The idea that your living room TV should be a central place to connect, control, and manage your smart home is one that I believe has been a long time coming. And it looks like Samsung may be the first to get there.
Samsung has been slowly adding smart home features to its TVs, turning them into hubs for its SmartThings home automation platform, adding Matter controller capabilities so any Matter device can connect to them, and recently turning its newest TVs into Thread border routers. All of this means you can use your TV to connect and control smart devices like lights and locks without needing a separate hub. And this week at CES, Samsung revealed how it’s turning the biggest screen in your house into a bona fide smart display.
A new dashboard screen called Now Plus is coming to its televisions. This will turn on as you approach the TV — so you don’t need to get out the remote — and display cards with information about your smart home devices, such as your home’s camera feeds, indoor temperature, and how long is left on the laundry. The information cards look similar to the way an Echo Show or Google Nest hub smart display shows relevant information on their always-on displays.
There is also a new quick panel to let you access functions, including turning on lights and locking doors. This sounds like a big improvement compared to just slapping a version of the SmartThings app on a TV screen, which is currently how you control SmartThings devices on a Samsung TV.
Samsung is also bringing a new, more intuitive interface to the TV. Its map view will now be accessible on the TV, and it’s rolling this smart home interface out more widely across its platform. Map view is similar to Amazon’s new Map View interface (although Samsung’s version came first). SmartThings’ map view places your connected gadgets on an interactive map layout where you can control devices like lights and locks in real time and monitor security cameras and energy usage.
The map view has to be created in the SmartThings app on a phone or tablet, but you can then check or control the status of each room and smart device in your home on your TV and from the screen of your Samsung Family Hub smart fridge, too. It’s also available on Samsung’s M8 monitors.
Map view is also getting new AI characters that can mimic family members and even pets, plus new ways to generate a map of your home.
Amazon’s version of map view requires a lidar-equipped iPhone to scan your home, but Samsung says it’s able to create a floor plan using just your address (we’re not clear on how this one works), or you can take a photo of an existing floor plan you have, and SmartThings will convert it to 3D.
Another option is to use a lidar-enabled Samsung device — such as the new JetBot robot vacuum or the Ballie AI robot — and send the robots to scan the home and generate a floor plan. According to Samsung, Ballie can even place your smart devices in the right position in your home for you.
What’s Ballie, you ask? Well, Ballie is Samsung’s rolling home robot, which launched with much fanfare at CES 2020 but has since been nowhere to be seen. It sounds like the round robot ball may be back at CES 2024. I, for one, am very excited to see the little yellow guy rolling around the floor in Vegas this week.