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At CES, Findings Show Voice Device Ownership on the Rise

The latest Smart Audio Report from NPR and Edison Research shows that 14 million people in the U.S. acquired a smart speaker in 2018, bringing total ownership to 53 million, or 21 percent of the population.

The companies announced the news at CES, noting that the number of these AI-powered devices surged 78 percent year-on-year from 66.7 million in December 2017 to 118.5 million last month.

These strong smart speaker adoption numbers confirm Consumer Technology Association VP of market research Steve Koenig’s assertion that as 2019 gets underway, many of the trends that have been talked about for years are finally becoming reality.

After considerable investments led by Amazon, Google, Apple and others playing in the artificial intelligence-driven voice assistant world, voice is now seen as a “legitimate human interface option” for how consumers and workers engage with technology, according to Koenig.

Ownership of multiple smart speakers is inching upward. The percentage of people who said they have two devices moved from 21 percent to 22 percent year over year, while those owning three or more reached 30 percent from 17 percent the year prior.

Smart speakers are not just entering the home but are becoming an indispensable part of it—and of consumers’ daily lives. Twenty-nine percent of the 1,002 18 or older people polled for the Edison Research report said they use their device multiple times each day, and nearly a quarter (25 percent) talk to their gadget nearly every day.

We’re getting to the point, Koenig said, where consumers now expect brands and businesses to support these voice-enabled devices. Alexa, Amazon’s industry-leading assistant, boasts 60,000 skills.

“Even the Church of England has an Alexa skill,” Koenig said. “You can order pizza or get spiritual advice from Alexa.” Which means if your brand isn’t aiming for real estate on these assistant-powered devices, you’re behind the curve, he said.

Commerce continues to lag on smart speakers but could approach a tipping point as comfort and familiarity with these gadget grows. Many believe the voice-and-screen combination, as seen in devices like the Echo Look and Echo Show, could be the secret to getting people to transact by voice.