This week's show starts off with a conversation about Thread because it's clear that it's going to become an important radio for the future of the smart home. We explain why before discussing an update to LoRaWAN and an alternative to the big voice-controlled smart speakers from Josh.ai. After that, we express frustration with exploding doorbells, discuss a fitness tracker that finally covers pregnancy, and get excited about a new robot vacuum. On the industrial side, I try to get excited about Hitachi Vantara's deal with Amazon Web Services and explain why Honeywell is trying to become more than just a process manufacturing powerhouse. We conclude the show by answering a listener's question about Wi-Fi.
How does Amazon help Alexa understand what people mean and not just what they say? And, we couldn't be talking about Alexa, smart home tech, and AI at a better time. During this week's Amazon Devices event, the company made a host of smart home announcements, including a new batch of Echo smart speakers, which will include Amazon's new custom AZ1 Neural Edge processor. In August this year, I had a chance to speak with Evan Welbourne, senior manager of applied science for Alexa Smart Home at Amazon, about everything from how the company is using AI and ML to improve Alexa's understanding of what people say, Amazon's approach to data privacy, the unique ways people are interacting with Alexa around COVID-19, and where he sees the future of voice and smart tech going in the future. The following is an transcript of our conversation edited for readability. Bill Detwiler: So before we talk about maybe IoT, we talk about Alexa, and kind of what's happening with the COVID pandemic, as people are working more from home, and as they may have questions that they're asking about Alexa, about the pandemic, let's talk about kind of just your role there at Amazon, and what you're doing with Alexa, especially with AI and ML. So I lead machine learning for Alexa Smart Home. And what that sort of means generally is that we try to find ways to use machine learning to make Smart Home more useful and easier to use for everybody that uses smart home. It's always a challenge because we've got the early adopters who are tech savvy, they've been using smart home for years, and that's kind of one customer segment. But we've also got the people who are brand new to smart home these days, people who have no background in smart home, they're just unboxing their first light, they may not be that tech savvy.
Podcast host John Koetsier sat down for an interview with Cujo AI VP Marcio Avillez to discuss the problem of smart device and IoT security and what we can do about it using AI technologies. Can AI help prevent distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks and improve smart home security? The company recently inked a deal with Comcast to shield almost 20 million households from malware and spyware -- and perhaps just as importantly, to protect the rest of the internet from insecure IoT devices on those homes' local networks. By using machine learning on huge amounts of network data to build a graph of normal device traffic and tracking anomalies that could indicate hackers recruiting smart devices for botnets or other nefarious purposes. "We're seeing IP cameras, network-attached storage, devices that have a little bit more CPU, a little bit more memory, that become kind of very useful tools for hackers to do the kinds of things that they want to do," Cujo vice president Marcio Avillez said.
During an interview with the BBC last year, Google's senior vice-president for devices and services, Rick Osterloh, pondered whether a homeowner should disclose the presence of smart home devices to guests. "I would, and do, when someone enters into my home," he said. When your central heating thermostat asks for your phone number, your TV knows what you like to watch and hackers can install spyware in your home through a lightbulb security flaw, perhaps it's time we all started taking smart home privacy issues more seriously. Just this week the National Cyber Security Centre issued a warning to owners of smart cameras and baby monitors to review their security settings. You can get a quick overview of privacy options for many smart home devices using the Mozilla "*privacy not included" guide; however if you've already invested in particular technology, all is not lost.
With 5G one of the biggest topics of the show, we round out the biggest news of CES 2019, from smartphone prototypes to promises on the value of 5G deployments across all industries. Samsung became the first out of the gate to produce a display 5G smartphone prototype, showing off a glass-encased device at CES. Samsung retained the form factor of its current smartphones, with volume keys and Bixby button appearing to be on the left side of the handset and the power/lock button on the right side of the device. The front-facing camera was also visible at the top of the device. Samsung CEO HS Kim on Monday confirmed that the Korean tech giant will be releasing a 5G smartphone to the market this year. Using the Samsung CES 2019 press conference to outline the tech giant's end-to-end solution across 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT), and artificial intelligence (AI), Kim said Samsung is continuing to invest in R&D.
Since the humble beginning of the World Wide Web in 1969 when the first message was sent over ARPANET to today, the Web is ever changing. Crediting the invention of the internet to a single person is impossible -- many different scientists and technology gurus contributed different elements to make it what it is today, taking the future of the web to heights still unseen. When the internet first became accessible to the general public in the 80s, people needed to know some basic DOS coding and most of the information available was educational. Windows and Apple created systems making computer use more accessible and easier than ever before. By the 90s, AOL came on the scene.
Neura, a personalization platform for app developers, today announced the launch of Moments, which aims to synthesize a smartphone user's situation within a specific context, place, and time. "It delivers personalization that is based on the real world," Neuro CEO Amit Hammer told VentureBeat in a phone interview. "It discovers the preferences and needs of people so it can serve them better." Here's how it works: Neura taps a well of data from devices like smartwatches, door locks, body weight scales, appliances, home security systems, and more, partnering with internet of things (IoT) manufacturers like Philips. Its "hybrid" AI engine ingests the data and learns users' sleep schedules and daily routines, which it uses to populate cloud-hosted profiles that Neura calls True Personas.
After reports earlier this week that iRobot would sell data gathered about a user's home from Roomba vacuums, company CEO Colin Angle insists that iRobot will "never" sell customer data, ZDNet reported. The promise is in stark contrast to what Angle appeared to suggest earlier in the week in an interview with Reuters during which the executive said the company could use mapping data gathered by its robotic vacuums and sell them to companies looking to gain insight about how people use smart home devices. Read: Are Smart Home Devices Safe? "There's an entire ecosystem of things and services that the smart home can deliver once you have a rich map of the home that the user has allowed to be shared," Angle told Reuters on Monday, though he did suggest such a data sharing program would require a user to opt in. In a statement to ZDNet, Angle walked back that plan. "First things first, iRobot will never sell your data.
Colin Angle, iRobot CEO and the father of modern robot vacuums, may have some cleaning up of his own to do. In a recent interview with Reuters, Angle indicated iRobot might want to sell home mapping data collected by its Roomba robot vacuums to third party smart home product companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon in the future. Angle said the Virtual Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (VSLAM) data its popular Roomba vacuum uses to learn the dimensions and layout of your rooms and home could someday be used by other smart home devices to improve their intelligence and performance. "There's an entire ecosystem of things and services that the smart home can deliver once you have a rich map of the home that the user has allowed to be shared," Angle told Reuters. Early Roombas used bump and wheel sensors to find walls and furniture and IR beacons that blocked the little round robot from wandering out of a room.