Episode 235: How Amazon is defining the smart home

This week’s show covers the big Amazon announcements in the guest segment, but first Kevin and I focus on the retailer’s smaller announcements around its new show and tell feature and voice interoperability efforts.  Kevin has thoughts about cameras in the home. We also talk about Google changing how it handles voice recordings to help address user outrage while covering a study about the privacy challenges of other IoT devices. Then we dive into the geeky idea of merging Wi-Fi and LoRaWAN into a super IoT protocol, cover Zira’s industrial IoT software and figure out who might buy FitBit. We end by answering a question about smart bedside table lamps.

For 99 cents you can get an explicit or clean version of Samuel L. Jackson to replace Alexas voice for some features of the Echo.

Our guest this week is Daniel Rausch, VP of Smart Home, Amazon who runs through some of the bigger announcements from the Amazon Alexa and services event on Wednesday. We cover why Alexa has moved beyond a physical device to become a digital assistant and platform. We talk about how Amazon wants to make money on that platform as well as some of the new devices that will showcase Alexa. These include Frames and the Loop ring. Plus, we do a deeper dive into Sidewalk, Amazon’s new wireless protocol for the front yard (and maybe more). Rausch ends by telling us how long we’ll take to see Amazon deliver a truly smart, proactive home.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Daniel Rausch, VP of Smart Home, Amazon
Sponsors: Control4 and HiveMQ

  • Are cameras the secret to smart home dominance?
  • The pros and cons of voice interoperability
  • This Wi-Fi plus LoRaWAN plan isn’t too crazy
  • The digital assistant is the new tech platform and Alexa is queen
  • More on Amazon’s new Sidewalk wireless protocol

Episode 219: The summer Q&A episode!

Twice a year Kevin and I gather up a bunch of your questions from the Internet of Things Podcast Hotline and find answers for them. The episode stars all of our listeners and this time around y’all want to know about helping students build Amazon Alexa skills, how to use a sensor to track when the washer or dryer is done, and how to know when you left the stove on. Y’all also asked for an update on my Grand Google Home experiment, which caused my family to mutiny.

What the heck is up with Wink? We still don’t know.

Smarter appliances were a big trend this episode, but y’all also wanted a smarter mailbox, an update on Wink and the safest way to set up a Wi-Fi network for your devices. Sadly, we recorded this before Apple shared the news that it would work with router makers to create a separate network for IoT devices. John asked a question about surge protectors for IoT devices, which was honestly something I had never considered. Kevin thinks it’s a good idea for those higher priced items. We round it out with a question from Kiril about which tablet he should buy to support remote monitoring of his Ring doorbell. We hope you enjoy the show, and appreciate Schlage and Afero for their continued support of the IoT Podcast Hotline.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Sponsors: Dell Technologies and Nordic Semiconductor

Resources from the show:

Episode 216: Your smart home data will lead to cheaper insurance

This week Kevin and I continue discussing the fall out from Google killing the Works with Nest program. We discuss alternative devices for those who want to replace their Nest devices. Next, we go into the Amazon Alexa updates that add the Guard security features and sunrise and sunset schedule. Then we look at the new NB-IoT networks from Verizon and AT&T before talking about the facial recognition ban in San Francisco. We mention Lenovo’s new IoT Edge gateway and cover the new Wi-Fi Home Certification for single-family homes and apartments. Finally, we answer a listener question about outdoor mesh Wi-Fi.

The Sonos One got Google Assistant and there’s one drawback. Photo by Kevin Tofel.

This week’s guest is Mariel Devesa, global head of business at Phyn who discusses why insurance firms have been slow to underwrite more smart home devices and what we can expect going forward. One potential future involves companies bidding for our business based on feeds of smart home data showing how low our risk profiles are. Because Phyn is a leak prevention sensor, she also spends a chunk of time talking about water damage and how to find algorithms to build a compelling product. Enjoy the glimpse into our future.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Mariel Devesa, global head of business at Phyn
Sponsors: Dell Technologies and Nordic Semiconductor

  • How should IoT devices remove features or privacy?
  • Sonos One adds Google Assistant but there’s a drawback
  • Verizon’s NB-IoT network seems pricey
  • Why insurance firms still won’t underwrite your smart home
  • One day your insurer might bid for your business

Episode 184: How to remake the Internet for IoT

This week Kevin and I start out discussing The Wi-Fi Alliance’s new branding for the wireless standard and why you don’t need to rush in to buy Wi-Fi 6 gear. We then turn to space, specifically, Iridium and Amazon’s decision to create an IoT network that uses satellites to deliver signals around the world where cellular doesn’t reach. California passed an IoT security law and Kevin talks about his high hopes for bringing IBM’s Watson into his smart home setup. We then ask why we’re not using NFC on door locks, talk about a thermostat acquisition, GE’s woes and Kevin shares his ideas for what else you can do with motion sensors. This week’s listener question involves a keg, a freezer and a request for electricity monitoring.

Lux Products makes the Kono thermostat. It was just purchased by Johnson Controls.

