Episode 399: Alexa’s drama and our holiday gift guide

The biggest news in the internet of things this week was the staggering story about Amazon’s Alexa business being responsible for the majority of an estimated $10 billion loss in the year ahead. So Kevin and I discuss what Amazon pulling back on Alexa might look like and what it means for voice and the smart home. Then we talk about how a newly available Amazon device signals Amazon’s problem and the potential solutions to that problem. After talking about voice, we take a look at a new controller from Aqara that uses gestures and share our thoughts about the form factor.  After all our user interaction talk, we then cover some news, such as the FIDO Alliance planning to work on security and authentication issues for the IoT, Google’s plans for aggregating fitness data, and a new dev kit from T-Mobile. We also talk about new devices from Wyze and Firewalla. Finally, we answer a listener’s question about connecting LED fairy lights. Then it’s time to talk about the holidays.

The Aqara Cube T1 Pro costs $22.99, and is a fancy button that you can press, roll and shake. Image courtesy of Aqara.

Every year we choose 10 devices that we think make good holiday gifts for our audience and their loved ones. This year we suggest a few in the first part of the show, such as the JaxJox kettlebell and my perennial favorite, the Ember mug. (I gave this to my mom in 2019, and she still uses it every day.) This year’s gifts include a smart plug designed for Matter, a device to reboot your router, and multiple options for smart buttons from Philips Hue and Shortcut Labs. We also include a Nanoleaf option because we’re such fans of the devices as gifts for teens. We also include some fancier gifts for chefs and dog owners. There are more options in this week’s newsletter, but before we sign off we also want to thank our listeners for the gift of their time this year, and the nine years that Kevin and I have been producing this show. Y’all are awesome.

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

  • Voice is a user interface, not a platform
  • I don’t want to roll the dice on my home routines
  • Google aggregates health data in a better format
  • We love buttons and lights for smart home gifts
  • We also love cooking tech, and pet tech too

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 377: Why there were 56 OT vulnerabilities this week

This week we cover the Ericsson mobility report that offers some stats on cellular IoT connections, including the surprising nugget that we won’t see 4G/5G connections surpass 2G/3G connections until some time next year. Then we hit another report. This one is from NPR and covers the state of audio and smart speakers. It proves that growth is slowing for smart speakers and that we may not do as many things with voice as we think. In dystopian news we cover China using COVID tracking apps to lock down protesters, and Microsoft stopping sales of some facial recognition tools. In new product news we talk about the latest Philips Hue gear, a new material that could generate electricity for wearables, and new MCUs from NXP. We also address the closure of SmartDry and explain how Google’s update on the Nest Max Hub may break your Nest x Yale lock. We end by answering a listener question about more accurate motion sensors.

Our guest this week is Daniel dos Santos, head of security research at Vedere, a business unit of Forescout. He’s on the show to discuss why Forescout released 56 new OT vulnerabilities dubbed ICEFALL. He shares the design flaws that led to these vulnerabilities and more importantly, explains what needs to happen if compromised controllers or devices can’t be fixed. He also shares a startling stat about how many industrial customers are actually updating their devices after a vulnerability has been disclosed, and how to encourage more of them to address security flaws. If you want to learn more abut securing critical infrastructure, this is a good place to start.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Daniel dos Santos, head of security research at Forescout
Sponsors: Nordic Semiconductor and Wirepas

  • There are still more 2G and 3G IoT connections than 4G/5G ones
  • With smart speakers it’s the same as it ever was
  • Are the new Hue track lights for you?
  • The ICEFALL vulnerabilities are a sign of progress actually.
  • This vendor says only one in ten patch their OT gear

Episode 356: Smart home improvement is now a thing

This week’s show starts with a healthy portion of chips, with the main course being Nvidia’s reported acceptance that its deal to acquire ARM isn’t likely to happen. We then turn to the U.S. Commerce Department’s plans to combat the chip shortage crisis, new ML chips from Silicon Labs, Google’s first TinyML Coral microcontroller, and an Arduino-like RISC-V product. Feeling full from all of this chip ingestion we discuss how Peloton is trying to work out its excess inventory challenge. Two smart tracking companies raised some funding this week: Pebblebee on the consumer side and newly launched Tag-n-Trac for shipping and logistics. We then discuss how Thread turned the Wemo Stage controller from “meh” to “must-have” and share details of new Philips Hue fixtures. Rounding out the episode is a listener question from Michael asking if Alexa can control his Google Nest thermostat.

