Episode 408: Hacking sensors and securing medical devices

This week’s show starts with an overview of the reviews for the new second generation HomePod and a deep dive into the security mess that Anker has made with its Eufy smart home cameras. We then dig into some earnings from IoT chip providers NXP and Silicon Labs, before discussing some new ideas to use RFID to prevent retail theft. We then talk about how the demand for retail tech could be generating demand for better broadband in places where broadband isn’t really all that robust. Then we cover news of a $100 million fund for Industry 5.0 companies (and explain what Industry 5.0 is) and share news of a new smart lock and a new integration for Ecobee. We talk about plans for noise sensors in NYC and Kevin’s review of a $20 Matter-capable smart plug. Finally, we answer a listener question about which video doorbell option makes the most sense, given their particular needs.

Lowe’s innovation group is testing a connected anti-theft program. Image courtesy of Lowes.

Our guest this week is Kevin Fu, who is a professor of electrical and computer science at Northeastern University, and the former acting director of medical device cybersecurity for the Food and Drug Administration. I’ve followed his efforts to hack physical sensors for years, and was excited when he started focusing on medical device security for the FDA. On the show, he discusses new federal legislation that will require companies to get an FDA review of their medical device’s cybersecurity before it goes on the market. This is a first for the U.S. in terms of requiring some sort of cybersecurity review before a product is released, and it might become an inspiration for legislation in other industries going forward. We also talk about how to regulate AI in healthcare and more. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Kevin Fu, professor of electrical and computer science at Northeastern University
Sponsor: Akenza

  • Transparency is helpful, but not a panacea for privacy
  • The chips are down, but not in the IoT
  • What is Industry 5.0 and why does it matter?
  • The Patch Act didn’t pass, but some elements of it did
  • What kind of regulations make sense for AI in medicine?

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 405: More CES trends including wireless power

Want to bring an IoT company back from the dead? Or understand the technical and business challenges associated with building an IoT product? Then this story by Kevin Chung is for you. Kevin and I  have left CES 2023 behind, but we had plenty of of things to talk about on this week’s show, starting with our sense of disappointment after the show. We also serve up some more news from CES tied to Matter, Leviton, Aqara, and new products from Shelly. Then we discuss the deal between John Deere and The American Farm Bureau Federation to give U.S. farmers the tools they need to repair their own farming equipment at fair and reasonable rates. We talk about what this deal does and does not make possible. We also focus on wireless power with news from Energous, Ossia and a door lock that we saw at CES that charges over the air. I can’t wait to get rid of charging cables, and batteries. We then answer a listener question about updating plugs and energy monitoring products to Matter.

The Aqara presence sensor will come out later this year and cost $60. Image is a screenshot from Aqara’s YouTube.

Our guest this week is Sanjay Gupta, president of the AirFuel Alliance. He’s on the show talking about the newly launched AirFuel RF standard, which provides up to 1 watt of power over a distance. We discuss what that means for convenience in terms of not having to replace batteries, and what it means for sustainability if we can eliminate batteries. We also talk about why over-the-air wireless power is actually real after more than a decade of hearing about it. It turns out we have companies such as Wiliot, Atmosic and others who are pioneering efficient computing and low power radios for IoT use cases to thank. Finally, we discuss when we’re likely to see wireless power become commonplace and where we’ll see it first. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Sanjay Gupta, president of the AirFuel Alliance
Sponsor: Silicon Labs

  • What’s next for the Matter standard
  • Why this Aqara sensor is so cool
  • John Deere compromises on right to repair
  • Over-the-air wireless charging is ready for its close up
  • Low power chips help bring over-the-air wireless power closer

Episode 404: CES has more Matter and many voices

Kevin and I are at CES 2023 this week and eager for the show floor to open to see all of the new and crazy gear. But before we see the show floor, we had to slog through the planned news and media events, which we’re talking about in this week’s show. Matter is everywhere so far with most companies choosing to announce new Matter products that will arrive in the coming months. We cover news from Nanoleaf, Eve, Govee, Samsung, Lutron (no update on Matter plans), and SwitchBot. We then talk about Amazon’s Sidewalk expansion news and its work with two partners for voice interoperability in an automotive platform and with Josh.ai. Also in voice news, Home Assistant will add voice control for its platform in the coming year. And now, prepare for the rush of product news including new Ring cameras, ADT’s app with upgraded Nest integration, Cync lights, and Moen’s new sprinkler and soil sensors. We also discuss Arlo’s new end of life plans for older cameras, which the user community is upset with. Then we talk about a larger trend emerging at CES of building smart devices, such as Masonite’s new powered door, into the home itself. I don’t think we’re ready for this, but the consumer electronics industry is eager to provide these products. Finally, we get more details on Thread’s range from a listener calling in on the Internet of Things Podcast hotline.

