Roger Chang on the need for wirelessly-powered Wyze Cameras23 March 2020
Roger Chang is the senior producer of the Daily Tech News Show, where he is heavily involved with developing and directing content strategy, managing editorial, booking guests and directing and streaming the live show. Roger started out covering technology as an intern at ZDTV in 1998 and subsequently clawed his way up the ladder. He moved on to CNET, Ziff-Davis and Discovery Digital Networks.
Roger and I discuss what device he would most like to be wirelessly charged, his home security system, pricing for wireless power and much more. This episode was recorded in March 2020.
Yuval: Hello Roger, and thanks for joining me today.
Roger: Oh, thank you for having me.
Yuval: Who are you and what do you do?
Roger: My name is Roger Chang. I am the producer, the only producer, for the podcast “The Daily Tech News Show”. It’s a podcast that covers the daily tech news of the day, as well as very topical issues that arise not just in the industry, but things that are affected by that industry.
Yuval: These days, with the coronavirus, how has coverage changed? What are you covering now that you haven’t covered a couple of months ago?
Roger: One of the very noticeable shifts is that how, in many ways, some of these tech companies are being looked at and possibly tasked to help out with a broader government-led effort to help slow, as well as find a potential vaccine for the virus in the same way that the U.S. government taps industry in World War II to help develop not just armaments, but also technologies to help soldiers fighting overseas, and a lot of supply chain issues because of the fact that a majority of the components, if not the actual products, are created in China, which was the first and most visibly affected country by the coronavirus, and that led to factories being shut down, which means that there’s X amount of days of supplies for certain products, whether it’s a smartphone, TV, what have you, as well as having people leverage the internet to telecommute and work from home, thereby kind of heeding to the limited contact to other people, social isolation, the hunkering down for the long haul.
Yuval: Absolutely. As you know, Roger, my company makes technology for long-range wireless charging. I know it may sound trivial or not important at this time, but on the flip side, more people are staying home, there’s opportunity to learn about new things, so let’s talk about that a little bit. As you think about various products that you use during your day, whether it’s personal or work, which would be the one that you’d want most to be wirelessly charged, so charged from a distance without touching anything, without a cable, without a pad?
Roger: The biggest one actually would be my daughter’s tablet because she gets a lot of screen time, much to my chagrin, more so than I think she should, but she really uses it a lot, and she very, very reluctantly allows me to charge it because she doesn’t like having things sticking out of it for some reason. I think it might just be kind of a quirk of her personality. The other thing I would love to have is, if possible, security cams, so like Wyze cams, where you could set it up, but oftentimes in my home, because it was built back in the ’30s, not as many available power outlets, so there’s no convenient way to run a wall wart without having to run a long extension cord. If that could be powered that way, that would be pretty sweet.
Yuval: Interesting, so I think the answer is yes. Yes, we could power those. Of course, we’d want to work with Wyze cam to do so. Today in your home you’ve got just these long cables that are maybe not the prettiest running on the walls?
Roger: Yeah, and it’s interesting because they’re all wifi enabled, so the signal is wireless, but it would be nice to have the power as well because, at this point in time, I’ve strategically located them as close to an available outlet as possible, which means I don’t have necessarily the optimal angle that I would want in order to cover an area, especially when it comes to the outside, because very few people unless you have a home that was built very recently, have outside outlets. You typically need to go into a solution that involves running some sort of power, whether you get an electrician to run an extra conduit or pull a line out for you, or you do something very DIY and you run an extension cord, which is not necessarily the safest way to run power, especially when it’s exposed to the elements.
Yuval: You’re saying that beyond the aesthetic aspect, the lack of wireless power has actually caused you to place the cameras in maybe a suboptimal position, someplace that you were hoping not to place it just because of proximity to a power outlet.
Yuval: If wireless power was available, would you put one, say, on a mailbox looking towards the house, or all the cameras are on the house looking inwards or outwards?
Roger: I would like to … all the ones I have currently are indoor, again, because of the limitations of power, but if wireless charging was available for those particular products, and it is infrared, so it will pass through glass, I would like to situate a couple of in my courtyard and at least one facing out from the front of my house, in the same way, that you would have, say, a doorbell camera, which is another thing I would like to do, but again, it involves rewiring and pulling line out to that location because the doorbell’s from 1950.
Yuval: Cool. If such a solution were available, would you prefer it as, or both you personally but people that you speak with or your audience, would they prefer it as an aftermarket solution, meaning a dongle or something that attaches to an existing device, or do you think most people would just prefer to buy integrated from the original device manufacturer?
