Smart devices and the IoT market are poised to become considerable sources of revenue for the technology industry as well as significant elements of our lives over the next few years. All the major technology companies including Google, Apple, Samsung, and Amazon are heavily invested in the IoT trade with a multitude of different gadgets and equipment suited for all intents and purposes. One area which is often overlooked in these discussions, however, are ‘hearables’, smart devices which are entirely designed for audio.
The market will triple in sales over the next four years
A new study by Juniper Research suggests that the smart audio market will triple in revenue over the next four years, from $1.4 billion to over $5.5 billion by 2020. This is in line with projections by Cisco for the overall IoT market which is positioned to grow exponentially during the same period. According to Juniper, there are four different areas in which smart audio devices will focus on: fitness tracking, translation, ‘augmented listening’, and audio personal assistance.
While the first two markets are quite niche and will likely remain so, the latter two already have strong technologies behind them. To start with, augmented listening covers a wide range of uses both medical and entertainment wise. For medical purposes, smart audio devices may even serve as replacements to traditional hearing aids as technology will allow companies to introduce a far wider range of features. For instance, specific audio filtering and offering audio-based guidance are two features which are easily found in commercial devices such as ‘Here’ by Doppler Labs. Of course, introducing such devices as medical aids will take time and effort and they might not make an actual dent in a very-focused market as hearing aids are complex devices which are absolutely necessary for some people.
Smart audio assistants to become the norm
Moving on from that, audio personal assistants have already arrived in the marketplace and are likely to become increasingly common as we move towards the future. Amazon managed to make the biggest impact with the release of Echo, a device powered by its own personal assistant called Alexa. However, Amazon’s target audience for such devices is quite limited and usually serves to augment its other services. While Alexa is formidable and the Echo has an incredible number of uses, it suffers from basic problems like subpar speakers.
An answer to Echo from other big companies was anticipated by many and it has now arrived in the form of Google Home and Apple’s HomeKit. The first is a direct competitor to Echo, a cylindrical device equipped with Google’s own personal assistant, great speakers, and the ability to connect with a multitude of other devices including Google’s own Chromecast. In comparison, Apple wants to create an entire ecosystem of HomeKit-enabled devices which will be able to turn any regular home into a smart one, provided you are able to purchase a number of assorted devices.
Google and Apple to reach the entire world
The key thing to note here is that both Apple and Google have a much wider audience than Amazon could ever hope for, at least as far as mobile devices and their ecosystems are concerned. Both companies know how to market their products and already have an established idea of their personal assistants which can be found in any Android and iOS device with Google Now and Siri, respectively.
Overall, the market’s growth is going to be based on a variety of predetermined factors. Juniper suggests that the maturity of the smartphone market will play a huge role as a market driver for connected devices in general as well as smart audio devices in particular. As more people become connected to the grid, the chances of any single person adopting to an ecosystem of connected devices subsequently increases. Soon, smart audio devices may well be considered an integral part of any home as the IoT market, along with the release of the 5G network, will lead to a new era of connectivity.
Sony Xperia Ear
Of course, there is still a lot of room for growth. There are still huge limits in these technologies and they do not respond nearly as well in real life as one might see in promotional materials. Even so, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that, as the technology matures, people will be more inclined to buy into such ecosystems. Whether it is a simple smart headset or an entire ecosystem based around devices like Echo and Google Home, the market will certainly grow considerably in the next few years.