June is doing exactly what it should do: This week, it came to light that a few people have had the experience of their June oven coming on in the middle of the night to cook or pre-heat. June says this is an issue of people accidentally using the app to turn on the oven. Obviously having an oven turn on in the middle of the night is a huge problem from a health and safety point of view. The June team knows this, and it is releasing a software update to address the issue. My frustration is that some are raking June over the coals for the problem like it’s a company that has been blasé about the implications of having a connected oven in people’s homes. I love the June oven, and I know the founders well enough to know that this is an issue where convenience for users seemed like a reasonable trade-off. The issue is that the home screen of the June app has a pre-heat oven button on it that some people apparently press by accident, possibly while closing out apps for the evening. This is a solvable problem, one that the company has issued a fix for. Which for me makes it an example of how companies have to think of connected products as the start of a relationship, not the end of a transaction, when releasing smart products. June has done this admirably, so I don’t understand the vitriol.
Do we need a regulatory group to test algorithms? This article proposes a new government agency and process designed to analyze the quality of AI algorithms and their impact on society and institutions. Much like the FDA oversees trials of drugs, the author proposed clinical trials of algorithms before they are unveiled massively across digital platforms or used in places such as police departments. It’s an interesting idea, although in policy and in engineering, the devil is in the details, which is why regulating tech is so difficult. Still, I like that people are thinking about this. (Wired) — Stacey Higginbotham
Google’s move to push privacy leaves some users irate: Google has decided to turn the lights on all Nest and Dropcam cameras by default when they are recording as a way to indicate the cameras are on. This is an effort to address concerns around privacy and covert recordings. Predictably some users are upset, notably those who rely on the cameras to covertly record people. (Matt Crampton) — Stacey Higginbotham
Semtech wants to make LoRa better for building automation: For smaller businesses that want to set up simple building automation, Semtech has built a kit of more than 20 sensors, two gateways and a global 4G hotspot that building owners (or users) can unpack and set up to start monitoring their own office. One of the big complaints of IoT is that it’s complicated to set up, so there are tons of efforts such as Comcast’s MachineQ or MyDevices that are trying to simplify the process with ready-made kits. Semtech’s moves here echo those and are another effort to make LoRa as mainstream as Bluetooth. (Semtech) — Stacey Higginbotham
Silicon Labs has scored Allegion as a customer: Allegion is using Silicon Labs’ Wireless products inside several products including a ZigBee-based Schlage connected deadbolt that works with the Amazon Key in-home delivery service and in some commercial access products. The news is interesting in part because Silicon Labs is one of the last of the mid-sized chip firms out there that haven’t become part of a consolidated behemoth, and it’s good to see it scoring new business. — Stacey Higginbotham
Iterate until it works: Last week’s profile of One Concern, a startup trying to use AI and data from phones to help emergency response teams locate people after a natural disaster, should be required reading for anyone thinking about building IoT products. There were several threads that I think are important. The first is that this startup’s product is objectively bad. It’s missing a number of things it needs to have in order to solve the problem it hopes to solve. When it changes data inputs to solve problems, it causes new problems. It’s difficult to validate the results because natural disasters don’t happen every day. It is losing customers who have decided its product is too expensive and offers questionable value. So why highlight it? Because the company shows how hard it can be to build good data models in order to provide a valuable service. One Concern’s goal is ambitious and relies on data provided by outside companies, cities, and other sources. Bringing it together creates new challenges. So do the models. But One Concern has a huge benefit. It’s working in software, so it can try, try, and try again to get things right. And while I have no idea if One Concern’s product will ever be any good, I think the lessons here are important for anyone thinking about building a product designed to bring in data from millions of different points and many different companies. (NYT) — Stacey Higginbotham
NetApp eyeing edge storage? Looks like storage systems vendor NetApp is trying to put its software on smaller and more resource-constrained devices. The obvious reason is to build some kind of distributed storage network for edge computing, but so far NetApp isn’t saying much about its motivation. (Blocks & Files) — Stacey Higginbotham
A how-to for the end of Works with Nest: It is almost upon us, that moment on the last day of August when Google formally kills its Works with Nest program and pushes people to the Google Assistant to control their Nest devices. While it’s a good way for Google to gain control over its devices and platforms, people are going to be upset and confused. Here’s a good explainer to help you decide what to do. (CNET) — Stacey Higginbotham
Assign reminders to your family with Google Assistant: This week, Google announced a handy new feature for its Assistant service and I don’t think I like it. You can now assign reminders to family members through the Assistant so that they see them on their phones and Google smart displays. The feature requires that you link Google accounts and use the Voice Match feature of Google Assistant, which we currently haven’t implemented in my house. However, my wife just might finally go for setting up Voice Match if it means she can send me reminders from her HoneyDo list. So, I may just not mention this new service to her. (The Keyword blog from Google) — Kevin Tofel
This Bluetooth app finds card skimmers, but you can’t have it: We’ve had so many local reports of debit and credit card skimming near me that I couldn’t pass this article up. Researchers at UC San Diego and the University of Illinois took input from the Secret Service to devise an app called Bluetana, which checks for card skimmers in your proximity. Bluetana isn’t publicly available, unfortunately, and won’t ever be. However, I found a similar app called Skim Plus, which seems comparable, and I’ll be using it before every fill-up at the local gas station. Check the article to see how much money card skimmers make depending on the type of information they steal. It’s scary! (KrebsOnSecurity) — Kevin Tofel
Sonos is going truly wireless with battery-powered speakers: Our good friend Dave Zatz found FCC filings this week that show a Sonos Bluetooth speaker. Based on the photo, it reminds me of the Amazon Echo Tap, but larger. It’s expected to come with a wireless charging base and will still have Wi-Fi as a streaming option for premium sound. The best part — to me, anyway — is that I spy a small microphone icon atop the Sonos speaker, indicating it will likely work with a digital assistant. The current Sonos One is compatible with either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, and I’d expect that to continue with this Bluetooth speaker. (Zatz Not Funny) — Kevin Tofel
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