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  • feedwordpress 16:35:26 on 2017/12/01 Permalink
    Tags:   

    Self Driving Cars will save you Time and Money 

    Mercedes Self driving car concept: Let’s look at each other!

    With a self driving car, what will you do with that extra time and money? Plan now, they arrive in 2–3 years.

    Time Savings:
    The average American commuter spends 50 minutes a day going to work and back. With self driving cars emerging in just 2–3 years, what will you do with your reclaimed time?

    Me? I sometimes take an Uber or Lyft to downtown SF from Silicon Valley, traffic is gnarly, parking is frustrating and expensive. I use this downtime to: catch up on emails, listen to audiobooks/music and relax or take a nap — it’s already like a self driving car.

    BMW’s self driving car concept, I’ve seen this first-hand, impressive.

    Economic Savings:
    I live on the Peninsula near Facebook/Box/Oracle. My Uber or Lyft costs to 1 Market in SF which is 24 miles away, is $42–100 depending on time of day or type of ride, one way. I don’t have to pay $25 parking, gas or wear or tear (which is $13.20, calculated on 55 cents per mile write off per us tax code, a total of $38.20) so my actual cost is a mere $4 if I take the least expensive ride.

    Once self-driving Uber’s and Lyft’s emerge (Uber just agreed to buy 24,000 Self driving Volvo’s) the cost of my ride will plummet as there’s no human, it’s possible the overall economics would be a net positive.

    Some economic models (link in comments) predict that the cost of a self driving ride as a service could be as low as 35 cents a mile. Which mean my ride would go from $42 with a human driver, down to $8.20 one way, which is still tax deductible. That’s cheaper than parking at Caltrain and taking the train in, which would also take longer, and still require a transfer, you’ll be lucky to get a seat, during rush hour.

    Social Impact:
    Of course there are significant impacts, as the most common job code in most American states is “professional driver” we will need to offer either updated skills and roles for them, or switch to an economic model that enables care for all. It’s worth noting most of these vehicles will be electric, reducing emissions.

    My prediction: some rides will eventually be free as unit economics drop, in exchange for advertising, marketing or even data provided. Marketers will pay top dollar for a truly captive audience.

    Photos: Volvo self driving car recliner, Mercedes seats face each other, BMW (Bronze sedan) which I’ve seen and touched multiple times.

    Volvo’s luxury image offers a laid back experience
     
  • feedwordpress 12:03:51 on 2017/11/26 Permalink
    Tags: , Consumer, Future-Proofing   

    The Future of Shopping Does Not Involve Carts 

    It’s Thanksgiving weekend, and crazed consumerism is the top activity, both on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and everywhere in between. Many shoppers are filling up physical shopping carts (hopefully avoiding a nasty elbow or two) and online shoppers are filling up digital shopping carts. Shopping carts (both physical and digital) will be an anachronism in just several years.

    In the near-distant future, goods will be delivered before we realize we want them, in a predictive manner. As we interact with products at physical showrooms or online, samples will arrive to our homes within hours, enabling us to try-and-buy, in a fremium model, that we’re already used to with online web services, like online photo sites, online storage, or email applications.

    Imagine liking a jacket on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter a photo from your favorite clothing brand, or maybe you engaged with the product while at the actual physical showroom. The future marketing platforms will realize you’re a target customer, perhaps one that has purchased before, or that of a competitor, and you may have appear to be in the right geography, or indicate you’ve a job or cash.

    Within a few hours, the jacket would have arrived at your doorstep, before you realized that you really wanted to try it on. It would intuitively know your height, size and weight, providing the ideal fit. Perhaps if they didn’t know, multiple sizes of the same product would be sent to you.

    Automation enables this. Self-driving cars and trucks are emerging in just a few years, so the cost of the supply chain and home delivery will plummet, with less dependency on human labor costs. Also, it’s possible a drop box of clothes may have emerged in your garage that you granted commerce companies access to, or a drone may have air dropped it to your backyard.

