LAS VEGAS — Samsung Electronics CEO Boo-Keun Yoon, in a keynote speech at the International Consumer Electronics Show on Monday, Jan. 5, made a passionate pitch to “unlock the infinite possibilities of the Internet of Things,” while suggesting that the industry fall in line behind Samsung’s leadership.
On the one hand, Yoon stressed the importance of an “open ecosystem” for IoT, noting that “cross-industry collaboration is the key.”
On the other hand, Yoon was less than subtle in reminding the audience of Samsung’s unequivocal dominance in the global consumer electronics market today, and the company’s commitment to the IoT market of tomorrow.
Yoon noted that Samsung put 665 million products in the hands of consumers last year. “That’s 20 devices a second,” he said, before pausing for a second. “We just made 20.”
The implication of his joke was obvious. Samsung is the 800-pound gorilla of consumer electronics.
Backed by its prowess in mass production, marketing, and technology, Samsung will call the tune in the IoT market. He promised that by 2017, 90% of Samsung devices will be IoT devices. Yoon said he hopes to make that 100% within the next five years.
The Samsung CEO described the challenges of IoT today as the lack of an “open ecosystem” and a need for “cross-industry collaboration.” On that note, Yoon declared, “Our IoT components and devices will be open.” Further, he promised to the thundering applause of the audience: “Samsung will be open!”
But hang on.
If Samsung is to make so many IoT devices in volume (and Samsung hopes to sweep the IoT market), Yoon appears to be suggesting that the best way to achieve an open ecosystem for IoT is to concede Samsung’s leadership.
Yoon in his speech made no mentioning of competing IoT ecosystems promoted by Samsung’s rivals, including Qualcomm, Intel, and Apple. Instead, he talked about a number of partnerships (or acquisitions) Samsung has already made to promote its open ecosystem.
First, Yoon trotted onto the stage SmartThings CEO Alex Hawkinson. SmartThings, a startup that has developed technologies to control connected devices using a mobile app, was acquired by Samsung in August for a reported $200 million.
Prodded by Yoon to talk about the progress SmartThings has made since the acquisition, Hawkinson said that all SmartThings gadgets work with all of Samsung’s connected devices. He rattled off some of his company’s new partners including Netgear, Chamberlain, Philips Hue, and Honeywell.
Hawkinson added that SmartThings already has a huge development community. The number of developers building devices that connect to SmartThings’ open platform has doubled since the acquisition, he said.
Jawbone CEO Hosain Rahman also joined Yoon on the stage at the Venetian Hotel’s Palazzo Ballroom to hammer home the IoT message: “open ecosystem.” Rahman talked about Jawbone’s UP — a smart wristband and app that helps users understand how they sleep, move, and eat, now working on the open SmartThings Platform.
(Source: Samsung’s keynote video, YouTube)
Calling SmartThings “one of my favorite developers,” Rahman said, “So, as the integrations come together, more and more technologies are working for you.” In conclusion, he said, “This feels like a path to make the connected world center around the user.”
Obviously, if you have the money and market share that Samsung now commands, partnerships and collaborations in an open ecosystem are easy to come by. Yoon said Samsung will be committing $100 million toward bolstering its IoT programs with developers and startups.
Setting aside the idiosyncrasies of defining an “open ecosystem,” according to Samsung’s own universe the infinite possibilities of IoT the industry is about to unlock, illustrated by Yoon, turned out to be rather thin and superficial.
An IoT scenario Yoon unveiled at the end of his keynote speech in a short illustrative presentation began by using the example of a “connected wine cellar” (presumably Samsung’s) at home.
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