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Voice is stimulating growth in smart tech adoption

Rod Slater, Exertis, head of Smart Tech and IoT, looks at how voice is having a major impact on the future

The impact of voice control in building recognition for smart home connected products can’t be under-estimated. Of course, the consumer wants useful products, at a reasonable price from companies they recognise and trust but voice control is convincing more customers to equip their homes with more connected products and manufacturers to enable more of their products to be voice enabled.  Whilst disruptive might be considered to be an over-used term in technology, the role of AI has the potential to be the biggest disrupter in the smart home market. In a sector, where one of the biggest barriers to buying multiple devices has been a fragmented technology framework with many different standards creating inter-operability issues, voice enabled products that are compatible with leading voice assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa will expand the reach and deepen the interest in smart home products.

For example, there are some sectors of society where smartphones are not so prevalent. Providing voice commands for simple tasks like turning the lights on and off or adjusting the thermostat could have considerable benefits for the older generation. Actually, using apps to control a home with multiple Smart Tech products is a poor experience for any user.

A Gartner 2016 survey of people’s use of personal technology showed that consumers want a more integrated smart eco-system. The use of Voice Personal Assistants is expected to grow with VPA enabled wireless speakers forecasted to reach $2.1bn according to the analyst. Clearly, not having to use your smartphone and open apps to control each device adds a great deal of simplicity and convenience. VPAs compatible with smart products will take automation in the home to a new level as they make tasks more simple and easy to do.

Amazon’s recent announcements have implications for the security industry. By redefining how cameras are accessed, from the somewhat utilitarian approach through an app or CCTV Screen, to the interactive model driven by simply asking Alexa to show the camera on the nearest fireTV, equipped TV, Echo Show or Echo Spot. By enabling camera access through voice command, the utility of cameras has been elevated from an app based curiosity to a compelling experience “Alexa, show me the front door camera.”

In addition, the recently announced Amazon Echo Plus is more than a connected speaker, it doubles as a smart home hub, creating a platform for connected home devices with built-in Zigbee networking (a wireless protocol commonly used by small connected home gadgets) as well as Bluetooth and Wi-fi. Users will be able to ask Alexa to find nearby devices across all three standards, thereby adding more connected products to Alexa.

Certainly, smart home products are no longer seen as just novelty, Alexa’s growing capabilities are driving a more compelling Smart Tech experience for consumers as support for security, comfort, convenience, safety, entertainment and energy consumption come under Alexa’s growing umbrella of control.

With cheaper, easier to control products that can be DIY installed and activated by voice commands, there are considerable opportunities for growth. Security and access products such as cameras, locks, detection devices and video surveillance products, enabling owners to monitor their homes and families from remote locations, provide increased safety. In combination with VPAs, like Alexa, notifying homeowners of a leak or reminding them of a service requirement, smart home products can provide financial benefits such as reduced insurance premiums or claims.

There are many manufacturers from tech giants to start-ups looking to make an impact in the smart home market. According to Zion Market Research, the global smart home market was valued at around $24.10bn in 2016 and is expected to reach approximately $53.45bn by 2022 at a 14.5% CAGR between 2017 and 2022. Amazon is dominating the voice controlled speaker sector with a 70% share in the US according to eMarketer, well ahead of other giants like Google and Apple, thanks to the popularity of its Echo brand. Consumers are likely to keep with one brand and Amazon are in pole position. Smart home accessories that have compatibility with companies like Amazon and Google are helping to stimulate the market. Established brands like Whirlpool are enabling their dishwashers, fridges and ovens to be controlled by voice commands to the Echo.  GE-branded appliances are also controllable by Alexa. Voice has become a key feature added to consumer products like TVs and cameras either built-in or functioning through devices like the Amazon Dot.

Of course, VPAs can add value to the home user in other areas such as accessing information or adding audio. Asking Alexa to play music is a lot easier than searching for a track on your mobile and compatibility with multi-room speakers and soundbars from manufacturers like Sonos only adds to the experience.

The new found popularity of lower priced, voice assisted speakers in conjunction with more enabled products – RBC Capital Markets predicts that 128 million devices will be Alexa enabled by 2020 - are clearly stimulating the market. VoiceLabs forecasts that 24.5 million of these products will ship in 2017 as more consumers join the early adopters. With millennials dominating the workforce with their strong attachment to technology and voice control simplyfying the control of the smart home ecosystem, the future of smart home products looks rosy.

Exertis has been at the forefront of the smart home market with its wide range of Smart Tech products from both established and emerging brands, opening up new channels for its vendor partners and providing retailers with ranging propositions and services that make it easier to sell and promote the range.

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