“Alexa, turn off the lights, turn up the heat and read me a story.”
A utopian future where every house has a flying car and a domesticated robot is still a dream. Our Jetsonian future may still be in the works, but the building blocks of the intelligent home have taken on some clarity.
Our voices will control our future homes.
A report by Edison Research said that 42% of people consider voice-activated smart speakers as essential to their everyday lives. Nine out of 10 people cite music as the prime reason for owning a device, but the ability to control your home just by speaking aloud is ticking a lot of boxes.
According to an NPR-commissioned Smart Audio Report, 35% of device owners use a smart speaker to control connected devices such as lights, thermostats and appliances. Around 34% of people said that their smart speaker was part of a home security system, with 20% using it to control outdoor lighting or garden sprinklers. In fact, 48% of people said that the control of smart home devices was one reason to invest in a device such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home.
Sixty-five percent of people said that they would not want to return to a life without a smart speaker. As a result, device owners are voice-activated device evangelists.
“As smart speaker owners continue to diversify their use of these devices, it’s no surprise that 69% have encouraged their friends to adopt the devices as well,” the report said. “Among smart speaker owners, 45% expect to purchase another device—and, of the non-owners surveyed, more than half say they are likely to purchase their first smart speaker in the next six months.”
Smart Speakers Make Life So Much Easier
For the purposes of the report, Edison surveyed 1,620 people—800 smart speaker owners, 820 non-owners—to gauge their opinions on voice-activated devices. As you would expect from a report commissioned by a broadcast service like NPR, the focus was on audio experiences but the reasons given for wanting a smart speaker went beyond listening to music.
People said that being able to get answers or relevant information without typing on a smartphone or tablet was one reason for device adoption, even more so if it made it easier to do things. Timers and alarms, shopping lists, cooking requests, games and entertaining children were also cited as regular smart speaker interactions.
One caveat was that people have not fully explored everything that a smart speaker can do; 72% of device owners said they didn’t know enough about their smart speaker to use all its features.
It should be noted that the study only considered two smart speaker options—the Amazon Echo/Echo Dot and Google Home—but 42% of people did own two or more individual devices.
For that reason alone, Amazon devices dominated among smart speaker owners; 76% of people owned a device that connected them to Amazon’s voice-activated assistant Alexa. Sixteen percent of device owners had opted for Google Home, with 8% of people owing both Echo and Home smart speakers
Non-music audio options—news, weather, podcasts and audiobooks, for example—were cited as regular activities. In fact, 70% of device owners said that they listened to more audio alternatives since they purchased a smart speaker.
“Although smart speakers have not been around for very long, nearly one in five owners say that these devices are the way that they most often listen to audio,” said Edison’s vice president of strategy Tom Webster, in a press release. “The frictionless way in which these devices enable audio consumption is already changing listening behaviors, and potentially increasing audio consumption overall.”
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Smart Homes Are Built For Voice Interaction
Audio experiences or requirements aside, the mass adoption of voice-activated devices is going to happen sooner rather than later.
A recent report by eMarketer said that voice-enabled device use will increase by 128.9% in 2017, with 35.6 million Americans expected to talk to a voice-activated assistant at least once a month. These numbers could rise over the next 12 months as more challengers to the Amazon Echo and Google Home enter the consumer marketplace—Apple’s Siri-enhanced HomePod, for example. In the long run, smart home control is one of the reasons why people want a voice-enabled device.
According to a forecast report [PDF] by Swedish analysts Berg Insight, the number of smart homes in the United States alone will be around 73 million or 55% of all households by 2021. By comparison the total number of smart homes in Europe and the U.S. was 30.3 million in 2016. Energy efficiency and home security will continue to drive consumer adoption, with the integration of voice-enabled speakers a major factor, the report said.
“Smartphone apps are today the most common user interface for smart home solutions. Users are however unwilling to launch a number of individual apps to be able to use their connected devices,” said the authors of the report. “Instead, cross platform compatible and voice driven user interfaces have the ability to connect and control a wide range of devices and services using simple voice commands. Several ICT industry giants are now betting on voice driven user interfaces to make it easier to control smart home solutions.”
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