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

Episode 243: Nanoleaf Canvas review and a talk with Tuya

We kick off this week’s podcast with Kevin’s struggles to get his Google Home to talk to Wink. Then we unpack some of the standards news out from the ZigBee Alliance and the Open Connectivity Foundation, which is introducing OCF-over-Thread.  From there we do a quick update on Ring, talk about a new smart grill from Weber, a new way for Alexa to control your TV, and updates to Eero’s Wi-Fi. We then talk about my experience with the Nanoleaf Canvas lights. One of us had a better experience than the other. We end with an answer for a listener who bought low-cost Wi-Fi bulbs and wants a remote to control them.

The new Weber SmokeFire pellet grill has smarts provided by June. Image courtesy of Weber.

Our guest this week is Alex Yang, the COO and co-founder of Tuya. Tuya is an IoT platform that provides everything from connectivity to help building out sales channels for end products. Brands such as Energizer, Walmart’s Merkury Innovation, and more use Tuya’s platform to connect their devices. Yang talks about Tuya’s founding, its multi-country headquarters, and its privacy policies. He also shares details behind the recent appointment of former GE CEO Jeff Immelt to the Tuya board and some details about its new deal with SmartThings. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Alex Yang, the COO and co-founder of Tuya
Sponsors:  Legrand and Afero

  • Wink’s malaise strikes its Google integration … again!
  • Why we might want OFC-over-Thread
  • A fun lighting product that doubles as art
  • Tuya is one of the largest IoT platforms you’ve never heard of
  • Can we trust a Chinese startup with our home data?

 

 

 

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 241: How a smarter edge can make schools safer

This week on the show, Kevin and I started with a discussion of reports of how smart speakers can receive remote commands from a hacker with a laser. We then shifted gears to talk about company research showing how much data your smart homes are sending and a brand new network product from Firewalla. Cortana’s pivot to productivity gets a mention, as does Kevin’s take on Google buying Fitbit. From there we reviewed the Twinklys smart lights, talked about new Ecobee features, smart apartment deals and the open-sourcing of Google’s Titan chip. We then answer a listener question about smart garage door opener alternatives for Chamberlain’s MyQ product.

The new Firewalla security device is now also a router. Image courtesy of Firewalla.

Our guest this week is Lee Odess, vice president of strategic partnerships at Allegion. We start off talking about smart edge capabilities that could be used to make schools, offices and other spaces safer. Then we discuss how smart home device manufacturers have changed their goals when trying to create partnerships. Before, the focus might be on marketing on one-off features, but manufacturers are becoming more sophisticated. Find out what’s new, and enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Lee Odess, vice president of strategic partnerships at Allegion.
Sponsors: Legrand and Afero

  • Using frickin’ lasers to hack Alexa
  • What do your devices do while you are sleeping?
  • Why Amazon should have purchased Fitbit
  • Stopping tailgaters at college requires smarts at the edge
  • Privacy is becoming a point of negotiation in the gadget world

Episode 235: How Amazon is defining the smart home

This week’s show covers the big Amazon announcements in the guest segment, but first Kevin and I focus on the retailer’s smaller announcements around its new show and tell feature and voice interoperability efforts.  Kevin has thoughts about cameras in the home. We also talk about Google changing how it handles voice recordings to help address user outrage while covering a study about the privacy challenges of other IoT devices. Then we dive into the geeky idea of merging Wi-Fi and LoRaWAN into a super IoT protocol, cover Zira’s industrial IoT software and figure out who might buy FitBit. We end by answering a question about smart bedside table lamps.

For 99 cents you can get an explicit or clean version of Samuel L. Jackson to replace Alexas voice for some features of the Echo.

Our guest this week is Daniel Rausch, VP of Smart Home, Amazon who runs through some of the bigger announcements from the Amazon Alexa and services event on Wednesday. We cover why Alexa has moved beyond a physical device to become a digital assistant and platform. We talk about how Amazon wants to make money on that platform as well as some of the new devices that will showcase Alexa. These include Frames and the Loop ring. Plus, we do a deeper dive into Sidewalk, Amazon’s new wireless protocol for the front yard (and maybe more). Rausch ends by telling us how long we’ll take to see Amazon deliver a truly smart, proactive home.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Daniel Rausch, VP of Smart Home, Amazon
Sponsors: Control4 and HiveMQ

  • Are cameras the secret to smart home dominance?
  • The pros and cons of voice interoperability
  • This Wi-Fi plus LoRaWAN plan isn’t too crazy
  • The digital assistant is the new tech platform and Alexa is queen
  • More on Amazon’s new Sidewalk wireless protocol

Episode 226: Google’s Nest exec isn’t into smart homes

This week’s show kicks off with Kevin and I discussing how Google’s head of IoT isn’t a believer in the smart home. Except he is. He just calls it something else, and we explain his rationale for doing so. We also explain why I am so excited about Microsoft’s new contracts for sharing data and why Tile just scored $45 million in funding. From there we wonder if Google’s machine learning-based approach to recognizing electricity use in appliances is cool, who would buy the OmniFob smart keychain, and why Wyze is building a scale. Then we move to news from Huawei, Abode going deeper with Google Assistant, Adobe’s voice study and LG adding HomeKit to new TVs. Kevin shares his impressions of the Firewalla device, and then we answer a listener question about bring smart bulbs outside and finding wireless switches that work. It must be summer, based on these outdoor inquiries.

The OmniFob can replace your car keys, your house keys and control your smart home.

Our guest this week is Yana Welinder, co-founder and CEO of Kraftful, a newly launched startup building apps for smart home devices. Kraftful is a company at YCombinator that is working with big brands to make the apps for connected devices work better. She explains what features mainstream consumers want, why big companies aren’t building these apps themselves and why her business isn’t a feature of a larger tech stack. It’s a good intro to a new company.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Yana Welinder, co-founder and CEO of Kraftful
Sponsors: Dell Technologies and Afero

  • Call it intuitive, smart or helpful, just make it happen
  • Microsoft’s contracts serve a burgeoning need for enterprises
  • Firewalla makes a big impression
  • Why do so many smart device apps suck?
  • Can Kraftful turn app development into a scalable business?