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The future of smart home living

SmartThings' idea for smart living started with an unfortunate situation: A flood.

About four years ago, Samsung SmartThings Founder and CEO Alex Hawkinson was away from his mountain home for the winter. During that time, the power went out during a storm, the pipes froze — and when they burst, the house flooded.

"By the time he came back in the spring, his living room and the first floor of the house were a swimming pool," said Mark Younger, Europe's SmartThings managing director.

While Hawkinson and his wife were in the midst of repairing the damage, Hawkinson saw her downloading a digital book on her e-reader. He realised that if she could download a book from pretty much anywhere in the world, he should have the means to check in on his home from anywhere as well. If he had, the flood damage could have easily been prevented.

Shortly after Hawkinson's realisation, SmartThings — a platform that allows hundreds of smart devices (ranging from lighting, to door locks, to cameras, entertainment systems and everything in between) to be connected through one hub and easily controlled by just one smartphone app — was born.

In the ensuing years, Samsung SmartThings has made innumerable innovations in smart home living — producing benefits that range from peace of mind to home security to convenience and entertainment.

And according to Younger, the future holds many exciting ways to help people take advantage of these existing benefits, and to customise and expand their smart homes based on personal need and preference.

"We believe that smart homes come in all shapes and sizes, and our system can grow with you through various stages of life," he said. "We're working with a lot of brands who are integrating SmartThings into their products. This will enable some really cool home automation in the near future, and you'll have the ability to experiment and find the right setup for you, regardless of the brand or style of product you like."

The expandability and customisable aspects of SmartThings fits well with most users, because people tend to start with one smart home benefit in mind — like the convenience of listening to music in any room of the house, or having the peace of mind that comes with a high-tech baby monitor — then they gradually expand their system over time to include more intricate uses. Just a few simple examples: You can set up your stairways lights to turn on dimmed at 10 percent, so you and your children can easily see where you’re going if you have to get up to use the bathroom; you can automate your kettle or coffee machine to turn on when you're scheduled to wake up; and you can even set up your system to send your phone a video clip notification whenever movement is detected near your home's entrance.

"We've made it super easy to set up what you want, and often people find that what they initially got a starter kit for is just the tip of the iceberg, and they'll add on to the kit once they realise all the other capabilities and possibilities," he said.

Future innovation in the smart home realm is being driven by developers of all sorts, along with consumer input. Younger said the entire developer community is working with Samsung to create integrations with their devices in areas like security, entertainment, energy use and a slew of others. And consumers provide input (often via social media) about a capability they'd like to see integrated into a smart home system.

"Everyone has different wants and needs, and everyone in their fields is trying to make smart homes more appealing to the consumer," Younger said. "For example, someone might Tweet at us that they'd like a way to be able to keep an eye on their pet while they're at work all day, and then we make that a possibility. It's great to have that input, because that's something that I personally wouldn't have thought of on my own.”

As far as Younger and his colleagues are concerned, the future of smart homes is a very bright and exciting one, with endless potential for new uses and innovations.

In the past we didn't know what was going on in our homes while we were away, and now that sounds a bit ludicrous," Younger said. "We've already solved that problem a lot of other problems and issues, and now we have the cool job of coming up with some more custom solutions."

And as smart home systems become more encapsulating and robust, their popularity is bound to grow among consumers, to something that is as commonplace as smart phones — something people appreciate, but are able to take for granted because of accessibility and user-friendliness.

"In 10 years we won't even be talking about the smart home as much," Younger said. "It will just be a home. Things seen as innovations now will just be much more commonplace. The notion that lights go off when no one is in the room, or that heat is automatically turned down when you're away from home to minimise power consumption and energy bills — those things will be a given."

Samsung SmartThings products, including starter kits and hubs are available at Samsung and at Currys PC World stores.

Published at: 19-12-2015

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