Virtual assistants to become defacto consumer interface predicts Futuresource

posted on Wednesday, 27th March 2019 by Steve May

Voice Control  Smart home  Smart speaker 

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Virtual assistants are on course to become the defacto consumer product interface, according to new market data and reporting from Futuresource Consulting. The company’s latest home audio quarterly tracker shows that products with integrated VAs grew to 41.8 per cent of all home audio shipments in Q4 2018, an increase of nearly 50 per cent on Q4 2017, with smart speakers increasing by 79 per cent.
“But it’s no longer all about the smart speaker,” notes principal analyst Jack Wetherill.

“For TVs, VAs are being rolled out by leading brands such as LG, Sony, Panasonic and Samsung. Most involve a microphone in the remote control, similar to those used in media streamers, assuring a continued lifespan for the trusty set until manufacturers include microphones in the sets themselves. This can be costly and will require solutions for technical issues around noise and echo cancellation, due to microphones being located adjacent to TV speakers.”

When it comes to soundbars, Harman Kardon, Bose, Denon, Polk, Samsung, Sonos, Sony and Yamaha are introducing products on either a ‘built-in’ or ‘works with’ basis. "Our quarterly tracker shows that smart soundbars accounted for 5 per cent of all soundbar shipments in Q4 2018, and we’re going to see a substantial uplift in activity this year,” adds Wetherill.

The prediction has significant implications for the custom install market, which is still locked to conventional control systems. When the consumer expects voice assistants as standard, could the appeal of slick integration wane?

“VAs will allow companies to enhance their relationship with the consumer and establish an advantageous brand position,” says Guy Hammett, Market Analyst, Futuresource Consulting. “With many consumer brands already leveraging VAs, from mobile and wearables, to smart home, to automotive, to toys and ecommerce, we’re beginning to see a VA land grab emerge. And the stakes are high. The company that controls the user interface can influence user behaviour, choice of services and products. Combine that with the associated access to user data and it begins to get very interesting, with opportunities that include better understanding and personalisation of services, packaging of content, internal analytics, advertising and marketing, or even anonymisation and packaging for re-sale to B2B partners.”

The smartphone category currently accounts for the lion’s share of global consumer VA market shipments, at 71 per cent in 2018. Home CE, PCs and automotive accounted for 15 per cent, 13 per cen tand 1 per cent respectively. By 2022, smartphone, home CE and automotive will all have increased their market share at the expense of PCs.

“Google Assistant Connect, announced at CES 2019, is another interesting development for the VA space,” says Wetherill. “Rather than serving out an additional bridging device, such as Echo Input, this initiative allows Google to roll out a chip solution which audio brands can include in their products. Devices will be able to respond to and supply Google Assistant commands by relying on another Google Assistant device in the home, sparing the audio brands the need to embed microphones and heavyweight processing in their devices. It’s a low-involvement play that should result in a whole array of additional devices responding to voice.

“In this new VA-enabled world we’re going to have even easier access to effective browsing and discovery of content, providing an essential shortcut through the user interface and improving the overall user experience. We’ll use virtual assistants to search online, to compile our shopping lists and make those purchases, manage our schedules, control our home automation systems and our smart devices, command our autonomous vehicles and so much more. It’s great news for hardware makers, content providers and consumers alike.”

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology journalist, who also writes for T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice and ERT (amongst others).

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