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Samsung’s Home Energy Management System a Walled Garden

Neil Strother — May 6, 2014

Samsung launched its Smart Home service recently, hoping to expand into home energy management.  From a consumer standpoint, though, there is a stumbling block.  You can bring your own appliance – as long as Samsung makes it.

The new service aims to simplify home automation by using a single application for connecting and controlling home appliances, TVs, and mobile devices.  In the United States, compatible products include Samsung’s Smart French Door Refrigerator, Smart Front Loading Washing Machine, all 2014 Smart TVs, Gear 2 (watch-like wearables), and smartphones with operating systems above Android 4.0.  For the South Korean market, the compatible hardware includes a 2014 air conditioner (model Q9000), a washer (Bubbleshot 3 W9000), all 2014 Smart TV models, Gear 2, and smartphones with operating systems above Android 4.0.

Samsung plans to roll out the service to additional countries throughout the year and will add smart light bulbs and smart ovens in the second half of 2014, including the ability to control devices by voice recognition.  Further plans call for expansion into home safety and energy management.

Walled Garden

While it is laudable to try to connect devices in the home, especially large energy-consuming ones like heavy duty appliances, offering a proprietary solution poses a challenge to market growth.  Devices using other technology platforms or communication protocols won’t be able to join the system.  This walled garden approach is perhaps is a good strategy for Samsung’s business, but not such a good scenario for consumers.

Clearly, Samsung would like to establish itself as a leader with its own set of technology, aiming to set standards and outflank competitors.  But that will not work for consumers, especially those in the United States and other countries who combine appliances from different makers.  Consumers will want things to work together seamlessly, to interoperate, no matter the brand.  Thus, they will look to devices that are less restrictive and take advantage of different protocols like Wi-Fi, ZigBee, HomePlug, or Bluetooth.

The concept of plug-and-play resonates, particularly in the home.  As noted in Navigant Research’s Home Energy Management report, the lack of common standards is a barrier to wider adoption of products that can help reduce energy consumption.  With this move by Samsung, that barrier remains.

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