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CES 2014: How Many Smart Home Platforms Does LG Need?

On WebOS, Qualcomm's AllJoyn and AllSeen Alliance, HomeChat and a hazy 'Internet of Things' smart home consortium with Cisco, ABB and Bosch: What is LG thinking? We shall see at CES 2014.


LG Electronics at CES 2014: One CE manufacturer, multiple smart home initiatives, including WebOS, Qualcomm's AllJoyn and AllSeen Alliance, 'Internet of Things' smart home consortium with Cisco, ABB and Bosch
Julie Jacobson · January 1, 2014

For home automation, LG Electronics so far has embraced WebOS, Qualcomm’s AllJoyn technology and the AllSeen Alliance, the Cisco/LG/ABB/Bosch “Internet of Things” consortium, and its own HomeChat communications platform. Where is the electronics giant going with all of these smart home initiatives vis-a-vis its smart TVs, major appliances and other devices? Where is the industry going?

Perhaps CES 2014—where a good dozen or so smart-home platforms and initiatives will jockey for position—will give us a hint.

LG’s intentions are indicative of a smart-home industry that is really going somewhere ... or nowhere at all.

In many ways LG is a microcosm of Big CE, which is struggling to create and/or adopt a framework of interconnectivity. Here’s what LG has announced in the past month alone, on the eve of CES.

1. Cisco-Inspired Smart Home Consortium

First LG announced in October 2013 that it had joined Cisco (“Internet of Everything”), ABB (power) and Bosch (sensors, security, automation) in a consortium to develop a smart home platform that would “allow appliances and devices made by different manufacturers to be part of home automation, security, healthcare, and entertainment services.”

Per the press release:

ABB, Bosch, Cisco, and LG intend to develop a common language that allows the appliances to communicate with each other. Under the standards that the consortium intends to establish, and that would be available to all manufacturers, appliances would be connected to a home gateway, which itself would be connected to the internet and a software platform. In this way, the services of different providers can interoperate. In the future, anyone who buys a new refrigerator, washing machine, heating system, or other type of electrical appliance featuring the consortium’s certificate of compatibility can expect that the appliance will interact and be compatible with the other appliances already in their smart home.

Contacted last week in advance of CES, one of the participants Bosch declined to provide more information on the initiative: “As far as the consortium, there is nothing new to announce, as it is subject to approval by the antitrust authorities.”

We do know that Bosch is demonstrating a significant sensor network in its giant booth in the south hall at CES 2014:

At the CES, Bosch will be presenting how sensors are a key enabler of the Internet of Things and Services. A network of wireless sensors will constantly gather and report information about the immediate environment. Users can learn which doors are open or closed, how loud it is, and how the temperature, air pressure, and humidity at various points around the booth changed over the course of the day. An automatic vacuum cleaner featuring MEMS sensors and an integrated WiFi module continuously reports its position. Thanks to these combined sensors, the Bosch booth will showcase how devices connected to each other via sensors continuously exchange and provide useful information. Bosch recently announced that it will work together with ABB, Cisco and LG on an open standard to support a software platform for the smart home of the future.

No word from LG on what they plan to do with this consortium, but if this one doesn’t pan out, there are at least three more in the offing. ...

2. Qualcomm’s AllJoyn and the AllSeen Alliance

Then came word in December 2013 that LG joined Haier, Panasonic, Sharp and Silicon Image as an inaugural member of Qualcomm’s AllSeen Alliance, “the broadest cross-industry consortium to date to advance adoption and innovation in the ‘Internet of Everything’  in homes and industry.”

The alliance, administered by the Linux Foundation to ensure a true open-source community, is an effort by Qualcomm to foster development around its AllJoyn, a peer-to-peer mesh networking platform launched in 2011.

Qualcomm is hoping that the alliance will spur adoption of its own Atheros low-power Wi-Fi chips that feature the AllJoyn Framework.

So far, Haier has implemented the chipset in a washer/dryer combination.

For its part, LG says it will incorporate the technology in all of its new smart TVs (see Q&A, page 2). At CES, LG will demo AllJoyn-enabled multiscreen apps via its Gamepad app.

“LG believes that the smart TV should be the center of connectivity in the home (the ‘hub’) and that’s why we have introduced AllJoyn in our smart TVs first,” says Ken Hong, global communications director of LG Electronics, Inc., in an exchange with CE Pro. “All other business units in LG are looking at implementing AllJoyn as well.”

3. HomeChat

After Hong told us LG is holding off on AllJoyn for its major appliances, we learned that the electronics giant will introduce at CES 2014 its new HomeChat communications framework for controlling home appliances.

Simply send a text to your HomeChat-enabled washer, dryer, refrigerator or robotic vacuum cleaner to operate the appliance, put it into energy-saving mode or cure your loneliness:

2014 LG smart appliance owners will be able to control all their compatible appliances using HomeChat on a single device, for a level of convenience never experienced before. Simply texting “I’m going on vacation” in HomeChat will result in the automatic response, “Should I convert to vacation mode?” which when replied in the affirmative, will turn on the refrigerator’s power-saving mode, set the robotic vacuum cleaner to sweep the floor at 09:00 every day and set the washing machine to run a wash cycle on the day before your return.

4. WebOS

Finally, just before ringing in the new year, LG leaked that it would show WebOS-powered smart TVs at CES 2014, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Earlier this hear, LG bought the operating system from HP, which had acquired it from original developer Palm.

We wrote in February 2013:

Remember that WebOS platform that Palm invented and HP acquired for implementation into smartphones that turned into an open-source project that had no apps, so was finally abandoned?

Well, it’s back!

LG has acquired WebOS from HP, ostensibly to use in its smart TVs which already utilize LG’s own NetCast service as well as Google TV.

Strange indeed.

What Does it All Mean?

Call it hedging, call it some big smart-home strategy, call it mass confusion. Whatever it is, LG’s embrace of various home automation-type technologies and alliances – or at least their announcements of same – shows that we’re nowhere near a universal standard for home control.

At CES 2014, expect a slew of competing smart-home technologies, platforms, initiatives, protocols, enablers, alliances, frameworks …. all covered by CE Pro!

UPDATE: Michael Wolf at Next Market reminds us that LG is also a founding member (with TP Vision and Toshiba) of the Smart TV Alliance, a group formed in 2012 to standardize app development for smart TVs.

In September 2013, the alliance announced the forthcoming 3.0 specification that adds support for “smart home” features.

Page 2: Q&A with LG on AllJoyn and the AllSeen Alliance


  About the Author

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at julie.jacobson@emeraldexpo.com

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