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The world loves smart speakers - and China leads the way

23 Apr 2019
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People across the world love their smart speakers – and we have AI assistants like Amazon Alexa to thank for the revolution.

New stats from analytics firm Canalys show that there will be more almost 208 million installed smart speakers this year alone, an 82.4% increase from 114 million units in 2018.

Canalys even predicts that smart speakers will be more popular than the humble tablet by the end of 2021. What’s more, wearable bands will also become more popular.

What’s driving all of this popularity? It seems that people in East Asia - China in particular - love smart speakers. 

The Chinese market is one of the world’s most competitive markets, even though Google and Amazon barely get a look-in when it comes to smart assistant technology.

Canalys believes China’s smart speaker installed base will reach 59.9 million units by the end of 2019. That’s a lot of units, especially when consumers are picky about what they want.

“Local vendors are bullish about China’s smart speaker market, and their aim for this year is to keep growing their respective installed bases in the country by shipping more devices into households,” continues Low. 

“Hardware differentiation is becoming increasingly difficult, and consumers have higher expectations of smart speakers and smart assistants. Vendors will need to focus on marketing the next-generation ‘wow factor’ for their respective smart assistants and voice services to change consumers’ perception and drive greater adoption.”

And it’s not just humble home users who are driving the growth – it’s seeing a boost in industries such as government and healthcare.

“The growing installed base of smart speakers is an opportunity to create new business models and to drive profit beyond music and audio content streaming services,” says Canalys senior analyst Jason Low. 

“Smart assistants are becoming a conduit to offer services, such as assisted living, healthcare and government services. Smart speakers and smart displays are relatively new device categories for service entities, and platform vendors have a responsibility to ensure that partners and developers know how to use them and their smart assistants to get the most value out of every interaction with end users.”

Canalys also has some advice for those who use smart speakers in their workplace. 

“The extended ICT industry should now take note of the size and speed of smart speaker market growth, as well as the rising use of smart assistants.” 

“Vendors want smart assistants to be the default option for channelling vital information and communication duties for the masses, allowing for new service integration, such as digital health and assisted living. Extended technology players in the fields of security, finance, health, data analytics and others should be on the lookout for new opportunities arising from this trend,” Low concludes.