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 354: Google’s Soli pivot and Amazon’s Sidewalk news

This week Google reminded us that we don’t actually own our connected products when it removed functionality from grouped Nest speakers after losing a patent case filed by Sonos. Amazon’s Sidewalk network is getting a boost and this should spark a really interesting fight between LoRaWAN and Sidewalk in the coming years. We then talk about why sensors should have standards or maybe just a certification body for calibration, pay-what-you-want plans for IoT services, and Google’s surprise pivot around its Soli radar technology. The chip shortage has made it tough for Canon to find the silicon used to enforce its digital rights management that locks people into buying Canon toner cartridges, and we love to see it. In other news, researchers can detect malware using a Raspberry Pi and electromagnetic frequencies, Abbott Labs is getting into consumer wearables that track glucose and ketones, Netatmo launches its first Thread sensor, and Wind River will be acquired for $4.3 billion. Finally, we take listener feedback on accessibility and update an answer about Wi-Fi sensors.

Abbott Labs is launching a new line of wearables for measuring glucose, ketones, and more. Image courtesy of Abbott Labs.

Our guest this week is Yoon Ho Choi, president of the Home Connectivity Alliance, which launched last week at CES. Choi joins me to discuss the reason the HCA exists, how it’s recruiting new members and why we want our appliances to interoperate. He addresses questions about security, why the HCA is promoting cloud-to-cloud integrations instead of local ones, and if the HCA wants to work with the Matter protocol. It’s still unclear what the HCA wants to produce in terms of APIs or certifications, but it’s clear that the companies involved recognize that collaboration will be essential for building worthwhile intelligence into washers, dryers, HVAC systems, TVs, and more. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Yoon Ho Choi, president of the Home Connectivity Alliance
Sponsors: Twilio and Silicon Labs

  • Google loses Sonos patent spat, but so do consumers
  • Amazon’s Sidewalk plans set up a low-power wide-area network fight
  • Has Google given up on Soli?
  • What exactly is the HCA trying to create?
  • Why the HCA is embracing a cloud-to-cloud strategy

Episode 353: Virtual CES extravaganza

It’s CES week, and neither Kevin nor I are physically there for the second year running. That makes it really tough to get a macro sense of cool tech and upcoming trends outside of press releases and product launches. Normally, we spend so much time trawling for the weird or futuristic in the demos and report on the stuff that isn’t pre-packaged in a release. Maybe we can return to that next year. In the meantime, there are a lot of stories, but the biggest trends in the smart home relate to the upcoming launch of the Matter interoperability standard for the smart home, a bunch of new products that will support HomeKit, and new products for Amazon Alexa and the Google ecosystems. We are also are excited about the newly launched Home Connectivity Alliance and what it might mean for future product features and energy consumption in the home.

Arlo’s new DIY security system includes an all-in-one sensor and keypad. Image courtesy of Arlo.

After a quick break, we share our non-amazement of John Deere’s automated tractor. It’s cool, but it has also been half a decade in the works, so it’s not like it comes as a huge shock. We then discuss new products from Samsung (an energy harvesting remote and a tablet for the smart home), Schneider Electric’s update to its energy management software, a new assistive robot, and Arlo’s smart home security system with an all-in-one sensor. Outside of product news, the Wi-Fi Alliance has released an update to the Wi-Fi 6 standard with more uplink capacity and better power management. This will ensure that Wi-Fi 6 is more relevant for IoT devices and perhaps ensure those chips get used in more end devices, especially in cameras and video doorbells. Masonite also showed off its smart door at CES so we share our impressions. Finally, we answer a question from a listener about power consumption in IoT devices.

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

  • Matter may be late, but it’s looking much better
  • All three digital assistants got a lot of love from new product launches
  • John Deere’s robot tractor shows how technical farming has gotten
  • Wi-Fi 6 gets an update custom-made for the IoT
  • How much energy does Alexa or Siri consume?