Nanoleaf has smart switches and an intelligent Matter over Thread hub. Image courtesy of K. Tofel

Our guest this week is Gimmy Chu, CEO of Nanoleaf. He’s on the show to discuss Nanoleaf’s new Sense+ Controls light switches that contain sensors and additional buttons to manage the growing complexity of color lighting. These are also key components for Nanoleaf’s new Nanoleaf Automations Learning Assistant (Nala), which is an effort to let your lights automate themselves. The idea is that sensors inside the switches will indicate presence, based on time of day, ambient light and stated preferences, then add more information to get the appropriate lighting for that moment. As a person who has been testing smart lights for a decade, I’m eager to see if Nanoleaf has the goods. We’ll have to wait until the third quarter until these are out to test it, but Chu explains what he’s aiming for. We also talk about the future of lighting and how color will play a larger role. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Gimmy Chu, CEO of Nanoleaf
Sponsor: Silicon Labs

  • The promise of Matter is everywhere at CES. The devices, not so much
  • Amazon’s adding LoRa connectivity parters to its Sidewalk program
  • You’re getting more options on the voice assistant front
  • Nanoleaf’s plans for intuitive controls are compelling
  • Why Nanoleaf is waiting to deploy Matter to existing gear

Episode 403: Matter upgrades aren’t ready for prime time

We tried Matter for the first time late last week, and have a lot to share with our listeners about what we and other journalists learned through the process. The early verdict is that most people should not update for a while because the process is tedious at best and downright frustrating at worst. But if you want to update, we provide tips. Then we focus on a story about iRobot’s Roomba vacuums that shows how a larger ecosystem of tech partners are taking device data and potentially sharing it in places consumers wouldn’t be comfortable with. Next up, we cover the acquisition of Notion by Pepper IoT, which wants to help insurers build policies around the smart home. We also cover some news bits such as an Amazon employee becoming the new chairman of Z-Wave Alliance, delays for the next generation of Raspberry Pi hardware, and further updates on the Eufy camera security snafus. We conclude the first segment of the show by answering a listener question about how far apart Thread devices should be in the home.

The Homey hub will launch in the U.S. at CES. Image courtesy of Homey.

Our guest this week is Stefan Witkamp, the commercial director at Athom, the company behind the Homey smart home hub. Witkamp explains Honey’s privacy-focused smart home hub and the plan to launch the latest generation of the Homey Pro hub at CES. This will be the first time Homey is available in the U.S. after six and half years of availability for the original Homey hub in Europe. Homey Pro has all of the radios that a smart home needs, including Thread and IR. For listeners who care about privacy, Witkamp explains how Athom created a business model that allows the company to respect user privacy. This means the $399 pro version of the hub is more expensive than other options on the market, and the cheaper version comes with a monthly subscription. We talk about what it costs to keep a home hub running and how investors can push a company to choose alternative business models. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Stefan Witkamp, Commercial Director for Homey
Sponsors: Arm and Silicon Labs

  • Wait a minute before updating to Matter
  • Will a Roomba story get everyone to care more about device privacy?
  • The smart home meets insurance in this acquisition
  • Why the Homey hub decided to focus on privacy
  • When your data isn’t for sale, the consumer pays

 

Episode 402: Google begins its Matter roll out

This week’s show is a celebration of Matter actually hitting devices, with Google announcing its Matter roll out and Eve allowing users to update its devices to Matter as well. We’re super excited to play with Matter, and you’ll read more about in the newsletter or hear us chat about it next week. We also discuss how Z-Wave’s open-source efforts have gone, and the first port of Z-Wave technology to a third party chip. Energy management is becoming a compelling use case for smart home tech given the high price of heat this winter, so we share what might help and how it may change the conversation around connected devices. Then we dig into a new Comcast report on home security that points out the things you’re worried about getting hacked in your smart home are not necessarily what’s getting hacked. In smaller news, we cover gestures and accessibility features for the Echo Show, smarter alarm systems, and a new sensor that’s itty-bitty. We close with chip news about a new RISC-V microcontroller, a new integrated Matter chip from NXP, and Qualcomm’s new LTE Cat 1 modem for IoT. We end the first segment of the show by answering a listener question about outdoor smart lights for cold climates.

Data from Comcast focused on what people think they should worry about, and what they actually do worry about when it comes to home cybersecurity.

