LG to double smart home investment by 2020

By Lee Min-hyung
Song Dae-hyun, president at LG Electronics’ home appliance and air systems unit, tells a press conference in Berlin about LG’s plan to expand its smart home business. / Courtesy of LG Electronics

LG Electronics plans to double its annual investment in its smart home business by 2020, with the emerging tech area expected to be the hub to interconnect all trending technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT) and robots.

At an annual IFA tradeshow in Germany, the Seoul-based electronics giant unveiled its vision to lead the lucrative smart home industry. Toward this end, the company plans to expand its R&D workforce by more than 50 percent until 2020.

“We are going to push for an open innovation — focusing on AI, hardware devices, IoT and robots — in a move to expand our presence in the smart home industry,” Song Dae-hyun, president at LG Electronics’ home appliance and air systems business, told a press conference in Berlin on Saturday, on the sidelines of Europe’s largest electronics fair.

“Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) will stand at the center of our plan to grow the smart home business,” he said. “We will take a close look at such companies as retail players or those with unique technologies.”

He did not specify the companies with which LG was discussing possible acquisitions.

“We have yet to narrow our differences with some companies, but are still looking for suitable partners,” he said.

With the goal of achieving what it calls a three-tier open environment, LG pledged to continue expanding its smart home presence here and abroad. The strategy includes an open partnership, open platform and open connectivity.

In particular, LG has forged partnerships with the world’s leading IT players — Google and Amazon — in AI and smart homes since last year.

LG showcased a group of home appliances voice-controlled by Amazon’s AI speaker Alexa, at the trade show. LG this year plans to launch seven electronics devices in the United States — such as a refrigerator, washing machine and air conditioner — that support the Alexa voice assistant.

At this year’s IFA the company also launched its new flagship V30 smartphone equipped with Google’s voice recognition platform, Google Assistant. The software allows LG V30 users to operate the LG’s home appliances simply by talking to the virtual personal assistant, according to LG.

Aside from the software sector, the company is also pushing to develop a series of robots with IoT and AI features. For example, LG has deployed its humanoid robots at Incheon International Airport since this July.

“Our robotics business has yet to reach a technologically perfect level for commercialization,” Song said. But he said some of its robots — such as lawnmowers — could now tap into Europe or the U.S.

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