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 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 365: Helium gets a new name and $200 million

This week’s show was recorded on the road, but we still cover all of the big news starting with LoRaWAN network Helium changing its name to Nova Labs and raising $200 million. We then discuss research from MIT that offers privacy for people captured on video and several options for connecting beehives. I then get depressed about a UK startup offering incentives for being healthy, Kevin gets excited about Eufy’s latest combo video doorbell and door lock, and we both try to figure out who the new Arduino Pro Portenta X8 is for. We also discuss a security flaw in Wyze cams, remind people about best practices for securing connected devices and share news that Google is also trying to build the ability to discover Bluetooth trackers into Android. Finally, we answer a listener question about deleting phantom devices from HomeAssistant and Amazon Alexa.

The Beewise robotic beehive is ready for occupation. Image courtesy of Beewise.

Our guest this week is Doug Stovall, the CEO of Ossia, an over-the-air wireless power company. Ossia’s technology, called Cota, uses the 5.8 GHz spectrum to send 5 watts of power to devices that have a Cota chip and are able to accept it. There’s no charging pad or wire involved.nWe discuss the company’s recent FCC approval, which brings the technology to the U.S., as well as a deal with Archos, a French smart home device maker. Stovall says we’ll see Cota-enabled products in 2023 and maybe a smart home camera in time for the holidays. We dig in on how to think about efficiency when it comes to power delivery and what kind of impact over-the-air wireless could have before we play a game where I say a device and Stovall tells me how it should be powered. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Doug Stovall, the CEO of Ossia
Sponsors: Save our Standards and RAKwireless

  • Helium has a new name, $200 million and a mysterious revenue model.
  • What is it about IoT beehives?
  • Well, this is an innovation in smart locks.
  • Charge a smartwatch over-the-air? Sure.
  • Let’s play Name That Power Source.

 

Episode 364: Speed queens and Matter dreams

A week after the CSA said that the Matter smart home interoperability standard would be delayed we get a chance to talk about why the standard is delayed until fall, and what it means for consumers and smart home device makers. We then share Omdia data on how much ownership of different smart home devices has grown in the last year and explain what new design and privacy tweaks are coming to the Google Home app. In security-oriented news we share how radar might keep secured spaces clear of people and the latest CISA and FBI alert for infrastructure companies and satellite companies worried about cyberattacks. We then showcase how a new factory 5G network in Lexington, Kentucky deploying a private 5G network might signal the actual beginnings of 5G adoption in other manufacturing settings. In other wireless news, I reviewed the Eero Pro 6E routers mostly because I’m excited about 1,200 MHz of new spectrum for Wi-Fi. Finally, we answer a listener question about the Level Home locks and if it might get support for Apple’s HomeKey.

Omdia chart showing adoption of various smart home gadgets in the last year.

Our guest this week is Alex Hawkinson, CEO of BrightAI. Hawkinson is likely familiar to listeners as the founder and former CEO of SmartThings, the smart home platform purchased by Samsung. At his latest company, Hawkinson is continuing to try to add intelligence to the world by taking sensor data and turning it to insights. Only this time, he’s trying to tackle the challenge with more AI and an enterprise focus. We talk about what BrightAI is trying to do and how it ties back to Hawkinson’s history at SmartThings. He explains how BrightAI client CSC Serviceworks uses the internet of things to modernize its operations leading to a 10% to 20% growth in revenue. The case study is impressive, as is the vision of helping lots of older companies retrofit their operations with connected sensors and AI. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Alex Hawkinson, CEO of BrightAI
Sponsors: Save our Standards and RAKwireless

  • What it means that Matter is delayed again
  • The Google Home app is getting a redesign
  • Will 2022 and 2023 be the year 5G makes it in manufacturing?
  • How to turn 100,000 Speed Queens into smart washers
  • What’s next in sensor tech?

Episode 363: How will DST affect the IoT?

This week, the U.S. Senate passed a bill that would make it possible for states to use Daylight Saving Time all year round, so we discuss what it means for IoT devices and whether or not it will be a return to Y2K. For current crises, we cover China’s latest COVID outbreak and what it means for the supply chain. We then talk about ARM’s layoffs and Google’s new design for Google Home. In privacy news, Carnegie Melon researchers have shown how sensors can easily figure out what people are doing based on their movements. We also cover funding for Copper Labs, an energy intelligence company, the first development board for Wi-Fi HaLow, the first device that will use Z-Wave long range, IKEA’s new smart shades, and a new gun safe from Wyze. For the IoT Podcast Hotline, we tackle a listener question about Wi-Fi switches that don’t require formal wiring.

