14 February 18 The Straits Times by TREVOR TAN
One app to connect. One cloud to manage. And artificial intelligence to make it all tick along easier.
Samsung's latest strategy for its budding Internet of Things, or IOT, drive comes in these prongs, which the Korean electronics giant outlined last week at its South-east Asia and Oceania (SEAO) Forum in Rome, Italy.
"We believe IOT should be as easy as flipping a switch," said Mr Steve Lee, president and chief executive officer of Samsung Electronics SEAO, at the event's opening.
To create such simplicity, there will be one app to provide seamless connectivity among IOT devices, which are managed by a single cloud. And the company is tapping on artificial intelligence (AI) voice assistance that allows users of IOT appliances to work smarter.
IOT is the network of physical smart devices with software, sensors and connectivity that enables the devices to connect and exchange data. The latest guise of such devices includes fridges, locks, vacuum cleaners and washing machines.
The worldwide IOT market size is expected to reach US$457.3 billion (S$606.1 billion) in 2020, from 2016's US$157 billion, according to research firm Statista.
Samsung uses its SmartThings open platform for smart homes and consumer IOT devices. Its various such devices, including a router/ hub device, a vacuum cleaner and motion sensors, leverage on its SmartThings app, SmartThings Cloud and voice assistant Bixby.
"We have added the SmartThings app to our 2018 Smart TVs, so now the TV becomes a dashboard for your entire IOT eco-system," Mr Lee said.
At the event, he also announced the launch of Samsung's Family Hub 2018 smart refrigerator and IOT-ready WW7800M washing machine.
Available here in the second half of this year, the Family Hub Smart Fridge integrates the Bixby voice assistant and SmartThings eco-system.
The Family Hub recognises individual voices and provides personalised information. Thus, when a family member asks the Family Hub about the day's schedule, it will be able to pull out the correct information for that particular person.
And with SmartThings, users can control and monitor their smart home. For example, they can see who is ringing the doorbell on the fridge's 21.5-inch touchscreen display. And users can see what is inside the fridge when they are outside using an app, so they can make better grocery shopping decisions.
The price of the refrigerator will be announced later.
Samsung's new WW7800M Smart Washing Machine comes with an AI-powered laundry assistant known as the Q-rator.
The Q-rator has a Laundry Planner that lets users manage the laundry schedule; a HomeCare Wizard that allows users to monitor the washing machine by remote; and the Laundry Recipe, which gives automatic optimal wash cycles based on users' input of their laundry information, such as colour, fabric type and degree of soiling.
The front-loading WW7800M uses Samsung's new washing machine technology known as QuickDrive. It has a unique Q-Drum that consists of a large main drum and a plate in the back that rotates independently of each other.
As such, clothes are moved from top to bottom as well as back and forth instead of merely up and down like in conventional washing machines. This helps to cut washing time by 50 per cent and energy consumption by 20 per cent, according to Samsung.
The WW7800M will be available here in the first quarter of this year. Its price has not been confirmed.
Also announced at the annual forum are the NW700 Sound+ and N650 sound bars, as well as a new cordless Powerstick Pro vacuum cleaner. The three products will be available in the second quarter, with prices to be announced.