During the Samsung Developer Conference 2022 on Oct. 12, the company released the new One UI 5, the evolution of SmartThings and the new Samsung Knox Matrix and expanded its health and wellness ecosystem for the Galaxy Watch.
Samsung held its annual Developer Conference in San Francisco, bringing together developers, creators and designers. The company, like many others, was keen to stress its vision for smarter and highly personalized experiences that are centered on the customer.
Ahead of SDC22, TechRepublic spoke to Seungwon Shin, vice president and head of security for Samsung’s Mobile Experience Division, during a pre-briefing to get the inside story on the new announcements and the challenges of building new security and privacy features.
“Actually, Samsung internally already had the technologies … . The issue really for us was how to deliver these technologies into solutions that consumers feel comfortable using and how to secure the consumer devices without users having to do all the complicated configuration,” said Shin.
What’s new in One UI 5?
During SDC22 the company announced the release of the new One UI 5. Samsung’s One UI Beta program was initially launched in August 2022. The company explains that the feedback from thousands of Galaxy users who participated in the One UI Beta program shaped the new One UI 5 experience.
The One UI 5 provides a new design that focuses on personalized mobile experiences. Icons are bolder and simpler, notifications can be read at a glance, and the pop-up call display has been redesigned.
Among the new features, Bixby Text Call allows users to answer phone calls simply by typing a message. Samsung’s intelligent platform Bixby converts the text to audio and shares it directly with the caller on the line. The feature is designed for users to take calls even in environments where they can not be heard, like a busy train or a loud concert.
Another update is Samsung’s Routine. The new solution allows users to switch to different smartphone modes, such as “morning routine, work routine or sleep routine.” With routines, users can trigger a sequence of actions on their device based on their activities, creating with One UI 5’s modes customized settings for different parts of their life.
To organize the Home screens, users can now use the new Stack widgets, which allow users to drag and drop widgets on top of each other and swipe left or right to quickly and easily scroll through each one. The new One UI 5 also comes with new Smart suggestions for widgets. Smart suggestions automatically suggest apps and actions based on usage patterns and the context of a user’s mobile activity. Other features include smart text extraction and image extraction.
Shin explains that Samsung works in three main areas to lead in security and mobile privacy: true end-to-end protection, data separation for independent work and personal profiles, and runtime protection.
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Anchored in the hardware, Knox is the heart of the Samsung Galaxy security.
“Knox architecture provides a hardware-based security system. This means that even though the attacker has compromised some of the software in the mobile system, they cannot capture the secure wallet or some of the critical information of the customer because it is stored in the hardware,” Shin explained.
Galaxy users trying out the beta version of One UI highlighted the new Security Dashboard as one of their favorites. In this new dashboard, users can control the privacy and the device’s security settings and find suggestions or warnings.
The One UI 5 also features a new notification on the Share Panel that warns a user if they’re about to unwittingly share a photo that contains potentially sensitive information such as an image of a credit or debit card, driver’s license, Social Security card or passport.
Shin explains that with the new dashboard, users can see and customize settings for the camera, microphone and tracking locations. Additionally, they can understand what applications have used the camera or microphone.
“So, if the customer doesn’t like that kind of tracking, then she or he can easily turn off those features,” Shin said. Moreover, the company will provide security updates for at least five years for its customers.
Samsung will also expand the Samsung Wallet to 13 new markets this year, including Denmark, Finland, Qatar, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and UAE. The wallet was initially launched in June 2022 to markets including China, France, Germany, Italy, the U.K. and the U.S.
With the wallet, the company looks into the future of digital finance trending globally and positions itself to compete with top wallets like those offered by Apple or Google. The wallet can store anything from bank cards and digital keys to travel passes, driver’s licenses and student IDs. Like all of Samsung’s features, it is protected by Samsung’s security platform, Knox, which includes fingerprint recognition and encryption.
SmartThings and Calm Technology
Samsung is also betting strongly on Internet of Things smart home devices. With the new One UI 5, users can control all devices with their smartphones. The integrated SmartThings and Bixby platform is how the company wants to build a user-friendly smart home experience capable of supporting multiple household devices.
“As technologies become more complex, we will always search for ways to make life easier, more connected and more flexible, so our consumers can focus on what matters most,” said Jong-Hee Han, vice chairman, CEO and head of the Device Experience Division at Samsung Electronics.
