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Construction companies venture into IoT tech territory

With internet of things technologies spreading fast to our everyday lives, a smart home is no longer a new concept.

IoT technologies include motion sensors that detect the movement of residents to turn a feature on or off, artificial intelligence speakers that can activate a washing machine, and curtains that can open and close depending on the mode.

Since the early 2000s, construction companies have been bringing the technologies to apartments to increase convenience, such as installing high-speed communication networks. The latest trend is shifting toward customized lifestyles, industry sources say.

“Previously, the concept of a smart home was just about connecting electric devices to devices, which was focused on hardware management. But now, it’s changing to building customized connectivity between residents and everything inside the house, making use of IoT cloud computing,” said Samsung C&T Vice President Kim Myung-suk.

A model speaks to an AI speaker at Samsung C&T’s Raemian IoT HomeLab. (Samsung C&T)
A model speaks to an AI speaker at Samsung C&T’s Raemian IoT HomeLab. (Samsung C&T)

Samsung C&T plans to open its latest IoT apartment showroom Raemian IoT HomeLab on Friday, showcasing some 20 IoT systems and devices in areas like the bedroom, kitchen and living room. The company said all IoT systems and devices inside the house are connected to a main IoT cloud platform developed by Samsung C&T.

The company added it has partnered with 13 companies including Samsung Electronics, Samsung SDS, SK C&C, Kornic Automation, Shinsung E&G, Haarz and Bodyfriend to develop and apply the related technologies to Raemian IoT HomeLab. The same functions will be available at newly constructed Raemian apartments from next year.

Only the Samsung Gear smart watch, smartphone and Amazon’s Alexa are currently able to activate the smart home system, but Samsung C&T said it would partner with more brands so that even a resident with an iPhone or LG smartphone can activate the system.

But taking the lead in developing its own IoT system is crucial, as relying on platforms developed by other companies restrict the use of accumulated data, Samsung officials said.

Collaborations between construction firms and major IT-related affiliates and businesses have become prevalent.

Hyundai E&C is working with its affiliate ICT company Hyundai AutoEver to develop an IoT platform. It recently completed the development of voice recognition technology, while a shop-via-voice function using deep-learning technology is under way, the company said.

Meanwhile, GS E&C set up a separate division last year to create and develop its smart home system called Xi Server, which will be based on its own AI technology. But the company had to partner with Kakao to develop the voice recognition function.

Naver, for its part, is promoting its AI platform Clova and working with such companies as Daewoo E&C.

LG Uplus has signed contracts with some 60 construction companies to connect home networks and IoT devices through voice commands.

SK Telecom is more focused on large-sized apartment complexes, applying its smart home-related services to some 15,000 households across 15 sites nationwide.

KT is also introducing its Giga Genie platforms for Hillstate apartments by Hyundai E&C.

Construction companies explain that builders taking the lead in creating smart homes is necessary to provide an integrated smart home experience, as the platforms offered by each industry vary.

“We believe we know the best when it comes to building a house that offers a customized lifestyle. If we create a smart home system by only collaborating with telecommunication companies, it will be less efficient since their IoT systems are limited to music streaming and shopping services,” said Samsung C&T’s Kim Myung-suk.

“Meanwhile, IoT systems developed with construction companies in charge will be about creating home-automation systems and energy management, which are more practical and needed for residents when applied,” he added.

For instance, Daelim Industrial, which had initially considered partnering with SK Telecom, decided to develop a smart home platform on its own, as it feared residents might have a limited range of options and could be charged for using a specific company’s service.

Industry sources said issues remain to be resolved in order to boost the smart home industry, such as legal regulations on handling personal information and different ways it is stored for security reasons.

The biggest problem at the moment could be the lack of a revenue model, as the smart homes developed by construction firms are in the investment stage.

For the time being, construction companies are therefore more inclined to work with their affiliates, the sources added.

By Kim Da-sol (