The smart home has been with us for many years, but we at Futuresource Consulting believe that the boom in voice assistant wireless speakers is driving up awareness of its benefits to a whole new level.
Smart speakers – mostly based on the Alexa and Google voice platforms – are one of the fastest growing categories in consumer electronics. Consumers splashed out $2.8 billion on nearly 28 million units worldwide in 2017 and Futuresource forecasts that sales will grow by a further 90 percent this year. By 2022, we figure 388 million will be in use, half of which in North America.
Whilst buyers of Echo, Google Home, etc. are undoubtedly initially most attracted by the ability to play music on these speakers, our consumer research reveals that they also recognize these devices support applications beyond audio. Already 16 percent of smart speaker owners claim to be controlling lighting via their smart speaker, with 6 percent controlling their heating in this way. Owners believe that voice control can be a very effective interface with connected devices in the home, and 45 percent of those surveyed reckon they’ll be using their smart speaker for these purposes in the future. This will have a substantial impact on the smart home industry.
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In fact, smart speakers are now the most likely first smart home device that people will own beyond a smart TV. In a survey we conducted in May, smart speakers led the field in terms of smart home device popularity and adoption, closely followed by climate control, which itself is slightly ahead of security, followed by lighting and smart monitoring devices, such as smoke detectors.
Wireless multiroom audio remains a boom area, with 2.8 million speakers shipping last year. This is no longer the sole province of Sonos; Amazon and Google (thanks to its Cast technology) and Airplay 2 from Apple are all making multiroom an easy addition to the home. In addition to speakers themselves, there is an increasing number of soundbars, Hi-Fi’s, and other audio devices now featuring the ability to hook up to a network to offer multiroom audio options.
Wireless speakers are not the only engine of growth in the home audio market though. There remains strong appetite for soundbars. Futuresource anticipates that 18 million units will ship globally this year, up 7 percent on 2017. The average price grew by 12 percent last year to $263. People are prepared to spend more on their soundbar these days to enjoy the additional benefits brought by features such as Dolby Atmos and WiFi connectivity. Soundbars will also start to interface with the smart home, and we figure that a third of soundbars that sell in 2022 will also feature voice assistance.
The continued mass migration to streaming music services, coupled with the smart functionality now available in wireless speakers, is making this a new golden age for audio.
Jack Wetherill is Principal Analyst, Home Electronics at Futuresource Consulting