Episode 154: Google and Amazon fight and we are the losers

The tech titans are feuding again, and this time it means you can no longer buy Google’s Nest gear on Amazon’s online store. Kevin and I dissect the fight and speculate where it could lead. We also hit on funding for Ecobee, Alexa’s creepy laugh, and I ponder buying Delta’s pricey new Alexa-enabled faucet. Kevin shares his thoughts on the Raven dashboard camera, a new security camera standards effort and smart dorm rooms at Arizona State University. I talk about a new Wi-Fi feature that’s on the long-term horizon, and we answer a user question about lights and Google Home.

This week’s guest shares exclusive details of Allegion’s new, $50 million venture capital fund aimed at the safety and security startups combining tech and hardware. Rob Martens, futurist and president of Allegion Ventures, comes on the show to talk about where he wants to invest, how he sees consumer IoT and what it means that Amazon is getting deeper into the smart home sector. Allegion, through Schlage, is a sponsor of the podcast. Hope you enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Rob Martens of Allegion Ventures
Sponsors: Samsung Artik and Yonomi

  • What comes next in Google and amazon’s fight?
  • You really need a capacitive touch faucet (with Alexa)
  • Qualcomm’s betting on a new skill for Wi-Fi
  • Why Allegion just created a $50 million venture fund
  • Places enterprise and industrial IoT could use a hand

Episode 140: How IoT will change war

This week we kick off the show with a bit about voice such as Google getting better at understanding your commands, the ability to talk to Waze and notifications coming to the Amazon Echo. We also touch on China’s plans to create standards for the smart home, including a preference for NB-IoT over Wi-Fi. Weather reporting gets more accurate without sensors and Kevin and I discuss the end of two smart light bulb startups. Finally, I offer a pro tip for the holidays and we answer a listener question about WeMo and HomeKit.

Google’s Home speaker and AI assistant.

After all the news, things get a bit grim as I discuss the future of battle with Tarek Abdelzaher, a professor of computer science at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. He’s part of a team that won a research grant from the U.S. Army Research Lab to figure out how to bring the internet of things to the battlefield. Our discussion ranges from technical elements to the ethics of having machines kill people. It will make you think.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Tarek Abdelzaher, a professor of computer science at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign
Sponsors: Spark Cognition and ADT

  • Google Home gets a great new feature
  • China’s setting some standards for the smart home
  • Goodbye Emberlight and so long Stack Lights
  • What can Facebook teach us about programming sensors?
  • Will machines kill in the war of the future?

Episode 134: KRACKed security and a river of sensors

This week began with a bang as researchers disclosed a vulnerability in the Wi-Fi protocol that could cause problems for smart device owners. The details of the KRACK vulnerability can be found here, and a list of connected devices affected here. After that, we discuss Bluetooth issues and the trouble with most trackers. Kevin reviews the Sonos One and I review¬†Alexa’s ability to tell different people apart. We also share some ideas from IFTTT to turn your smart home into a spookier one in time for Halloween. News from GE and Apple, an update on smart home device penetration and a spin out of Honeywell’s home division round out the show.

Find out what Kevin thought of the new Sonos One. Photo by Kevin Tofel.

After that I interview John Miri, who is the chief administrator for the LCRA in Austin, Texas. In his role, he oversees 275 sensors spread out over 800 miles of river in Texas. These sensors are part of a real-time flood reporting system that I was glued to during Hurricane Harvey. Curious about how it was managed, I asked Miri to discuss how the agency built it, how they keep it running and what data he’d like to see next. The biggest takeaway from the interview wasn’t that the IoT aspects were hard, but that the operations and maintenance were perhaps the most challenging. It’s a great interview for anyone who thinks IoT is a magic wand that will generate the data to solve your business problems.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: John Miri of the LCRA
Sponsors: Qualcomm and SAP

  • What to do after KRACK broke Wi-Fi security
  • Samsung’s global tracker is cool, but can it do this?
  • IFTTT wants to help you automate a haunted Halloween
  • Measuring floods in real-time is harder than you think
  • Anyone want to build a new radio network for the LCRA?

Episode 90: Spend the holidays with Stacey’s family

We’re heading into the holidays with a guest appearance from my family who share their thoughts on what it’s like to live in a smart home, the products they like and what’s missing so far. My husband has been on the show before, but I also invited my 10-year-old daughter on to talk about her favorite toys and what she thinks of Philips Hue bulbs and the Amazon Echo (and Google Home). It’s a short and sweet reality check for us all.

Zuckerberg’s Jarvis ties together several smart home systems. Image courtesy of Mark Zuckerberg.

