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SmartThings CEO: Samsung Fully Supports Our Vision

Alex Hawkinson Outlines Vision for Hundreds of Millions of Homes

Samsung promises to be one of the 800-pound gorillas of the IoT, if its success in recent years with Android devices and other consumer electronics is any guide.

Showing its willingness to be a big IoT player, the company recently acquired SmartThings, a recent startup that's developed an open smarthome appliation that currently supports 1,000 devices and 8,000 apps. SmartThings will now work under the auspices of Samsung's Open Innovation Center (OIC).

See Also: Samsung OIC Exec Jacobo Lenzi Touts "Open" Dialog

SmartThings Founder and CEO Alex Hawkinson (pictured above) said that Samsung "fully supports (our) vision" and that "we'll continue to run things as we always have: by embracing our community of customers, developers, and device makers." SmartThings will relocate its headquarters from Washington, DC to Palo Alto, CA.

We had a few questions for Alex, which he answers below. Separately, we interviewed Samsung VP Jacopo Lenzi, who headed the OIC acquisitions team.

IoT Journal: SmartThings was founded only in 2012, yet I imagine there's some history behind its vision and team. What are its roots and the sources of the thinking you've put into the company?

Alex Hawkinson: The roots of the company stem from a personal incident when my family cabin in Colorado lost power in low temperatures and the pipes burst after freezing.

We were away from the house for an extended period when this happened and had no warning of dropping temperatures or resulting damages. Upon arrival, we found the house pretty much destroyed by water from the thawed pipes. All in all, there was about $80,000 worth of damage.

Had I known about the busted pipes, I could have easily called a neighbor to shut off the water. It occurred to me that it's crazy that we know so much about our distant friends and their lives via Facebook, but there was yet to be an easy way to monitor and control our homes from anywhere in the world without spending a lot of money.

Since then, I've made it my mission to give the everyday things in our homes a voice, creating solutions that can monitor and send alerts if there is, for example, a flood in someone's home when they aren't present.

This incident inspired the broader vision for the company:  to make every home a smart home. Our goal is to bring consumers security, peace of mind, savings, and the ability to easily customize it to fit their needs and routines. To achieve this, we have also embraced an open platform approach, attracting device makers and developers to help build, create, and unlock the limitless possibilities of the consumer IoT.

IoT Journal: Your customers are consumers, not techies, with little patience for bugs and glitches. What approach do you take to ensure lots of features and functionality, but also intuitive use?

Alex: Part of our vision is to make SmartThings the easiest way to turn your home into smart home and that vision applies to both developers and also mainstream consumers. What's great about the product is that consumers can customize their experience and choose which devices they would like to connect to solve specific problems.

Then, with the help of the SmartThings Hub, you can monitor and control all of your devices through the SmartThings mobile application, as well as discover and set up simple, guided solutions for top use cases that may be useful to you.All you need to get started is the SmartThings Hub and whichever SmartThings sensors or third-party devices you like, which can range from moisture sensors, locks, lighting controls, and more.

Much of the setup and discovery is self-guided and can be tailored directly to the consumer's needs. In the case that troubleshooting issues do arise, our support team is available via email or live chat within the app.

IoT Journal: You've said you'll still be run independently. What advantages does being involved with the Samsung OIC offer your team and your customers?

Alex: We believe that coupling our market-leading platform and ecosystem with the massive scale and reach of Samsung will enable us to more quickly fulfill our mission and bring the benefits of the IoT and smart home to hundreds of millions of consumers.

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More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

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