February 10, 2015      

Uh-oh, here comes Samsung creating its first-ever robotics lab!

Samsung Electronics (005930:KS) (and not the 80 other companies that make up the super-size conglomerate that is Samsung Group) is launching a new mega-initiative: a $100 million R&D laboratory specifically tasked with drones, robotics, 3D printing and virtual reality.

Korea Times reports that the research group will be part of Samsung’s mobile division but will operate independently, working on a massive expansion of the company’s nascent offerings in robot vacuum cleaners and, most recently, its Gear VR headset built in partnership with Facebook’s Oculus Rift.

The lab has a long way to go, but it follows the mission set out by CEO BK Yoon to ramp up the Internet of Things (IoT) to the max.

All eighty other Samsung Group holdings would benefit hugely from a Samsung-led advance on IoT. Aside from the more well-known Samsung Electronics products like Smartphones, tablets, wearables, semiconductors, display panels, TVs, laptops, printers, cameras, home theaters, and home appliances, the rest of the Samsung Group, according to Ars Technica, makes gigantic container ships, arctic ice breakers, self-propelled howitzers, credit cards, oil-refining plants, power plants, wind turbines, water treatment facilities, steel mills, life insurance, theme parks, ultrasound machines, X-ray scanners, Aperture Science-style robotic machine-gun sentries, and the world’s tallest skyscrapers (like the Burj Khalifa).

Stout resources: engineers by the tens of thousands

In short, Samsung Electronics (global net revenue 2013: $28.8 billion) has got resources aplenty to go after robotics in a big way. For starters, it’s got 275,000 employees (just Samsung Electronics), which is more than Google, Apple and Microsoft combined.

Of that cast of thousands, there are 40,506 software engineers (Google has about 18,000. Nearly 45 percent of Samsung’s engineers have arrived since 2011.

The Korea Times learned from a Samsung spokesperson: “Given the significance of the team, members will have more authority and independence because the main purpose of the team isn’t to develop single devices for any imminent results, but to develop solutions to go with Samsung’s manufacturing capabilities. The team will explore how technologies could help people’s daily life for a better future.”

“Samsung’s previous success was mostly due to releasing products that are competitive in pricing,” Samsung said. “This is an old business formula. We need to constantly explore new ways to meet the needs of people through innovation and updated technologies.”

Samsung’s revenues in its mobile business have declined, noted the Guardian, as growing sales of the company’s smartphones, including the flagship Galaxy S and Galaxy Note series, have faltered with competition from Apple at the top end and Chinese manufacturers such as Xiaomi and Lenovo at the bottom.

With Samsung’s penchant for mega projects glued to mega budgets and backed by mega advertising – plus the thousands of brilliant minds on its payroll – this emerging R&D lab could easily become a hotbed of robotics, drones and 3D printing in short order.