Chinese OEM Xiaomi has announced that it will be partnering up with IKEA in an expansion of its IoT ecosystem that will see a developer fund set up and all of IKEA's smart lighting products pick up compatibility with AIoT, among other efforts. The movement will begin this December in China, with no word on when the universal compatibility between the two companies' product lines will roll out in more markets. According to IKEA China's CEO and president, Anna Pawlak-Kuliga, this partnership will allow the two companies to "serve customers worldwide with smarter solutions at home." The announcement was made at Xiaomi's MIDC developer conference, along with the announcement of a global developer fund dedicated to IoT developments compatible with Xiaomi's ecosystem. That fund will distribute 100 million RMB, or about $14 million USD, to both independent and large creators around the world looking to make IoT devices and software that will be compatible with AIoT. The release of the Mi Smart Door Lock, a feature-rich lock with Bluetooth, fingerprint, NFC and password options, was also announced. Finally, today's conference marked the beginning of Xiaomi opening up its in-house IoT platform and all the tools therein to outside developers.
Background: This is the first time that IKEA has ever partnered up in such a manner with a Chinese technology firm, and is also the first time that Xiaomi has ever pulled an entire catalog of another company's products into its fold with a single move. Rather than using a proprietary protocol and potentially hobbling the products and services at hand, the partnership will take advantage of the already widely used ZigBee protocol to connect Xiaomi and IKEA devices. There are likely to be many more such partnerships as Xiaomi doubles down on its IoT efforts in the coming months following on the hype from this conference. That formidable ecosystem, even without developer support until now, already stretches across 200 worldwide markets, wherein it reaches some 20 million devices daily. Tying into that is the company's Xiao voice assistant, which competes directly with the likes of Siri, Cortana, and Google Assistant, and has racked up around 8 billion cumulative activations as of this writing.
Impact: While the IKEA partnership is big news, the development fund and opening up of the platform to outside developers are both arguably bigger news. IKEA smart device owners, starting with smart lighting products, will be able to jump on board the Xiaomi AI and IoT train, and it's doubtless that many product ecosystems will see that same compatibility come in the near future. With the ecosystem opened up, millions of developers worldwide will have free reign of Xiaomi's IoT tools, and will almost certainly expand the platform in meaningful ways. That's exactly what Xiaomi is hoping for, given that it announced a sizable development fund that will be invested worldwide. By broadening its compatibility horizons, Xiaomi hopes to position itself to become an all-in-one provider for all sorts of AI, IoT and home automation solutions the world over. Only time will tell if this big bid will pay off for the Chinese giant.