Peloton is changing its production plans, but we still think it has value. Image courtesy of Peloton.

Our guest this week is Oisin Hanrahan who is the CEO of Angi, the home services company formerly known as Angie’s List. He’s on the show to talk about startling data his company discovered late last year. According to Angi’s data, for the first time ever, smart home investments were in the top three home improvements made by homeowners. Hanrahan explains what homeowners are doing and why they are willing to invest in more technology. He also offers advice to device makers who want to attract the pro-installer business and makes recommendations on how pros think about the smart home. It’s a great interview.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Oisin Hanrahan, CEO of Angi
Sponsors: Rightpoint and Hologram

  • Nvidia may be giving up on its ARM-acquisition
  • $52 billion for U.S. chip factories won’t fix the real problem
  • Peloton could learn a thing or two from Apple
  • Painting, bathroom remodels, and smart home drive home improvements
  • What a pro wants

Episode 336: Australia’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad surveillance law

We start this week’s show with a look at a new surveillance law in Australia that seemingly obliterates a lot of protections around how law enforcement officials can access data and what they can do with it. We also talk about a survey conducted in the U.S. that shows how willing many Americans are to share their data in exchange for cheaper insurance. From there we cover new fundings for Brilliant, Wirepas, and Carbon Robotics. For those eager for an update on Helium’s 5G plans, the Freedom Fi hotspots will hit the market on Sept. 28. We also have updates on new products and features from the maker of Philips Hue devices, Spotify, Google, and Amazon Alexa. We end with a question from David about how to avoid the problems associated with adding new devices or hubs to his smart home network.

Brilliant, the maker of smart home light switches, has raised $40 million. Image courtesy of Brilliant.

Our guest this week is Charles Young, the EVP and COO of Invitation Homes, a company that leases single-family homes. He’s on the show to discuss how Invitation Homes plans to add smart devices to its portfolio of 80,000 homes and to talk about the challenges of managing that many devices. We discuss the future of predictive maintenance across the portfolio, the savings the company has already achieved, and plans for new features such as video doorbells. We also talk about the perceived longevity for different device types in the smart home. And of course, we talk about how the company handles privacy.  It’s a fun interview.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Charles Young, the EVP and COO of Invitation Homes
Sponsors:  Silicon Labs and Infineon

  • In Australia, your data can be modified and searched by law enforcement
  • Alternative 5G networks and smart home devices raise VC funds
  • Alexa and Google both get new features
  • Why Invitation Homes thinks the smart home could help it be more efficient
  • It’s pretty difficult to manage 80,000 smart homes

 

 

Episode 332: The IoT gets a good idea and a bad idea

This week, news slowed down a bit so Kevin and I kick off the show talking about a connected manual device to physically press buttons or twist dials as needed to turn older appliances “smart.” After praising that idea we panned Amazon’s new soap dispenser for having a Wi-Fi chip that’s really underused. In other Seattle news, Wyze, the makers of so many connected devices, has raised $110 million from a venture firm associated with Jay-Z and IKEA launches an air-purifying side table. Sure. Philips Hue plans to launch a slightly brighter color-changing (and tunable white) bulb while Home Assistant has added energy-monitoring features as part of its latest update. We also talk about the creation of Alphabet’s industrial robot software startup Intrinsic and what innovation in robotics software could enable and end with Kevin’s take on the U.S. being behind in smart cities.

IKEA’s new air purifier is built into the side table. Image courtesy of IKEA.

