Samsung Adds Rival SK Telecom’s Voice Assistant and Smart Home Devices to SmartThings Network
South Korean communications giant SK Telecom has begun connecting its voice assistant to Samsung’s SmartThings smart home platform. The rival firms are allowing SKT’s Nugu voice assistant to support SmartThings, allowing voice commands to Nugu to run through SmartThings. The deal comes just days after Samsung began integrating the Matter open smart home application protocol standard for smart devices created by a consortium of major players in the industry.
The primary upgrade twines SK Telecom devices, like its Nugu smart speakers, to the SmartThings platform. The devices will be accessible on the SmartThings app, and the Nugu speaker will be able to control SmartThings devices by voice command. The smart speaker will still respond to the SK Telecom wake word previously chosen, Aria, Crystal, Rebecca, or Tinkerbell. SK Telecom devices and services are still independent, but the SmartThings support opens up options for integrating SKT’s T phone and T Map navigation service to Samsung’s platform. SKT will leverage the deal to widen its smart home offerings, adding large appliances like washing machines and the refrigerator up top to its T Universe smart home ecosystem. SKT subscribers will now be able to buy or rent five kinds of Samsung’s home appliances for as much as 20% off, building a financial incentive for consumers into the partnership.
“The key to Samsung Electronics’ home appliance rental service introduced this time is that it is not just a rental service, but provides additional value through AI cooperation between the two companies,” SKT head of subscription marketing Jae-Woong Yoon said in a translated statement. “We will do our best to combine technology so that customers can feel greater utility.”
South Korean Super Cooperation
These kinds of mutual support deals seem to be the biggest trend in the smart home space. Other South Korean companies have been making similar moves. The country’s biggest telecom service operator, KT, inked a deal with LG Electronics in April to combine their respective voice assistant platforms in order to make a new smart home network. SK Telecom CEO Park Jung-Ho advocated for South Korean AI developers to work together in a similar fashion at CES in 2020.
The “Super Cooperation” he described would have the companies share research and development of AI technology, with applications and branding run separately. He claimed this would stave off American tech giants like Apple, Amazon, and Google from their otherwise inevitable market takeover. The deal with Samsung seems to have much of the flavor of his concept but blended with the broader push for a shared smart home application protocol. Samsung chose to start integrating the Matter standard, adding SmartThings and Galaxy devices to the streamlined setup and operations envisioned by Matter’s designers to prevent consumers from being limited to a single voice assistant with their devices.
“[A]dding Matter support into the SmartThings platform will only broaden the choices of devices to connect as Matter-enabled devices flood into the market next year,” Samsung’s head of SmartThings Jaeyeon Jung said at the time. “Matter will help drive a surge in smart home adoption, and with SmartThings, it will be easier for users to gain smart home experiences with seamless device onboarding, customized automation and a choice of voice assistants.”