protocol. He talks about why Thread is such a positive choice for the smart home, and then we talk about Matter. He explains what the multi-admin feature is and tells us why he’s excited about the distributed ledger for tracking the provenance of a device. We end with a look ahead at some of the features he expects to see in smart lights after Matter is established. Enjoy the show.

Host: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Nathan Dyck, chief product officer Nanoleaf
Sponsors: Silicon Labs and Trek10

  • Amazon’s Halo isn’t about fitness, it’s a about health
  • How long should a thermostat get security updates?
  • Could Verizon’s new display offer a path to Amazon’s Sidewalk?
  • Nanoleaf didn’t start out making smart lights
  • Matter may make new features easier to develop

Episode 322: Google’s Fuchsia looks promising for the IoT

Did you know that Roku aims to get into the smart home game? We discuss that along with a new set of vulnerabilities in Bluetooth during the first part of the show, before moving onto Google’s new Fuchsia OS and some updates from Google I/O. After that, we discuss surveillance technology from China and the need for more discussion and disclosure around new technology purchases by local governments. We touch on a proposed data privacy law, new HomeKit support for the Eero 6 routers, and Wyze night lights. We end the news segment by answering a listener question about the Wyze security system and Yale locks.

A DroneExpress drone and package. Image courtesy of DroneExpress.

Our guest this week is Beth Flippo, CTO at Telegrid, which owns DroneExpress. DroneExpress has built a drone delivery service based on drone and radio technology built by Telegrid for the military. With DroneExpress, Flippo aims to build a business delivering items weighing less than five pounds within a small radius. This month Kroger announced it was trying the service for grocery delivery. We discuss why Teregrid decided to sell a service as opposed to the technology, what niche drone delivery serves, and even how widespread drone delivery could change consumer packaging. We also talk about the limitations of drones and Flippo’s belief that drone delivery could reinvigorate brick and mortar businesses.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Beth Flippo, DroneExpress
SponsorVery

  • What will Roku do in the smart home?
  • Kevin thinks Google’s Fuchsia OS will be good for the IoT
  • Technology is a tool, but we need to understand its potential uses
  • Why sell hardware when you can sell a service?
  • How drone delivery might influence the size of consumer packaged goods