    Of course, this won’t be for everyone, marketers will be sophisticated and vet out real shoppers from those that endlessly try on, without purchasing. Or perhaps you’ve already signed up for a subscription model at Trunk Club, Amazon Prime, or Stitch Fix.

    This model will even be cost-effective for consumable items too, your smart fridge, and smart kitchen will know what you want, before you do, and appropriate products will be delivered to your house, or your self-driving car will automatically pick them up while you’re sleeping or at work.

    The business model: For products that are un-wanted, the same courier systems would pick them up, return them to the warehouse, replacing stock. For some items, there may be some loss from damage, spoil, or loss. This margin will easily be offset by the opportunity to get products into customers hands, before competitors do, solving a need before customers realize they needed it.

    So there’s a glimpse into the future, marketing systems will be so intelligent, they’ll be able to predict what we want, and a whole host of products will be shipped to you. Imagine, all your Christmas presents come pre-wrapped and with holiday cards, event anticipating what your friends will want, based on social graph analysis.

    If this topic interests you, I recently gave a similar speech at TED, where I made predictions that cars will become “alive” as they’ll predict what we want, and need.

    (photo from Unsplash)

     
  • feedwordpress 22:23:23 on 2017/11/21 Permalink
    Tags: Drones,   

    Kaleido Insights’ Impact Analysis on Aerial Drones 

    By Jeremiah Owyang, Jaimy Szymanski, Jessica Groopman, and Rebecca Lieb of Kaleido Insights.

    Drone swarm. Image from the Internet of Things Institute.

    Drones aren’t just for sci-fi stories anymore. They have practical applications for the military, enterprise businesses, and consumers, and are gaining ever more traction with all segments. But this shift has much broader implications.

    Kaleido Insights’ methodology for analyzing emerging technology assesses the impacts on humans, on businesses, and on ecosystems at large. As part of our ongoing coverage, we’ll be analyzing a series of topics using our methodology to help business leaders first understand, and then see beyond the bright and shiny and cut right to what matters.

    In each post, all Kaleido Insights analysts conduct a joint analysis session around one topic (e.g. technology, event, announcement, etc.). In this post, we analyze the ecosystem impacts of drones.

    Topic: Drones

    Examples: Airobotics, DroneDeploy, Skycatch, DJI, Parrot, Zipline

    Impact Analysis: Ecosystem

    Market Adoption

    The three main segments that currently use drones are the government, enterprise businesses, and consumers. Each segment has adopted the technology at different speeds and for different reasons.

    TWith the government, the military is an early government adopter of drone technology, and is primarily associated with two types of drones: unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and swarms. Enterprise businesses have been slow to adopt drones, but there is an uptick in their adoption rates. Companies like Amazon are filing patents on drones, and industries including agriculture, real estate, and health supplies are using drone technology to operate more efficiently. Even Domino’s Pizza generated buzz last year for delivering a pizza by drone. Drones are also becoming increasingly attractive to end-consumers, mainly hobbyists, due to drone prices dropping and their availability in smaller sizes.

    While the drone market is growing, it’s difficult to quantify the growth rate for a couple of reasons. One factor is because there isn’t a consensus on how to define a drone. According to research conducted by Gartner, drone unit sales grew an estimated 60 percent to 2.2 million last year, with revenue increasing 36 percent to $4.5 billion. Data put out by the Consumer Technology Association suggests that hobbyist drones doubled in sales in the U.S. from 1.1 million sold in 2015 to 2.4 million in 2016.

    Competitive Shifts

    Drone technology is displacing current operational models across sectors. In the mail and package delivery industry, companies like UPS and DHL are confronted with the possibility that drones may do the work of their drivers. Taxi cabs and ride-sharing services are being manned by autonomous cars. Google’s Project Loon is delivering Wi-Fi through balloons.

    Image sources: Mercedes BenzBusiness Insider.