The Wyze gun safe is $154.99. Image courtesy of Wyze.

Our guest this week is Beau Legeer, the director of imagery and remote sensing from GIS software provider Esri. He explains the infrastructure behind the maps we use every day and then talk about how companies are using satellites as part of their IoT sensing infrastructure. Most of us are aware of the potential for using satellite imagery to track all kinds of things, but satellites are launching now that measure heat, various gases and more. We talk about why putting sensors in the sky can help augment those on the ground or supplant them. We also talk about using satellite data as a trigger. And if you’re a startup, we talk about Esri’s partnerships with startups and charities. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Beau Legeer, director of imagery and remote sensing, Esri
Sponsors: Save our Standards and RAKwireless

  • Will year-round daylight saving time affect the IoT?
  • Here comes the Nvidia/ARM merger failure fallout
  • Two new wireless standards hit the real world
  • See something on satellite? Trigger a drone!
  • Satellite can provide more than just image data

Episode 290: Apple’s smart speaker and cheap thermostats

This week’s IoT podcast kicks off with a focus on Apple’s new HomePod mini and the inclusion of the Thread protocol on the device. We then discuss how it fits into the world of smart speakers and my own recent purchases, such as my feelings about the Echo Studio and the Nest Audio. We then talk about the $129 Nest Thermostat and what cheap thermostats mean for the smart home. From there we share news about e-waste, AR goggles for dogs, smart benches in Auckland, Alphabet’s smart farming device, and Cisco’s easy IoT sensors. We then answer a listener question about the purpose of hubs.

Apple’s HomePod mini is small and costs $99. Image courtesy of Apple.

This week’s guest is a blast from the past. I am running my chat with Dan Jeavons, general manager – Data Science at Shell, who spoke at my event in July focused on machine learning at the edge. I am running his interview because ML at the edge is getting a lot more attention and Jeavons did a good job explaining what it can and can’t do yet, and how hard it is to use machine learning in edge use cases. We also talked a bit about synthetic data, another hot topic. So if you attended the event, this guest will sound familiar, but many of y’all will likely hear it for the first time.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Dan Jeavons, general manager – Data Science at Shell
Sponsors: Silicon Labs and Very

  • Why does Apple’s Homepod mini have a Thread radio?
  • Which $99 smart speaker is right for you?
  • What inexpensive thermostats say about the smart home
  • How Shell is using machine learning at the edge
  • Why doesn’t machine learning scale at the edge?

 

 

Episode 288: New devices and new threats

This week’s show covers device launches from Amazon last week and Google this week. We also talk about connected coffee machines getting hacked, Amazon letting people pay with their palm, and Apple’s smart home patents. After that, we switch to developer news with Twilio’s new IoT platform and ARM’s chip designs for autonomous robots and cars. Vodafone added a new feature to its IoT modules, Yale has a smart package box for your business or home, and Swarm’s IoT module is out and somewhat pricey. In this week’s IoT Podcast hotline segment, we take a tip from a listener about pausing your 5GHz Wi-Fi when adding certain types of connected devices.

Amazon wants to let people pay with their palms.

Our guest this week is Emily Anthes, a science journalist, and the author of The Great Indoors, a book that covers how we live now. Anthes talks about how the smart home is turning into a medical device to meet the needs of the elderly and how important people still are in figuring out what to do with connected device data. She then talks about how employers are using sensors in the workplace to help boost health and productivity. However, boosting productivity can be benign or almost totalitarian depending on the employer so we discuss surveillance and how to ensure people’s rights aren’t trampled in the process of making workplaces smarter. You’ll enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Emily Anthes, author The Great Indoors
Sponsors: Perceive and Ayla Networks

 

Episode 278: Amazon’s Alexa Developer news and 5G’s next wave

This week’s show digs into the announcements made during Amazon’s Alexa Live event held Wednesday. We explain the Connect Kit hardware and Alexa skill upgrades and try to offer a bit of context about what it means for users and developers. After that, we move to Wyze’s ask for donations and our fears over its business model. Then Kevin and I talk about big soda bringing QR codes back in the U.S. Next, we cover Ford, Fitbit, a new lighting brand at Best Buy, and new smart plugs from Belkin Wemo. Finally, we answer a question about automating a Schlage lock and Zigbee lights using SmartThings.