Before bringing on my family, Kevin and I discuss Mark Zuckerberg’s smart home and how his Jarvis isn’t all that different from what’s already on the market. And because it’s Thursday, we’ve got another security flaw in routers to talk about. Then we hit a solid budget smart watch and the new GPS system that can fine tune location sensing to a few inches. Finally, Kevin and I share some of our go-to home automation tricks to help you get started in making your own home smarter.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guests: Andrew (Stacey’s husband) and Anna (Stacey’s daughter)
Sponsors: Samsung ARTIK and Level Education

  • Zuck built Jarvis and Stacey makes a confession
  • Check your router again
  • From toddlers to teens, we have some home hacks for you
  • The smart home needs more personality

Episode 74: More Nest distress and a primer on protocols

As IFA starts in Berlin, there’s a bunch of product news to cover, including a partnership between Sonos and Amazon, that will let you control your Sonos from the Amazon Echo … in 2017. But before we get to that, Kevin Tofel and I explore what it means that Nest’s developers are reportedly moving over to Google, specifically part of the Google Home team. We also cover Z-wave becoming a more open standard, which could lead to more Z-wave compatibility in products like the Amazon Echo or smart TVs.


After Kevin and I hit the news, strap yourselves in for a primer on the pros and cons of different radios, protocols and even clouds for those designing a connected product. Chris Matthieu, VP of IoT Engineering at Citrix, and one of the creators of Citrix Octoblu, came on the show to offer his expertise. This is nerdy, but great for anyone who wants to understand some of the popular options out there for making a connected product, whether you are a developer, a product manager or just someone trying to keep up with the trends.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Chris Matthieu of Citrix
Sponsor: Macadamian

  • The distress at Nest
  • Two great pieces of news
  • How do you pick a radio for a connected project?
  • A primer on protocols
  • Which cloud works for you?

Episode 65: All about Wink and Alexa’s new Skills

Are you curious about Wink? On June 11 it started selling its Relay switch, a light switch that contains a screen and two soft programmable switches for $99 each. Two cost $149 and also double as an intercom. So we talked to Nathan Smith, Wink’s co-founder and CTO, about what happened to bring Wink out back into the game and what to expect next.

The Relay switch from Wink.
The Relay switch from Wink.

Kevin Tofel and I also discussed another Wi-Fi light switch from Plum as part of a discussion on switches and a home without hubs. Before we got there we cover Amazon’s makeover of the Alexa App to highlight Skills, the new Dash buttons and an update on Wi-Fi. Just for fun, I covered my doorbell review that ran in the Wirecutter.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Nathan Smith of Wink
Sponsor: Ayla Networks

  • Alexa’s new skills
  • Here come new Wi-Fi light switches
  • Wi-Fi is getting better!
  • What belongs on a glanceable interface?
  • Some fun Wink robots for y’all

Episode 61: Look inside Google Home and what’s up with Jawbone?

This week is all about chips and presence. First Kevin and I dig into the disclosure that the Google Home Device will have the same chip as the Chromecast, and we explain what that means. Then we dive into the Jawbone rumors and cover Atari’s plans for building IoT devices through a partnership with Sigfox. Finally, we ran across a presentation to add a wake up and receive technical spec to Wi-Fi, which was worth talking about since it will lower the power consumption of Wi-Fi connected “things”.

The Trackr Bravo trackers. Image courtesy of Trackr.
The Trackr Bravo trackers. Image courtesy of Trackr.

After the break, I interviewed Chris Herbert, the CEO of Trackr, a presence tag. Hebert’s vision involves making it easy to tell what room in your home something is, as opposed to just offering the address. But to do this, you’ll have to buy a $99 set of plugs that help offer fine-grained presence detection. It’s cheaper than Zuli, the other maker of presence detecting outlets, so I’ll probably give them a try when they come out later this summer. Please enjoy.

  • Bulk is better. What’s inside the Echo and Google Home?
  • Those Atari IoT devices may have a catch.
  • The Wirecutter reviews smart home hubs.
  • Taking Trackr from $70 to $30 dollars
  • The future of voice and instant gratification

Episode 54: Fashion meets the internet of things

Do you want your smart jewelry to have a screen? If we have multiple pieces of connected jewelry how do you make it easy to program for the day? Or will you only have one sensor-laden wearable akin to to a smart watch that does everything? These are some of the questions Matt Manley, of Fjord tackles with me on this week’s show. We start off discussing jewelry, but veered off into how devices should deliver ambient information and the state of wireless power. Even if you aren’t into wearables, Manley’s comments on notifications is worth a listen.

The Aries bracelet from Ringly is one example of a smart jewelry.
The Aries bracelet from Ringly is one example of a smart jewelry.

Kevin and I kicked off the show with jewelry as well, discussing the newly launched Aries bracelet from Ringly. We then talked about the $12.5 million in funding for Luma, one of the companies trying to make a mesh router. This one offers parental controls and should be out in April. We also took a look at the Wirecutter’s review of the best smart switch (outlet). For those of you shopping, they liked the Belkin Wemo Insight Switch. We quickly discuss Pfizer’s plan to use existing sensors to monitor Parkinson’s patients and the lifesaving Fitbit data everyone was so excited about. And like the rest of you on SmartThings, we’re waiting for a fix of the system which has been broken for almost four weeks.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Matthew Manley, group design direct at Fjord

  • New smart jewelry and mesh networking routers!
  • Medicine embraces the internet of things. And off-the-shelf hardware.
  • The Wirecutter reviews connected outlets
  • Turning connected jewelry from functional to fashionable
  • Topshop has payment jewelry that only works at its store

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.


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