Our guest this week is Sean Petterson, the CEO and founder of StrongArm Tech, a company that makes wearable safety devices for industrial and warehouse workers. We talk about the company’s history of building exoskeletons and its pivot to data analytics and wearables, and then the challenges associated with converting worker safety into an ROI. Petterson makes the case that analytics can drive home the importance of keeping workers healthy despite the costs of the system and the perceived costs in terms of productivity. He gives a good example from a warehouse customer using StrongArm’s analytics to send workers home after they meet their quota for the day, even if it means they get sent home early. Petterson says it’s simply not efficient or smart from an ROI perspective to keep them working. We also talk about the ethics of such software and how StrongArm tries to make sure its data isn’t used to retaliate against poor performers. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Sean Petterson, the CEO and founder of StrongArm Tech
SponsorsArm and Silicon Labs

  • Matter hits Google and Eve devices, but wait a second before updating
  • Don’t worry about someone hacking your voice assistant or robot vacuum
  • Check out this new RISC-V microcontroller
  • Keeping workers healthy improves ROI  and this company can prove it
  • What happens when worker data gets really detailed?

Episode 401: Two big smart home deals explained

The end of the year is a busy time for M&A as companies rush to get deals done before the start of a new tax year, and this week the smart home sector saw Assa Abloy sell its Yale and August smart lock and some other brands to Fortune Brands for $800 million. We explain why the deal happened and why we can blame Matter and the DoJ for the sale. Then we discuss NRG Energy’s $2.8 billion planned acquisition of Vivint, and why it is a big signal for the future of energy management as part of the smart home.  Fundings also happen ahead of the new years, and Phlux Technologies, which makes infrared sensors and Reach, a company building wireless over-the-air power transmitters both scored venture capital this week. In smart home news, we discuss a new mixer from GE that’s super smart and super pricey, and Samsung’s plans for CES this year. In security news, there’s a new botnet out there to worry about. And for developers, there’s a new $200 kit from Swarm that provides satellite connectivity. Finally, we answer a listener question about Matter and local control.

The GE Profile mixer is smart, but expensive. Image courtesy of Crate and Barrel.

Our guest this week is Cathy Pearl, a conversation designer at Google and the author of the O’Reilly book Designing Voice User Interfaces. We discuss the history of voice interactions and what changed to make Amazon’s Alexa such an innovation. We also discuss how voice can help make technology less complicated, what type of conversations people want from a voice interface and how voice also drives accessibility. Then we discuss the ethics of creating voice companions for lonely people and a time that Pearl was stuck at an airport talking to a chatbot for 20 minutes. We then end after I ask if voice is going anywhere after the upheavals in Amazon’s Alexa business. Her answer will not surprise you. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Cathy Pearl, a conversation designer at Google
Sponsors: Arm and Silicon Labs

  • Assa Abloy slams the door on Yale and August brands
  • Why NRG wants to buy Vivint
  • Using antimony to make more accurate LiDAR
  • How context dictates what we want to say and hear
  • Can digital assistants provide companionship?

Episode 400: How to pronounce IKEA’s Dirigera hub

This week’s show starts off with a review of news from AWS Re:Invent which is happening now in LAs Vegas. We cover the general availability of support for the latest version of the MQTT messaging protocol, the launch of LoRaWAN and other connectivity technologies as part of AWS Device Location services, and there will be more in the newsletter as the conference concludes. We then talk about whether or not it makes sense to buy a cheap smart plug today or wait until we get more with Matter support. It’s just that those smart plugs are so cheap right now! We also debate whether or not it’s a good thing that the Hubitat smart home hub will start supporting HomeKit, and mention Samsung’s new capabilities that link its phones to a UWB door lock. Then we cover funding news from Sanctuary, which is trying to build general purpose robots; Morse Micro, which is making Wi-Fi HaLow chips; and Deepgram, which is developing a new natural language processing algorithm built on vocal utterances as opposed to text. I then explain what I’m using right now in my home for security and monitoring of my many connected devices. Finally, we hear from a listener offering a tip on creating a simple pill tracker using an open/close sensor.

IKEA’s Dirigera hub is now available. Image courtesy of IKEA.

Our guest this week is Rebecca Töreman, business leader of the IKEA Home Smart business. Töreman first teaches me how to pronounce Dirigera, the name of IKEA’s new smart home hub. We then talk about why IKEA has chosen to focus on products that includes lights and connected blinds, but not security cameras. After a discussion on connected air purification devices, we talk about what the IKEA Home Smart team learned from its prior five years with the Trådfri smart home hub and how that influenced the design of the Dirigera device. We clarify a few points about how IKEA plans to introduce Matter to its hub and then close out. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Rebecca Töreman, business leader of the IKEA Home Smart
Sponsors: Arm and Silicon Labs

  • It’s our 400th episode!!!!
  • Should you buy a cheap smart plug without Matter?
  • A HomeKit compatible home may be less flexible, but it’s also less work
  • Why IKEA needed a new smart home hub
  • What IKEA learned about provisioning and communication with Trådfri

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 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