Smart speakers make smart solutions

We are currently entering an age of technological convenience, with wireless connectivity and voice control in popular demand and consumers looking to their devices to make significant time-savings in their busy day-to-day lifestyles. In 2018, it is no longer just about possessing individual gadgets, such as the latest smartphone, tablet or speaker, instead it’s about connecting and combining key functions of various electronic devices and accessories in the creation of a customised ‘smart’ environment in our homes and offices or worn about our person.

Dominating annual growth trends in the connected home sector is the smart speaker category, with one in 10 people in the UK now thought to own one. Though this may not sound that significant, consider it alongside recent reports from marketing intelligence firm IDC Worldwide predicting an extremely encouraging 39.1% four-year CAGR, and one can begin to understand the scale of growth anticipated. However, despite these figures, the exact definition of a ‘smart’ speaker remains a somewhat subjective one, causing some confusion amongst both retailers and consumers alike.

So, what exactly is a smart speaker? Though considered a reasonably broad term, the majority of the tech industry seem to have agreed that for a speaker to be deemed ‘smart’ it has to have some degree of integrated voice control. Up until now, the most prominent voice control service has been Amazon’s Alexa, laying claim to the lion’s share of the market and dominating heavily over competitors, such as Google Home, Siri and Cortana. No real surprise, considering Amazon was arguably the one that invented the market in the first place through release of the Amazon Echo back in 2016 (2015 in the US).

Competing on a multitude of levels, dominating in this marketplace is not just about in and out sales of their own voice enabled devices, it’s about integration into consumers’ homes and lifestyles as a whole. Where once the only demand for this type of smart speaker was for use within the main living space, we are now seeing the same consumers coming back and purchasing additional speakers, often upgrading the original unit with something with more volume and bite, such as our Audio Pro Addon C5A. Smaller models are then relocated into the bedroom or kitchen, expanding the system further into the home and promoting future sales.

The multi-room audio streaming capabilities of the Audio Pro C-Series and other similar connected speaker systems allow users to play different music in different rooms around the home by linking together across a WiFi network, all controlled centrally via an app. During the course of 2018, Hama UK, along with a host of other brands, has been seen to adopt the same wireless smart living concept and successfully integrate voice assistant software into its own products and tech.

It is no longer just nearby smart speakers that voice control is limited to – cars, smartwatches and lightbulbs have all been seen to incorporate this technology. Security and home monitoring is an equally hot topic, predicted by IDC Worldwide to make up 19.4% of the smart home market by the end of 2022.

The rapid rise of smart technology within the consumer marketplace suddenly places PC retailers in an extremely advantageous position for both the coming year and beyond. Not only will they find they are able to benefit from the resulting demand for technical support and network products with regards to the smart home setup, the once gaping chasm between PC and audio retail has ultimately been transformed into a marginal divide.

As users stream music and sync to other devices throughout their home via their home network, mobile device and/or laptop, it will be the PC retailers they look to, allowing these stores valuable diversification into the growing and profitable audio market.

Ben Jones is Senior Product Manager at Hama.

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