The vision the company calls Calm Technology saves users time on a setup by instantly allowing intelligent devices to work together. Samsung reimagined SmartThings and its connected services and partnerships, including Samsung’s Hub Everywhere, extending its capabilities to the entire smart home.
Additionally, Samsung announced an expanded partnership with Google to take smart home interoperability to the next level. In the coming months, Samsung Galaxy phone and tablet users can onboard Matter-compatible devices to both the SmartThings and Google Home ecosystems. Users can now avoid running multiple apps and accounts to control each device by connecting devices between different ecosystems.
“Unlike some other vendors, we are trying to collaborate with multiple partners to guarantee the security of their mobile experiences,” Shin said.
On the other hand, with the new Bixby Home Studio, developers can now build differentiated, customized experiences for the SmartThings platform.
“These days, all our devices will be connected. In this environment, there shouldn’t be any kind of possible threat. To handle threats, we have proposed the Knox Matrix,” Shin said.
Knox Matrix: Blockchain IoT security
As smart devices and IoT become more common, so do breaches. Cyberattacks prey on weak smart devices to access a broader network. To provide cutting-edge security solutions for this new environment Samsung presented Knox Matrix, a private blockchain-based platform that turns eligible Samsung devices into a shield to protect the user’s entire device ecosystem.
Knox Matrix keeps Galaxy devices, TVs and other home devices secure while allowing personalized privacy through the new Security and Privacy dashboard. The system scans for vulnerabilities, recommends security updates, and gives users data management options to keep privacy and security top of mind.
“We are going to set up a trusted and secure channel on the Samsung devices, which means that our smartphone, our smart TV or our smart air purifier—they can connect with each other to monitor each other and share information about the security,” Shin added.
The company reckons Knox Matrix is a revolutionary concept for multi-device protection, a field they view as the next battlefront for security and privacy. With Knox Matrix, when smart devices are connected and communicating with each other, not only do they generate a layer of network devices, but they can identify if a device is breached and block and isolate it from the network. Knox Matrix supports devices based on Android, Tizen or other operating systems.
“We started the design process for Knox Matrix last year. And we carried out our internal lab tests as well as proof of concept, which confirmed the needs as well as the possibilities of this technology. So, here at SDC, we are introducing it for the first time,” Shin explained.
When questioned if they expect many updates and patches in the near future, Shin added that Knox Matrix leverages a lot of the existing features of Knox.
“So, we don’t foresee too many updates, but we are making preparations to apply incremental updates going forward,” Shin said.
Health tech: Wearables, medical research and road safety
Samsung also announced new initiatives to continue developing its health services and solutions. During the conference, the company highlighted a new application programming interface that offers adjustable sensitivity for Fall Detection for the Galaxy Watch. Galaxy users can adjust sensitivity levels—standing still, moving or exercising—via the Galaxy Wearable app.
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Additionally, developers can now create services using Galaxy Watch’s Fall Detection algorithms that sense a user’s stumble or fall by combining different sensors, including an accelerometer and gyroscope.
The company also presented the Toolkit for Medical Research of Samsung, a new open-source healthcare technology that supports medical research at hospitals, institutions, wellness centers and other care organizations. The tool is designed to accelerate research processes and deliver advanced data and insights through wearables like the Galaxy Watch.
Researchers can use this open-source project to build modules that enable participants to join a study, with the intention of streamlining the onboarding process.
“Flexible survey templates are also in place to satisfy the ever-changing needs of organizations. From there, relevant data and insights are gathered more easily from wearable devices, while participants are guided with actionable insights throughout the process,” the company explained.
Samsung Health and Fitbit also adopted Health Connect. This platform provides centralized privacy controls, making it easier for users to grant or deny permissions to health and fitness apps. Health Connect also works in the fitness apps Leap Fitness, MyFitnessPal and Withings.
Finally, with the Samsung Privileged Health SDK, Samsung partnered with Tobii, an eye-tracking and attention computing tool, to make roads safer. The Privileged Health SDK can identify early driver fatigue and stress signs and determine the user’s level of drowsiness while on the road by sensing real-time heart rate levels through the Galaxy Watch.
From new opportunities for developers to healthcare, smart home devices, security innovations and their new skin for Android, Samsung is pushing forward on a broad front to make advanced and complex technology available to users in a simple way. It’s no easy feat to bring the latest in mobile tech into everyone’s hands. It may seem seamless and straightforward, but behind it, the company has invested countless hours in research and development and continues to innovate.