Ryan Lawler

6 September 2020

5 min read

Samsung acquired SmartThings, which began as a Kickstarter project, and made it the go-to platform for managing all the smart devices in your home.

When SmartThings was founded in 2012, the idea of a fully connected smart home was still a relatively nascent concept. While a small number of home appliances and consumer electronics devices with Internet access were already on the market, there were few good tools for managing and monitoring them.

SmartThings sought to change all that. It launched with a Kickstarter campaign that would introduce the concept of the connected home to a new generation of consumers. And it created an app and an open platform that would enable them to manage all the devices around the house.

In March 2014, Samsung Next met with SmartThings founder Alex Hawkinson to learn more about his vision for the smart home and how together they could wirelessly connect a wide range of smart devices and make them work together. Not long after that meeting, an acquisition process was underway.

Picture of contemporary living area with many smart devices
SmartThings works with 100s of compatible devices, including lights, cameras, voice assistants, locks, thermostats, and more.
Startup speed at global scale

In August of that year, Samsung announced plans to buy SmartThings, which then had 40 employees. The process took a mere 45 days to complete, which was a remarkable coup for Samsung. The company wasted little time integrating SmartThings and leveraging its scale and expansive resources.

Less than a month after the acquisition, SmartThings was prominently featured at IFA, a German consumer electronics exhibition. It took center stage in January at the world-renowned Consumer Electronics Show. During that keynote, Hawkinson and Samsung CEO of Consumer Electronics BK Yoon made a bold assertion: By 2020, all Samsung devices would be connected.

With a comprehensive product line of mobile phones, consumer electronics devices, and home appliances, Samsung has demonstrated its steadfast commitment to becoming a leader in connected devices with the acquisition of SmartThings.

Samsung Next Case Smart Things 02
Connecting the home, inside and outside of Samsung

After sharing its plans in late 2014 and early 2015, it was time for SmartThings to build upon its platform for enhancing how devices in our homes connect and interact.

A pair of important early decisions had a long-lasting impact on SmartThings’ success: First, the company maintained its identity, brand, developer community, and partnerships, and was operated as an independently run subsidiary within Samsung. Second, its technology continued to be compatible with non-Samsung phones, televisions, and devices.

Whether it was Phillips light bulbs, ADT security systems or Google and Amazon voice assistants, the goal remained the same: Wirelessly connect everyday devices so they could work together. SmartThings developed many of the applications, but because its platform supported integration with third-party products, it wasn’t limited to only Samsung devices.

“SmartThings has allowed us to understand that if you’re really focused on creating the best user experience possible, you have to be okay with competing with one part of a company, while cooperating with another part of that same company,” explained Eun. “Keeping it open, keeping it flexible, and allowing users to control. That is ultimately the best thing we can do for the business.”

“Keeping it open, keeping it flexible, and allowing users to control. That is ultimately the best thing we can do for the business.”

SmartThings was in 15,000 homes when Samsung acquired it in 2014. Today, it is utilized in over a million residences. What started with the notion of wirelessly controlling appliances and devices with a phone, tablet or computer has changed the way we live.

The acquisition also hammered home a recurring theme for Samsung Next, which is that the integration of hardware and software can result in game-changing consumer experiences. The pairing of transformative software with essential hardware has allowed us to realize the potential in practically everything we do.