Ruminations on the electronics industry from David Manners, Senior Components Editor on Electronics Weekly.
There’s no idea like an old idea. 26 years ago Echelon set up to connect things in the home. It had demos showing the lights being switched on, curtains opened and drawn, gates and garage doors opened and shut – all remotely.
Echelon produced (what else?) a ‘platform’, which it called called LonWorks, to make these connections ubiquitous and designed ICs, called ‘Neurons’ to control the connections.
All these foundered, of course, on the reluctance of hardware manufacturers to install or support common interfaces.
Then last week, Samsung paid $200 million for a two year-old US start-up which has had $15.5 million venture money with a the slogan “every home a smart home.”
The company, called SmartThings has (what else?) a ‘platform’ that connects a range of consumer IoT devices for the house together into a smartphone app.
26 years on, the world hasn’t come a long way – or any way at all.
Of course Samsung has a chance to do what everyone else has failed to do because it’s product range is so wide. According to an AnalysisMason survey covering six European countries and the USA, 35% of respondents had a Samsung handset, 25% of respondents had a Samsung TV and 11% had a Samsung tablet.
The strange thing is that this seems to be driven by companies’ fears rather than consumer demand.
When Philips made both DTVs and PCs its CEO told me no one wanted a merged device because the use model was so different – one you sit up to, while the other you watch while slumped on the sofa with a beer.
No, the motivation for domestic connectivity is not consumer demand but fear – which is why all attempts at connectivity have failed – because no manufacturer wants to enable their competitors, while every manufacturer would like to connect a string of interactive devices which would lock out their competitors.
If your competitor looks like he’s building such an empire you tremble.
So when, earlier this year, Google paid $3.2 billion for Nest and Apple released HomeKit – both aimed at connecting things in homes – Seoul trembled.