Samsung Electronics has acquired Washington home automation start-up SmartThings for an undisclosed sum, the South Korean technology giant announced in a blog post Friday.
SmartThings builds and sells home automation kits. For a few hundred dollars each, the kits include motion and moisture sensors, and other sensors, all of which relay information to a special hub that users can control and monitor from their smartphones. Georgetown-based SmartThings plans to move its staff from the District to Palo Alto, Calif., according to chief executive Alex Hawkinson.
“SmartThings has created a remarkable universe of partners and developers and now has the most engagement of any smart home platform in the world,” Samsung executive vice president David Eun said in a statement. “Connected devices have long been strategically important to Samsung, and, like Alex and his team, we want to improve the convenience and services in people’s lives by giving their devices and appliances a voice so they can interact more easily with them.”
Samsung has been ramping up its efforts in the so-called “smart home” market during the past couple of months. In July, for instance, it announced a partnership with several competitors — including Nest Labs, the thermostat start-up Google bought for $3.2 billion in January — to develop the Internet of Things, a technologists’ term for a connected network of sensors and devices. Samsung, ARM, Freescale Semiconductor and others aim to develop technology to connect more than 250 devices on a low-power network with Internet cloud access through the new nonprofit, called the Thread Group.
SmartThings will operate as an independent company within Samsung’s Open Innovation Center, a unit dedicated to new technology research, though it will maintain separate offices. SmartThings opened its Palo Alto headquarters in May, unrelated to the acquisition, in part to tab the region’s pool of tech talent.
“There’s a self-reinforcing ecosystem out there” in Silicon Valley, Hawkinson said in an interview. SmartThings’ more than 30 employees remaining in the District will move to Palo Alto during 2015, depending on their personal preference, Hawkinson said.
SmartThings’s goal is to reach a wider audience “by leveraging Samsung’s distribution,” Hawkinson said.
Hawkinson founded SmartThings about two years ago. The company got a boost after it raised more than $1.2 million —more than four times its original goal — on crowdfunding site Kickstarter in 2012. In November, the start-up raised $12.5 million in early-stage funding, with investments from Greylock Partners, Highland Capital Partners and BoxGroup, preceded by a $3 million funding round in December 2012.
Despite the move out of Washington, the “growing team will remain fully intact,” Hawkinson said in a blog post. “In short: SmartThings will remain SmartThings.”
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