SmartThings hires ex-Googler to manage dev platform

SmartThings, Samsung’s hope for a unified smart home platform, has hired Dora Hsu, a former Google executive, as chief platform officer to lead its developer platform. Hsu, who was formerly the senior director of Google Cloud Solutions for the Google Cloud Platform business, will be responsible for getting developers to buy into SmartThings‘ and Samsung’s idea of an open ecosystem for the smart home by convincing them to use the SmartThings’ developer environment and to integrate devices into the SmartThings ecosystem.

Dora Hsu headshotSmartThings has long positioned itself as an open platform for the smart home, and after it was purchased last summer by Samsung, that hasn’t changed. In fact, Samsung Electronics president BK Yoon gave a somewhat overwrought keynote at International CES pleading for openness in the internet of things. But that openness may be hard to come by.

While Samsung’s purchase of SmartThings helped many companies finally feel comfortable with SmartThings as a mature platform, I’ve also heard from others — notably large appliance and TV vendors — that they will not integrate with a potential rival. So Hsu may have her work cut out for her in enticing developers to build for what is likely to be a large but never fully complete platform.

When it comes to the tools to court developers, Hsu may have better luck. SmartThings last month updated its Integrated Developer Environment so it runs smoother and faster, and I expect more updates to come. Hsu’s experience at Google heading up the technical teams that managed some of the cloud business will certainly help here.

SmartThings CEO Alex Hawkinson said that developers can expect more investment from SmartThings in the platform, beyond just making it faster. That will include adding analytics, certification and more. “We will also be making investments in certification, marketing, and monetization support to help developers and device makers to reach significant numbers of new customers through SmartThings,” he told me in an email. “The goal is to not just help developers to rapidly innovate, but to also help them to improve the lives of many consumers while building a great business in the process.”

Hsu will essentially build the business and infrastructure to create SmartThings’ App store model. So far SmartThings supports over 150 devices, with more in the works. It doesn’t disclose the number of developers working on the platform.

Hsu reports directly to Hawkinson, and is based in the SmartThings HQ in Palo Alto, California, with her new role effective immediately.