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.”

Facebook Launches Smart Speakers with Video Option

Facebook Oct. 8 bowed a wireless smart speaker – dubbed Portal – which enables users to make video calls, access music and Facebook Watch over-the-top video streaming, among other features.

The Portal and Portal+ versions retail for $199 (10-inch screen) and $349 (15.6 inches), respectively, and will begin shipping in November.

Using artificial intelligence technology, the Portal’s camera feature recognizes body shapes and allows callers to stay in the picture frame while movie around. The devices also enable Facebook Messenger users to make conference calls.

“Our goal is to make you feel present in the same space as the person on the other end,” Rafa Camargo, a VP at Facebook, said in a statement.

With more than 30% of American households owning smart speakers, another 16% plan to purchase them, according to Adobe Analytics.

The global smart speaker market grew 187% in the second quarter 2018 with shipments topping 16.8 million, according to Canalys. Google led with 5.4 million Home model unit shipments, followed Amazon with 1.4 million Echo unit shipments. The United States accounted for 58% and 68%, respectively, of each company’s speaker unit shipments. China’s Alibaba and Xiaomi shipped 3 million and 2 million smart speaker units respectively.

Indeed, with Facebook’s previous consumer electronics ventures into virtual reality (Oculus) and mobile phones generating little consumer traction, the Portal is using Amazon’s Alexia voice-generated technology as well as Google Android mobile operating system to gain consumer interest.

 

Amazon, Google Smart Speaker Market Hold Under Threat by China

Amazon introduced the first voice-activated smart speaker in 2014 with Alexa and Amazon Echo. According to new data from Strategy Analytics, Amazon’s global smart speaker share of shipments fell to 41% in the second quarter (ended June 30) from 44% in Q1 and 76% in Q2 2017.

By contrast, Google increased its share to 28% in Q2, up from 16% during the same period last year. China’s Alibaba finished third with Apple and JD.com rounding out the top five.

David Watkins, director at Strategy Analytics, says Amazon and Google accounted for a 69% share of global smart speaker shipments in Q2, which was down from more than 90% in Q2 2017.

“The drop is not only a reflection of growing competition in the smart speaker market but also Amazon and Google’s inability to break into the fast-growing Chinese market that is dominated by local powerhouse brands such as Alibaba, JD.com and Baidu,” Watkins said in a statement.

Indeed, Strategy Analytics contends China has the potential to become a lucrative market for smart speakers driven by voice-activated software – as underscored by Google’s recent $500 million strategic partnership with Chinese ecommerce giant JD.com.

David Mercer, VP at Strategy Analytics, believes Google and Amazon’s pursuit of volume over margin has made it difficult for third-party entry-level speakers entering the market with similar features.

However, Mercer contends the premium end of the market offers opportunity to vendors such as Roku who can entice consumers with superior build and audio quality.

“Early adopters of low-cost smart speakers such as the Echo Dot or Google Home Mini who are now looking to buy a second device will be a key target demographic for such vendors,” he said. “Apple has established an early lead in the premium smart speaker market, benefiting from a fiercely loyal fan base and strong momentum behind its Apple Music service. However, we expect the higher end smart speaker market to grow and become much more competitive moving forwards as vendors such as Samsung with its Galaxy Home speaker look to capitalize on the growing acceptance of voice as an established control mechanism.”

 

CTA: Emerging Tech, Smartphones Driving Household Consumer Electronics

About 87% of U.S. households own a smartphone, which is second only to the television at 96% ownership, according to new data from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).

The trade group said that for the first time, the top three most-frequently owned tech products in the home are screen devices, with laptops trailing TVs and smartphones at 72%.

“The rapid ascent of smartphone ownership in U.S. households exemplifies [its] versatility — for communication, entertainment, productivity and more,” Steve Koenig, VP of market research, said in a statement.  “And because of that, it’s possible we’ll see smartphone ownership in the U.S. match that of TVs within the next five years.”

Echo and Google Home, have nearly tripled in ownership rate to reach 22% of American households — one of the fastest-adopted technologies since tablets, according to CTA.

Smartwatch adoption continues to grow, with 18% of U.S. households now owning at least one of the devices — an increase of six percentage points over last year. Additionally, ownership rates of drones and virtual reality headsets were measured at 11% and 10% of households, respectively.

Next-gen screen technologies and the availability of larger screen sizes drove more U.S. consumers to buy technology in and around the TV, said the CTA. The trade group said 4K Ultra HD televisions experienced the largest growth in household ownership rate, rising 15 percentage points year-over-year to reach 31% household ownership. Indeed, 19% of households own a TV with a screen size of 60 inches or bigger. Ownership of digital media streaming devices rose nine percentage points since 2017 to 45% of households.

“It’s no surprise that … smart speakers and VR are among the products consumers anticipate buying the most” said Ben Arnold, senior director of innovation and trends. “Many of these devices incorporate new technologies and features – artificial intelligence, voice recognition, faster processing – and at the same time provide a smarter way to communicate or experience content.”