There are significant advances being made in voice recognition that will see consumers’ homes become increasingly powered by conversational interfaces.
Amazon released its Alexa platform in late 2014 and, with its 2016 European launch, is moving from the early-adopter phase to mass-market acceptance. According to Mary Meeker’s 2016 Trend Report, while only 4.4 million Amazon Echo units have been sold so far, a million of those were bought in Q1 2016 alone, which suggests uptake is accelerating. And given Amazon’s reach, with roughly 54 million Prime members, the number of Echo owners is expected to increase rapidly.
But Amazon is not the only player in this space. Google recently released its Home product, which, while similar to Amazon’s Alexa range, aims to be more adept at controlling smart home devices, starting with Google’s Nest products and Google Cast-enabled hardware.
Devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Home are able to organise a user’s life, updating them with the weather, managing calendar appointments, streaming music and responding to information requests. But where they add real value beyond smartphone apps, is through their ability to serve the consumer’s desire to have a single interface with which they can control other appliances around the smart home (such as GE’s Geneva-powered kitchen range), or order products through Amazon, a pizza from Domino’s, or book an Uber.