Samsung wants to track your sleep and smartly wash your clothes
The South Korean electronics giant unveils a SleepSense sleep tracker and gives more details about its second-generation SmartThings home automation device.
Shara TibkenFormer managing editor
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
BERLIN -- Samsung is making its latest push in the effort to connect all devices to the Internet, unveiling a connected sleep-tracking device, a washing machine and other products.
The company's SleepSense is a disk sensor that consumers can place under their mattresses to track their sleep through a companion app. And Samsung said its $99 second-generation smart home tracker, called SmartThings Hub, is now available online in the US and Canada and will hit US retail stores next month. The device will arrive in UK stores September 10.
Overall, the devices all fit into Samsung's big push to not only provide the most smartphones and TVs in the world but also tap into parts of the home that haven't yet become so smart. The so-called Internet of Things -- the concept of using sensors and other technologies to hook just about anything you can think of into the Internet -- is expected to grow to be a multitrillion-dollar market within the next five years.
"Together, we will create another five years of growth for us and a fantastic experience for consumers," YH Eom, president of Samsung Electronics Europe, said Thursday during a press conference at the IFA electronics show here. The company plans to host another event later in the day to show off its Gear S2 smartwatch.
Up close with Samsung's SleepSense bed sensor (pictures)
Samsung remains the world's biggest smartphone maker, but it has seen its dominance weaken as it faces competition from both Apple and low-cost Chinese handset makers like Xiaomi and Huawei. The South Korean company has reported seven straight quarters of declining profits, and it cut prices on its Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge devices to boost sales. It's counting on the smart home and other products to help boost its results, as well as expose more customers to its products.
During the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in January, the company, led by co-CEO Boo-Keun Yoon, vowed that all of Samsung's products would be built on platforms that are open and compatible with other products. And Yoon said 90 percent of the company's products, which range from smartphones to refrigerators, would be able to connect to the Web by 2017. In five years, every product in the company's entire catalog -- which totaled about 665 million devices in 2014 -- is expected to be Internet-connected.
Analyst firm Gartner predicts the number of networked devices will surge to 25 billion units by 2020 from about 900 million in 2009, turning formerly "dumb" objects into "smart" ones that can communicate with each other. IDC believes the Internet of Things market will hit $3.04 trillion that same year.
Samsung acquired smart-home startup SmartThings a year ago to help with its push. SmartThings' technology helps consumers control their appliances with their smartphones, smartwatches and other devices, and SmartThings has been viewed as key to Samsung's smart-home and Internet of Things efforts. Samsung and SmartThings in January unveiled the second-generation smart-home automation hub. The device connects with sensors in a home to detect characteristics such as temperature and moisture.
At the time of the Smart Hub 2.0 announcement, Samsung also introduced a new home-monitoring subscription service that will send immediate texts or calls to the smartphone of a user or designated contacts about problems or emergencies at their home -- such as a flood, fire, plumbing leak or a pet out in the yard when a storm is brewing. The premium service also includes built-in recording services for its cameras.
The updated SmartThings Hub comes with a more powerful processor that enables video monitoring, a battery backup that lasts up to 10 hours in case of a power outage, and a local app that lets the system operate without an Internet connection. Along with the Hub, SmartThings released new sensors that are smaller and have a "sleeker more contemporary look." The sensors cost $30 to $55 apiece.
"There are three things we want to give to consumers: peace of mind, control and flexibility," Alex Hawkinson, CEO of SmartThings, said during the press conference.
Samsung also announced a collaboration with BMW and Volkswagen to extend SmartThings to the car. In BMW vehicles, SmartThings Hub notifications will show directly on the dashboard and you'll be able to use the related app to check your BMW's status and remotely control the locks.
With Samsung's Car Mode for Galaxy app Volkswagen drivers can use touch or voice commands to take calls, control music, get directions and listen to text messages out loud. Meanwhile, Volkswagen's Car-Net e-Remote app connects with the Samsung Gear S to let you locate where you parked your car, turn on the air conditioning before you open the door and check the battery levels of electric Volkswagens.
The SleepSense sleep tracker can be connected to the SmartThings app that controls other devices in the home. And it also works with Samsung smart appliances, allowing the machines to automatically do things like adjust the air conditioning and turn off the TV when the user is falling asleep. The device's "Smart Alarm" feature wakes users up gradually by analyzing sleep data and identifying the best time to wake up.
Samsung also introduced on Thursday a new smart, front-loading washing machine with a window that lets users add last-minute items -- like a stray sock -- after the cycle has already begun. Washing machines with the doors on the top can be easily opened at any time to add more items or fabric softener, but front-loading machines can't be opened while running without causing the water to flood out. Samsung's WW8500 AddWash allows users to pause the cycle, open the window on the door and add items as large as sweaters or a pair of jeans.
SmartThings 2.0 makes its debut on the Samsung stage (pictures)
The AddWash machine also comes with smart functions that work with Android and iOS smartphones from Apple. Users can easily monitor the progress of their laundry cycles and receive alerts just before the start of a new washing cycle, for instance, so they can add delicates or hand-wash items toward the end of the wash cycle.
"At Samsung, our strategy for the Internet of Things is driven by three principles: openness, cross industry collaboration and a human-centric approach," said Won-Pyo Hong, president and chief marketing officer of Samsung Electronics. "Based on these principles, we're helping to transform the world for better."