At its annual developer conference today, Samsung once again put its SmartThings smart home platform front and center, announcing that its newest soundbar, the HW-Q900C, is now capable of being a SmartThings hub, complete with support for Zigbee, Thread, and Matter.
The electronics giant has been pushing SmartThings aggressively over the last couple of years as it works to connect all its appliances, TVs, smartphones, and gadgets from other manufacturers together in a unified IoT-based smart home ecosystem. The addition of the soundbar to its Hub Everywhere program is a continuation of the company’s quest to put its smart home hubs everywhere, with the goal of making it easier for people to get started with the connected home.
The company also announced that more of its existing and new TVs and smart monitors now have the full hub experience — being a Matter controller, Thread border router, and Zigbee bridge. Samsung is one of the founding members of Matter, a new smart home standard designed to make the connected home more interoperable, secure, and easier to use.
Samsung confirmed that its multi-hub network is now live, allowing you to run multiple hubs in your home concurrently. This will help with speed and reliability and make swapping out your TV or soundbar more straightforward and less likely to break your smart home. It launched a new developer portal and new smart home APIs designed to make it simpler for manufacturers to integrate SmartThings devices and services into their apps. Plus, Samsung showed off new integrations with Aqara devices and announced that its map-based SmartThings user interface for smart home control is finally coming to smartphones.
Photo by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge
You get a hub, and you get a hub, and you get a hub!
After getting out of the hub hardware business a few years ago, Samsung said it would start building its SmartThings hubs into more devices around the home. And it’s now followed through. Starting with the SmartThings Station, which launched at CES 2023 and is also a wireless phone charger, Samsung now has SmartThings hubs built into all its 2023 TVs, Family Hub fridges, soundbars, and monitors.
However, most of these were software-based hubs and couldn’t control devices running locally over Zigbee or Thread without the addition of a dongle. Today, Samsung revealed that select 2023 models have its SmartThings Zigbee & Matter Thread One-Chip module built directly in, making them capable of being Matter controllers, Thread border routers, and Zigbee bridges.
The new built-in SmartThings Hub with Thread / Zigbee / Matter support is available on the following models, according to Samsung:
This is in addition to the 2023 NEO QLED 8k and 4K range Samsung announced at CES 2023.
Additionally, Jaeyeon Jung, EVP at Samsung Electronics and head of SmartThings, confirmed to me in an interview ahead of the event that all Family Hub fridges will also have the Thread / Zigbee chip built-in starting next year.
What is Matter?
Matter is a new smart home interoperability standard that provides a common language for connected devices to communicate locally in your home without relying on a cloud connection. Developed by Apple, Amazon, Google, and Samsung, Matter uses Wi-Fi and Thread wireless protocols and currently supports smart sensors, smart lighting, smart plugs and switches, smart thermostats, connected locks, and media devices, including TVs.
All of this means that if a smart home gadget you buy has the Matter logo, you can set it up and use it with any Matter-compatible device, any Matter-compatible platform, and a Matter controller. There are now a number of Matter devices available to buy, with more arriving this year.
Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Samsung SmartThings, and Apple Home are some of the major platforms that support Matter, and they have all updated their compatible smart speakers, hubs, and some other devices to be Matter controllers.
However, Z-Waze is the one thing missing from all of these hubs. If you want to keep running Z-Wave devices in your SmartThings home, you will still need a SmartThings Hub v3 (Samsung or Aeotec version) or a V2 hub (although that doesn’t have Thread).
Jung told me that you can activate the hub function on existing devices using the SmartThings app.
With all these new hubs in your home, Samsung is rolling out a way to take advantage of the extra compute power. Jung says its multi-hub network is now live, allowing you to create a bigger network in your home.
“The benefit here is greater range — especially for Zigbee,” Jung said. She also confirmed that the Aeteoc SmartThings hubs will work in this multi-hub network. “We’ve put together this tech to create multiple Zigbee radios to work together so you can have greater range with multiple hubs in your home.” This is somewhat unique for Zigbee devices, which traditionally rely on one hub or bridge to orchestrate communication. If it works, it could significantly improve the efficiency of Zigbee devices, especially in larger homes.
Jung also said you can now designate one hub as a primary hub and the rest as a secondary in the SmartThings app. And she confirmed that any automation involving devices connected to the multi-hub network will run locally, providing faster response times and greater reliability.
Additionally, Samsung is finally launching a hub replacement feature that will automatically migrate your existing devices to a new hub.
Photo by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge
SmartThings is getting smarter
At the developer conference, Samsung also announced two new APIs, SmartThings Home API and SmartThings Context API.
The Home API will allow device makers to build an app that brings in any connected SmartThings device to their app. Jung said an example of this is Eve, a smart home device maker that was exclusively compatible with Apple Home and iOS but, thanks to Matter, now works with other platforms. The company is currently working on an Android app.
The Home API will allow any Matter Eve devices connected to the SmartThings platform to appear in Eve’s app. This is similar to how Eve’s devices work through Apple Home today. “Any SmartThings connected devices will be exposed to our partner apps,” said Jung. “Whether it’s connected via Matter, Zigbee, or another way, partners can get the benefit of having access to devices connected to SmartThings.”
“The API will allow partners to build automations based on this data and understanding if someone is home or away.”
“We are thrilled about Samsung’s announcement and can’t wait to extend Eve device’s functionality on Android,” Tim Both of Eve told me. However, he declined to provide an updated timeline for the launch of its Android app.
The SmartThings Context API will allow third-party apps to tap into any sensors connected to SmartThings, initially to infer presence for home and away-based automations, but there are possibilities for more actions, Jung said. “We have a lot of data coming to the platform — from when motion is sensed, when the TV is on, or the fridge is open,” she said. “The API will allow partners to build automations based on this data and understanding if someone is home or away.”
Aqara is another device maker working closely with SmartThings. After integrating its Zigbee devices directly into SmartThings hubs, as well as through Matter, Aqara is now adding its Wi-Fi-based FP2 Presence sensor and smart lock into the platform. “The FP2 sensor allows for precise sensing… we can even infer if there is someone sitting on the couch,” said Jung. That data can then be available to partners through the Context API.
With all these devices connected to SmartThings, the company is finally bringing an easier way to manage them to the SmartThings app.
SmartThings Map view UI is a smart home control interface that’s been available on newer Samsung TVs and monitors and is now coming to phones and tablets. Jung says it will roll out to Android users at the end of this month and come to iOS at a later date. A pinch and zoom interface that allows for a clean view and direct control of devices, it’s similar to the map view Amazon is introducing for Alexa; however, Samsung’s will work on any phone, not just newer iPhones.
Finally, a new integration between Samsung smart TVs and Galaxy smartphones will let you quickly turn your phone into a TV remote. “If you’re near a TV, a notification will pop up on your Galaxy phone. Click it, and the remote will pop up, and you can use your phone as a TV remote,” says Jung.
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