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Voice device deployment grows, but mixed picture for future as business fails to act

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Voice devices are becoming more mainstream, with early adopters now morphing into early followers as 119 million such devices were shipped worldwide in 2018.

According to findings from Futuresource Consulting’s new Voice Assistants in Home Electronics market report, however, there is a slightly more mixed picture for the longer term.

“Particularly strong adoption in multimedia and entertainment is expected to continue, although there is a slight delay in some categories,” says Simon Bryant, Research Director at Futuresource Consulting. “This is due to longer product development times and on-going consideration for the best type of voice assistant implementation from a technology perspective, and as most companies continue to work to identify their best strategy around voice platforms.”

Part of the reason for the slower adoption of voice assistants in some additional product categories is the lack of progress in being able to support more than one voice assistant in a single device.

“Whilst the market leaders are growing their ecosystems and recruiting partners, there has yet to be any meaningful crossover; all arrangements and partnerships have been exclusive,” says Bryant. “Some OEMs are doing what they can to support multiple platforms on separate devices and in separate regions, but the inability to offer consumers choice is holding back more mainstream adoption and broader take-up in new sectors.”

Given this anticipated extension for wider deployment in some device categories, Futuresource forecasts that Home CE with voice assistants ‘built in’ shipments to reach 504 million, accounting for a 43% CAGR growth between 2018 and 2022.

Market evolution

Smart speakers continue to see strong demand as the market moves closer towards mainstream. Smart speaker shipments reached 53 million at the end of 2018.

The primary voice platforms continue to focus on their own devices and expanding their capabilities, bringing out new variants to tailor them to appeal to more use cases throughout the home.

“It remains a foot-race to establish a lead in a market that has moved from early adopter to early follower in the past 12 months, driving companies to work hard to establish as broad a footprint as possible,” says Bryant.

Greater language capabilities are resulting in expansion to new territories for the leading brands from the US and China, and more entrants and new form factors such as smart displays are seeing smart speakers push into additional markets. More localised deployments (with potential to expand) are coming from service providers in Korea and Europe. The additional integration of voice assistants into additional devices and services is illustrated by the commercial release of additional smart devices, such as smart home and media and entertainment throughout 2018, as OEMs test the waters and the appeal of voice. 

This expansion was apparent at this year’s CES show in Las Vegas, where Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant battled to broaden their partnerships amongst a variety of products within the smart home and entertainment. The signs are already apparent that it will soon be a default standard for products to include voice capabilities or integration, leaving the overriding question as to who will be the spearhead of the standardisation of these technologies and how will they operate in a unified fashion?

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