    But the market is responding to these shifts. One example is with Mercedes Benz, which developed a concept of a self-driving van that also acts as a hub and charging station for drones that can deliver goods. Another example is with advertising. Intel used out-of-home (OOH) advertising to spell INTEL with 500 drones at the Super Bowl. Advertising agencies like DroneCast and Hoovy offer “drone-vertising” services. And a Singapore advertising agencyran a test that used drones for hyper-local data collection through public Wi-Fi signals to target customers with contextually relevant, localized ads. Use cases for this type of data collection include surveillance, payload delivery, and military. In addition to advertising, drones are even being used by professional and hobby photographers to capture aerial views.

    Supply Chain

    Drones have the potential to offer significant advantages for supply chains. They can offer last-mile and same-day deliveries, helping foster a positive customer experience due to speedy deliveries. Drone fleets can also be used to track warehouse inventory using RFID tags, helping to track and reduce the number of lost supplies. The U.S. Army lost track of $5.8 billion of supplies in its warehouses between 2003 and 2011 and in 2015, the U.S. National Retail Federation reported losing track of an average of $45.2 billion of items annually.

    Ecosystem Partnerships & Integrations

    Image sources: CIO Bulletin.

    The practical applications of drones are driving companies to enter industries and create partnerships that may not have been perceived as a natural fit in the pre-drone era. In 2016, Zipline entered the medical arena by partnering with the Rwandan government to deliver medical supplies via drones. An early commercial test cut the amount of time for a medical facility to obtain blood from four hours to 15 minutes. After success in Rwanda, Zipline is now partnering with the Tanzanian government to offer similar, life-saving services beginning in 2018. But the partnership doesn’t end there. Now UPS is working with Zipline and the Gavi-Alliance to provide logistics expertise to help Zipline deliver medical supplies in remote areas.

    Drone technology is also being developed by e-commerce giants. Companies like Amazon are developing drones to safely deliver packages to customers in 30 minutes or less. China’s second largest e-commerce company, JD.com, is developing a drone that can deliver loads weighing one ton or more.

    In order for this technology to be fully realized, drones will need to be autonomous, moving safely on their own. Companies are already working on this problem. Microsoft, for example, created open source software, available on GitHub, to train drones and self-driving cars on real-world conditions, including shadows and reflections.

    Related to safety, Amazon is asking the government to designate special airspace for them to fly their drones at an altitude that separates it from commercial and military flights. Qualcomm is testing drone technology at their FAA-authorized UAS Flight Center. This is a test environment that replicates real time conditions in commercial, residential, rural and FAA controlled airspace. In Denmark, the International Test Center & Clusterincludes dedicated airspace nearing 540 square miles that covers land and sea.

    Drones also have the ability to collect information at the ‘big data’ level by capturing images of homes and landscapes, which can then be used in innovative ways. Technology patented by Amazon would allow the company to scan and collect data from the houses their drones pass, which could then be used to let customers know if they have a damaged roof or sick trees. And companies like Skycatch use drones to survey property and turn the data into maps and 3D models.

    Aerial drones also have implications for defensive measures. They can monitor the landscape for security and safety in terms of border control, police activity, customs, civilian protection, natural disasters, and environmental protection. Moreover, a counter-drone industry has emerged with about 70 companies working on the goal of disabling or shooting down other drones.

    Developer Ecosystem

    Open source drone projects are now a major method for developing drones for a number of reasons, including the ability to rapidly develop features and functionality, the cost-effectiveness, and their ability to provide a community where bugs can be resolved quickly. DroneCode Project, owned by the Linux Foundation, is one of the main players in the open source realm. But private companies have their own open source ecosystems, too, like Microsoft(mentioned earlier in this article) and DJI.

    One key area that developers and researchers will need to address is in creating autonomous drones, ones that know where they are, what is is in their path, and can then use this information to move safely and correctly. This technology, called Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) is being addressed by companies like Exyn Technologies and Parrot. In conjunction with SLAM, drones will need to be able to communicate with one another so they don’t collide. Qualcomm is testing 5G cellular technology for this purpose.