Our guest this week is Shaun Cooley, CEO of Mapped, who is on the show explaining why smart buildings are getting more attention lately.  We talk about what matters for real estate with the ongoing pandemic (I can no longer bring myself to say Post-COVID, y’all) and a renewed focus on energy savings. For the nerds, we cover technologies and data layers such as Haystack, Brick, and Microsoft’s Real Estate Core for building digital twins. He also shares his thoughts on how buyers are maturing when it comes to evaluating the security of their tech purchases. It seems buyers are asking more questions and better questions, which can only be a good thing. I agree.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Shaun Cooley, CEO of Mapped
Sponsors: Very

  • We have a good idea/bad idea segment this week
  • Wyze has $110 million in new funding for AI
  • Home Assistant gets energy monitoring as a feature
  • Why smart buildings are having a moment
  • Which standards matter for smart buildings

 

Episode 291: All about Amazon’s Sidewalk and the new Echo

This week we start and end with dying devices. First up, we talk about Google discontinuing its Nest Secure alarm system and sensors (it will still support existing systems in the field). We then talk about Nanoleaf’s new products including lights that support Thread. This week is full of smart speakers as we discuss the new Acer Halo and I offer my thoughts on Amazon’s fourth-generation Echo and the Echo Dot with clock. We also talk about the new Raspberry Pi compute module, ARM’s new edge processor, and Microsoft’s open-source project to support Kubernetes at the edge. Google adds support for multiple accounts on your display, there’s a new smart blind project coming, a recall, and we have an update on the Ring mailbox sensor. We end with a question from a reader that wants to reuse his Harman Kardon Invoke speakers after Microsoft discontinues Cortana. And now, we’ve come full circle.

The new Nanoleaf triangles and mini-triangles will work with the existing hexagon Shapes. Image courtesy of Nanoleaf.

Our guest this week is Manolo Arana, GM of Amazon’s Sidewalk network. He explains how the network will work for consumers and device makers. For now, you’ll need an Amazon device with a Sidewalk-compatible radio in it to connect devices to the network. We also talk about how much bandwidth Amazon wants to use on your network and which radios will support the Sidewalk protocol. For those wondering when we’ll see devices for the network and how much it will cost, he talks about that too. Enjoy.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Manolo Arana, GM of Amazon’s Sidewalk network
SponsorsSilicon Labs and Very

  • What do we do about dying smart home stuff?
  • Nanoleaf, shut up, and take my money!
  • The latest Echo hits the right (bass) notes
  • How Sidewalk differs from LoRaWAN and other LPWANs
  • Downed internet? Sidewalk might help.

Episode 289: Nest Audio and IoT trends in the enterprise

This week’s show kicks off with a bunch of data from Microsoft’s latest IoT Signals report which shows that, for a third of companies, COVID-19 is speeding up their IoT deployments. We discuss the data and then talk about updates on the Nvidia deal for ARM from ARM’s developer conference, a cheaper Jetson AI module, and another Telnet weakness. Yes, we also discuss the hacked sex toy, the $50 Wyze thermostat, my experience with the brighter Philips Hue bulbs, and my thoughts on the new Nest Audio speaker. We round out the show with a cheaper Jacquard backpack and Google’s latest accessibility efforts. We end by answering a question about using a Wyze sensor to alert a grandparent to a toddler near the stairs.

Even in my cluttered office, the $99 Nest Audio fits right in and sounds pretty good. Image courtesy of me.

