Facebook dives deeper into the connected home

The world's largest social network joins Google and Samsung in eyeing the potentially lucrative Internet of Things market.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Ian Sherr Contributor and Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. As an editor at large at CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Dara Kerr
Ian Sherr
2 min read

Parse CEO and founder Ilya Sukhar talks about the Internet of Things during Facebook's F8 developer conference in San Francisco. James Martin/CNET

Facebook is fully jumping into the Internet of Things. The world's largest social network introduced Wednesday a new set of developer tools for creating apps that will let users remotely control devices within their homes, such as garage door openers and thermometers.

"I'm going to build a device to let me know when I need to water my plants at home," Ilya Sukhar, founder and CEO of mobile-infrastructure company Parse, which Facebook acquired in 2013, said during Facebook's F8 developers conference in San Francisco. "I'm a nerd, so I'm going to build a device to remind me."

Facebook has made some small moves into the Internet of Things, such as its January acquisition of Wit.AI, which will let users program their devices using speech-recognition control. But Wednesday's announcement appears to be the company's first big move in this space. This could open up a lucrative new market for Facebook. The Internet of Things market is expected to grow on average by 13 percent each year through 2020, reaching $3.04 trillion and connecting billions of objects that year, according to researcher IDC.

The company already offers developers easy access to its social network site and the nearly 900 million users -- or a seventh of the world's population -- who log on to it every day. But devices connected to the Internet of Things, such as Internet-connected cameras, smartphone-controlled door locks and lawn-sprinkler sensors, have so far been outside Facebook's reach.

The Internet of Things is a rapidly growing area. It's the notion of connecting any- and everything to the Internet. Many observers view the home as a major battlefront in the emerging market. Tech companies are working to add more features and sensors into windows and doors, appliances and electronics. Google bought Nest Labs, maker of a namesake thermostat and the Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detector, for $3.2 billion last year. Samsung -- which said it will connect everything it sells by 2020 -- purchased SmartThings, a company that offers various sensors for the home, as well as the hub to connect them with other devices. Other firms in the market include August, which sells smart door locks, and Philips, which offers connected lightbulbs.

Throwing Facebook into the mix makes the quickly growing market even more crowded.

Two years ago, Facebook purchased Parse, which helps mobile-app developers create and manage Internet connected apps. Now Parse will assume a larger role within Facebook, as it integrates a new and growing range of devices that are connected to the Internet.

"It's 2015 now and this world is getting better," Sukhar said. "We're seeing many more devices come online."