We continue with the space theme with this week’s guest Matthew Prince, who is the cofounder and CEO of Cloudflare, discussing a future version of the internet that would even handle the rigors of space travel. We talk about building an internet that is cheaper, distributed and not beholden to Google, Amazon and Facebook. We also talk about Cloudflare’s Workers edge computing platform, cheaper bandwidth and more. It’s a show that will make you feel smarter.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Matthew Prince, who is the co-founder and CEO of Cloudflare
Sponsor: Cognizant and Auklet

  • What’s up with Wi-Fi’s new branding?
  • The internet is going to space thanks to Amazon and Iridium
  • Four ways to use your open/close sensors
  • How the Bandwidth Alliance could save you money
  • Cloudflare updated its faster edge computing platform hosted around the globe

Episode 176: Why did Apple join the Thread Group?

This week Kevin and I kick off the show with our thoughts on the future of hearables before explaining why we think Apple joined the Thread Group and what it means for future HomeKit products. From there we talked about a new report suggesting that IoT will be a $520 billion industry by 2021 and how enterprise and industrial IoT has stalled. A reader tip led us to valuable security actions you can take with your connected devices from Make magazine and Kevin shares his thoughts on the new Anki robot.  We hit news from ARM, the feds, Control4 and Smarter before answering a listener question about IR in the smart home.

The new June oven is $499 for a limited amount of time. It will eventually retail for $599.

Our guest this week is Matt Van Horn, who is the CEO of June. This week June launched a second generation oven that is roughly a third of the price of the original. Van Horn shares how June made that possible, how the company is using data to improve the user experience and why he’s not going into meal delivery kits anytime soon. He also shares a recipe for S’mores. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Matt Van Horn of June
Sponsors: NETGEAR and Afero

  • We’re going to ditch screens for voices in our ears
  • Security tips for your Pis and IoT devices
  • Check out Bond for IR control
  • No knobs and scaled back sensors lower June’s price tag
  • Why June has 64 ways to cook bacon

Episode 170: Smart stents, surveillance tech and Alexa-powered faucets

This week’s episode begins on a grim note, as Kevin and I discuss the New York Times’ story about how smart home gadgets can become another point of control in abusive relationships. From there we touch on the new Wi-Fi WPA3 security standard and Tesla’s new plan to charge users for data and what it means for IoT. Kevin shares the new Alexa for iOS feature and explains why it’s useful, while I talk about a startup that wants to detect pollution at granular levels. We share news of a smart stent, smart park benches and my experience with an Alexa-enabled faucet. We then answer a question from a reader who wants to buy Abode’s security system but wonders what gadgets will work with it. The reader hopes that he can connect his home camera system to it, but has his doubts. If you are looking for your own home camera system, you may want to check out something like a home security camera, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to connect it to Adobe’s security system.

This smart stent is one long antenna with a pressure sensor. Image courtesy of the University of British Columbia.

For the guest segment, I visit with Cyrus Farivar, who is a reporter at Ars Technica and wrote a book on surveillance tech called “Habeas Data”. We discuss the current legal underpinnings of privacy law in the US and how it has evolved. Our conversation covers the recently decided Carpenter case, the 1967 case that established the concept of a “reasonable expectation of privacy,” and how the government could use our connected devices against us. You’ll learn a lot, but you may want to unplug your Echo.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guest: Cyrus Farivar author of “Habeas Data
Sponsor: Control4

  • How to reset connected devices and be a decent human being
  • Y’all had some great ideas on connected cameras
  • Alexa, ask Delta to turn on faucet
  • Where the expectation of privacy came from
  • What to ask device makers about government snooping

Episode 165: How Sears plans to use IoT

I was at the Parks Connections event that covers the smart home this week, so I share a few thoughts on what’s holding back adoption and how to think about using AI to create a smart home. From there, Kevin talks about the new meeting function offered by Alexa and we add nuance to the debate over Amazon selling facial recognition software to police. We then dig into some additional doubts about the new Wi-Fi EasyMesh standard, cover Comcast expanding the places it offers new Wi-Fi pods, discuss funding for a smart light switch company and new Arduino boards. For the more industrial and maker minded, we talk about Ayla adding Google Cloud as a hosting option and Kevin shares how we put our IoT hotline into the cloud. Finally, we answer a question about getting different bulbs to work together before switching to our guest.

A panel on smart home user interfaces. Photo by S. Higginbotham.

This week’s guest is Mitch Bowling, the CEO of Sears Home Services, who gives me the answer to what Sears plans to do with its acquisition of Wally sensor business back in 2015. I have been wondering what happened to Wally inside Sears for years. He also discusses how Sears can use IoT to make appliance repair better and the plans to add smart home installation services. Enjoy the show.

Hosts: Stacey Higginbotham and Kevin Tofel
Guests: Mitch Bowling, CEO of Sears Home Services
Sponsors: MachineQ and Bosch

  • Device interoperability is a huge challenge for the smart home
  • The fuss over computer vision is just beginning
  • What can Sears Home Services do with IoT?
  • The smart appliances are coming!
  • The installer will see you now

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?