In what promises to be a continued battle of the giants for supremacy in the smart home, Samsung is rumored to be purchasing home automation startup SmartThings for $200 million. TechCrunch is credited with first breaking the news on this deal, which at the time of this writing is still 'in the works'.
Samsung's activity comes close on the heels of large moves in the space by both Google and Apple (Microsoft has been on the move too, is anyone talking about them??). Samsung no doubt sees a golden opportunity to stake a claim in this land grab by purchasing a fairly mature, albeit young, home automation platform. But many questions remain.
Chief among them is how Samsung will chose to handle the openness with which SmartThings has always approached the connected home market. From its inception, SmartThings sought to solve the challenges of home automation by embracing transparency across various protocols and manufacturers. A post from the SmartThings blog illustrates this point:
At our core, we also believe that for the ecosystem to be healthy, it must be open. An open physical graph is the only way to bridge the innovation, inventions and brilliance of the many device manufacturers, hardware makers, developers, and everyday people who are working to change our lives today and in the future.
Samsung has never been known to play nicely outside the bounds of its own closed ecosystem. This fact has served as a rally cry for those doubting the viability of Samsung's (not so creatively named) SmartHome platform announced back in January at CES. Should the acquisition go through, it will be interesting to see if SmartThings is rolled-up into this previously announced offering, or if it will continue to stand on its own. And whether it's rolled-up or not, the larger question remains as to how Samsung will treat the core belief in openness that SmartThings so clearly embraces.
The optimistic among us can look with hope to the recent announcement that Samsung (along with Nest Labs, Chipmaker ARM, and others) has signed onto the so-called "Thread Group" initiative; a move which at least ostensibly indicates a willingness to work collaboratively with other players in the smart home space. But what, if any, tie-in exists between the Thread Group announcement and the SmartThings deal is anything but clear.
In a landscape crowded with home automation hubs, and connected devices, SmartThings has long been the belle of the ball in the eyes of many. Ironically what propelled them to this level of success was in large part the open approach they took right from the early days of Kickstarter. Only time will tell if Samsung will continue that approach, or if they will close the door on the SmartThings ecosystem in an effort to rule the smart home alone.