Samsung Gets its Piece of the Smart Home

Yet another electronic company makes a major play for the smart home space - are utilities even in the game?
Published: Wed 20 Aug 2014

Samsung Electronics has joined the smart home controls race by acquiring home automation company Smart Things for approximately US$200 million.

Founded in 2012, Smart Things is currently a leading open platform for the smart home and the consumer Internet of Things.

Its technology gives people the power to monitor, control, and automate their homes from wherever they are through a single mobile application. SmartThings’ open platform supports over 1,000 devices and 8,000 applications created by its community of device makers, inventors, and developers.

Limitless possibilities of the smart home

With Samsung’s resources and support, SmartThings will be able to expand its platform and become available for even more partners and devices.

Smart Things will continue to operate independently under founder and CEO Alex Hawkinson, and will become part of the Samsung Open Innovation Center (OIC), which is responsible for bringing software and services innovation to Samsung Electronics. SmartThings will move its headquarters from Washington, DC to Palo Alto, California.

David Eun, Head of the OIC, says, “Connected devices have long been strategically important to Samsung and, like Alex and his team, we want to improve the convenience and services in people’s lives by giving their devices and appliances a voice so they can interact more easily with them. We are committed to maintaining SmartThings’ open platform, fostering more explosive growth, and becoming its newest strategic partner.”

“As an open, standards-agnostic platform for the Internet of Things, our vision has always been to innovate, build, and make the world smarter, together,” said Alex Hawkinson. “With Samsung behind us, we will be able to attract more device makers and developers to unlock the limitless possibilities of the consumer Internet of Things.”

“From the beginning, our goal has been to make a platform every human being could use—and to make every home a smart home. We saw an opportunity to bring SmartThing’s vision to hundreds of millions of customers.”

In addition to this acquisition, Samsung has also just announced that it has acquired US air conditioner distributor Quietside as part of its push to strengthen its smart home strategy.

Utilities not in the connected home race

Samsung, which has filed nearly 150 US patent applications related to home automation in the past 14 years and is expected to file another 60 this year, joins other large electronic companies such as Apple and Google in their quest for the smart home space.

Apple, with the aim of making its gadgets more embedded in its customers’ lives, has recently announced HomeKit which enables developers to safely sync connected gadgets with iOS, and Google has recently acquired Nest for US$3.2 billion. [Engerati-The Google Smart Home Play.]

These companies have recognised the significant potential of this sector and are more than likely to own the smart home in the near future. Utilities have yet to make any moves toward investing in this space which is surprising since the business opportunities are significant.

Interest in connected-home products and services such as energy management and other monitoring and control solutions is projected to rise from seven percent to 57% in the next five years. The growth is mainly due to the expectation that these solutions will help reduce energy bills, increase comfort and convenience, and enable remote control of home devices.

An opportunity for utilities?

The smart home is just one of multiple disruptions facing utilities. But the trend towards energy management solutions should be seen as an opportunity by utilities.

The existing contract or relationship between the power consumer and the utility is long-standing which makes it easier for the customer to stay on the grid and even buy energy management solutions from the utility, says Perry Stoneman Corporate Vice President and Global Head of Sectors and Utilities at Capgemini. He explains, “Utilities should use that opportunity to keep its customers since it is less fuss for the customer to stay with the utility. This is mainly because customers know who they are dealing with based on a long history.” [Engerati-Utilities Should Take Advantage of the Transformation.

Capgemini will be discussing how utilities can use technology to their benefit in our webinar Exploit the Power of New Technologies with Capgemini on 23 April 2015.

As energy management is just one part of the smart home play, to take advantage of the opportunity utilities will need to partner with consumer giants such as Samsung, who can help them show the energy efficiency commitments and ultimately savings on consumers’ utility bills.