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What does the Smart Home of the Future Look Like? (Exclusive Press Trip to Seoul)

We were recently invited by LG on an exclusive press trip to visit their headquarters and R&D centre in Seoul, South Korea.

The trip took us to their main R&D centre, the LG Digital Park, located in Pyeongtaek, which is a couple of hours drive from Seoul’s city centre. It was there that we witnessed first-hand the rigorous testing they put their famed OLED TVs through (it takes a whole day to test a single OLED TV) and their near-fanatical obsession with getting the perfect black (“No daylight is allowed in the testing room. We even cover the ceiling panels in a thick, heavyset black fabric,” an LG engineer tells us.)

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The LG Digital Park in Pyeongtaek. This is where the majority of their R&D takes place.

We also visited the LG Magok Science Park, which is a research-based corporate campus for the eight businesses under the large LG corporation. There, we saw a glimpse of the future through their smart home setup.

In part one of our press trip coverage, we’ll be looking at the smart home of the near future, and what LG has to say about that. In part two, we’ll be briefly delving into LG’s role in the evolution of OLED TVs, while exploring the reasons why OLED looks set to dominate the future of TV.

 

Part One: What does the Smart Home of the (Near) Future Look Like?

What exactly is a smart home? To LG, it’s basically about things being connected to one another. “It’s not an abstract, futuristic idea. It’s just about things being connected, about sharing information,” says Ken Hong, who’s in charge of global communications at LG.

If that’s the case, LG is well on its way there. The electronics company launched their very own artificial intelligence technology called DeepThinQ at CES last year. This year, they’ve released a series of home appliances and products from refrigerators and washers to air purifiers and air conditioners that can all be connected via this AI platform.

The smart home setup at LG’s Magok Science Park, using LG’s AI platform, ThinQ, where everything that can be connected is connected.

The reason why they’ve been particularly keen on jumping on to the smart home bandwagon is that they’re seeing it as an inevitable course of events. Ken explains: “The [smart home concept] may not seem necessary now, but it will be. Over time, more and more things will be integrated. Look at how you’re using your smartphones now; the smart home is just a bigger [framework].” There’s no reason not to believe them, and the popularity of the likes of AI technology such as Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa is attest to that.

During the trip, we had a lively discussion with LG about what the smart home of the future will look like to them. Here’s what they had to say:

 

1. It will be an open ecosystem

Their vision of a smart home isn’t all about using LG products in your smart home ecosystem. Rather than limit you to just using LG products, they want you to be able to connect to all sorts of smart products and appliances from a variety of brands.

You can send recipe instructions from the LG InstaView refrigerator to the oven.

The home electronics company isn’t shy about adopting technologies from other brands to further the smart home cause. Take for instance their InstaView ThinQ refrigerator, which is equipped with Amazon’s Alexa, while their OLED TVs are equipped with Google Assistant.

“We think about what’s best for the consumer. It makes sense to use Alexa in the refrigerator since Amazon’s strength is in shopping and by using Alexa there, your grocery shopping experience becomes more streamlined. We put Google Assistant in our TVs because Google’s strength is in its search engine and you can get tons of information with it,” says Ken.

See that black round device there? That’s the Smart ThinQ sensor. What this means is that you don’t need to be an LG product to get connected to the LG AI ThinQ platform.

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2. The TV might be the centre of it all

 

“We are not actively saying the TV should be the hub of the smart home ecosystem, but by default, it looks like that now,” Ken explains when we asked him if the TV is set to take centre stage in the smart home of the future. “If you think about it, the living room is the central part of the home. And the TV, which is in the living room, has the largest display so it makes it easier to control from there.”

See what’s in the fridge from the LG Smart ThinQ app

But why not the smart phone, which also has a display and is obviously more travel friendly? “It’s about practicality. Unlike the TV, smartphones are very personal devices. I don’t think my wife would want to be using my smartphone to control the home,” says Ken. “Plus, it’s really about the display. The TV is just the obvious choice because it has the best display.”

But LG is quick to point out that there are other contenders in terms of the smart home hub: “Again, the TV looks to be the natural choice as a hub for now. But a hub is quite a personal choice and it could change depending on the household. And it might not be the TV in the future; it could be a robot, you never know.”

 

3. Robots could play a significant role

Speaking of robots, we witnessed LG’s robot, CLOi (pronounced ‘Chloe’) in action during our visit to the LG Magok Science Park. The adorable, petite sized robot functioned like a companion, sang songs, showed emotion when touched, and was able to respond to simple voice commands. According to LG, it will also help make simple decisions for you such as what to cook for dinner.

LG’s CLOi robot looking innocuous.

Whether CLOi will be an integral mainstay in the smart home remains to be seen. For now, the robot is mainly restricted for commercial use. It’s currently rolled out as an airport cleaning robot and a serving robot to serve drinks to guests at hotels. Still, LG is keen on bringing CLOi into the home.

 

4. Privacy will be more important than ever

When it comes to smart homes, concerns about privacy inevitably comes up. And if homes are going to get smarter and more connected, privacy becomes a much larger issue.

For LG, the line is clear: “You’ve got to get the consent of the user. You cannot do things without letting them know,” states Ken. “Right now, every product we sell has an upfront question seeking the user’s consent and it will be the same thing in every smart product we sell in the future.”

But isn’t that sort of forcing them to click ‘yes’ just so to use the product at all, one reporter asks. Ken disagrees: “It’s your choice in the first place to use a smart product. You should know that whatever’s on the Internet isn’t a hundred percent private, no matter what the people up there says. So it’s your choice. Get connected or don’t.”

Check out part two of our coverage, as we look at why OLED is set to be the next big thing in TV.

 


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