Samsung Developers Conference 2016: A Developer’s Perspective

Last week several of my colleagues and myself had the privilege of attending the Samsung Developers Conference (SDC) in San Francisco.  It was the 5th time Samsung organized a developers conference in San Francisco but only the first time I attended, although some in our party were present previous times so I had some idea of what to expect.  Here are some impressions and thoughts on the conference.

After an hour walking around, my first thought was: is there anything that Samsung doesn’t have their hand in?  I knew of course they produce smart phones, tablets, smart watches and TVs, I’ve seen a laptop here and there, but vacuum cleaners, air conditioning units and ranges?  Semi-conductors (did you know that inside the iPhone there are Samsung chips?), Smart fridges and security cameras and now VR gear and IoT, pretty crazy. Interestingly enough, I think there are some distinct advantages that Samsung might have because of this smorgasbord of technology over more focused companies (like say Apple) , more on that later.

As with all of these events, Samsung’s motivation for organizing this conference is of course not entirely altruistic; as I mentioned in the intro, they have a huge hardware footprint and almost all of that needs software, which gets developed by … developers.

They need to attract outside developers to their platforms to make them interesting for potential buyers, I mean, what would the iPhone be without Apps?  There is nothing wrong with that, that’s one of the reasons we have Oracle OpenWorld, but I thought that the sessions on the “Innovation Track” where a bit light on technical details (at least the ones I attended).

In fact, some of them wouldn’t have been misplaced in the “Marketing Track” I feel.  To be fair, I didn’t get to attend any of the hands-on sessions on day zero, maybe they were more useful, but as a hard core developer, I felt a bit … underwhelmed by the sessions.

That doesn’t mean though that the sessions were not interesting, probably none more so than “How to Put Magic in a Magical Product” by Moe Tanabian, Chief Design Officer at Samsung, which took us on a “design and technical journey to build an endearing home robot”, basically how they created this fella:

otto

Meet Otto

That is Otto, a personal assistant robot, similar to the Amazon Echo, except with a personality.  Tanabian explained in the session how they got from idea and concept to production using a process remarkably similar to how we develop here at the AppsLab; fail fast, iterate quickly, get it in front of user as quickly as possible, measure etc.  I just wish we had the same hardware tooling available as they do (apparently they used, what I can only image are very expensive 3D printers to produce the end result).

Samsung also seems to be making a big push in the IoT space, and for good reason.  The IoTivity project is a joint open source connectivity framework, sponsored by the Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC) of which Samsung is a member and one of the sessions I attended was about this project.

The whole Samsung Artic IoT platform supports this standard, which should make it easy and secure to discover and connect Artic modules to each other.  The question as always is: will other vendors adopt this standard so that you can do this cross-vendor, i.e. have my esp8266’s talk to an Artic module which then talks to a Particle and my Philips Hue lights etc.

Without this, such a new standard is fairly useless and just adds to the confusion.

How Standards Proliferate by Randall Munroe, xkcd

As mentioned in the intro though, because Samsung makes pretty much everything, they could start by enabling all their own “things” to talk to each other over the internet.  Their smart fridge could then command their robotic vacuums to clean up the milk that just got spilled in the kitchen.  The range could check what is in the fridge and suggest what’s for dinner.  Artic modules can then be used as customizations and extensions for the few things that are not built by Samsung (like IoT Nerf Guns :-), all tied together by Otto which can relay information from and to the users.

This is an advantage they have over e.g. Google (with Brillo) or Apple (with HomeKit) who have to ask hardware vendors to implement their standard; Samsung has both hardware and the IoT platform, no need for an outside party, at least to get started.

Personally, I’m hoping that in the near future I get to experiment with some of the Artic modules, they look pretty cool!

And then of course there was VR; VR Gears, VR vendors, VR Cameras even a VR rollercoaster ride (which I tried and of course made my sick, same as with the Oculus Rift demo at UKOUG last year), maybe I’m just not cutout for VR.  One of the giveaways was actually a Gear 360 camera which allows you to take 360 degree camera footage which you can then experience using the Gear VR, nicely tying up the whole Samsung VR experience.

All in all it was a great conference with cool technology showing off Samsung’s commitment to VR and IoT.

Oh, and I got to meet Flo Rida at an AMA session 🙂

Cheers,

Mark.

 

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