During the IFA in Berlin, we cornered representatives from three different brands; LG, Philips Lighting and Samsung, to talk to them about smart homes. What problems do both the brands and users face and what can we expect from the future?
At the IFA in Berlin, we had the chance to speak with George Yianni from Philips, Ken Hong from LG and Diana Diefenbach from Samsung. The three representatives from three well-known manufacturers were united by a topic which is increasingly reported on by journalists and important to users: smart homes.
During the fair we were able to see some different connected devices: smart speakers, smart vacuums, and refrigerators capable of responding to orders just by saying them aloud, such as the Family Hub from Samsung. There’s a reason we can already see those things, and it’s because smart homes aren’t a thing of the future, they're here right now. It’s true that we’re just getting started and it’s still a very long road until we have houses that are completely connected, but brands are ready to start taking the first steps.
What makes a smart home in the first place?
Throughout the three interviews, which you can read in this article, quite a few common topics came up. The first was the long-term goal that all three brands have: make sure consumers understand what is, and what is not, a smart home. Also, educating users about smart homes in general and the diverse products on the market.
As George Yianni, Philips Lighting Head of Technology, stated during his interview, “lights are very underappreciated in your home...lighting can be more than on and off...it’s important to urge users to get the most out of smart products.” The same can be applied to other devices as well, no matter the brand. It’s crucial to present this topic to consumers, to make them understand what they are and how connected devices could be part of their daily lives.
Security, privacy, and efficiency: the three things that users worry about most
The technologies used in smart devices are continuously being developed. Voice recognition is improving and prices, one of the biggest hurdles to get over, have been decreasing over recent years. However, not every user is ready to make their home “smart.” So, what makes them avoid this automated world?
Ken Hong, LG Senior Director, explained during his interview: “Privacy concerns are real, not because these products are smart, but because they’re connected. A Smart Home in itself, smart products, are not the problem.” People don't really need to worry about product security from established brands on the market, like LG, Philips, and Samsung.
Yianni also highlights how difficult it is to choose between the different options on the market. As for the brand, it’s important to make sure that the devices are compatible with each other, even more so if they come from different manufacturers. This is the only way that consumers will truly be able to easily and efficiently create a smart home. Diana Diefenbach, Samsung Home Appliance spokesperson, pointed out that integrating smart home devices should be as natural as possible: integration and data security is what the brand is focusing its efforts on at the moment.
An intelligent ecosystem for all
In all three interviews, it was clear that the goal of the different brands is to create an efficient and easy-to-use ecosystem for users. However, their focuses may be different when it comes to using only or exclusively their own technology or findingpartners to integrate with, especially regarding voice commands and smart assistants.
For Samsung, with its Family Hub refrigerator, it decided to go with Bixby. Currently, the voice server is only available in English and Korean, limiting user experience to only a few markets. However, according to Diefenbach, the idea is to release Bixby in other languages so it can reach the greatest number of houses (and pockets) possible. Bixby will bridge the gap between the brand's entire ecosystem: smartphones, accessories and Smart Home devices.
Philips Lighting will continue focusing on what it knows best—lights. When we asked whether Philips, like Sony, Harman or Panasonic, is planning on launching a smart speaker with Alexa, Yanni responded: “at the moment we don’t have plans to build our own smart speaker, in the end, we want to partner with companies that are building the best possible smart speakers, to make sure our products work as part of those.”
The synchronization of home appliances is imminent. However, many people still think that it’s something that will happen in the future, but devices connected to the internet are already making their way into our homes. It’s incredible to be able to program a vacuum while you’re out around town, so everything’s clean when you get back. It’s also easy to understand how these devices will make our lives easier: we’ll be talking about the appliance revolution.
LG, Samsung, and Philips Lighting all seem to be headed in the same direction: educating consumers about smart homes, helping them choose the best products for their needs and therefore, giving life to a well-integrated smart ecosystem which will simplify their day-to-day lives. Plus, clearing up doubts about different topics that come up such as security and privacy is also part of that process. Privacy is something that everyone’s worried about: businesses could gather more data about our habits through these smart devices. Having more connected devices means we’ll be more vulnerable, but we’re also very curious as to where this industry will take us in the next 20 years.
LG, Samsung, and Philips Lighting aren’t the only players either. Beyond the well-known brands, there are quite a few smaller businesses and start-ups that are launching interesting ideas and products. As Hong said during his interview, when you talk about Smart Homes, there isn’t just one rival. Every company, big or small, is a competitor, there isn’t just one leader in the market. Obviously, manufacturers like LG, Samsung, and Philips have a lot of experience and a large number of users, so they shouldn’t be underestimated, but that doesn’t mean that they’re better than the rest. We’re all intrigued to see how the different systems will compete among themselves and who will come out on top.