New Wemo outlets are smaller, and if you buy a 3-pack, cheaper. Image courtesy of Wemo.

Our guest this week is John Smee, the VP of engineering and head of cellular research at Qualcomm, who explains everything you need to know about 5G for the IoT. We discuss the recently approved release 16 version of the 5G standard and how it helps with enterprise and industrial IoT. That release includes the ability to combine licensed and unlicensed spectrum, offers better positioning  and lower latency. And then we move onto the Release 17 standard that will come out in 18 months. This standard is what I call the Goldilocks standard that will provide a mix of capabilities between the superfast multi-gigabit 5G on phones today and the very low-data-rate NB-IoT capabilities. You’ll learn what it will enable and when to expect it. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: John Smee, the VP of engineering and head of cellular research at Qualcomm
Sponsor: Very

  • Amazon’s Alexa updates make it smarter and put Alexa inside apps
  • Wyze wants its “friends” to donate for person detection
  • Smart lighting and outlets get two new products
  • This upcoming 5G update will give us 100 Mbps speeds for IoT devices
  • 5G will do away with buying a bucket of data

Episode 269: Wyze wants to bulk up and Microsoft Build news

This week’s show is all about Seattle-area companies. First up, Wyze wants to raise money, so it shared its sales from last year and plans for 30 more smart home products. Kevin and I talk about the company and its impact on the industry. Then we shift to Microsoft and its Build event, which took place this week. We discuss the IoT news including Azure RTOS, an update to Azure IoT Central (the SaaS IoT platform for Azure), and more.  We also took a side trip to explore a new consortium dedicated to digital twins. We then discuss what $4.99 a month buys you from Wink, a new wearable for contact tracing from Nodle and Avnet, the new Logitech Circle View camera, and Google Assistant getting new skills for appliances. We conclude by answering an email from Australia about door locks for rentals.

The new Logitech Circle View camera works with Apple’s HomeKit Secure Video service and sells for $159. Image courtesy of Logitech.

This week’s guest is Dr. Ben Calhoun, co-founder, and co-CTO at Everactive. I profiled the company a few years back when it had a different name but the same mission — building battery-free sensors that are powered via energy harvesting. The company has sold its steam trap sensor since 2018 and is now launching a vibration sensor. We talk about how to build a sensor that can harvest enough energy to monitor factory conditions, how COVID-19 is changing the demand for industrial IoT, and what changes once plant managers get a continuous stream of data about their operations. It’s a fun show, and you’ll learn all about steam traps!

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Dr. Ben Calhoun, co-founder, and co-CTO at Everactive
SponsorsVery and Edge Impulse

  • Wyze sold $95 million in gear last year
  • Microsoft’s really building out an end-to-end IoT infrastructure
  • Wink is charging me $5 a month so my voice assistants integrate better
  • Why we need energy harvesting sensors
  • How to sell a big name on a startup’s tech

 

Episode 244: How AWS plans to take on the IoT

This week Amazon announced several new services ahead of its re:Invent event next week including news about Alexa Voice Services and the IoT elements of the cloud. We also touch base about Wink’s latest problem and try to explain the kerfuffle on lightweight IoT encryption. In smaller news bits, we talk about Wyze killing its person-detection feature unexpectedly, NB-IoT trackers from See.Sense and Flok, Google’s Ambient Mode coming to phones and Black Friday deals. We then review the Philips Hue Smart Button and the RoomMe presence detection devices from Intellithings. We end by answering a listener question about ways to remotely track his parents’ medicine adherence.

The Flok is one of several upcoming trackers that will rely on NB-IoT. Image courtesy of Flok.

Our guest this week brings us back to where we started, with Sarah Cooper, GM of outcome-driven engineering at Amazon Web Services, coming on the show to talk about how Amazon plans to compete in the industrial and enterprise IoT with cloud and on-premise services. She talks about the latest news, the architecture required for the IoT, and the three laws of building a connected service. Plus, she explains why containers and serverless computing matter so much for the internet of things. You’ll learn a lot.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Sarah Cooper, GM of outcome-driven engineering at AWS
Sponsors: Legrand and Schlage

  • Amazon doubles down on the cloud for Alexa
  • What’s up with the lightweight-encryption debate
  • I loved the Hue Smart Button but Kevin didn’t go for the RoomMe sensors
  • How Amazon plans to compete for enterprise and industrial cloud services
  • Amazon’s three laws for architecting services