    Sustainability and Societal Impacts

    While drones offer the potential for a multitude of benefits, they also encompass drawbacks. A large issue revolves around privacy, with concerns that sensitive information or geographic areas may be captured from aerial drones and shared with unwanted parties, or that people may be spied on with facial recognition software. Physical safety is another area to consider when drones are used near airports.

    Drones also have an impact on the environment in terms of noise pollution. A preliminary study from NASA indicates that a drone’s buzzing is perceived to be more annoying to people than automobile noises, even when the volume is held constant. This confirms the demand for quieter drones which are now entering the market.

    Many drones are currently powered by lithium batteries, which aren’t ideal power sources for a couple of reasons. First, they must be disposed of at special recycling centers due to their negative impact on the environment. Second, they don’t generate enough power for drones to reach their full potential. Some alternative power sources that are being considered are oil-fired engines, a hybrid gasoline/electric solution, and hydrogen-burning fuel cells — not all of the alternatives under consideration are “clean energy.”

    Market Funding

    There are several corporate funders on the drone scene, with the big ones being Lux Capital, Qualcomm Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, and Felicis Ventures. As of March of this year, the Wall Street Journal reported that venture capitalists already invested $200 million on the global drone market. Some of this money is being funneled into services that track and deter drones that are being used for negative purposes. Droneshield is an example of a company that provides drone deterring services.

    There is also an opportunity for drones to receive funding for sports and entertainment. Amateur drone racing through the Drone Racing League (DRL) raised $20 million in Series B funding from Allianz, Sky, Liberty Media Corporation (owner of Formula 1 racing brand) and Lux Capital. More than 75 million fans watched DRL races, either online or on TV through networks like ESPN.

    International Regulatory Regimes

    With the rapid pace of drone technology advancements and more end-consumers using the technology, some governments are requiring drone registration and others are partnering with the private sector to use drones effectively. In the U.S., the FAA has the “line of sight rule,” which requires drone operators to keep unmanned aircrafts within their line of sight at all times, along with rules for pilot certification in instances where drones weigh more than .55 pounds. Many states also enacted their own laws to protect privacy and prevent interference with hunting. The Portuguese government is planning to introduce “free zones” where drone technology can be developed and tested more easily through special regulations and investment incentives. And, Amazon is partnering with the UK Civil Aviation Authority to test drones for Prime Air delivery service, which goes beyond line of sight in rural and suburban areas.

    Like mobile phones, drones offer a growing ecosystem and are following the smartphone app/developer model. But, before the drone industry can realize its potential, it faces a few barriers it needs to address. First, drone data needs to be able to integrate within a network and drones must be able to coordinate with one another (drone to drone communication). Then, there are the physical limitations: sun/weather/wind/battery. And finally, drones set up many legal and regulatory issues because the technology will move faster than regulators can move, meaning the drone space will continue to be wild west.

     
  • feedwordpress 16:40:36 on 2017/11/01 Permalink
    Tags: Augmented Reality, , Mixed Reality, Virtual Reality   

    Kaleido Insights’ Impact Analysis on Virtual/Augmented/Mixed Reality 

    By Jaimy Szymanski, Jeremiah Owyang, Jessica Groopman, and Rebecca Lieb of Kaleido Insights.

    Virtual Reality Headsets. Image From Heavy.com

    As VR/AR/MR make their way into the corporate ecosystem, positive impacts and operational efficiencies abound. From sales and service; to HR, safety, and training; to engineering and product development, teams feel their wake and harness the power of informational overlay.

    Kaleido Insights’ methodology for analyzing emerging technology assesses the impacts on humans, on businesses, and on the ecosystem. As part of our ongoing coverage, we’ll be covering a series of topics using our methodology to help business leaders first understand, and then see beyond the bright and shiny and cut right to what matters.

    In each post, all Kaleido Insights analysts conduct a joint analysis session around one topic (e.g. technology, event, announcement, etc.). In this post, we analyze the business and organizational impacts of virtual, augmented, and mixed reality.

