The Internet of Things is already here and helping people, and it needs lots of companies collaborating to make it work.
That's the word from the president of Samsung's IT business, W.P. Hong, who took the stage Thursday at the CES conference in Las Vegas to talk about what the company is doing to make all our devices connect to the Net.
Hong said connected gadgets are already giving people an assist with practical tasks, letting them change their thermostats remotely, ask a digital voice assistant if their washers are done running, and check in on their homes when they're on road trips.
"The future is today," Hong said during a keynote presentation at the Venetian Hotel. "The Internet of Things is in sync with real life."
Hong said Samsung is well positioned in the market because of its broad product portfolio, from components to networking technology to mobile devices to appliances. Even batteries are part of the mix, thanks to sister companies also owned by Korean conglomerate Samsung Group, which work closely with Samsung on the devices.
One such product, the Strip Battery, is ultrathin and light and is also bendable, making it ideal for devices like wearables, said Fabrice Hudry, vice president of Samsung SDI America.
"We are ... entering into the age of the Batteries of Things," Hudry said.
Samsung has been making a big push to provide the hardware, software and services designed to make our homes smarter. The so-called Internet of Things involves the notion that everything around you should communicate and work together. Proponents say this will make life easier, letting you do things like close your garage door while you're away or get a heads-up from your refrigerator when you're out of milk. It's also, potentially, the next growth engine for the tech industry as the smartphone market starts to sputter.
Market research firm Gartner predicts the number of networked devices will surge to 25 billion units by 2020 from about 900 million in 2009. Researcher IDC estimates the market for smart, Net-connected devices will hit $3.04 trillion that same year.
Hoping to capitalize on people's interest in smart tech, Samsung vowed last year at CES that all its products, which totaled 665 million units in 2014, will be able to connect to the Internet by 2020.
The problem with all those smart devices, though, is that they aren't really all that smart. Sure, they connect to the Net, but there's still not much you can do with many of them, photos of your fridge shelves aside.
At this year's event, Samsung showed off products across its home appliance lineup that are Net-connected. Its Family Hub Refrigerator, for instance, has more bells and whistles than some mobile devices. The $5,000 fridge comes with three cameras hidden inside to take photos of all the foodstuffs on the shelves, and its door boasts a 21.5-inch built-in touchscreen for accessing apps and video. Samsung's new FlexDuo stove has Wi-Fi to let you start, stop and monitor the oven from afar, and all Samsung's new TVs can connect to the Net and work as a hub to control a smart home.
Hong also highlighted Internet of Things partnerships Samsung has formed, including those with Microsoft and carmaker BMW. Users of Microsoft's Cortana digital voice assistant can ask it whether the washer is done or how often the fridge has been opened. BMW can send you alerts about issues at home while you're on the road.
"The age of the Internet of Things has begun," Hong said. "It will be a ... success, but only if we get the fundamentals right: openness, interoperability and close industry collaborations."