Samsung Puts SmartThings and Smart Home Center Stage

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By Jonathan Collins | 4Q 2021 | IN-6332

In October, the Samsung Developer Conference returned for the first time since 2019. In the two-year gap, the world changed and the Korean tech giant upped its focus on smart home.

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Samsung SmartThings Sets Course for Matter

NEWS


In October, the Samsung Developer Conference returned for the first time since 2019. In the two-year gap, the world changed and the Korean tech giant upped its focus on smart home. Where new Galaxy smartphone handsets and features dominated the keynote in 2019, this year, Samsung’s smart home products and the SmartThings platform were center stage. The transition reflects the wider excitement for the smart home market and, for Samsung, a more focused approach, with SmartThings at the core.

Extending and Embedding SmartThings within Samsung and Smart Home

IMPACT


From the SDC21 stage—along with in a number of announcements that led up to the conference—outlined a new, integrated future for SmartThings at Samsung. There is new developer support with Bixby Home Studio - to integrate Bixby within SmartThings smart home control. Although lagging well behind Amazon Alexa, Google Home Assistant and others in Smart Home voice control, Bixby is on more than 300 million devices—primarily phones and tablets, but also smart TVs, smart fridges, and robot vacuum cleaners—and so its integration with SmartThings is significant. Samsung also emphasized its integration of its Knox security platform with SmartThings to secure data captured and stored within the home and within the wider Samsung digital ecosystem.

Integration with the Galaxy user base will be further enhanced by Samsung’s commitment to the emerging Matter (formerly Project CHIP) smart home specification. At SDC21, Samsung confirmed that SmartThings would be fully Matter-compliant most likely in early 2022. Samsung sees the Matter application layer as the “defacto standard for every smart home” in the future. Its SmartThings integration will bring additional connectivity to its hubs. Samsung has said that it will maintain support for existing ZigBee and Z-Wave protocols while announcing plans to add Thread capabilities as well. Those Matter-compliant hub capabilities will be available in its traditional dedicated gateways (from Aeotec since Samsung transitioned out of the smart home hardware market) but also in Samsung Smart TVs, the Samsung Family Hub for smart appliances, and Galaxy devices.

The conference also highlighted the advantages of SmartThings Edge which was announced in August. Already deployed in Galaxy devices, edge processing will be pushed into SmartThings controllers to speed voice and other responses by one-third over cloud-only interactions. In addition, edge processing extends home control to local devices even when broadband connectivity is lost.

As the smart tag market continues to gain momentum (see ABI Research’s “Apple AirTag Launches After Apple Opens Its Network to Third Parties,” IN-6141), Samsung revealed it had shipped nearly one million Samsung smart tags since their launch earlier in the year - hinting at a greater role for these devices in smart home.

Matter Brings Competition and Opportunity

RECOMMENDATIONS


With Samsung’s global scale and the breadth of its product portfolio, the company is a sleeping giant in the smart home space. SmartThings has long offered an open smart home option with support for multiple protocols and third-party devices. However, it has remained an option for smart home enthusiasts more than mainstream consumers. 

SDC21 was a significant shift in the presentation of Samsung’s smart home intentions. Samsung highlighted an integrated cross-product smart home strategy, promising a systematic support in the integration of smart home across its significant product reach—from silicon through the company’s huge consumer presence, including mobile devices and home technology.

Since Samsung acquired SmartThings in 2014, the potential for greater integration had always outweighed actual delivery. SmartThings has operated largely independently, and in the past, Samsung has seemed wary of overly integrating its myriad offerings into the SmartThings ecosystem. Meanwhile, without the full support of its parent, SmartThings lost ground as, similarly large, global players transformed the smart home space.

For example, while key smart home rivals Amazon, Google, and Apple have pushed into the smart home voice control front-end market with devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, Samsung has yet to deliver a smart home speaker for its Bixby platform. Bixby launched in 2017, and Samsung announced a Bixby-supporting Galaxy Home speaker in 2018, but the device never launched commercially, despite even a mini version previewing at SDC19. The lack of commitment to a commercially available Galaxy Home device speaks to the seemingly muted support for smart home within Samsung. Pushing developer support for Bixby within SmartThings may side-step the need for a dedicated Bixby device on the long term.

Matter promises new competition and multi-platform support for smart home installations. Without significant developer support integrating Bixby, Samsung will have to work to maintain its hold over its SmartThings install base. But the specification also has the potential for a revitalized and integrated SmartThings platform to make inroads into new and existing smart home installations. For example, a new Samsung program dubbed Samsung Connected Living aims to offer a portfolio of Samsung appliances, devices, and SmartThings control to home builders who are looking to integrate smart home functionality into properties. Matter support removes concern regarding investing is a single vendors smart home system which won’t address their individual customer preferences. Further out, there was mention from Samsung of developing energy monitoring and management capabilities to leverage the SmartThings user base through Demand Response programs offered by potential utility partners.

There have been false starts for SmartThings before, but with the industry moving to Matter standardization, and Samsung’s renewed commitment, the company may yet be able to deliver on its huge potential.

 

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