Home automation. It’s a phrase we’ve heard over and over again for the last few years. What is it? It’s a new platform that allows even your home appliances to have similar functionality to your smartphone. It allows you to know while you’re cooking that your laundry load is finished and ready for takeout that your pot roast has finished cooking and is ready to serve, and so on. Smart ovens, smart TVs, smart washers and dryers, and even smart dishwashers remind us that everything’s getting “smarter” these days.
Samsung is no stranger to the home appliance industry (neither is LG), but the Korean giant just turned things up a notch with its acquisition of former Kickstarter company SmartThings. According to sources familiar with the deal, Samsung purchased the home automation company for around $200 million.
It’s not quite the same deal as Google’s Nest acquisition, but it shows that major tech companies are willing to go the distance with their dollars in order to acquire something that could put them on the edge, in the future, in the here and now.
As far as the deal itself, Samsung’s Open Innovation Center (OIC) will now house SmartThings, and the company’s staff will relocate to Samsung’s OIC in Palo Alto, California. SmartThings has said that it will remain open platform, even with some respondents to the announcement expressing concerns that Samsung would make SmartThings exclusive to the Android and/or Tizen platforms – leaving out iOS in the process.
SmartThings has some projects going for iOS users currently, and iOS users don’t want to see those scrapped because of the new deal. Samsung has promised that it’s committed to maintaining the open-platform nature of SmartThings.
Samsung enters the home automation business at a time when tech giant Apple Inc. has decided to create its own home automation business from the ground up. Nest founder Tony Fadell (known as “the Father of the iPod”) was credited with some excellent work at Apple, but he later left to create his own smart thermostat company that was acquired earlier this year for $3.2 billion by search engine giant Google Inc. Google’s also acquired home surveillance company Dropcam, which has many consumers worried at the moment about Google’s “wandering eyes” in the homes of many individuals.
While Samsung has won a place for itself in the home automation industry, one major question on the mind of every tech enthusiast is the issue of relevance: are consumers all that interested in home automation – in smart washers, dryers, and so on? So far, home automation has been a niche field (like smartwatches), but you can be sure that if the giants Google, Samsung, and Apple are involved, our homes will never be the same again.