    Topic: VR/AR/MR

    Examples:
    Oculus Rift; HTC Vive, Playstation VR, Google Cardboard, Microsoft Hololens, Samsung Gear VR, other plug-and-play smartphone options

    Impact Analysis: Organizations & Business

    Business Opportunities and Use Cases
    As VR/AR/MR have permeated business environments, leaders are recognizing that opportunities reach beyond video gaming and novelty. VR/AR/MR have a place in every industry, with multiple use cases. Many of these use cases require interoperability with other technologies to reach full potential, including artificial intelligence (AI), computer vision, wearables, drones, 3D-printing, facial recognition, and more.

    • Immersive training and education. Organizations have the opportunity to use VR to train employees — either onsite or remotely — in virtual, simulated worksite environments. Consider options in scaling complex equipment, repair, or other training programs to multiple employees at various locations. EON Reality is experimenting with McDonald’s on a training program that immerses potential employees in a restaurant kitchen to train in a virtual environment. VR training is also effective in immersing trainees in high-pressure or otherwise dangerous scenarios. There are AR/MR education opportunities to train employees on-the-job using visual informational overlay via augmented reality glasses or similar technologies. This effectively brings a catalog of contextual product and merchandising data to the forefront of employee access. There are numerous examples of surgeons and doctors using VR and AR for complex surgical training.
    • Skills, Operating, and Repair Guidance. Augmented and mixed reality shine in their facilitation of efficient employee guidance while performing difficult or heavily information-dependent skills, operating machinery, or repairing equipment. Viewed as a visual overlay to the real world via AR glasses or specialty headsets, mobile phones, or tablets, AR expands information about physical equipment that is useful to employees. This may include procedural directions, machine models, serial numbers, repair parts, operating manuals, and more. For example, Caterpillartechnicians are outfitted with Hololens and AR-equipped tablets (see image below) to provide informational overlays to increase repair efficiency and accuracy.

    Image Sources: Caterpillar Inc.’s YouTube Video, “Augmented Reality Brings Data to Life at Caterpillar” and the Internet of Things (IoT) Institute

    • Engineering Planning and Product Development. VR gives organizations the opportunity to understand products, parts, and machinery before they hit production. By creating 3D models that can be explored via virtual reality software and hardware, engineers are able to better predict potential design issues, collisions among other parts or equipment, plan for ergonomics of employee operations, and steer clear of potential safety concerns. Using VR, manufacturing design and engineering transforms from reactive to proactive, allowing for entire teams to easily weigh in on the process before any real-world applications are implemented.
    • Sales and Marketing Engagement. Virtual reality can also be used as both a technical sales and consumer sales tool. In industrial capacities, VR offers the ability to view intricacies of machinery, parts, or tooling before a purchase order is signed. This builds bridges between those designing the technologies and equipment with less technical buyers. By creating proofs-of-concept in VR, sales prospects are immersed and influenced in a deeper way during design reviews. Looking toward consumer focused AR, retailers like Uniqlo (see image below) are experimenting with virtual dressing rooms, allowing customers to “try on” clothing without ever disrobing, and Ikea is well-known for its AR app that places furniture into the homes of its customers. Imagine the opportunity for a service like StitchFix to create a virtual stylist environment for customers to access their monthly shipments and try them on (with potential for upselling) before the physical clothing is even sent.

    Above image: Uniqlo’s “Magic Mirror” augmented reality experience

    • Immersive Storytelling. From the New York Times, to Charity Water, to Save the Children International, VR has been used to tell more gripping and emotional stories in immersive environments. VR/AR/MR are growing in organizational content marketing strategies as another channel to voice brand promise, promote new products and services, and raise awareness for causes. These technologies are also being used to augment tourist experiences in new ways, as Disney World is readying a Star Wars VR experience to launch next year.

    Business Models
    We’ll see VR/AR/MR enhancing existing business models via enabling new revenue streams in new channels. There are also significant opportunities to achieve cost savings in maintenance, repair, and design. There may also be business model potential in creating goods in virtual or augmented environments and either a. ordering them for real-world shipment or b. 3D-printing them at home. New communications models are already emerging to meet friends in virtual reality spaces, as is possible in “Rec Room” on the Steam network for HTC Vive. Look for new opportunities to emerge in the travel space as well, when VR users can virtually visit exotic locations for a price.

