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 268: Subscription news from Wink and Nest

This week’s show is all about subscriptions! First Kevin and I share thoughts on Wink’s decision to charge a subscription fee after giving customers a week’s notice and threatening to shut down their devices if they don’t convert. We also detail Nest’s new subscription plan and keep on the Alphabet/Google topic by discussing the end of the Toronto smart city effort from Sidewalk Labs and a new Google Assistant skill.  After that, we cover a new Teensy board with Ethernet, an acquisition in the smart apartment world, and get details on how reopening is going in Texas from the B8ta point of view. I talk about my experience with the new, smaller Wi-Fi August lock, and then we answer a listener question about how to build a smart home from scratch.

The brains of Johnson’s smart home are packed away in custom-made benches. Image courtesy of Jason Johnson.

Our guest this week is Jason Johnson, the co-founder of August Home. He’s not on the show to discuss the new lock but to talk about his new home and the systems he uses for automation. Like many of us, Johnson went the DIY route and says he spends about five or more hours a week tweaking his set up. He explains why he chose the platforms he uses and how he has routines and automation set up. For those curious about what’s governing the 138 nodes in his home, I encourage you to listen and find out.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Jason Johnson, co-founder August Home
Sponsors: Very and Edge Impulse

  • Is Wink’s new subscription worth it? Nest’s?
  • Apparently, a few people still need their gadget fix in Texas
  • August’s new lock is great for renters, but may not work for everyone
  • Three organizing principles for a smart home
  • Device longevity is a problem for the smart home

Episode 267: How to build your own IoT device

This week on the show, Kevin and I start with a potential privacy bill in the Senate related to COVID-19 track and trace and then discuss the challenges legislation and Bluetooth track-trace efforts will face. We then talk about a possible acquisition by Microsoft of an industrial IoT security company. Kevin shared his hope for a smart home with common sense based on advances in AI research before we dig into new IoT malware called Kaiji. In news, Nordic Semiconductor is touting new smart gear for hospitals, Nest is requiring all users to use multi-factor authentication, Ring has a new $99 doorbell, and Automatic joins other companies in shutting down because of the pandemic. This week on the IoT Podcast hotline, we answer a question about Z-Wave repeaters and buggy mesh networks.

Image of the MailPig mailbox sensor courtesy of Christine Sunu.

Our guest this week is Christine Sunu, who got a lot of attention a week or two ago with the creation of a sourdough fitness tracker called Sourd.io. She joined us to walk us through the creation of a sensor to detect if your mail has arrived (specifically if your mailbox has been opened). As an IoT developer community engagement manager with Twilio, and a former developer engagement manager with Particle, Sunu has been making connected devices for years, so she helps with the terms you might want to Google and how to get over common barriers standing in the way of a final project. It was so much fun to talk to her, and she has written a blog post to go with the interview in case you need more than the auditory guidance.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Christine Sunu
Sponsors: Very and Liveworx

  • The latest on COVID-19 track and trace news
  • Is Microsoft getting more serious about industrial IoT?
  • Ring’s got a new doorbell
  • How to build a connected mailbox sensor
  • Two common barriers to finishing your projects

 

Episode 266: Startups get ARM IP for free

ARM is expanding access to its chip designs to startups that have raised less than $5 million through its Flexible Access program. Kevin and I explain why this is a big deal and then go on to discuss a new gesture-based interface that could be either a gimmick or a gamechanger. From there we talk about the pandemic delaying Ford’s self-driving car plans, the closure of PetNet, and the acquisition of a smart ring by a digital key card company. Plus, we cover a robot for kids, AR contact lenses, a Google AI muddle, Google Assistant getting router controls, and a new satellite network for the IoT. We also review the Google Pixel Buds 2 and Kevin talks about his experience with the Blink Mini camera. We end by answering a question about choosing smart home devices based on your digital assistant.

The Moxie robot from Embodied will start shipping in October. Image courtesy of Embodied.

Our guest this week is Alex Capecelatro, CEO of Josh.ai, which makes a voice platform for the pro installer market. The company has just raised $11 million in funding, and Capecelatro tells us what he plans to do with that money as well as explains why Josh.ai shifted from making software to building hardware. He also offers perspective on the development of the voice market in the smart home. Josh.ai started in 2015, a few months after Amazon released the Echo speakers, and before Amazon had enabled the smart home features on the Alexa platform. The interview offers a history of voice, IoT hardware, and a hint of the future. Enjoy.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Alex Capecelatro, CEO of Josh.ai
Sponsor: Very

  • Why silicon startups are on the rise
  • Companies blaming the pandemic
  • Should you buy the new Blink Mini camera?
  • Why Josh.ai pivoted from software to hardware
  • Can a dedicated voice platform for the smart home beat a digital assistant?

