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Imagine you arrive home at the end of a long day. The outside lights are on to greet you. As you enter the house, the temperature is comfortable, and the indoor lights blink on as you enter each room. You want to relax with a movie or catch up on your favorite television series, but first, you check in, “Computer, play my messages.” There’s one from your kid, asking you to feed the dog and take him out when you get home. Before you let the dog into the yard, you save yourself from a wet mess by asking, “Computer, when are the sprinklers set to turn on?”
Finally, you collapse on the couch with the dog. “Computer, play the latest episode of Game of Thrones.” Your digital assistant replies, “Okay. I’ll play Game of Thrones. Would you like me to place your phone on do not disturb or order you a pizza?” The lights dim, the blinds adjust, and the entertainment system turns on while you contemplate dinner.
Children born this year won’t know a world without a digital assistant in every home. Your mother in law will be able to operate your entertainment system without feeling overwhelmed. While smartphone apps allow us to do everything and anything, voice control is all about making a multi-step task easier.
Nowhere will this be a bigger innovation than in entertainment where the overabundance of streaming apps, devices, and the remotes to control them have spawned overwhelm.
The rise of voice control in the form of Amazon Alexa and Google Home enables single interface control of lights, entertainment devices, and content delivery. Smart home automation was available before voice control, but it required multiple smartphone apps to control.
According to Parks Associates, 17% of U.S. broadband households own both an Internet-connected entertainment device and a smart home device. As technology advances, consumers will embrace more Internet of Things (IoT) devices like locks and thermostats, but they want a single interface to control all of the Things.
As voice interaction becomes more popular, consumers will lean toward smart home devices and streaming services that operate with their digital assistant ecosystem. Choosing a streaming service will no longer be about which product is the least costly, but will also include whether the device can communicate with other connected services and digital assistant platforms in the home.
Discovering and deciding what to watch has changed since cord-cutting became popular. Scott Hancock, VP Marketing at Plex, says that apps are the new channels. Instead of switching from channel to channel to see what’s on, consumers are more likely to switch between apps from services like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube.
If you’re like most Americans, the first smart, internet-connected device that you bought was a smart TV or streaming device. As your entertainment system got more sophisticated, it expanded beyond a single device and added a remote control or app with each addition. Although consumers have more content delivery choices than ever, what they’re seeking is an interface to manage the chaos.
Being able to use the same interface, like Alexa, lowers the risk of purchasing and installing a new technology device. For example, consumers are more comfortable setting up an Alexa-compatible thermostat if they already have an Alexa-compatible television. (Editor's Note: NoCable has an Alexa app!)
Smart home technology, like personal assistants on smart speakers, can ease the pain of integrating multiple systems and services by making the process more intuitive. But customers won’t be satisfied if they have to ask Alexa to control the lights and Siri to control their TV.
Consumers want a holistic solution that makes their lives easier across their connected experiences. The only way it will work is by choosing one assistant who learns your preferences and gets smarter every day so it can add value in terms of convenience and time savings.
More than a quarter of American households with broadband already have at least one smart home device, like a door lock, doorbell, or thermostat. It is estimated that 55% of households will have smart speakers by 2021.
Although these figures may seem like households have locked into an ecosystem, the hardware required to use the Next Gen TV standards will disrupt the market enough that consumers will have a chance to reset.
As we head into Next Gen TV era, consumers will have to purchase compatible hardware to receive the upgraded broadcast signals. People invested in home entertainment will likely opt to purchase a new 4K-compatible TV to reap the benefits of a higher resolution picture and high-quality audio rather than outfit their current setup with an adapter.
One of the big drivers of new purchases will be voice compatibility. Interoperability of devices and partnerships between providers can influence purchase decisions. We’ve already seen confirmation in the smart home market that consumers prefer interface consistency across their connected experiences. The forced upgrade to accommodate Next Gen standards will simply provide an opportunity for mass conversion to a single platform. This desire for simplicity drives their choice of connected platforms.
Amazon has an advantage over other entertainment providers. Alexa is the only assistant who can be given verbal instructions to purchase a movie, stream it through Amazon Prime Video, and play it on a Fire TV. With Alexa as a digital assistant, programmable Skills for integration, entertainment content channels, and the Amazon Fire TV line, the world’s largest bookstore has an end-to-end solution unmatched by any other company.
Microsoft comes closest with their digital assistant Cortana and the Xbox platform with content delivery but doesn’t have the smart home integration to keep up with Alexa. Game consoles are as numerous as smart TVs and have a technology literate user base, so even without a full solution, it’s possible to compete in the environment.
While voice offers a major opportunity to interact with IoT devices seamlessly, it introduces a level of complexity so far only attempted by the tech crowd. Research indicates that the products are trickling into the mainstream, with a quarter of US broadband households stating an intention to purchase a smart speaker or smart door lock next year. Amazon’s early market dominance as a digital assistant combined with the recent purchase of smart home manufacturers like Ring gives it a distinct advantage in becoming the whole home solution.
Megan Southard is a writer, mom, technology enthusiast, and movie junkie. She dreads the day her kids have to explain gadgets to her and is old enough to say, "I was the remote for our TV growing up."
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