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Samsung's Artik is the perfect example of why IoT is confusing

Samsung's Artik is the perfect example of why IoT is confusing


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Samsung held its developer conference this week in San Francisco. The company talked about a bunch of neat stuff! An untethered VR headset. A personal assistance robot called Otto. Utilizing a new graphics API in Android to improve battery life. Using Samsung Pay to get cash from ATMS. Giving developers access to the fancy car dongle that turns your car into something smarter. CNet has a nice roundup of everything Samsung announced.

It also had some news about the Artik 10 and the Artik cloud service. Let's talk about that.

The Artik 10 is a tiny (and, according to PC World, slightly underpowered) ARM computer that you can probably think of as a competitor to the Raspberry Pi. Samsung makes other Artik devices, primarily designed to be embedded in IoT devices. The Artik 10 is probably going to do similar things, but it's also going to be available to enthusiasts.

Artik is both chips and cloud

Artik Cloud is designed to support the Internet of Things and you can probably think of it as a competitor to Microsoft's Azure, according to Computerworld. It'll work with the Amazon Echo, Fitbits, Nest, and of course Samsung's own stuff. And it also works with IFTTT, so you can probably figure out ways to get it to talk to anything else you can imagine.

And since we're talking about the Internet of Things, buzzwords and brands are going to abundant. Samsung also owns SmartThings, and lots of people like SmartThings things! So how does SmartThings relate to Artik? Guess what — it's confusing:

Samsung has had a project for several years (since before the acquisition of SmartThings) to create a Data cloud that would allow for massive real-time transmission of data between third-party services and devices. First conceptualized for health and medical devices, it quickly became obvious that it would also be useful for IOT projects. Samsung has been using it for their Samsung health systems for a while. It was originally called SAMIio, then later part of it was renamed the "SmartThings open cloud" even though it had nothing to do with the SmartThings hub or the cloud architecture that supports that hub. ( Samsung now owns the SmartThings name, they can do what they want with it.)

Last year, Samsung announced Artik modules, which are hardware pieces that can be included in third-party hardware and do a number of things, one of which was to enable communication with the SAMIio cloud.

Now they have folded the cloud services and the hardware modules into one project called Artik. And renamed the SAMIio cloud as the Artik cloud. But know that just as before, you don't have to have an Artik hardware module to talk to the Artik cloud. Even an android app can do it.

So Artik is the brand for some IoT modules. Artik cloud is the thing that lets those things talk to each other. SmartThings, which Samsung owns, had a cloud service (that was a Samsung service before but got the SmartThings branding). SmartThings is an Artik partner and can talk to Artik. But everybody's heard of SmartThings and Artik is something almost nobody's heard of. And we're not even getting into some of the other standards and brands you might want to keep track of, like ZigBee and Z-Wave and Brillo and Weave and Nest... I've definitely lost you by now, haven't I?

Still with me?

You can find many people who understand all this and will be annoyed that I'm just presenting this confusing mess instead of explaining it completely (some of them will no doubt react to this very article). That is fair, and we've explained it before and we definitely will explain it again.

But for right now, rather than doing that, I just want to point out something. Any explanation I present that parses out the different parts, players, standards, and brands that Artik is now a part of is only going to be good for roughly a week or two. Then we'll get more standards, brands, initiatives, and mergers.

This is what emerging technology looks like: lots of people trying lots of things, jockeying for brand recognition and position, making frenemies with competitors to get their devices interoperable while also hedging those bets with vertically integrated, proprietary systems. It's enough to make you throw your hands up in despair and say no thanks to all of it.

I won't blame you if you do that. But I also will be pretty excited if you wade in and try some of this stuff (hint: try it with an Amazon Echo, which seems to be device that's doing the best job abstracting itself from all these standards and communicating with all of them in a consumer friendly way). Because unless there are courageously nerdy people who can sail the choppy waves of these IoT waters, we'll never find the safe shores of a new, coherent technology ecosystem.