When Apple debuted its iPhone in 2007, the device revolutionized the way we communicated with the world. The meticulous design of the iPhone inspired several tech companies to launch their own smartphones, increasing its prevalence and use across the world. Similarly, the launch of Amazon Echo in 2015 helped kick-start the era of smart speakers. Utilizing the capabilities of Artificial Intelligence (AI) driven integrated virtual assistant, they are essentially a voice command device that uses hands-free activation to offer numerous interactive action. The gadget can play music, check the weather, append your to-do-list, and control other home automation devices – by simply identifying your voice and understanding the command.
Nonetheless, while Apple remained the most prolific player in the smartphone market for over a decade, the same can’t be said about Amazon. By launching Echo and Echo Dot in the market, Amazon had a significant head-start on the smart speakers market. In 2017, according to a report from research firm Canalys, Amazon had shipped 82% of all smart speakers worldwide. However, the advent of Google’s Home series, saw the number being dropped down to 25% in 2018. Meanwhile, Google managed to acquire 32% of the market share, selling almost 6 million devices worldwide.
So why has Amazon failed to capitalize on its Alexa driven smart speakers? One of the initial promising ideas that drove Amazon to the market was that consumers would use their product to conduct online shopping. However, various studies have shown that people aren’t interested in using smart speakers to shop online. In fact, Amazon’s internal data had shown that only 2% of people have made a purchase using their voice-activated devices.
Moreover, Google’s AI, Google Assistant, has shown far superior capabilities than Alexa. Also, Google’s broader knowledge base and stronger international presence have allowed them to slowly capture the smart speaker market. More recently, Google has teamed up with Lenovo to build its first smart speaker with a screen. The display-enabled device, while still relying on voice commands, could be used to play YouTube videos, check calendars and view maps. The device will provide competition to Amazon’s Echo Show, which had only manage to ship 315,000 units in 2017. In contrast, Google’s aggressive campaign estimates to sell more than 3 million units for the first batch of its display equipped smart speaker.
Moreover, the emergence of smart speakers from Chinese tech giants Alibaba and Xiomi has also managed to capture a portion of the global market. They currently occupy 18% and 12% of the global consumer base, respectively. A majority of these smart speakers work on the principle of combining to an already existing ecosystem. To circumvent this problem, Musicoin Project and ROCKI have come together to develop the idea for the world’s first Blockchain-powered smart speaker, called Volareo. The smart speaker will use a decentralized system working on encryption to ensure privacy and data protection among its users.
It’s estimated that the number of installed smart speakers will exceed 100 million in 2018, increasing by three times since 2017. The numbers indicate that the demand is booming for the smart speakers – as consumers are viewing it as the next big thing since the advent of smartphones. The advancement of facial recognition will append the speech recognition technique to help build display oriented smart speakers as a staple in every household.