Jeon Yong Sung, president and chief executive of Samsung Electronics in the region, welcomed more than 130 media and several hundred retail and distribution partners to the event. On display were some items straight from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, but, more importantly, it was Samsung’s way to showcase its 2017 consumer electronics (CE) and home appliance (HA) range to a very interested audience.
It was a Samsung event and, yes, it was justifiably proud of its achievements. Jeon said it had been number one in TV sales for over a decade, it was now Asia’s most trusted consumer electronics brand, and it was all because Samsung has innovation at its very core. “We invest heavily in R&D to stay well ahead – everything needs to become a smart thing.”
I attended the regional forum in Singapore along with two other Australian media people, Emily Bencic from Appliance Retailer covering the retailer angle and Tony Yoo from Business Insider covering the business angle. Please read Yoo’s overview “5 startling things you can do this year with smart appliances” because frankly, I could not have said it any better.
I was there to cover the tech angle, not so much the HA product range (but I will explore the QLED TV and some of the tech behind the HA products) so let’s start by saying that Samsung has committed to making all its home appliances smart by 2020 – starting now.
Jeon said that the Internet of Things (IoT) was at the heart of everything and would come to all categories – every product from 2017 onwards would be smart. That simply means that these products will have intelligence (aka computing power), not only to do the task they were designed for but also to communicate with smart hubs and the world in general.
Walking around the exhibition hall I found myself having two distinct feelings. First, I wanted to buy many of the amazing products.
- The microwave with HotBlast adds a new dimension to cooking making it 50% faster and able to brown food.
- A Family Hub 2.0 French door fridge was the stuff chefs dream of (more on that in another article) but also innovation in using separate compressors for fridge and freezer allowing flexible use.
- The Dolby Atmos sound bar 5.1.4 system was amazing – you could feel the sound and, of course, you need the second generation 4K Blu-ray player. There was also a new range of sound bars and UHQ audio streaming speakers.
- I was more than impressed at the distinct visual superiority of QLED TV over WOLED (White OLED). Samsung has combined its second-generation Quantum Dot technology with a new QLED (pronounced Q-LED) RGB (red/green/blue) that achieves 100% colour volume (a separate technical article on this will appear soon).
- A 3-in-1 Flex Wash front loader “Add wash” washer that has two washing machines and a dryer, and the top loader with a built-in “sink” for preparing items for the wash.
- POWERbot robotic “true suction” vacuum cleaner (not a sweeper as many competitors supply) that has a lower profile, solves issues like cleaning in 90° corners, maps the area, self-cleans long hair from the brush, and does so much more.
- Air-conditioning that uses 72% less energy and has a unique “Wind free” mode that uses 21,000 micro-pores instead of the usual swinging flap to distribute the air.
- Electric and gas stove tops and ovens all with unique features like the two-section “Dual Cook” oven.
- Dishwashers with WaterWall technology, half load, and other features
- New Quantum Dot curved monitors for gaming and business
- And last, the range of smartphones, wearables, and VR, but with a unique twist – their application to “business case uses” like aged care, agriculture, medicine, education and so much more.
Second, was the awe that these were all smart – if I did not appreciate the value of a smart thing before, I did now. The key to all this is that these all talk to each other via 802.11, Internet-based IP, Wi-Fi (significant, as this is an open standard – not a proprietary, closed protocol like either Homekit or Zigbee) and uses Android or iOS apps to control them.
Samsung said that it wants to use open protocols to help get home automation going and create a situation where everything talks to everything – not relying on walled gardens and lock-in costs as some manufacturers have done. It is sharing its technology freely in a similar manner to how the open source community started.
I want to segue slightly and offer an opinion on some of the reasons Samsung wants to make every device smart.
On the benign side, it allows for a new breed of appliances — from robot vacuums to washing machines — to be conveniently controlled as part of the smart house of the future. Samsung has made some incredible advances there and appears to be betting that the smartphone will be the key, not a separate proprietary smart hub as seems to be the direction taken by many entrants in this space.
It also means that telemetry from connected devices can report back to reveal any issues e.g. performance, out of specification etc, and enable over-the-air firmware updates to fix, upgrade or even recall them.
Its MySamsung — initially a customer care app — will be the key to controlling the Samsung ecosystem and adding more devices and features.
This is a good thing.
Sceptics may say that we don’t need more telemetry. It is no different to Apple, Microsoft or Google requiring you to log in to use their devices except, perhaps, it is more advanced covering CE and HA.
It also means that Samsung now has direct contact with the customer – once the province of the retailer. I can see a time where Samsung will use this to advise customers of new products or updated features. Again, this is no different to any other loyalty programme and if it drives higher Samsung sales, so be it.
But it does come down to trusting Samsung to use that information responsibly.
I have been “watching” Samsung for the past few years – trying to understand the mega corporation, its motives, and its methods. You can read an overview of Samsung and its direction that I wrote last September on a vist to its South Korean SSD Summit here.
First, understand that Samsung is a huge group of companies — a conglomerate — that started in 1938 as a trading company and, by sheer force of will, planning, strategy, good luck, and good connections, now accounts for a little more than 28% of South Korea’s gross domestic product. It employs more than half a million people.
It has had its share of litigation and regulatory issues and, from what I see, this is a part of the evolution of the company from a fiefdom, where it was tightly family-controlled, to public listing on the South Korean (Seoul), London and Luxembourg stock exchanges. The listing brings with it two things – a governance regime that is brutally honest and the responsibility of directors to serve the common good of all shareholders, not just the founding families.
In a broad sense, Australians see Samsung for its smartphones, wearables, fridges, washing machines, air conditioners, and TV/sound. But it is much more than that as its Wikipedia entry confirms.
Since I have been watching the company, I have observed it turn from a lower cost South Korean manufacturer to a designer (with a strong US-influenced design lab), and now it is heading down the path of an aspirational brand.
It is like the amazing shift we have seen in another South Korean company, Hyundai, now the world’s fourth-largest vehicle manufacturer. To generalise, South Korean cars were initially poorly regarded, but over the past five years, beginning with the innovative, well-designed and well-marketed i-series and later its Genesis/Equus series, Hyundai has become a design icon and, in certain socio-economic quantiles, it is an aspirational brand.
My point is that this group is huge, it makes an enormous difference to the world, and I am beginning to see how it understands the expectations of good corporate citizenship, corporate social responsibility, and helping advance the future – none of which are secondary to profit.
The writer attended Samsung’s regional forum for Southeast Asia and Oceania as a guest of the company.