    Organizational Structure and Leadership
    VR/AR/MR pushes the internal departmental boundaries at organizations that are not equipped to rapidly innovate and harness the power of disruptive technologies. The lines will continue to blur between digital, marketing, IT, and innovation groups as a greater focus on CX and EX (employee experience) rises from new VR/AR/MR implementations. The rise of the “Innovation Center of Excellence” gives way to quicker VR/AR/MR initiative development when multiple business units are working in synchronicity. The first department to deploy VR/AR/MR will depend on its use case (e.g. if it’s consumer-focused, it will likely be marketing, whereas if it’s training focus it may sprout from a partnership between IT and HR).

    Change Management
    As with any disruptive technology, expect push-back from older generations or late adopters who have not yet found a valuable use case for VR/AR/MR in their lifestyle or career. These technologies begin to (or, fully, in some cases) replace human-to-human, real-world interactions, as well as require new user skillsets, which can be difficult for employees to embrace. In corporate environments, utilizing training and education programs around on-the-job VR/AR/MR use cases that make work easier, more efficient, or save money can be an effective foray into catalyzing change management and helping ease employees into their use.

    Another popular challenge related to change management is that VR/AR/MR technology is initially viewed as a novelty. Companies may receive mixed reception from customers and prospects as to the viability of VR/AR as an engineering/design/sales tool. They’re intrigued by the possibility, but not convinced of its value or capabilities. Only through assigning measurable objectives, regular experimentation, learning, and failing fast, can organizations quickly prove its value.

    Data Lifecycle
    In the world of relatively nascent VR, the provider with the most content ultimately wins. This reward typically falls to one in the headset monopoly of Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Playstation VR (of which, Vive sees greatest developer popularity). Consumers choose the headset that offers the content they desire, and companies follow suit in the “what can you do for my use case?” mindset. AR/MR are broader and more accessible across devices, as the associated hardware is most often a mobile phone. Apple’s AR Kit has also democratized development with its accessibility and ease of use.

    Process, Governance, Compliance
    Internal process and governance around VR/AR/MR initiatives will depend on the use cases established. In terms of compliance, we foresee the biggest hurdle being consent in regard to AR/MR, especially on a global scale where protecting individual privacy and identity can be paramount to a country’s culture. When anyone can use AR/MR facial recognition features, or overlay data on their environment, compliance is difficult to enforce at every level of consumer, employee, and ecosystem interaction.

    Measurement
    Specific metrics attached to VR/AR/MR are dependent on the business use case established for the technology within an organization. Sample metrics may include:

    • Decrease in accidents on trained scenarios
    • More efficient repairs and installations
    • Reduced maintenance costs and shop-floor collisions
    • Reduced rework on jobs over time
    • Increased profitability on programming tools and fixtures
    • More efficient use of time on redesigns (less total redesigns)
    • More efficient troubleshooting
    • More complete design back-ups
    • Increased sales and more satisfied customers due to involvement in VR process

    Challenges & Risk Mitigation
    Companies misunderstand technology needs and costs associated with virtual reality. Even if starting small and understanding minimum technology requirements, bringing VR/AR/MR into a facility requires costs in hardware (both computers that can handle the necessary operating load and the actual hardware headsets, glasses, immersive cubes, screen panels, etc.), as well as software. Finally, virtual reality presents new challenges to content marketers who are not accustomed to non-linear storytelling that requires multiple scenarios vs. a start-to-finish script. Machine and deep learning will prove to be continually useful in helping generate infinite scenarios in immersive storytelling.

    This is just one of the myriad technologies creating new uses cases for business and consumer adoption and value. And, these are just a few of the many impacts on organizations today. Kaleido Insights’ analysts are tracking these and other technologies closely to help you find clarity amidst the chaos. Interested in discussing the impacts of VR/AR/MR­­ — to your customers, business, or ecosystem? Our industry analyst Jaimy Szymanski is looking for interview participants for an upcoming report on VR/AR/MR enabling the “super employee” experience. Contact her here, or reach out via Twitter.

