At the main CES 2015 keynote, Samsung CEO BK Yoon focused on the Internet of Things. The cool kids just say IoT here at CES, because it's a shorter way to refer to the massive influx of devices that have an internet connection and utilize cloud services to tie them all together. This past August, Samsung bought SmartThings, and it's using that purchase to full effect in 2015. SmartThings is releasing a new home hub that features a more powerful processor, backup battery, and contains a cellular connection for when the power goes out. Finally, the hub will also support Bluetooth Smart, which should help it connect to more devices (including, of course, Samsung phones, watches, TVs, and whatever else).
IoT is coming, whether you like it or not
But an IoT hub isn't much use on its own, so Samsung is also touting more devices and services to work with it. There are new "micro" sensors that are a third smaller than the last version. And SmartThings will work with other hardware products like Philips Hue, August locks, Honeywell thermostats, and of course Samsung's own appliances.
On the cloud side, SmartThings has a new "premium" subscription service, which will let users pay for the privilege of getting text message alerts from their houses — and those can escalate to actual phone calls in an emergency. The service also offers "DVR services" if you have cameras hooked up to your hub.
It's the same old vision of a smart home where everything talks to each other and exists in perfect internet harmony, but as presented today at the CES keynote, it seems less and less like a pipe dream and more and more like an inevitability. Samsung may yet find that it won't be a dominant force in the IoT ecosystem to come, but it certainly doesn't want to be caught flat-footed when Apple and Google start getting more aggressive in this space.
But maybe we don't need a single winner here right away, even though it will mean that getting our smart home devices talking to each other will be a little more complicated. It sounds annoying but take a look at this slide that says, without irony, "The rise of the IoT."
If the company that's pushing hardest and fastest to put IoT devices in our homes doesn't recognize that there's something creepy about putting all our most intimate information in the cloud, that seems bad. If it doesn't catch an incredibly obvious reference to Terminator, well, you have to wonder if maybe a little heterogeneity in the machines that monitor our homes isn't such a bad idea. After all, Skynet was just one company, not three duking it out in the open marketplace.
The good news? Samsung is promising that it will keep SmartThings "open," so that other companies can plug in and interoperate. "Without this kind of openness there won't be an Internet of Things," Yoon said, "That's why last August, when SmartThings became a member of the Samsung family, we promised to keep its platform open." So far, Samsung is sticking to that promise.
The new hardware and the service will be available in April 2015.