Xiaomi looks beyond smartphones to smart home products

Xiaomi wants to help hardware partners bring more smart home devices to market

Xiaomi wants to use its phone as a hub to control other smart appliances.

Xiaomi wants to use its phone as a hub to control other smart appliances.

Xiaomi may be best known for its smartphones. But over the long-term, the fast-rising company is betting it can take over living rooms across China, by turning everyday household appliances into smart devices.

It doesn't plan on doing this alone. On Thursday, the Chinese company announced it had developed a "smart module" that hardware partners could install on their products to make them connected devices.

The module, which will cost partners 22 yuan (US$3.6), can be fitted on everything from refrigerators, air conditioners and washing machines, said Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun at an event announcing a new phone.

"What is Xiaomi's strategy? It's to use the smartphone to link all the smart devices together," he explained. Users could then remotely control every appliance with a Xiaomi developed app on their smartphone.

Companies across the IT industry are thinking along the same lines. Apple last year introduced its HomeKit suite of tools that will allow smart home vendors to better integrate their products with iOS.

Google, on the other hand, spent $3.2 billion to buy Nest, a maker of smart thermostats, giving it an entry into the connected home market.

Xiaomi has also been moving fast into the smart home space in China, where it's become one of the country's top smartphone vendors. Last month, the company released an air purifier that can be controlled via smartphone.

To bring more products to market, the company has been investing in startups developing smart home devices. In December, it also invested $200 million in Chinese appliance maker Midea to partner on smart home projects.

Xiaomi didn't offer details on the technical specs of its smart module. But the company hopes to lower its cost to 15 yuan next year, and then 10 yuan the year after that.

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