     
  • feedwordpress 16:23:14 on 2017/10/27 Permalink
    Tags: IoT,   

    Kaleido Insights Impact Analysis on Smart Speakers 

    By Jeremiah Owyang, Jaimy Szymanski, Jessica Groopman, and Rebecca Lieb of Kaleido Insights.

    We put them in our homes. We speak to them, listen to them, buy things from them. Much ado about smart speakers, but what are the implications for consumers and end users?

    Kaleido Insights’ methodology for analyzing emerging technology assesses the impacts on humans, on businesses, and on the ecosystem. As part of our ongoing coverage, we’ll be covering a series of topics using our methodology to help business leaders first understand, and then see beyond the bright and shiny and cut right to what matters.

    In each post, all Kaleido Insights analysts conduct a joint analysis session around one topic (i.e. technology, event, announcement, etc.) We begin with analyzing the human impacts of smart speakers.

    Topic: Smart Speakers

    Examples: Amazon Echo, Google Home, Sonos One, Apple Homepod, among many others

    Impact Analysis: Humans (consumers and end users)

    User Behavior & Adoption: While smart home adoption, measured by numerous devices, hovered around 10% market adoption for years, smart speakers have injected new life into this space. Adoption of smart speakers grew from 5% in Q4 2015 to 12% in Q4 2016 in US markets alone — a 130% CAGR. With the dominant Amazon having sold some 15.3 million Echos, Dots, and Taps in the last 12 months, according to Parks & Associates. The success of these devices has also made its way into cars, healthcare, and even industrial environments, and voice-enabled virtual assistants are now being integrated in a range of IoT platform solutions.

    With adjacent advancements in natural language understanding, the technology leaders powering these devices are also expanding to Germany, France, Spain, and beyond. Interestingly, the smart speaker market in the West mirrors the parallel growth market in the East — social robots — also powered by voice-enabled virtual assistants but more anthropomorphic.

    Today’s voice-enabled virtual agents for smart home adoption take different form factors in North America and Western Europe compared to popular devices in Asian markets

    User Interface: Voice-enablement and hands-free user interface reduce barriers to entry for all. Simply put, it’s easier and it’s human. We are innately wired to learn and produce language with relatively little effort. Still, while voice is a significant improvement in interface in certain settings — kitchen, driving, holding children — it is not appropriate in all settings or when there is overwhelming background noise.

    Impact on Experience: Ultimately reducing the friction of clicking, typing, and tapping with simply speaking introduces new convenience and efficiency. While smart speakers immediately reduce the friction of using technology in the home, they also offer brands new opportunities to improve broader customer experiences. For example, Domino’s Pizza allows enables customers to order a pizza from “anyware” — any hardware, that is — from an Apple Watch to a smart TV to the Google Home.

    Both Amazon and Google recently announced, new ‘multi-step’ actions, wherein devices execute multiple tasks with a single prompt, are just the latest updates designed to reduce friction. Simply saying “good morning” to instigate a news briefing, automatically brew coffee, and adjust the lighting for instance, is just another incremental advancement in leveraging voice interface to improve the smart home experience. Brands, manufacturers, and service providers are all flocking towards these devices

    User Psychology: The emergence of smart speakers hasn’t just brought voice-interaction into the mainstream, it’s offered a glimpse into the power of anthropomorphizing devices. Never mind that smart speakers look like speakers, consumers expect them to seamlessly interact, and increasingly for agents to “remember” relevant information such as past search queries, feature preferences, and other context, just as a human would.

    Pioneered by the likes of Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa, consumers expectations for voice-enabled virtual agents are quickly spanning others devices too. Smart speaker owners often report how they expect other devices to have the same functionality — “why can’t I just tell my fan to turn off?”

