Episode 379: Lock down your smart home’s data

This week we continue discussing privacy and data protection with a focus on the smart home. I’d like to see a feature that lets us turn on privacy as needed on our devices, but Kevin doesn’t think that’s likely. For those who want concrete steps they can take today, Mozilla and the EFF have some suggestions that will appeal to the DIY types. And smart home device makers should be aware that if they focused on privacy, the might sell more gear according to a recent survey. For those worried about security (less about privacy), we discuss network segmentation options. In smaller news on this slow news week, Unabiz will retain the Sigfox brand, the FCC approves roaming satellite broadband via Starlink, and Samsung SmartThings is readying an app update with more features. I also share the devices I connect before I head out of town. In our IoT Podcast Hotline we answer a listener question about the best platforms on which to practice IoT development.

Home Assistant hub for smart home privacy
Home Assistant’s Yellow hub can help you keep your smart home automations locale and more private. Image courtesy of Home Assistant.

Our guest this week is Vijay Sankaran, the CTO of Johnson Controls. He talks about the reasons we’re adding more sensors to our buildings, and ensuring they work with other with IT systems. He also explains what needs to happen at the edge and what should take place in the cloud, while also laying out the standards we need to make digital twins of smart buildings. On the practical front, he says that customers usually start with modernizing buildings that are more than 10 years old or those that are currently under construction. And the best way to get started is for customers to start tracking carbon consumption by trying to understand how much energy is being used in a building and then understanding what deices are using it. Only after customers understand that, can they work on optimizing their energy usage to reduce consumptions or at least allocate carbon consumption to places or products that generate the most value.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Vijay Sankaran, the CTO of Johnson Controls
Sponsors: InfluxData and Intent

  • The privacy-focused smart home is DIY but doable.
  • What would you buy if privacy concerns didn’t hold you back?
  • Here are the devices I use when on vacation.
  • When it comes to smart buildings, which should get modernized first?
  • Standards matter for digital twins of smart buildings.

Episode 248: Should I put my IoT devices on a guest network?

This week’s Internet of Things Podcast is a bit different from our typical format. Instead of discussing a range of topics and sharing a guest interview, we’re tackling the question we get so often from our listeners who are rightfully concerned about their home network security with smart devices installed: Should all of these webcams, smart locks, thermostats, and other devices be segmented to a guest network?

On the surface, that sounds like a smart idea. The main reason is that any compromised smart devices won’t be able to infect computers and other things on your primary network. A secondary reason is to limit access to your smart home when guests are over.

Credit: Google

So here’s what we did: We both created guest networks in our home and migrated all of our smart devices over to them. And we found out some very interesting things. For starters, we didn’t lose access to any of our devices through this setup, which is good. However, we also found out that the reverse situation is a bad one. When on our guest networks with devices on the regular network, we still had access to many of them unexpectedly, which is bad.

Our takeaway is that if you want to put your smart home devices on a guest network, that’s fine but it may not add much more security. In particular, if your smart device credentials are stolen, as was the case with recent “hacks” of the Ring and Nest systems, this setup won’t really help you. We’re thinking that using a network monitoring system such as a Firewalla is a better solution. And better yet would be installing a router that supports VLANs, or Virtual LANs, for your smart home devices. Tune in and let us know what you think or if you have additional related network concerns or solutions.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel

 

Episode 49: Did you buy an Amazon Dot?

This week’s podcast is chock full of smart home stuff with updates from Nest, new products from Amazon and some new tech on the Wi-Fi front. Mozilla is getting into the Internet of things, with four ideas for possible open-source products that range from a smart home hub to voice recognition services. Kevin isn’t sold on the need for more options, but if Mozilla doubles down on security and privacy it might be worth looking at.

amazondot

We don’t have a guest this week since I am traveling, but Kevin and I spent a lot of time discussing Amazon’s new hardware. The launch of the Amazon Dot and Amazon Tap aren’t totally unexpected, but we’re not sure about the rationale for the portable Amazon Tap. We did both shell out $90 for the squat Amazon Dot. We also briefly discussed the semiconductor industry getting set to pass 1 trillion devices sold in 2018 and a future low-power Wi-Fi technology. So, listen up and enjoy this week’s show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel