Smart Speakers Driving Smart Home Growth Opportunity

NEW YORK— The year ahead could be one of solid growth for smart home as continued expansion of smart speakers such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home platforms are allowing more consumers to easily connect with various products around the home.

The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) for 2019 estimates that retail sales in the U.S. consumer technology industry will grow 3.9% to $398 billion. Products such as smartphones, smart home devices and smart speakers are seen as key drivers as more consumers accept these products into their homes.

As smart home has gained more attention from consumers, a large majority of product sales have been focused on home security items.

In addition, smart speakers are expected to see another strong year of growth. The CTA estimates that 36.6 million smart speakers will be sold in 2019, a 5% increase year-over-year with total sales expected to hit $3.2 billion.

Within housewares, there has been some movement with product development of smart home products after years of modest growth. While suppliers, especially those in the kitchen electrics segment, have been monitoring the evolution of smart home, many have been reluctant to invest significant amounts of product development dollars. Their main concern was that consumers would not spend extra for a smart home appliance.

But kitchen electrics suppliers including Gourmia and Chefman are among the companies putting greater emphasis on smart home and connected home products. Select Gourmia appliances have connectivity to popular platforms such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home. Chefman at the recent Consumer Electronics Show featured the beta release of its Chef IQ app.

But some experts feel that growth of smart home products in the kitchen, be they countertop appliances or major appliances, may depend on their connectivity to smart speakers such as those from Amazon and Google.

“The digital assistants and smart speakers are the main stepping stones for people to get interested in smart home,” said Rick Kowalski, senior manager, industry and business intelligence with the CTA. “Consumers often buy one and will then get a second. Right now, about 25% of households have a smart speaker.”

One area of housewares where smart home has played an important role is the category that CTA classifies as home robots, which includes robotic vacuums. CTA figures estimate 3.4 million units of home robots (inclusive of vacuums and lawnmowers) will be shipped in 2019 accounting for nearly $1 billion in revenue.

“Products such as robotic vacuums have automated tedious home tasks,” Kowalski said. “They were not originally connected products, but the new versions are now able to be commanded using smart assistants.”

He noted the growth of smart speakers also bring smart home capabilities to those consumers who are not home owners, but rent an apartment or condominium.