An engineer who oversaw some development of Apple's Siri technology is now at Samsung building an online service for linking together the Internet of things. Luc Julia, a vice president at Samsung's innovation lab in Menlo Park, Calif., demonstrated the project, called SAMI, or the Samsung Architecture for Multimodal Interactions, at a conference north of San Francisco on Friday.
Still in its early stages, SAMI aims to be a platform that can collect data from any connected device, including wearable computers like the Fitbit, and make that data available for consumption by other devices. It's designed for use by companies that make wearable computers, home automation equipment and automobiles, as a common platform they can use to build additional services for their customers.
[ Get expert advice about planning and implementing your BYOD strategy with InfoWorld's 29-page "Mobile and BYOD Deep Dive" PDF special report. | Keep up on key mobile developments and insights with the Mobilize newsletter. ]
To demonstrate the service, Julia showed how SAMI might be used to build a personal health service. He donned a Fitbit and a wearable heart monitor, weighed himself on an Internet-connected scale, then ran around the stage a few times by way of putting himself through an exercise routine.
He showed how data from the devices, which is normally viewed in standalone apps, can be collected by SAMI, processed, and then presented to the user in the form of a single app.
In Siri-like fashion, he also asked the service, "SAMI, how am I doing?" The app told him he had reached his exercise goal for the day. The idea is that it could do more sophisticated analysis, such as telling him when he needs to train harder or take a break.
Julia showed the technology at the MEMS Executive Congress in Napa, California, an event for companies that make sensors for smartphones and other devices.
A big benefit of SAMI, according to Julia, is that it will be able to collect and store data from any device in its original format. Samsung will "normalize" the data and make it available as a feed -- he called it a firehose, using the Twitter metaphor -- that can be consumed by other applications.
"We're doing this normalization and delivering the data through an API [application programming interface], because people don't want to learn all the APIs for all the individual products," he said.
Julia was a director of Apple's Siri project for about 10 months until he left Apple last year. It's easy to see similarities between the projects: Both collect data from a variety of services and deliver them through a single app. But while Siri is specific to Apple, Samsung wants its platform to be used by many companies. Julia didn't give a lot of technical details but said Samsung wants it to be as "open" as possible, and it's not interested in defining standards.
In a brief interview, Julia acknowledged some of the challenges SAMI faces. Chief among them, Samsung is a hardware company with little experience in developing online services, and its bitter rivalry with Apple would almost certainly preclude the iPhone maker from ever joining the same platform. "It's something Samsung doesn't know very well today, because Samsung is a hardware company. But we want to enter the space, and offer something different from iCloud," he said.