While the exponential growth of smart speakers is a given, the Consumer Technology Association has issued some jaw-dropping numbers in a forecast from this week’s CES. Sales of voice-controlled speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home increased 279% last year and are projected to reach sales of 44 million units this year—a 60% increase—the organization predicts.
Revenue from the devices is projected to reach $4 billion this year, an increase of 93% from last year.
Steve Koenig, senior director, research at CTA, who presented the forecast to a packed arena at Mandalay Bay during the show, said the smart speaker market is the hot category to watch for this year, MediaPost reported. He added to the numbers his belief that smart speaker sales will become even more ubiquitous in the home, with 57 million units being sold in 2019.
Emerging technology is about to drive the U.S. consumer technology industry to $351 billion in retail sales this year, 4% higher than last year, according to the CTA’s semi-annual research about the industry. The wearables category is expected to reach sales of 49 million units.
Smart speakers have become such a hot category that both Amazon and Google are present at CES, which is hardly the norm. “If the annual CES technology show in Las Vegas were a high school dance, Amazon.com Inc. and Google would be the kids who stayed away, preferring to throw their own parties,” according to The Wall Street Journal. “Only this year, the tech giants are all dressed up and looking for dates.”
In its reporting, Patrick Moorhead, chief analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy told the newspaper, “Both Google and Amazon kind of thought it was cool not to go to CES. But it’s a required thing because of this new plane of competition in home automation and digital assistants.”
The two companies are seeking and supporting partners for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, amid “a showdown in the voice-operated world over who’s going to be in charge of your home,” WSJ says. “Since making and supporting a reliable voice assistant can cost billions of dollars, even well-heeled companies with broad product lines are pairing with the industry leaders.”
Amazon and Google aren’t just interested in new areas to embed their voice assistants. They also need to expand their ever-growing arsenal of voice-activated apps, what Amazon calls “skills” and Google calls “actions.” Amazon needs to have a presence at CES if it wants to partner with the best, said J.P. Gownder, an analyst with market research firm Forrester, while Google needs to show it’s serious about the smart-home market to make up for lost time.
In all, CES will feature 3,900 exhibitors, many showcasing home products with voice-operated capabilities—not just speakers but entire entertainment systems, kitchen appliances and security platforms.