Convergence of smart home platforms makes sense. Very few consumers fully equip their houses with white goods, brown goods and their personal electronics from a single vendor. At present those early adopters of the smart home concept have found their ability to have a single management interface very limited unless they wanted to do the integration of multiple systems themselves.
That makes this agreement a key step to the concept of a unified Smart Home. In April SK Telecom and Samsung signed a Memorandum of Agreement to cooperate in building a unified platform. When Samsung was not named on the list of partners at the launch of SK Telecom’s Smart Home Platform back in May, it raised eyebrows.
This announcement now fixes that omission with SK Telecom customers now able to control all products that are enabled with Samsung’s smart home capability. While the two companies failed to announce a date for this to go live they have said it will be sometime in 2015.
According to Yoon C. Lee, Vice President and Head of Sales & Marketing Team at Samsung Electronics: “We have a strategic plan to collaborate with diverse companies who have their own smart home platforms to maximize effectiveness of customers’ use. We are delighted to work with SK Telecom who is leading the smart home business in Korea.”
Alongside this announcement, SK Telecom also announced that it had signed a MOU with LG Electronics at the IFA show last week in Berlin. Integration of both of their smart home platforms will also take place before the end of 2015.
A Smart Home for the enterprise?
These two announcements enable SK Telecom to position itself as a major Internet of Things (IoT) player, at least in the home market. This is more than just about enabling consumers to control their own homes. Modern offices are awash with white and brown goods. Kitchens and cafeterias are equipped with fridges, freezers and dish washers while TV’s and other entertainment systems are becoming increasingly common.
Those businesses that have adopted the campus approach have even more different types of devices and even games machines all over their buildings. Nobody pays much attention to them but they are now as much a part of the enterprise electronics as laptops, printers and monitors.
As these items become Internet enabled with smart systems they begin to raise concerns for IT security teams. Devices are often connected to the corporate network in order that they can make their own maintenance calls when something is wrong. This is nothing new. Printer manufacturers such as HP and Canon have provided this enterprise support capability for years.
The challenge with white and brown goods is that while the IT equipment suppliers have integrated strong security into their products, white and brown goods vendors have not. This is because their Bill of Materials (BoM) for add in components is very small and they have had to cut the costs to stay competitive.
There are already examples where these types of goods have been hacked to send out spam emails but that is a minor inconvenience. Hackers taking over white goods could cause them to flood buildings or over a holiday period cause large amounts of food to spoil. Both are inconvenient and have an impact on the business.
Of more concern to IT teams is the fact that brown goods such as televisions have been shown to be a more serious security problem. With voice control for televisions increasingly popular, hackers have shown that they can listen in on conversations. With laptops and other mobile devices also at risk of cameras and microphones being hijacked IT security is concerned that it is losing the ability to secure the enterprise.
One of the things that SK Telecoms has talked about is the need for security. It has already implemented its own security on the Smart Home Platform and as part of the integration with Samsung and LG Electronics it will not want to weaken that. This gives it a play for the enterprise where it can position itself as a business platform
SK Telecom has its own MDM solution although at present this seems more focused on the education market. It will be interesting to see if it now offers a combined solution for education. If so, there is no reason why it shouldn’t be able to also offer that to the enterprise. In doing so could enable it to capture a significant slice of the Asia Pacific enterprise IoT management market as it is already ahead of its regional rivals in terms of capability.
We are beginning to see a number of IoT announcements over platform tie-ups but most of them, such as the IBM and ARM announcement last week, are focused on data analytics. By focusing on the management side SK Telecoms is positioning itself as a Smart Home Platform aggregator. It is interesting that LG and Samsung have not made a separate announcement over the integration of their platforms which gives SK Telecoms a key opportunity.
It is highly likely that we will soon see Google and other IoT platform players look to form their own alliances and integrated management platforms. For now, however, SK Telecom certainly seems to have created itself a real opportunity.