If you plan on building or buying a connected gadget in the immediate future, Samsung wants to be inside of it. Today the company announced Artik, a collection of small system-on-chips designed to power everything from wearable devices to home appliances.
The Artik line is made up three different sizes, what Samsung is calling the Artik 1, 5, and 10. The one is the tiniest of the bunch, measuring at 12mm by 12mm, and runs off a coin cell battery for what Samsung says is "several weeks." It has Bluetooth LE, an accelerometer, a 9-axis motion sensor, a gyroscope, a magnetometer, and a cost of less than $10. Samsung envisions companies using it for Bluetooth tags (like Tile), location beacons, and wearables. The larger Artik 5 (which is a little larger than a quarter) is like a small computer, and adds Wi-Fi, ZigBee wireless, and onboard 720p video decoding. Samsung says a good use case of the Artik 5 would be something like on-board chips for drones. Lastly, the Artik 10 — which is the most like a small computer and will run about $100 — adds more storage, 1080p video decoding, and a 1.3GHz Octa Core processor, all things Samsung says will be useful for media hubs, home servers, and personal cloud storage devices.
The Artic 10 attached to a developer board, which is basically a mini computer.
"This is what you find in our smartphones."
"This is what you find on our smartphones," Samsung's president and chief strategy officer Young Sohn said about the top-of-the-line model during the company's presentation at the Internet of Things World conference in San Francisco. "It has a lot of stuff. GPU, CPU, it has the power management, it has I/O processing, video encoding, video decoding, audio features. Everything is already crammed in." Sohn added that the company is offering up a built-in operating system and drivers so that developers can easily build on top of it. That includes Samsung's own Tizen, but the company says developers can put whatever they want on it.
Back in January, Samsung said it planned to get 90 percent of its products connected by 2017, with a broader goal of hitting 100 percent in the next five years. Samsung CEO BK Yoon also said that its system would be open to others, which Sohn backed up today.
Samsung's mid-sized Artik.
Developers are getting access to Artik today, but some have already been using it. One of the first partners to use Artik is Boogio, a company that makes motion tracking modules for shoes. Its CEO Jose Torres says that he got access to Samsung's hardware about six months ago, and was able to shrink down a prototype of the company's latest model from something the size of a GoPro into a gumball-sized sensor. Open-source hardware company Arduino and code platform Temboo also said they're making their platforms work with Artik so that people can get the hardware working with a wider array of existing devices and software.
Everyone wants to be the guts of your next wearable
Samsung isn't alone: several companies are trying to make chips specifically for IoT devices. In late 2013, Intel announced Quark, a tiny chip for powering wearables and other "things." Then, last December it followed it up with a platform for device makers that offers up built-in security and data analytics. The reasoning is simple: both of these companies want to be powering as many devices as possible, which in Samsung's case is a hedge against a future where there are more connected gadgets being bought by people than smartphones alone. Apple and Google have also built platforms for these devices to talk to one another.
Last August, Samsung spent $200 million buying SmartThings for its technology, which allows various home gadgets to talk to one another. SmartThings also makes its own connected sensors for things like windows and doors, room temperature and humidity, and motion. All of these things talk to the company's $99 hub, which relays all that information and the controls to people's smartphones. Artik isn't replacing any of these things. In fact, SmartThings CEO and co-founder Alex Hawkinson says Artik should make it easier for others to make devices that work with its platform since they won't have to deal with putting together some of the basic things like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, sensors, and power management.
"There are 19,000 types of devices added by device makers, and more than 30,000 apps published on [our] platform," Hawkinson said. "There are still barriers, so I think Artik will make it much more efficient for innovators."
Update May 12th, 1:43PM: Updated with pricing information and additional details from a Q&A with Sohn and Hawkinson.