The Voice Activated Revolution

voice activated

Voice control, AI and voice assistants are here to stay

For those of you who still think smart speakers are a passing fad, give it up. According to the Voicebot Voice Assistant Consumer Adoption Report 2018smart speakers have gained an installed user base of nearly 1 in 4 U.S. adults. That number is sure to rise and approach 30% market penetration before the year is out. And according to a Voicebot January 2018 survey, two years ago less than 1% of the population had a smart speaker!

While smart speakers are grabbing the headlines, voice assistants are everywhere: smartphones, cars, TVs, appliances and more.

Smartphone voice assistants

The Voicebot 2018 Consumer Adoption Report survey found 2.5 times as many people have tried voice assistants on smartphones than they have on smart speakers. Of course, there are a whole lot more smartphones out there than speakers. Plus, smartphones have been around longer.

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How are voice assistants used on smartphones? Information questions are the most popular on a monthly basis.

Not surprisingly, voice assistants on smartphones are primarily used in vehicles. Other places where voice assistants are accessed include the home, outside and while exercising.

Smart speakers

Smart speakers brought voice assistants into the home in a way that smartphones couldn’t. As of September 2018, Voicebot found that 22.9% of US adults own a smart speaker. That’s 57.8 million people, up from 47.3 million in January 2018!

Amazon Echo smart speakers lead the share at 64.6%. Since Apple HomePod launched in February 2018, time will tell how the shares shift, especially after the 2018 4th quarter shopping season. The “Other” category includes Sonos, JBL, Harmon Kardon, Bose, Bang & Olufsen and others.

Between all branded and third party speakers, about 95% of the market uses either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant as their voice assistant.

It’s one thing to buy. It’s another to use. The 2018 Voicebot survey reveals 79% use their smart speaker monthly and 45.5% use it daily. Most popular uses are for entertainment and purchasing.

There are also 2.2 smart speakers per household! This means that multiple rooms house smart speakers. A Voicebot January 2018 survey report shows the preferred smart speaker locations.

Voice assistants on the road

Besides smartphones and smart speakers, the car is where many consumers use voice control.

About half used Bluetooth to connect to their smartphone’s assistant while the other half used whatever voice solution came with the car. Significant numbers used the head unit’s preinstalled Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility.

What’s missing from the automotive equation is Amazon Alexa. Until Amazon compatibility makes strong headway into automotive entertainment centers, standalone units like the Garmin Speak with Amazon Alexa are the only way most commuters can communicate with Alexa-controlled smart home devices or other Amazon exclusive features.

Laptops, TVs, Smart Watches, Appliances, etc.

Beyond smartphones, smart speakers and the car, more and more other devices are incorporating AI. Microsoft has incorporated Cortana and Apple has added Siri to their latest computer operating systems.

Smart TVs and/or remotes provide navigation without pushing buttons. And smart watches with their small screens make voice activation appealing.

One area that could potentially see growth in voice assistant use is wireless headphones. Voicebot found that over 72% of owners have never tried to access their paired smartphone’s assistant. 13.7% say they use it monthly, 8.6% daily.

Smart speakers rule voice command devices

So, which device sees the most voice-activated action? Smart speakers.

They reflect the most advanced voice assistant features, representing the second or third generation of voice assistants. Smart speakers are also accessed more regularly than other devices.

Smart speakers also form the bridge to controlling other devices, unlocking greater potentials than most consumers use at the moment.

Voicebot’s January 2018 survey also revealed reasons why a consumer might not buy a smart speaker. Surprisingly, the biggest reason why is indifference, not privacy issues.

Voice user interface, appliances and AI reports that major appliance manufacturers like GE, LG and Jenn-Air are rolling out WiFi voice command products that will work with both Alexa and Google. In addition to the big two, Samsung also works with Nest and SmartThings. Bosch Home Connect appliances link to Nest, Alexa and Amazon Dash.

Amazon is moving into the appliance arena. There’s the AmazonBasic Microwave, which is voice controlled, and soon there will be the Echo Wall Clock.

Frigidaire’s Cool Connect Smart Air Conditioners can be controlled via Echo or Google Home. Delta Faucet has a smart water faucet that works with Alexa. And as Apple’s HomePod makes inroads into more homes, Siri will become integrated into household appliances as well.

LG Electronics is also working with third-party vendors to enhance their connected appliances. Plus they’ve developed their own ThinQ line of voice-controlled appliances that learn and become more efficient with LG’s own DeepThinQ AI technology. ThinQ air conditioners also have the ability to learn and analyze living patterns.

This raises the bigger picture of how applicable AI, or machine learning, is to smart home technology. The Nest thermostat was one of the first devices to incorporate AI to learn user patterns in the home—without a user’s direct input. An article in Digital Trends came to the conclusion that AI has too many limitations at present to be at the center of full smart-home autonomy. Another Digital Trends article explains that machine learning is essentially a statistics-focused ability to take data and apply algorithms to it in order to gain knowledge.

So, although true AI use in the home may be slow going, it is the Holy Grail of smart home automation, guaranteeing more and more AI integration into devices.

Smart homes with voice activated security and monitoring systems

Not only is the home becoming connected through smart devices, voice control is playing a bigger part. Component devices for security and monitoring that communicate via Amazon, Google or Siri voice technology use a matching smart speaker or module as the hub.

Both Amazon and Google have opened their platforms to third-party developers to create what are, in essence, apps. Amazon has more than 50,000 third-party “skills” and counting while Google Assistant claims more than a million “actions.” Both allow the creation of basic integrations using the IFTTT web service. Apple has been slow to add approved, third-party apps that will work with Siri. How much this will hamper expandability remains to be seen.

Many companies have their systems compatible with more than one voice assistant. Or, they offer component variants, one for each system. To keep track of the latest listings of supported devices for each of the three major systems, these are three key links you should bookmark as you work with customers to help them mix and match devices:

Incidentally, if language is an issue, Tom’s Guide notes that Siri is available in more than 30 countries and 20 languages. Google Home is available in seven countries and 5 languages—English, German, French, Italian and Japanese. And although it is available in many countries, Alexa devices only have command of two languages—English and German.

“Hey Retailer!”

This is your wake command to hop on the voice-activated revolution. As consumers get more comfortable talking to voice assistants, and companies make more products that work with them, you need to be front and center. Be prepared to help your customers find what works best for them. Carry smart products that will appeal to custom installers as well as DIYers. And be sure to check out our SmartestHome™ category of home automation and security products for the latest products you can stock on your shelves.

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