Episode 257: Microsoft’s IoT security play is finally here

We start this week’s show talking about the hit the tech conference circuit has taken because of the new coronavirus before segueing into some good news on the security front with the move of Microsoft’s Azure Sphere product to general availability. Then we move back into somewhat grim news discussing the trend toward the usage of facial recognition in schools. We can offer a bit of hope in a new mobile app created by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University that scans for data-snarfing devices nearby. Then we discuss new products from Wyze, Lutron, Semtech, and Amazon. We also discuss an industrial IoT deal in the chip space and let Kevin rant about the Nest outage. Finally, we publish a listener request for more multi-factor security options on Moen devices.

The Wyze band, according to the Wyze APK art. Founded by Dave Zatz.

Our guest this week is Om Malik, a venture partner at True Ventures and my former boss. He came on the show to discuss his recent diatribe against the tech media, which he accuses of flipping from fawning over the industry to hating it without much thought. We talk about the lack of nuance in coverage, our more nuanced relationship with technology and what regulation is the only real solution to the problem of tech companies’ overreach. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Om Malik, True Ventures
Sponsors: DigiCert and Very

  • Why we’re so excited about Microsoft Azure Sphere
  • LoRa gets a cloud-based location-tracking capability
  • Kevin’s pining for local failover options for cloud cameras
  • Tech isn’t all bad or all good, and we need to cover it that way
  • Regulations will be essential for ethical technology

Episode 256: The tech industry is growing up

This week Kevin is back and we’re digging into Ring’s decision to listen to its critics and change some of its security features. It’s a welcome sign of overall maturity in the tech industry. At the same time, it’s unclear if the Ring cameras are that helpful to law enforcement. We then discuss the rise in smart speaker sales, a privacy-focused bracelet, funding for cool new technology, and how China’s handling of the coronavirus shows off the pros and cons of IoT in society. We hit some news bits related to 5G networks, a way for ISPs to make sure your IoT gear is working, funding for Bluetooth chips, and a cybersecurity warning for healthcare. Kevin also shares his planned Home Assistant project. We end with a way to keep your Google Assistants on your home devices from fighting with your Pixel.

The prototype is a self-contained wearable comprised of ultrasonic transducers, a signal generator, a microcontroller, a battery, a voltage regulator and a 3W amplifier. Image courtesy of the University of Chicago. 

This week’s guest is Taj Manku, CEO of Cognitive Systems, who comes on to share details of the firm’s technology and to discuss how the company is trying to respect user privacy. Cognitive Systems has developed technology that measures disruptions in a home Wi-Fi network and uses those disruptions as a way to track actions in the home. Currently, ISPs and router makers can use the technology to offer motion sensing for security purposes, but eventually, it might offer a way to detect falls or even motion as subtle as a baby breathing. That level of insight also creates privacy concerns, so Manku explains exactly how the firm handles consumer data and the steps it has taken to ensure even law enforcement can’t see inside the home. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Taj Manku, CEO of Cognitive Systems
SponsorsDigiCert and Very

  • Ring has decided to listen to consumer security complaints
  • China’s surveillance state is one version of our IoT future
  • Kevin’s planning to embrace Home Assistant
  • How to see inside a home without using cameras
  • A cloud-to-cloud approach and encryption are some ways to protect your privacy

Episode 255: A deep dive into NIST’s new privacy framework

This week’s show features Chris Albrecht, editor in chief of The Spoon, as a guest host, which means there will be a review of a connected kitchen gadget — in this case, a connected smoker from Traeger. We kick off the show discussing the FTC’s surprising antitrust review and discuss IoT acquisitions that might get scrutinized. We also mention the Sprint and T-Mo merger and what that might mean for IoT. From there we dive into Nest’s plans to require two-factor authentication, ARM’s new AI edge chip designs, a new product from LIFX, and an NB-IoT module from Tuya. Chris then discusses the sale of a connected brewing appliance called PicoBrew before reviewing the Traeger smoker. We also answer a listener question about which connected doorbell to buy.

The new LIFX switch is pricey but beautiful. Image courtesy of LIFX.

Our guest this week is Naomi Lefkovitz, senior privacy policy advisor and lead for the Privacy Framework in the Information Technology Lab at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. She comes on the show to explain what the many, many pages actually mean and how companies should think about and adopt the framework. She also shares why she avoids connected devices in her own life. Unsurprisingly, the complex user agreements aren’t inspiring a lot of trust.  You’ll want to hear this show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Chris Albrecht of The Spoon
Guest: Naomi Lefkovitz, senior privacy policy advisor and lead for the Privacy Framework at NIST
Sponsors: DigiCert and Very

  • Apple and Google could see some smart home deals come under review
  • Nest’s two-factor decision could lead to better two-factor authentication methods
  • Should I spend $800 on a smart grill?
  • Breaking down the NIST privacy framework with a connected fridge
  • The new framework won’t make you legally compliant, but it can build user trust