Episode 351: Smart homes in the metaverse

What happens when the smart home meets the metaverse? We talk about the potential for better user interfaces and home mapping if we build digital twins of the home in a metaverse, while also discussing the potential of UWB to expand the amount of information contained in that digital twin. Then we discuss an excellent article on the Matter protocol and a new chip for Matter devices before noting Samsara’s successful public offering. In some anti-consumer news, Toyota is disabling features in its radio-controlled keyfobs unless people pay a subscription, leading us to wonder how we assess value in software as compared to hardware. We then look at LoRaWAN coverage maps for the combined Helium and Senet network, a new deal in the satellite IoT sector. Finally, we answer a listener question about Shelly RGBW modules for lighting and Home Assistant.

The Fi collar costs $149 and requires a subscription for its location-tracking feature. Image courtesy of Fi.

This week’s guest is Jonathan Bensamoun, the CEO and founder of Fi, a maker of a connected dog collar. We discuss the product and why people buy a connected collar. Then we cover the connectivity options and why the Fi collar uses cellular as opposed to some of the other low-power wide-area networks such as Amazon’s Sidewalk. Lastly, we talk about subscription options and how to build a plan that works for your audience. Whatever Bensamoun is doing works, because 93% of people who buy the collar subscribe to the service. That’s amazing! Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Jonathan Bensamoun, the CEO and founder of Fi
Sponsors: Twilio and Silicon Labs

  • Does the metaverse have a role in the smart home?
  • How UWB can help make the smart home better
  • Where there’s LoRaWAN coverage, and where there isn’t
  • Why cellular still beats Amazon Sidewalk and LoRaWAN
  • How to price a subscription for an IoT device

Episode 338: Wyze comes back from the edge

I need to warn y’all in advance that we don’t discuss Apple news at all this week because nothing really jumped out at us for the IoT. But we did have a lot of other big news starting with Wyze raising $100 million and sharing the precariousness of its situation over the last 18 months. We then talk about a political risk for Tuya and what that might mean for your devices, and three pieces of news from Silicon Labs’ Works With event that have big implications for radios, Matter, and security. After the chip news, Kevin sets the record straight on a story that got Matter wrong, I get excited by new chips coming out of a stealthy startup, and there’s an acquisition that will help developers work with more IoT devices.  Google has a new digital twin service for supply chains, Whoop has a new fitness wearable with a fancy battery, and Yale added HomeKit support for its cabinet lock. We end the segment by answering a listener question about new smart home cameras.

The Luci device fits onto existing power wheelchairs. Image courtesy of Luci.

Our guest this week is Jered Dean, who is a co-founder and CTO of Luci, a startup making a smart addition for power wheelchairs. First, Dean explains why power wheelchairs are so dangerous and why he created Luci. Then we dive into other challenges of building specialized millimeter-wave radar sensors for the device and specialized ultrasonic sensors and how challenging it is to combine those sensors and cameras into one view of the world. We also talk about why Dean added integrations to connect Luci with health monitoring platforms and digital assistants. And finally,  we talk about what it could mean if Luci shared data about what it “sees” with smart city or mapping platforms. I really had fun with this one.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Jered Dean, co-founder and CTO of Luci
Sponsors: Silicon Labs and Infineon

  • Wyze shares the details of its near-death experience
  • Silicon Labs has new radios, a new security option and software for a unified smart home
  • JFrog’s Upswift buy is good news for the IoT
  • Why this startup had to build its own sensors to see the world
  • How smart cities could help people using smarter wheelchairs

 

 

Episode 337: Blast off with IoT in space

This week we kick off the show discussing several smart devices that might provide a modicum of security or comfort in case of weather disasters associated with climate change. After that, we start the long goodbye to 3G and discuss how companies are reacting. And for those who are keeping track of algorithmic accountability efforts, California has a new law that could be better in my humble opinion. We also talk about the security woes for the IoT as covered by a report out from Kaspersky, before talking about some new products including a new Z-wave home hub for HomeKit, a smart dog collar, Home Depot’s new smart home app, and a prospective gun safe from Wyze. And speaking of security, there is big news in the access control space with Chamberlain getting purchased by Blackstone for $5 billion and Assa Abloy buying the company behind Kwikset and Baldwin locks.

The Halo dog collar is pricey but pretty smart. Image courtesy of Halo.

