We reported a few months back that Samsung seemed to be investigating new technology that would extend gesture controls beyond the TV screen to other devices in the home (point at a light, for example, and lower your hand to dim it), which—when combined with the company’s smart home technology on display at this year’s CES—pointed toward some potentially lofty ambitions in the home control market. Two bits of recent news released this week—one an official announcement; the other a weensy bit more rumored—point to even loftier ambitions for Samsung in this arena.
TechCrunch is reporting that Samsung is in talks to purchase SmartThings, the smart home control system that made waves on Kickstarter last year with $1,209,423 in pledges toward a $250,000 goal. If the deal does go through, it would certainly be an interesting development. Of all the DIY automation-lite products on the market, SmartThings is the most interesting, in my opinion, mostly for the fact that it supports a broad range of products thanks to its inclusion of both the ZigBee and Z-Wave standards.
What makes this all the more interesting, though, is that despite TechCrunch’s opinion that Samsung is trying to “get out ahead of Google’s Nest efforts” in the connect home arena, Samsung and Nest actually joined forces this week to announced yet another new home control standard: Thread.
“It’s hard to introduce a new “standard” for home automation or Internet of Things without being laughed out of the (enlightened) media, but this new protocol called Thread is the most exciting initiative I’ve seen since Z-Wave. And I’ve been doing this for 20 years.
That’s because Thread takes the most ubiquitous networking protocol on the planet – IP – and turns it into a mesh network to optimize coverage and performance. Specifically, Thread is based on 6LoWPAN, the low-power wireless protocol that delivers IPv6 over an 802.15.4 radio – the same radio used for ZigBee.”
It’s worth emphasizing here that Thread is a communications standard, not a home control platform. So there’s nothing contradictory about these two reports. We know that Samsung is onboard with Thread (its own Benny Getz is on the Board of Directors). If Samsung does also purchase SmartThings, the most reasonable assumption here is that Thread would be added to its list of supported standards. And that probably wouldn’t be too terribly difficult. According to Julie’s report, “for 802.15.4 products already deployed, a software update could render these devices Thread-friendly.”
At any rate, it’s going to be fascinating to see how all of this pans out. Samsung’s TVs—like the HU8550 I recently reviewed—already demonstrate some of the company’s philosophy when it comes to interconnectedness and control. The display itself is capable of taking control of your cable or satellite box and making smart recommendations (S Recommendations in the parlance of Samsung) about what to watch and when.
How will that philosophy extend to the control of lighting, security, and other connected devices? And how will makers of more advanced, personalized automation and control systems respond? On both of those fronts, we’ll just have to wait and see.