Study: Standalone Voice Assistants One of Fastest Adopted Technologies in U.S. History

Standalone voice assistants — or smart speakers — are one of the fastest-adopted technologies in U.S. history and have a 98 percent satisfaction rate among U.S. consumers, according to a new report from Accenture.

Half of online consumers globally now use digital voice assistants, with emerging markets leading the way in adoption, according to the report, based on a global survey of 22,500 consumers across 21 countries.

“Adoption and satisfaction with smart speaker technology is booming,” said Robin Murdoch, co-author of the report and managing director of Accenture’s global software and platforms industry practice, in a statement. “Convenience and accessible price points are helping drive increased use, but maintaining this loyalty will require companies to stay relevant with consumer needs while creating and constantly renewing trust.”

The report, “Reshape to Relevance,” also found 93% of consumers globally expect their home device purchases, such as smart TVs or computers, to easily integrate with their standalone smart speaker.

The relevance of smart speakers is reflected in consumers’ expectations to use these devices for more-advanced tasks beyond routine activities like voice calling, playing music or eBooks, and accessing news, according to the report. They see value in voice assistants managing home security (61% of respondents), providing connected home automation (59%), paying bills and providing payment alerts (55%) — even making restaurant reservations (53%) and providing access to virtual medical advice (52%), according to the report.

However, trust is a potential impediment to greater adoption of smart speakers, with 41% of consumers citing privacy concerns and 40% citing security concerns with the technology. The report found 46% of consumers believe they don’t have control of their data with voice assistants, and 58% are more likely to re-evaluate their trust in this service by continually checking how their information is being used.

“Consumers expect their smart speakers to handle complex workloads and integrate with other products,” said Greg Roberts, co-author of the report and managing director of Accenture’s North America high tech industry practice, in a statement. “Brands that offer advanced artificial intelligence capabilities will be well positioned for success. But to attract more customers, they will have to be transparent in how they store, use and share data. Establishing an agreed trust standard with consumers is essential.”

IHS: Internet-Connected TVs Represent 70% of TV Shipments in 2018

Internet-connected televisions featuring third-party apps are expected to generate 70% of total global TV shipments in 2018 – up from 64% in 2017 and 45% in 2015, according to new data from IHS Markit. Global TV shipments are projected to rise 3.5% to 223 million units.

“The rise of streaming video availability worldwide, especially for special events like the World Cup and Olympics, along with continued growth for global streaming video services, have encouraged strong growth in smart TV sales in recent years,” Paul Gagnon, research and analysis executive director at IHS Markit, said in a statement.

Growth of smart TVs is being driven in part by streaming video, which consumers increasingly consider to be a basic TV function comparable to broadcast reception.

Streaming remains the only way to access ultra-high-definition (UHD) content for most consumers, with smart TV reinforcing the value of 4K resolution screens, which are now being sold at mass-market prices. At the same time, the effect of government-imposed mandatory interactivity for TV services in Brazil and Argentina has boosted Latin America into the top three global regions for smart TV adoption.

Android is currently the most popular smart TV operating system platform, including both the full Android TV implementation and modified versions used by many Chinese TV brands.

IHS expects Android will continue to gain share through 2022, as a common third-party platform with native support for Google Home. Proprietary smart TV platforms from Samsung (Tizen) and LG Electronics (WebOS) are the second- and third-most popular smart TV operating system platforms.

According to IHS, Roku TV and Fire TV, currently only available in North America, will gain share, as brands seek common platforms from increased margin pressure. Over the next five years, Roku TV is expected to expand beyond North America. Fire TV might also become available in other regions, provided the U.S. partnership between Amazon and Best Buy is successful.

“The increased availability and integration of Amazon Alexa, Google Home and other popular digital voice assistants will further increase demand for smart TVs in 2018 and beyond,” said Gagnon.

Dish Debuts Google Assistant Voice Control

Dish July 9 debuted its integration with the Google Assistant for a hands-free TV entertainment experience.

