It took about a month, but it finally happened: yesterday, news broke that Samsung had arranged to acquire SmartThings for $200 million. For those who may not know them, SmartThings is a formerly Kickstarted tech firm that makes and sells Internet-of-Things and smarthome products, like light and motion sensors, as well as hubs that connect smart device’s to a user’s phone or tablet. Once SmartThings falls under Samsung’s banner, don’t be surprised to be able to control your smart home via your Galaxy Gear watch pretty soon.
The acquisition will keep SmartThings intact and as a separate entity within Samsung’s corporate structure, operating “as an independent company within Samsung’s Open Innovation Center Group.” According to SmartThings CEO Alex Hawkinson, the acquisition won’t affect the company’s employees – except that they’ll be moving to a new office:
“We will continue to run SmartThings the way we always have: by embracing our community of customers, developers, and device makers and championing the creation of the leading open platform for the smart home. Our growing team will remain fully intact and will relocate to a new headquarters in Palo Alto, CA. In short: SmartThings will remain SmartThings.”
With this acquisition, it seems like the new battle to control the gadgets in your home has begun. Google owns Nest and its burgeoning line of high-end, Internet-connected appliances. Apple unveiled HomeKit at WWDC this past June, which will provide a platform for appliance makers to connect their products to iOS devices. And now Samsung has taken on a company with a pre-existing product line that’s already in people’s homes, and can be added to houses without much investment. In this three-way war, it looks like Samsung may have just bought its way into first place.
That said, the smart home concept is still relatively new, and similarly as difficult to justify as the nascent wearable industry as well. Connected appliances – like smartwatches or face computers – don’t do anything we can’t already have them do. People can still turn their lights on and off by hand, just as they can still check the time via traditional watches and check out notifications on their phones. But in both areas – categories that all three of the aforementioned companies seem intent on dominating – products are starting to come out that might make consumers sit up and take notice.
We’ll know that smart homes or wearables have truly hit the mainstream when people look at a product and think about how much they’re missing out by not joining in. That’s what happened with the iPhone, and now you’re a weirdo if you don’t have a smartphone. Tech fans predict it may happen with wearables when Motorola’s Moto 360 comes out this year, or when Apple finally releases the long awaited iWatch. Will Samsung’s SmartThings acquisition be the tipping point in the smart home category?