As adoption of smart home devices continues to grow, the smart home needs an interface to connect all the moving pieces in the home. For devices that are connected to cloud APIs, voice control has been transformational. While the UI experience is compelling, the true value of voice assistants is in their ability to unify control of fragmented and even disparate ecosystems. Consumers with smart home devices that are not part of a larger home control system (which is the majority of smart home device owners), get their first real taste of the connected home concept, not the connected product concept, when they link their smart home devices with a voice-first smart speaker.
Consumer Use of Voice Assistant Apps and Devices
From the beginning of 2016 through Q4 2018, adoption of smart speakers with voice assistants has grown tenfold to reach 31% of U.S. broadband households. By the end of 2019, these devices will be in over 40% of U.S. broadband households.
Voice assistants will continue to make gains in accuracy and value as their underlying intelligence actually improve with consumer use. Both Amazon and Google are working on natural language learning using AI and machine learning to allow these voice assistants to understand accents, nuances, and other subtleties in different voices, so the interaction is much more fluent and frictionless. Greater accuracy and capabilities will in turn push adoption and use of voice assistants ever higher.
Voice as a User Interface for Smart Home Control
Voice control of smart home products is gaining traction. As of Q4 2018, 37% of smart home device owners reported controlling a smart home product with their voice. Until recently, controlling the smart home was only possible with proprietary touch panels, mobile device apps, or keypads. Voice control has since become an inevitable standard helping to revolutionize the home automation industry by allowing people to speak naturally to interact with and control the technology associated with it.
Personal assistants are increasingly proactive, automatically suggesting information on users’ smartphones that might be relevant in the moment. Equipped with machine learning algorithms and access to data provided by the ever-increasing number of sensors in the home, assistants will require less intentional input as they learn and will provide more in-the-moment assistance across consumer ecosystems.
As the ecosystem of voice technologies continues to grow, players must evaluate their market strategies and plan accordingly for long-term success. Not only must device makers cater to the demand for voice capabilities, they must also deliver a robust user experience. To design great voice user interfaces, manufacturers have to provide an elegant way to give users missing information about use case scenarios without overwhelming them. Expectations of voice assistants can be high due to misconception of AI based solutions, so clear communication of uses cases is necessary to mitigate disappointing users.
Parks Associates will share insights on the convergence of voice-first technologies and the smart home at VOICE Summit 2019, sponsored by Amazon Alexa. Chris O'Dell, Research Associate, Parks Associates, will moderate the session Creating Awesome, Trusted Voice Experiences for Consumers at VOICE Summit 2019 on Wednesday, July 24 at 4:00 p.m.
For further reading on the use of voice in the smart home ecosystem, please check out Parks Associates’ report Technology Convergence and the Smart Home.