Home is where the heart is. In the case of smart homes, it’s everywhere when your devices are connected through the internet.
But Samsung is conscious that the smart home segment is still in the nascent stage, though its hardware is now finally at the right stage. In the months to come, you’ll see appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines talking to your TVs and smartphones, linked via a common network.
“We’re just at the starting point where our great hardware is getting a software brain,“ Yoon Ho Choi, director of smart appliances at Samsung Electronics, commented recently during the Samsung SEA Forum held in Kuala Lumpur.
Choi, however, highlights that the missing element in smart homes is the emotional connect. While smart homes aim to achieve energy savings and interconnectivity between devices, that’s not the extent of its real goal. “We want the smart home to go beyond that, to stay connected with the family,” Choi added.
Therein lies the mantra of Samsung’s home of the future - the unlimited options available to consumers. Not just in the areas of how devices communicate with each other but also beyond with services.
Choi cites an example of how he uses sensors on his Samsung smart refrigerator. Not to check if the door is left open but to know whether his kids have opened it for their breakfast at 7am. Failure to do so would trigger an alarm on his smartphone, alerting him that the kids are late for school.
The challenge is in making the smart home contextual for the user. Samsung’s recently announced Family Hub refrigerator, for one, takes on that challenge aptly. Its primary act is to act as a communication hub for family members.
But it’s also capable of sending promotions and these vary based on the time of day, such as dinner promotions as you approach the evening. “There is a different opportunity to push different suggestions. Contextual relevance is an opportunity for consumers. We want to give them the right choices,” Choi said.
While choice is good for consumers, the learning curve for a smart appliance, and by proxy, the smart home, can be daunting for users.
An area, Choi comments, that Samsung is still learning to ease the barrier of entry for smart home adopters. “Everyone knows how to use a fridge or washing machine. We want to increase the velocity of adoption, see a lot more activity and partnerships,” Choi said. “The adoption happens when it gets exciting and tie in to service that people already use like ecommerce.”
Such services complete the ecosystem of the smart home, moving beyond the internal link and connecting users to meet their demands. Choi, however, cautions that there isn’t one solution that fits all. “Consumers want to get items from local merchants. Thus, the ability to localise what we offer to consumers through smart appliances and its software is where we’re heading,” Choi mentioned.
Smart appliances is really an evolution of what Samsung has been doing in its appliance business. “We’ve been building appliances for your homes for the past 35 years, the opportunity is to extend these use cases and communicate with different channels,” said Choi. He identifies that the biggest challenge is the many different entry points that is custom to different family.
“It’s still a challenge and it would be wrong to say we have that figured out, but we’ll keep doing it,” Choi admits.
But what Samsung has done right is creating the right balance of form and function for its range of smart appliances unveiled during CES and the SEA Forum.
Besides the Family Hub refrigerator, its front-loading AddWash washing machines, which lets you toss in additional clothes during the wash cycle, puts a lot of thought into its design. “Function is still very important but at the same time appliances at home are going through big transformation from utility devices to lifestyle,” Choi adds.
As the Internet of Things become widely adopted, the functionality starts to overpower the form part. At that moment, there will be a paradigm shift in the way we view not just home appliances but everything in your home.
Samsung has already made the first move, bringing your smart TVs, smartphones and now home appliances together under one network.“We are at the beginning of the shift. What we want to do is bring that home into your already connected lifestyle,” Choi said.