[Interview] SmartThings’ Alex Hawkinson Discusses an IoT for “All Facets of Your Life”

on September 17, 2015
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SmartThings' Alex Hawkinson Discusses an IoT for "All Facets of Your Life"


Samsung’s exhibition at IFA 2015 illustrated the near-infinite possibilities of how the Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming the very fabric of our lives. Whether creating an optimal environment for a good night’s sleep, or cutting energy costs within the home, IoT is truly evolving to be in sync with life.


But, the power of IoT reaches far beyond the walls of the home. Samsung SmartThings, in conjunction with cross-industry collaborators, is helping to create new value across a number of industries, from retail to enterprise, and healthcare to transportation, thus growing an open IoT ecosystem across the world.


Samsung Tomorrow sat down with Alex Hawkinson, CEO of SmartThings, to talk a bit more in detail about how the company is making this happen.


Q: What new SmartThings advancements were showcased at IFA this year?


Alex Hawkinson: At IFA, SmartThings demonstrated how we can help turn any home into a smart home that solves specific everyday problems and enables people to stay connected to their homes when they’re away from anywhere in the world.


We introduced a new Samsung SmartThings Hub that has a more powerful processor for video monitoring, a battery backup and the ability to process some automations locally so even if the Internet or power goes out, you can still have peace of mind. We also have a new, more intuitive SmartThings app that makes it even easier to set up, monitor and control devices.  Alongside the new devices and app, a core new feature we launched is Smart Home Monitor.


Q: Tell us a bit more about that.


Alex Hawkinson: Smart Home Monitor is an integrated solution that allows you to answer a really simple but fundamental question: Is everything okay at home? This allows you, in one place, to answer that question via real time notifications and video clips that are sent when SmartThings detects unusual activity, such as smoke or a leak.


If you go into that notification, you can see what happened leading up to, during and after the event to decide if you need to alert neighbors, a plumber or handyman, or anyone else who can help on your behalf.


Q: During Samsung’s press conference, you mentioned SmartThings’ upcoming partnership with BMW. Can you explain more about that?


Alex Hawkinson: Though we originally built SmartThings for the home, we are now trying to find ways to extend our open platform beyond this. One of those ways is through our partnership with BMW.


The SmartThings app has always allowed you to get notifications from anywhere in the world, but now with BMW, we’re working to deliver a direct integration that will allow you to stay connected to your home as you’re driving in your BMW vehicle. Any alert will pop up on your dashboard so you don’t have to be looking at your phone while you’re driving. While in your car, you will also be able to call a designated emergency contact to fix any potential household problems remotely in a timely manner.


In turn, you can also stay connected to  your car from the SmartThings app. So, if you had a maintenance issue, or accidentally left the trunk or a window open, you would be notified and able to check the status of your BMW at any time. Your automobile can also become a presence sensor, so that when you come home, for example, your garage door will automatically open, your lights will turn on and your home can start preparing for your arrival.


Q. Collaboration with other industry partners, such as BMW, is no doubt essential for creating a seamless IoT platform. What are some other things you are doing to build an IoT ecosystem?


Alex Hawkinson: There are really two things that are crucial to making the IoT a success: collaboration and openness. We’re proud that SmartThings is an open platform with an open API that allows partners and developers to create amazing smart home solutions together.


With our web-based Integrated Development Environment, developers can write and simulate how their ideas work across a huge range of devices. Our platform is also fully integrated with GitHub, so developers can easily write, manage and collaborate in a fully open environment to create useful applications for users.


To date, there are over 200 devices compatible with SmartThings and that number continues to grow with our “Works With SmartThings” program.


Q. What are your priorities when you’re developing new products and services?


Alex Hawkinson: Samsung’s IoT is not driven by technology, but by people’s expectations. A human-centric approach is the most important principle and philosophy of Samsung’s IoT. To realize this, we focus on ease of use—making IoT really simple and powerful. Also, we want to give consumers three things: peace of mind, control and flexibility. These, we feel, are very important things to consider when developing new products and services that can solve real world problems for everyday people.


Q: What is SmartThings’ vision for the future?


Alex Hawkinson: Beyond the home, we hope to extend SmartThings into all facets of your life to help people live more intelligently. Samsung SmartThings’ vision for IoT goes far beyond the home, and with our open platform and cross-industry collaboration, we’re well-equipped to continue driving innovation and remain at the forefront of helping to create smart neighborhoods, cities and ultimately a smarter and more connected world.

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