Roger: I would say a little of both, and I’ll tell you why. Ideally, you would have it out of the box so there’s very little for people to think and worry about, and it’s just ideally the ultimate plug and play solution, but a lot of people are married to particular products that may not be situated for that, or it’s an end of life product, but they still like it. Being able to retrofit something that they already enjoy using and perhaps find works perfectly well, if not just for the power solution, it allows them to still use it by plugging on a dongle without necessarily having to buy a whole new product, and then say, well, it’s still good, but now I’ve got to toss it because I’ve got this other thing that does the exact same thing, but now it’s just wirelessly powered.
Yuval: One of the things that we’re hearing … people come to us from two directions. Sometimes they have battery-operated products and they say, well, our customers hate changing the batteries, hate replacing them. Sometimes it’s inconvenient, sometimes it’s just expensive. Other times they come from the wiring angle. Our customers hate routing the wires, or they put it in places that they didn’t mean to just because of proximity to a power outlet, just like you were describing. One of the things that we’re thinking is that if wireless power were integrated into the device, now manufacturers can do more. They may have features that were sort of left on the cutting room floor, just because they didn’t have power budget. I mean I think you mentioned doorbell camera, and a lot of people would like to have a lot of pre-event footage, meaning there was a trigger in my doorbell, but I want to get 30 seconds or a minute before that. It’s not that the manufacturers don’t want to deliver it, they just can’t because they don’t have enough power. I think that ultimately it will be integrated, but obviously wifi dongles or anything else, there’s going to be a transition period for aftermarket. Does that make sense?
Roger: Yeah, definitely. One of the things … what we find is that a lot of people often already have something that they’ve rigged together, and what they are is just missing that one crucial piece, be it power or some sort of network connectivity, but people like being able to use something they already have, that they’re comfortable with. At the same time, having something out of the box I think would help spur interest in it because now people, it’s like I can get this off the shelf. Related industries could say, well, hey, they sell enough of these at the local hardware store that it’s commercially viable for us to produce some sort of adjacent product or something that goes along with it. It’s kind of weird. I don’t want to say, because it’s so overused, but the term chicken and egg, what comes first, what comes next, but I think as more of these options become available and people become aware of them, they’ll probably start to demand them more in the same way that wifi connectivity used to be a nice to have, but not a broadly available feature, now for a lot of products, especially ones as we move into internet of things products, is having some sort of high-speed wireless connection to NAC or above router is a must. You can’t just get by with A or C anymore.
Yuval: Absolutely. Regarding cost, what do you think customers will prefer? I mean some devices, like a printer or even a wifi router, you just pay once and you can use all you want. Others, like cell phone service, or sometimes other things, you either pay by the drink or pay a fixed monthly fee. When I buy a Ring camera, I think there’s a one time cost, but then Amazon wants me to subscribe to a few dollars a month that gives me extra features. What do you think the best pricing model for wireless power will be? Here’s a device, it’s like a charger, get all the charge you want, or is it more like a utility company? Pay me by month for how much you use?
Roger: It’s interesting because, with power, that is something I think some people are so used to just having. Granted, you pay the power company and you pay a monthly fee to the utility company to get electricity in your home, but at the same time, what would they be subscribing to in wireless charging? Would they be subscribing to a power by device that’s hung by the utility company and they manage it, or would it be something like you retrofit your house with? I guess I’m having … what exactly would you be subscribing to specifically?
Yuval: For instance, if you have a subscription service with the home security company and they charge you, I’m just making this up, $50 a month, they might say, hey, if you want our devices, our sensors to be wirelessly powered so you never have to go out and buy batteries, you never have to call us to replace them or do it yourself, then it’s going to be $53 a month, and for that, we’ll put a couple of wireless chargers in your home and that’s the end of it. You get complete peace of mind.
Roger: Oh, I see what you’re saying. Honestly, I think consumers would probably prefer just to pay once. I think there’s a bit of subscription fatigue, at least we’ve seen in terms of subscribing to streaming, whether it’s a Netflix style or Hulu style TV, video, movie streaming or audio streaming or some other service. There’s a lot of services people are subscribing to. I think after five people start to look at their budget and say, well, am I really using everything that I could? At least I personally know that I would just prefer to just pay once and just say give me the gear, install it. I gave you your money and I’ll probably pay for your cloud data service, but I would like to pay once for that, for the power.
Yuval: Understood. Roger, I know you cover a lot of things, from new technologies like wireless power all the way to coronavirus response, so how can people get in touch with you or get caught up with the work that you’re doing?
Roger: The best place is our website at dailytechnewsshow.com. The URL is exactly how it sounds. Or you could visit us, if you’re on Patreon, at patreon.com/dtns.
Yuval: Very good. Well, thanks for being a guest on my show today.
Roger: Thank you for having me.