Our guest this week is Mike Cerilli, VP Marketing, Commercial Digital Solutions at Ecolab, discussing how Ecolab is using Hololens and IoT to save time and keep workers away from manufacturing plants. Ecolab provides sensors and services to ensure water quality for industrial clients. Cerilli explains how different industries use water and what the company has learned after 25 years of offering a custom-designed connected sensor. He also shares tips on augmented reality and how it’s helping Ecolab keep workers remote.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Mike Cerilli, VP Marketing, Commercial Digital Solutions at Ecolab
Sponsors: Perceive and Very

  • The average IoT project deployment takes 12 months
  • ARM and Nvidia’s CEOs think the deal will go through (but it will be slow)
  • Nest Audio fits on your shelf and sounds great for $99
  • Can augmented reality help cram a week’s worth of training in a few hours?
  • IoT is going to help companies with water use and conservation

Episode 285: All about IFTTT’s new paid plan

This week the show starts with an overview on IFTTT’s new paid plan and then dives into the recent update on Project Connected Home over IP. There’s not a lot of news, but the effort is still progressing, which is something. We also discuss the new long-range Z-Wave standard,  a new court ruling on geofencing data collection, and Apple’s upcoming event. We then discuss the challenges that Bluetooth-based contact tracing efforts face, a new smart home alarm system retrofit from Konnected, a new talent in an old air quality sensor, and some new Philips Hue products. From there we dig into some new Amazon Alexa skills for apartments and for voice calls before ending with Peloton’s new bike. We also answer a listener question about putting Alexa in different households under the same account.

An updated and more detailed diagram of what the CHIP application layer will handle.

Our guest this week is Linden Tibbets, the CEO of IFTTT. He’s on the show to explain the details behind IFTTT’s new Pro plan, which I’m guessing that most of the audience will want to investigate. The Pro plan offers users more complex applets, lower latency, and actual support, but it comes at a price. Tibbets explains why users can set their own price for the service for now, and how he hopes to get people to pay $9.99 a month eventually. Tibbets also explains what free users can expect and gives an update on the other side of IFTTT’s business — selling integration services to brands. If you’re an IFTTT user, you’ll want to listen to this show, and if you’re not an IFTTT user, maybe you’ll want to be after hearing the show.

  • Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
    Guests: Linden Tibbets, CEO of IFTTT
    Sponsors: Very and Ayla Networks
  • Project CHIP’s latest news wasn’t big, but it was encouraging
  • Z-Wave isn’t dead yet
  • This air quality sensor will predict your home’s likelihood of mold
  • IFTTT boosts applet creation options and makes users pay
  • How IFTTT is trying to warm users up to a monthly subscription fee

Episode 282: Philips Hue has high hopes for Project CHIP

This week’s show kicks off with the Bluetooth SIG’s effort to bring Bluetooth-based contact tracing to individuals who might not have phones, and then segues into what’s behind the Z-Wave Alliance’s organizational shakeup.  After that, we pause to remember the passing of Verizon’s IoT platform dreams and cover the end (or maybe just a momentary pause) of Alphabet’s smart city dreams. Kevin and I debate the utility of research that can use your phone’s accelerometer to tell if you’ve had too much to drink, and we cover news from IBM’s security team, Zoom, Google Nest, and Microsoft. Kevin and I also talk about bringing a new interaction modality to the smart home. We end with a tip from a listener on the IoT Podcast Hotline that covers new ideas for smart plugs.

Expect to buy one or more hubs over the life of your Philips Hue bulbs, as the system gets smarter or addresses new opportunities over time.

Our guest this week is George Yianni, head of technology at Philips Hue, who came on to discuss what Hue is trying to do with smart lighting and where it wants to go next. We also get his thoughts on Project Connected Home over IP, the unifying standard that Apple, Google, Amazon, and Samsung are trying to create. For users who want to understand the decision to kill the version 1 Hue hub, Yianni explains that move and covers a good lesson for other device manufacturers on how to handle the tough calls to stop supporting a device. It’s a good show that has me eager to spend money on color-changing light bulbs.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: George Yianni, head of technology at Philips Hue
Sponsors: Very and Silicon Labs

  • Why the Z-Wave Alliance shook up its organizational structure
  • Remember the days of the IoT platform play?
  • Your smartphone may know when you’ve had one too many drinks
  • Has Philips Hue achieved what its inventors hoped?
  • How Project CHIP could help, or hinder Philips Hue