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Samsung SmartThings pickup could mean new role for Tizen

Aug 15, 2014  |  Eric Brown
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Samsung is acquiring home automation firm SmartThings, setting up the potential integration with Tizen inside an upcoming Linux version of the SmartThings hub.

As TechCrunch predicted a month ago, Samsung announced an agreement to acquire SmartThings. In July, TechCrunch pegged the sale at $200 million, which if true would be a steal compared to the $3.2 billion Google paid for home automation vendor Nest Labs — and that was before Nest acquired Dropcam. In any case, Samsung is not revealing the cost.

SmartThings will operate as an independent company under CEO Alex Hawkinson, within Samsung’s Open Innovation Center group, says Samsung. The firm will move from Washington DC to OIC’s headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif. It joins a growing list of low-cost home automation hubs, as detailed in the summary farther below.



SmartThings hub
(click image to enlarge)

The current SmartThings hub costs $99, and measures 4.3 x 5.6 x 1.3 inches. The device provides Ethernet, WiFi, ZigBee, and Z-Wave communications, and also integrates a USB port. The company sells a few SmartSense branded sensor devices, and resells a wide variety of compatible third-party smart devices, including lights, switches, locks, motion sensors, and alarms. As usual in this product category, Android and iOS apps provide the interface.

Like Revolv, which recently updated its hub, SmartThings has been around longer than most home automation vendors, and has an even longer list of supported third-party smart devices. According to Samsung, “SmartThings’ open platform supports more than 1,000 devices and 8,000 apps created by its community of device makers, inventors, and developers.”

 
Linux version “likely” coming


SmartThings app

SmartThings may be open to developers, but unlike the vast majority of the new wave of smartphone-controlled home automation platforms, its hub doesn’t run Linux, but rather a proprietary OS. That will change, according to a SmartThings rep I queried in a home automation survey posted earlier this week on Linux.com. The hub will likely move to Linux in the next version, according to the rep.

With the Samsung acquisition, that “likely” should turn into a “definitely,” and the flavor of Linux may well turn out to be Tizen. Samsung has already used Tizen in a Samsung NX300M camera, and has demonstrated a Tizen-based refrigerator, in addition to shipping its Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo smartwatches.

A less likely scenario is that Samsung would switch SmartThings to Android, which would prove to be the nail in Tizen’s coffin. But since most home automation products don’t integrate touchscreens, Android has less appeal than other flavors of embedded Linux. On the other hand, most of these products are controlled via Android, by way of Android smartphone apps.

The concern among many who responded in the comment section of SmartThings CEO Hawkinson’s blog announcement is that Samsung will make some SmartThings features accessible only on Samsung’s Android-based smartphones and tablets. Hawkinson attempted to assure users that the platform would not turn into a Samsung-only platform. “Have no fears. SmartThings = Open,” he wrote. Responding to another question, he wrote, “We’ll be making a lot of investment in the open development tools including the community and much more.”

Meawhile, in the following testimonial quote, is Samsung saying it’s planning on adding voice controls and response to SmartThings systems, or is it simply a metaphor?

“Connected devices have long been strategically important to Samsung and, like Alex and his team, we want to improve the convenience and services in people’s lives by giving their devices and appliances a voice so they can interact more easily with them,” stated David Eun, Head of the OIC.

Note that the OIC that SmartThings is joining is different than Samsung’s other OIC, namely the Open Interconnect Consortium announced last month by Samsung, Intel, Broadcom, Atmel, and Dell. The group plans to develop open source standards for Internet of Things connectivity. So maybe SmartThings will align with that OIC as well.

 
Fourteen Linux-based home automation devices, and counting

When SmartThings does switch to Linux, it will join a growing number of other home automation platforms. The 14 under-$300 products, shown below, are all embedded Linux-based except for ALYT and HIO, which run Android. The links behind the 14 images all point to LinuxGizmos coverage, except for the Lowe’s Iris and Wattio devices, which we look forward to covering when their next upgrades hit.

 


Alyt

Hio

Iris

Ivee Sleek

Musaic

Nest

Ninja

Piper

Q-Station

Revolv

Wattio

WeMo

WigWag

Wink

 
Like the Kickstarter-backed SmartThings, most of these are crowdfunded products, and not all have reached market yet. Note that the list includes pretty much all the major low-cost platforms, except for the Apple HomeKit and Staples Connect. There’s circumstantial evidence that the Connect hub runs Linux, too, but Staples is keeping mum.

 
Further information

Samsung’s announcement about its SmartThings acquisition may be found here. More details about SmartThings are available at the SmartThings website.
 

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PLEASE COMMENT BELOW

One Response to “Samsung SmartThings pickup could mean new role for Tizen”

  1. Skye says:

    Your list is missing a big one that has been around for a while. Vera (previously Mi Casa Verde) runs linux.

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