In India, South Korean tech giant Samsung is popular for its smartphones that populate the wide expanse of the budget to the high-end premium flagship segments of the market. The company is also known for its consumer tech products and has a strong presence in the market because of its range of appliances — TVs, ACs, refrigerators and more.
However, little known is the fact that in India, Samsung also enjoys unrivaled dominance of a section of the industry that experts claim could define the future of not just the multi-billion dollar consumer tech sector, but also how we live our lives and interact with technology around us in the coming decades.
With Internet of Things (IoT) and smart homes becoming buzzwords across the globe, Samsung has been slowly investing — both time and money — to ensure it can establish itself as the leader in the sector. But even as it faces stiff competition in more mature markets such as the US and Europe, it’s in India where it has become the de-facto market leader by the virtue of being the only brand with a complete IoT powered smart home ecosystem in the market.
Its fast-expanding smart home ecosystem comprises of a choice of QLED TVs, a smart washing machine, and a smart fridge that Samsung calls the Family Hub. And tying all these smart appliances together is Samsung’s very own AI-based personal assistant, Bixby, which along with Samsung’s Smart Home and SmartThings app can be used to control these interconnected appliances remotely from your handset or even a supported smartwatch on your wrist.
But before we debate whether Samsung’s vision for smart homes is the right one or not, and also how relevant it is for us today, let’s first take a closer look at the smart home appliances that Samsung currently has on retail in the Indian market.
Family Hub 3.0
At the heart of Samsung’s IoT powered home is the Family Hub 3.0 which comes with a hefty price tag and to go with it pretty much all top of the line features that money can buy right now. This multi-door fridge brings with it a capacity of 810L, a Flex Zone (Convertible), ice and water dispenser and triple cooling technology.
However, what makes it special is that it brings with it a 21.5-inch touchscreen display and support for Bixby voice control. Working with the SmartThings ecosystem, the Family Hub 3.0 allows users to control and monitor their connected appliances — Flex Wash Washing Machine and Smartphone — from the screen.
Samsung has also fitted the smart fridge with built-in cameras inside which it claims can help the user view the contents inside the refrigerator through the SmartThings app and make decisions such as changing the temperature or even leaving an e-note on the Family Hub 3.0’s huge display for a family member at home from a remote location.
Apart from the Notepad, the Family Hub 3.0 comes with a number of other pre-loaded apps, as well as, support for Gallery and Music that can be played through a rather powerful speaker grille placed just below the smart fridge’s display.
Flex washing machine
The next piece of Samsung’s IoT puzzle is the Flex smart washing machine. Available in 23 kg capacity to handle an optimal load, the Flex uses three core Samsung laundry technologies – EcoBubbleTM, Bubble Soak, and Vibration
Reduction Technology (VRT PlusTM).
Although the Flex isn’t equipped with any fancy display like the Family Hub 3.0, it is IoT-enabled nonetheless, and comes integrated with a bunch of smart controls that “allow users to operate and monitor the machine anytime, anywhere via their smartphones, letting them start and stop every cycle from the palm of their hand.”
Last, but not the least, is the QLED TV from Samsung that also comes with a number of IoT powered smart controls. The TVs are available in two sizes — 55-inch and 65-inch — and are capable of rendering content in up to 4k (3840 x 2160) resolutions.
Apart from bringing support for S Voice, the two TVs also bring with them support for Samsung’s Ambient Mode, One Connect Box, One Connect Remote and the One Clear cable.
But what makes this TV special? It’s connection with Samsung’s other smart home devices.
With the smart QLED TVs and the Family Hub 3.0 connected, users can get a feed of the contents inside the fridge right on their TV, or even stream the feed on their TV to the display of the smart fridge while they are in the kitchen preparing a late night snack for themselves.
Samsung’s vision for the IoT ecosystem in India
As compared to more mature — and lucrative — markets, Samsung’s ecosystem of smart home appliances is a tad limited at only three devices. Yet, there is no denying that even in possessing this limited ecosystem, Samsung has given itself an early mover’s advantage in the smart home space.
However, this also raises two important questions: 1) If Samsung’s smart home ecosystem in its current form is worth buying into for Indian users? And more importantly 2) As the segment leader, what is Samsung’s vision for the future of India’s smart homes?
While we’re not sure about answering in the affirmative the first question — primarily because of the high entry cost barrier and the bottlenecks the segment itself faces because of being at a nascent stage — we did, however, reach out to Mr Rajeev Bhutani, senior vice president, consumer electronics business at Samsung India for an answer to the second question. Through a series of questions, he explained to us Samsung’s vision for its smart home project in India.
Q: How does Samsung plan to dominate the IoT space in India?
A: In India, Samsung strongly feels that there is a lot of potential for IoT oriented products… The Indian market is rapidly adapting to digitization as a result of the large internet user base that is estimated to grow manifold… IoT devices are the future and Samsung, as a harbinger of innovation in technology, is ready to adopt this across its product portfolio…
Integrating Bixby into more devices, and exploring ways to make more objects intelligent, will eventually allow more households to experience the benefits of a seamlessly connected IoT ecosystem. IoT interactions will be natural, and our smart devices will be so seamlessly woven into the fabric of our lives.
Q. What are the products lined up for the first half of 2019 in the IoT category?
A: Samsung has been the pioneer in introducing unique IoT products to its customers. Globally, our 2020 aim is to make all the devices IoT enabled and we have already achieved 90% of it. In India, we have recently started introducing IoT enabled products and will continue to expand the portfolio with greater momentum.
Q. Pricing of these smart home devices a hindrance for a price sensitive market like India? What does Samsung have to say about this?
A: Though India is a price sensitive market, the consumer set today is more interested in the unique and differentiated experience that is not restricted particularly to the cost factor. People are always looking at upgrading their home devices and buying premium category products… We at Samsung, have observed an interesting trend that this premiumization is not limited to just metros but even Tier-II and Tier-III markets have shown a sizeable appetite for premium products. The consumers are willing to upgrade to products that add value to their lives.
Q. When will we see Samsung launching an India only IoT device that is custom-made keeping an Indian user in mind?
A: The number of connected devices in India is expected to reach 2.7 billion by 2020, with Nasscom predicting the economic impact of these devices reaching up to $15 billion. Samsung through its R&D centers is always working towards it’s commitment to providing seamless connectivity and enabling the smart, connected experience.
For the Indian market, Samsung is looking at integrating Bixby into more devices and exploring ways to make more objects intelligent, enabling consumers to experience the benefits of a seamlessly connected IoT ecosystem. Times Now