Samsung Buys a Startup to Own the Smart Home
...and it could be great news for the industry.
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Updated: August 15, 2014 2:06PM
Samsung has just made a bold play to solidify its position in the rapidly growing smart home category. Thursday, connected home startup SmartThings announced it has been acquired by the Korean tech giant for $200 million.
The acquisition is the latest in a string of recent smart home power grabs by industry titans. While this deal isn't as high-profile as Google's $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest Labs back in January, it could arguably have a larger impact. That's because it makes Samsung the only major player with a complete home automation system.
As part of the deal, SmartThings will relocate to Palo Alto, California, to join Samsung's Open Innovation Center. The startup will continue to run as an independent subsidiary under current CEO and founder Alex Hawkinson.
In a post on the SmartThings blog, Hawkinson stated that, "It has always been our goal to create a totally open smart home platform that brings together third-party developers, device makers, and consumers. We’re thrilled that Samsung fully supports this vision."
Hawkinson told us in an interview that SmartThings first explored a partnership with Samsung a few months ago. But both companies quickly realized that they had a good DNA match and both wanted to promote an open smart home system.
If SmartThings' open platform is integrated into Samsung's product ecosystem, it would be a marked change of policy for the Korean giant. To date, Samsung's own smart home products have operated on a proprietary standard that only supported the company's own products.
In acquiring SmartThings, it seems one of the world's largest manufacturers is coming to terms with the idea that it can't go it alone in the smart home.
That's great news for the home automation market as a whole, which has labored since its inception under the divisive influence of competing closed standards. The lack of an open, unified platform has undeniably limited the potential of the so-called Internet of Things, boxing consumers into one proprietary system or another.
It's also telling that, according to Hawkinson, SmartThings intends to make its products compatible with Apple's HomeKit platform. If this integration does happen, it will be the first sign of public cooperation between two of the tech industry's fiercest rivals. Of course, we'll have to see if Apple even allows a Samsung-backed SmartThings to get onboard.
This deal has also once again validated the power of crowdsourcing platform Kickstarter, which helped bring SmartThings to market back in 2012. The startup originally sought $250,000 in funding to produce its smart hub, eventually raising more than $1.2 million from individual backers.