[BERLIN] First came the PC, then the Internet, then the smartphone and tablet. Now, technology companies want to link them all to your front door, your bathroom light, or your furnace - anything with an on-off switch, and some things that don't yet have them - using myriad sensors throughout your house.
Samsung Electronics Co will begin selling a starter kit for a connected home this month, stepping up competition with Google Inc and Apple Inc in the industry's bid to sell systems that turn off the lights when nobody's in the room and let you control your thermostat from the car or subway.
Called Smart Things, the line of devices includes electrical sockets, sensors and a central hub that connects to a home's Internet router to coordinate different appliances. It will go on sale in the UK and US on by Sept 10 and will be made more broadly available sometime next year, the company said at the IFA trade show in Berlin Thursday.
"We think it's a great new engine for growth," Samsung's UK head Andy Griffiths said in an interview. The proliferation of sensors to connect objects to each other and the web will create a "new age in technology and electronics."
With Samsung's version, customers can use a smartphone app to set up routines, a suite of actions for a time of day, such as "Good Morning" which turns on the radio, starts the coffee brewer and raises the temperature of a house. Nightlights can be activated when a sensor notices someone getting out of bed. Users can see who's at the front door and open it remotely, get an alert when their vacation home's pipes start leaking and a warning if their window's been forced open.
What makes Smart Things different from Apple's Home Kit or Google's Nest is that it's an open platform that's freely available to developers, increasing the number of appliances that can connect, Griffiths said.
Intel Corp is making a similar push into the automation of homes, hotels and workplaces. At IFA, it's demonstrating wireless charging plates that can be fixed under desks and tables to quickly charge devices placed above them, though the technology won't be available before the end of 2016.
Panasonic Corp at IFA said it will start preorders this month for Nubo, a security camera that connects through mobile networks, allowing users to monitor places without Wi-Fi connectivity.
Samsung is still working out how it will charge for the service to monitor and connect them via the app. For now, customers can buy the starter kit for 199 pounds in the UK (US$304) or purchase individual sensors. The app and the services it provides will be free.
Samsung has partnerships with Royal Philips NV for the Hue lighting device, Honeywell International Inc and speaker maker Bose Corp, among others. The app will work with smartphones running on Android, Apple and Microsoft Corp's Windows operating systems.
Samsung said it's secured the connections using encryption technology of the same standard used by banks. It has also segmented the connections so that if any one part of the connected home is compromised, hackers won't be able to access the others.