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A Glimpse Into the Future: Are Smart Speakers the Next Big Thing?

The rapid technological advancements, coupled with the need to engage in several activities at once, have propelled the usage of the new must-have gadgets, or the so-called ‘smart speakers’.

But, what actually is a smart speaker and what it can do for us?

It is a small Wi-Fi connected speaker which is controlled by voice commands. A smart speaker can do everything from playing your favorite tunes to turning on the lights, setting the thermostat, asking general questions, getting weather updates, setting alarm or timer, etc.

All of the key tech companies, including Google and Apple, have created their own versions. Smart speakers come in different shapes, sizes and prices. Determining how much to spend on smart speakers depends also on where the device will be placed at your home. There are some smaller versions such as Google Home Mini or Amazon Echo Dot which will fit in more places.

These devices are activated only when the so-called ‘wake-word’ is used. For example, if you are using an Amazon device, the device will be activated when using the word ‘Alexa’, or if you are using Google device, it will be activated after recognizing that wake-word ‘Hey Google’ or ‘OK Google’. The information is collected in a digital log and it can be accessed and deleted by the owner of the device.

According to SUMO, the devices are mainly positioned in the living room (50%), kitchen (21%) and bedroom (19%). This report also found out that 52% of the owners of these devices claimed to love how convenient these devices are, whereas 48% of respondents showed that they like the ability to do things hands-free. In addition, it was concluded that 35% of customers have bought products via voice, from which 20% have purchased grocery, 17% electronics and 8% clothing.

“The estimated number of smart speakers to be shipped in 2018 is more than 56 million. According to Smart Speaker Market by IVA, the smart speaker market was valued at $ 2.68 billion in 2018, and is expected to be worth $ 11.8 billion by 2023.”

One of the major factors expected to accelerate the smart speaker market growth is the Internet of Things (IoT). Technological advancements such as virtual assistant software integration have paved new pathways for the growth of the smart speaker market. The growth of virtual assistants is expected to flourish, and this is why numerous companies are using this opportunity to integrate virtual assistant software features in the new products they launch. With the increasing number of homes installing smart speakers, the number of consumers engaging in voice shopping is increasing too.

smart-speakers-Google-Home- Mini

Are businesses taking advantage of smart speakers?

As the technology advances and customers are increasingly becoming comfortable with voice technology, the companies will have huge potential and more opportunities to sell their products to smart speaker owners. Why should businesses care about smart speakers? Because this is what customers are doing. Considering that consumers are using these technologies and are more dependent on voice search than ever before, businesses need to do the same.

The privacy concerns

One of the main factors restraining the expansion of the smart speaker market is the privacy issue. Privacy continues to remain a concerning issue for users, and this is why a high number of potential customers are still skeptical about having smart speakers at their homes. As to contribute to the lack of trust in these devices, it was reported that the Amazon’s smart speaker Alexa was activated even without the owner’s request.

The truth is that smart speakers are always listening, and over time these devices will potentially gather and hold valuable personal data about us and our habits. We know that this may be a golden opportunity for cybercriminals and hackers interested in stealing money or a person’s identity. One of the biggest fears that owners of smart speakers have is that someone could use the device to make a purchase without his or her approval.

Even though the voice assistant will ask to confirm the purchase, it has been reported that some children have ordered toys through Alexa without their parents’ knowledge, and they approved the purchase themselves. Yes, you want to buy toys to your children – but with your consent!

Undoubtedly, smart speakers represent the latest, fast-growing trend in the tech world. However, in terms of privacy and security, there are still concerns that need to be addressed and thoroughly clarified. It is very likely that the convenience of virtual assistants will come with a privacy trade-off. The owners of these devices will have to decide whether they want a virtual assistant that is less accurate, but is more secure in terms of privacy, or accept an increased level of risk in terms of security and go with a very sophisticated device.

Sometimes people tend to give up something in order to get something else that satisfies their needs. In this case, they are risking something truly valuable – their privacy. Hence, questions such as “Is it worth it?” may cross your minds. Regardless of the choice you make, we can all acknowledge that the new virtual era has never looked more promising.

This encourages us to think how voice technology will change the consumer behavior and what brands and retailers can expect from the future of voice shopping?

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