As more companies (like Samsung and Xiaomi/Microsoft) enter the smart speaker market with their own products and voice assistants, the sources of product differentiation will eventually disappear:

  • form factor is the same
  • access to unlimited music subscription services are the same
  • ecosystem connectivity will be (largely) the same
  • price points will be the same and will fluctuate at the same time
  • brand reputation is pretty comparable.

The only source of clear, definable comparison for consumers will be how much they ‘like’ the personal assistant. Consumers will assign human-like attributes to Alexa, et al. based on how it responds, when it responds, how it understands and what it does.

I think this is already starting to happen. I look at the behaviour of my children who don’t over-think this type of stuff. To them it isn’t a product, it is a person. Her form factor is irrelevant. She sits in the corner, helping out and settling arguments (or creates them if somebody plays the Greatest Showman soundtrack again). She does a couple of things really well and we are starting to integrate her into our daily lives without thinking.

Soon we’ll take it for granted that our smart speaker talks to our lightbulbs, TVs, cameras and thermostats. Support for all of the major smart home devices will be assumed, as will the access to a music subscription service offering 40m songs. We’ll all accept the cylinder style form factor that they all adopt. The result is that there will be a number of products that do largely the same thing as each other.

But the way the personal assistant responds is where the major opportunities will be. My colleague Chris blogged about the opportunity to add more personality to the personal assistants earlier this month. His point was that if you give the personal assistant greater intelligence and the chance to understand local context, then you can help it to help us. The outcome is that they end up being liked more and eventually indispensable.

Yes, I can ask all of the personal assistants to turn my thermostat up or my lights on, but I want the one that is understanding ways it can help me and my family even when I’m not there. That is the personal assistant that gets the trusted, much sought-after, holy grail place at the centre of my home.

I want it to detect if something is happening while we are all out. I want it to alert me to things going on that I can’t hear or see; to help me communicate or listen to my music over the other sounds around me without me having to tell it what to do. I want it to track my family’s wellbeing and know the right time to offer help.

It won’t be enough to just offer a voice interface as more people enter the space. That was enough in 2016 and 2017. In 2018 the personal assistants need to up their game.

You can read more about the opportunity for sound recognition in smart speakers in a report that analyst firm IDC published recently. Download for free here.


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About Audio Analytic

Audio Analytic is the pioneer of AI sound recognition software. The company is on a mission to map the world of sounds, offering our sense of hearing to consumer technology. By transferring our sense of hearing to consumer products and digital personal assistants we give them the ability to react to the world around us, helping satisfy our entertainment, safety, security, wellbeing and communication needs.

Audio Analytic’s ai3™ sound recognition software enables device manufacturers and chip companies to equip products with Artificial Audio Intelligence, recognizing and automatically responding to our growing list of sound profiles.