    Meanwhile, unlike in human interactions, virtual assistants are deaf to manners and non-responsive to social faux pas. When assistants fail, users are annoyed, often admitting to yelling or scolding them. Parents lament the fact that their kids can be as mean as they want, and virtual agents will remain subservient and friendly. Implications of these technologies on developmental and adult psychology remain woefully unclear.

    Use Cases: Another driver of adoption of smart speakers is that they are inherently ‘horizontal’ in that they support a wide range of use cases. From listening to music, to turning on the lights, to ordering an Uber or virtually any other product, the use cases for these devices look more like a smartphone than any other consumer IoT or smart home device. Similar to a smartphone, wherein making phone calls is a tiny fraction of its capability, a smart speaker is something of a category misnomer; playing music is also just the tip of the iceberg. Instead, these devices are better understood as voice-enabled vehicles for cloud services and mobile apps.

    Perhaps one of the most critical impacts of smart speakers in consumer markets is they set a precedent for product appreciating over time, compared to past models in which products only depreciated after purchase. Both Amazon and Google offer open up development to the broader ecosystem meaning manufacturers, brands, and even individual developers can create new apps, new features, and integrations all the time. This open and expanding ecosystem doesn’t just create a better out-of-the-box experience, it also extends the range of potential use cases, users, and value over time.

    Access & Mobility: Some technologies help enable or mobilize new segments of people. While this is great for adoption and brand marketers, in certain cases it can also enhance people’s lives. Consider, for instance, how smart speakers are enabling elderly folks to listen to audiobooks, connect with family members, and use home care apps; and disabled folks to enjoy internet services, play games, live more independently, or even offers kids story time enhancement.

    Risks & Challenges: Despite the growing success of smart speakers in the home, the technology carries a host of risks and challenges for brands and consumers alike. Zeroing in on impacts to humans, Kaleido analysts identify risks associated with user privacy, data protection associated with cloud-based processing of highly sensitive data, as well as user experience.

    A recent murder case cast a spotlight on Amazon as questions of privacy, consent, evidence, caused the company to hand over sensitive Echo data to Arkansas officials. In addition, smart speakers in the US have tangled with the Child Online Privacy Protection act (COPPA) — and soon with the EU’s Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) — , prompting Amazon to recently unveil parental consent and control features as well as child-specific skills. And Google’s latest product must have a feature disabled due to a privacy mishap. Even without the sensitive content, most smart speakers today are not designed for multi-user personalization, even if they are used by multiple users.

    Technology Proliferation: Although smart speakers have improved the user experience in the smart home, challenges remain on the technology side. For one, no one wants to have 17 different apps for 17 different devices; we don’t want to be system administrators for our homes. And while smart speakers have shifted the form factor of a ‘home automation’ hub (from an app or gateway to a speaker) the administration of these devices, their apps, and data remains a cumbersome user experience even for the technologically proficient.

    Then there are additional challenges around interoperability. Consumers don’t want to be boxed in to using single brands or manufacturers, and especially in the home. Although both Amazon and Google offer an impressive (and growing) array of service and product integrations through their Skills and Actions SDKs respectively, they draw a line when it comes to each other. Fiercely competitive Google won’t integrate with Amazon or Apple, and vice versa.

    Smart speakers mark an exciting technological shift, most notably in accelerating voice as a mainstream human-machine interface. Over time though, Kaleido analysts expect form factor will be de-emphasized and eventually disappear, as the machine and deep learning behind these virtual agents will:

    • Learn: They become hyper-personalized to individual users, as we train these systems to become our friends, mates, and more.
    • Predict: What customers want based on multi-modal historical and real-time data sets Transcend any single form factor, instead “follow” users wherever they go (home, office, car, retail, medical, etc.)
    • Infuse: almost any physical space with speaking, thinking, predictive services… and sentience? The digital interface is not needed where sound travels.

    This is just one of the myriad technologies shifting how businesses interact with consumers and their ecosystems. And these are just a few of the many impacts on consumers today. Kaleido analysts are tracking these and other technologies closely to help you find clarity amidst the chaos. Interested in discussing the impacts of smart speakers? Don’t hesitate to reach out.

     
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