Our guest this week takes us beyond the edge of the earth’s atmosphere with Charlie Kindel, a former executive at Microsoft, Amazon, and Control4, who is now advising companies who are working in space. We talk about how there’s a new economic flywheel driving investment in space communications and research and how that can be an advantage for the IoT. Those advantages aren’t simply related to communications and providing connectivity for sensors on Earth. Kindel gets excited about the ways researchers building networks for IoT can apply some of those learning to communications in space, where innovations are sorely needed. It’s a really fun interview.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guests: Charlie Kindel
Sponsors:  Silicon Labs and Infineon

  • Devices that might help you as climate change wracks havoc on the weather
  • How I think we should regulate algorithmic accountability
  • Consolidation hits the access control market
  • Space is the final frontier for IoT
  • Why investment in space is speeding up

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 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 334: SmartThings’ new edge strategy

Welcome to this week’s episode! We kick it off with a discussion of SmartThing’s new focus on the edge with local control and user-derived device handlers. We then dive into four security stories starting with a flaw in the software development kit (SDK) for a Wi-Fi module, challenges with random number generation on IoT devices, and a flaw in an SDK by ThroughTek Kalay that affects smart cameras. We reserve most of our frustration, though, for BlackBerry, which had learned of a flaw in its QNX operating system and decided not to patch it. It was a pretty bad week for IoT security. But we did get some fun news. The Industrial IoT Consortium has changed its name and tweaked its focus to spend more time on business process and not just the IIoT tech, and Inmarsat plans to launch a new satellite network for IoT devices next year. We also discuss Google’s Fuschia OS appearing on more Nest devices. We end the segment by answering a listener question about the Span smart electrical panel.

The Otii Arc device measures power consumption. Image courtesy of Qoitech.

Our guest this week is part of a mini-theme focused on sustainability in the IoT. Last week, we heard about a new emphasis on price performance per watt from an Arm executive. This week, Vanja Samuelsson, CEO of Qoitech, visits the show to discuss adding power consumption measurements throughout the product and software design process. Samuelsson discusses common energy-draining behaviors that they can address when measuring power consumption through their design process and talks about customers such as Deutsche Telekom, which encourages developers to perform power analysis to help prevent poorly behaving devices on its network. Given how much I hate changing my batteries in sensors or recharging my wearables, I hope everyone listens to what she has to say.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Vanja Samuelsson, CEO of Qoitech
Sponsors: Very

  • SmartThings has a new strategy that DIY users should love
  • A bonanza of flaws in the IoT. Some won’t ever get fixed.
  • Why not launch another IoT satellite service?
  • How to avoid choosing the wrong battery for your device
  • Even wired devices should become more power-aware

Episode 333: An IoT networking bonanza

Elon Musk’s SpaceX satellite broadband company is getting into the IoT with the acquisition of Swarm, a smallsat IoT connectivity provider. We talk about that deal, plus what it means that Helium scored $111 million in funding led by Andreessen Horowitz. After that, we talk about malvertising infiltrating the IoT and the Samsung smartwatch that launched Wednesday. We also discuss the creation of a virtual border wall built with surveillance tech and facial recognition. In other news, Wyze has a new camera option, there’s a connected sump pump on the market, and Legrand is using Netatmo’s tech to launch battery-powered light switches that can control pre-installed Legrand dimmers and switches, allowing them to work as a remote control for existing switches. Finally, we answer a listener question about older Insteon gear and telnet.

Legrand’s new battery-powered switches can act as a remote for existing Legrand switches in the home. Image courtesy of Legrand. 

Our guest this week is Rob Aitken, a fellow and director of technology at Arm, who came on the show to discuss the new priorities in designing chips now that Moore’s Law is less of a driver for innovations in silicon. His argument is that price-performance per watt is the new focus for designers, although flexibility and cost still matter a lot. We talk about the drivers for chip innovation in the past and he also shares his thoughts on a future where chip design is less focused on the latest process node, and embraces older alternatives. This might also help us mitigate some of the problems associated with the chip shortage. Aitken packs a lot of insights into his interview, and you’ll learn something even if you aren’t a huge chip nerd.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Rob Aitken, a fellow and director of technology at Arm
Sponsors: Very

  • Why Swarm got snapped up by SpaceX
  • Helium’s 5G network needs more details
  • Samsung’s new smartwatch isn’t bad
  • Why Moore’s Law matters less
  • Chip designers have more freedom to play without Moore’s Law