A robot for children presented by SK Telecom at the Mobile World Congress 2012 held in Barcelona, Spain, is shown in this February file photo. The robot uses smartphones or tablets as its memory and CPU, thus cutting costs and conveniently using diverse applications and content. / Korea Times file
By Yoon Ja-young
A refrigerator by LG Electronics is linked to smart devices. When receipts and bar codes of groceries are scanned with a smartphone, the list of items bought is automatically sent to the refrigerator. Information such as expiration dates or recipes are sent to the handsets. “Smart Home Net” solution by Samsung Electronics connects home appliances with smartphones so that they can automatically be checked and receive upgrades.
They are examples of “smart hybrids,” where diverse products, ranging from home appliances to cars, are being linked with devices like smartphones and tablets to turn smart.
Heo Jeong-wook, a researcher at KT Economic and Business Research Institute, notes in a report that smart hybrids are increasingly being chosen by manufacturers as an easier and more effective way of making their products smarter, instead of producing appliances that are smart themselves.
“An increasing number of consumers are becoming accustomed to smart devices. However, the debut of new electronics devices cause “technology stress,” Heo said. According to a Job Korea survey, one third of salaried workers said they feel anxious because they are not used to or don’t know how to properly use computers and the latest technology. They are, meanwhile, good at using smartphones, with three out of ten spending over three hours a day on them. He added that around 40 percent of Americans were using smartphones last year. Korean Internet users spend 2.2 hours a day online, and they log on to the Web through smartphones rather than desktop computers.
People now want to control other appliances with their phones and tablets. “There has emerged a one-device multi service paradigm, amid the expansion of smart hybrid devices,” Heo said.
“The smart devices nowadays have hardware as good as that of desktops and the operating system has improved so that diverse software is applicable here,” the researcher said.
Smart hybrids are also solving money problems. It costs a lot to make smart home appliances that include computing functions or displays. Smart TVs, for instance, cost millions of won. Smartphone applications and the devices connecting them with a TV set, meanwhile, cost only tens of dollars. He said that the LCD module and touch screen of the iPad2 are estimated to cost over $100. A 1GHz CPU is estimated to be about $12. If electronics goods can make use of the iPad 2’s hardware and software, then it cuts much of the cost.
Heo said that convergence has gone “beyond the simple coupling of devices.” Now it has become possible to verbally control navigation systems in the car through smartphone apps, or enjoy content inside the vehicle using cloud services. It turns cars into “what you enjoy” from “what you drive.”
Automobile manufacturers are actively using smart devices. GM’s OnStar system uses an app so that users know where their car is and can open or close the doors, or start the engine with a smartphones instead of a key. The app also enables drivers to send an inquiry to GM regarding tire pressure or engine oil.
Apple has been leading the hybrid device market, but other platform businesses like Google, Microsoft and Samsung are joining the competition, according to Heo. “Just like the information and communication technology industry, home appliances and auto industries are also seeing a paradigm shift from corporate competition to ecosystem competition,” he said.
Heo added that operating systems matter here. Businesses are competing in terms of the operating system and platform to lead in the smart hybrid era.