Dish customers with a Hopper, Hopper Duo, Joey or Wally can control their TV using their voice when paired with an Assistant device, such as Google Home, Android phones or iPhones.

Dish is the first pay-TV provider to offer direct compatibility with the Assistant.

“Since we first introduced voice control technology, we’ve seen our customers really embrace the hands-free TV experience,” said Niraj Desai, Dish VP of product management, in a statement. “Our collaboration with Google is an exciting opportunity for us to continue meeting demand for voice and changing the way we interact with television.”

“We want to make it easy and fun for people to turn their living room into a smart entertainment center with the Assistant,” said Michele Turner, senior director, Google Smart Home Ecosystem, in a statement. “By working closely with Dish, we’ll ensure that customers can easily control their TVs through the Assistant, instead of searching for or having to share the remote.”

Customers can ask the Assistant to set recordings, adjust volume and launch apps such as Game Finder, Netflix and Pandora. Customers can also use the Assistant to navigate, play, pause, fast-forward, rewind and search content based on channel, title, actor or genre. When using search functionality, the results displayed include Dish’s live, recorded and on-demand titles, as well as Netflix’s selection of TV shows and movies.

Spanish-language support will be coming soon, according to Dish.

Amazon Echo Speakers Outselling Fire TV Devices

Wireless home audio is big business — driven in part by voice recognition software that enables speakers to do more than deliver sound.

New data from Futuresource Consulting found that Amazon’s Echo speaker sold more units worldwide in 2017 than Amazon Fire tablets and Fire TV media devices.

With almost 20 million units sold globally last year, Echo’s installed base stood at 28 million, marginally ahead of Fire tablets at 27 million, with Fire TV also close behind, at 26 million.

Indeed, Echo commanded 90% market share at the end of 2016, a percentage that dropped to 72% in 2017 following the arrival of competing wireless speakers from Google Home, Harman Kardon, JBL and Sony, among others.

The closeness of Amazon device installed bases highlights that, despite the hype surrounding Echo, Amazon isn’t focusing all its device efforts on its smart speakers.

London-based Futuresource says the Alexa voice assistant software is now also standard on its Fire TVs and tablets and last week’s announcement of the Fire TV Cube is the latest development in the Seattle-based firm’s multi-device strategy to position itself as the key “go-to” facilitator in the smart home.

Meanwhile, data shows that while Amazon is the category leader globally, Echo sales are still heavily skewed toward the United States — with only 13% of its 2017 sales international. As a result, Fire tablets outsold Echo speakers internationally in 2017 by a ratio of over 4 to 1. Fire TV sales are partly facilitated by Amazon Prime (over 40% of global Prime members are outside of the U.S.).

Futuresource said Amazon’s “boldness and risk-taking” in both consumer technology and the media space is further emphasized by its recent Premier League rights deal in the U.K., where there are now over 7 million Prime members.

“This was an expected step, but unusual for Amazon given it is a U.K.-only deal,” said the research firm in a release. “Its wider in-home strategy continues to be more developed in the U.S., recently focusing on home security through a dedicated ‘home services’ division.”

Regardless, Futuresource said Amazon’s drive to create an installed base of voice-activated devices in the home will not only fuel e-commerce sales and Prime subscriptions, but will also serve to ramp up use of third-party smart home applications and potentially position Alexa at the core of the home entertainment hub.

Amazon Alexa is now able to facilitate the control of more than 4,000 smart home devices from 1,200 unique brands, including Whirlpool, GE Appliances, LG, Samsung and smart oven manufacturer June Life.

Amazon’s pace of innovation continues to impress, but it will continue to encounter challenges. Citing a consumer survey, Futuresource 38% of non-adopters of smart speakers “can’t see a use for smart home devices”, with a third citing privacy concerns.

“Amazon may well need to prioritize such consumer concerns if it is to ultimately achieve success in the smart home in the wider international markets,” said Futuresource.