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ABI Finds Voice Critical to Smart Home

ABI Research has identified the smart home as the greatest new market for speech systems.
By Phillip Britt - Posted Aug 16, 2016
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While Siri and Google Now are well-established smartphone features, it is in the smart home that voice control systems will live out their full potential, according to a new report from ABI Research.

The analyst firm says the smart home market is reaching an inflection point, with service providers, including telcos, cable operators, and home security companies, as well as retailers and device manufacturers alike bringing a range of new hardware, services, and offers to market.

Compounding this complexity is the intersection of smart home services and ecosystems with wearables, new sensor technologies, big data and analytics, and health management services. So large and small companies alike are offering a growing range of simple connected devices, pushing smart home services into more and more homes and forcing long-standing specialists to adapt just to remain competitive.

According to ABI Research, surviving in the new competitive environment means staying hyper-aware of a range of vectors, including the latest consumer product and service trends, emerging connectivity options, product mixes, service delivery and platform approaches, and ecosystem partner developments.

ABI Research expects smart TVs, smart refrigerators, smart plugs, and similar devices to offer simple interfaces that use voice-based technologies to control the smart home environment. The firm further forecasts more than 120 million voice-enabled devices to ship annually by 2021. So voice control, which combines speech recognition and natural language processing, is quickly becoming the key user interface within the smart home, it concluded.

"Led by the success of Amazon's Alexa platform, smart home voice control is creating new competition and demands for wireless speaker and other vendors to include voice capabilities in their devices," said Jonathan Collins, research director at ABI Research, in a statement. "But the scaling of voice control applications in the smart home breeds complexity. Vendors will need to evaluate how and when to bring voice control into smart home devices in order to best tackle adding the service into wider smart home systems."

According to ABI Research, new microphone-enhanced products will extend the ability to hear voice commands throughout a smart home environment that is likely to include security cameras, doorbells, and smart lighting. A number of vendors, such as Google with its learning thermostat Nest, are already expanding their products to support listening capabilities, according to the report.

However, ABI Research points out that tying multiple listening and voice-controlled devices together into a coherent smart home system will require a shared voice platform, and right now that uniformity doesn’t exist. Each of the primary home voice platform providers—Apple, Amazon, and Google—all have their own approaches and ways of leveraging their voice capabilities to extend and support their core businesses.

"As more devices support voice control, new voice platforms will increasingly aim to support device and service providers," Collins added. "In the past few months, for example, Viv Labs emerged as a company focused solely on extending its voice platform to as many services and devices as possible without tying it to a sub-strategy of boosting the appeal of a separate core business."


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