Smart speaker usage will skyrocket over the next three years, according to the most recent analysis by Canalys, jumping by almost double in 2019 before overtaking tablets in 2021. Up from the 114 million units that found their way into users' homes in 2018, the firm expects as many as 207.9 million units over the course of 2019 based on current trends. That's an increase of approximately 82.4-percent.
While AI-enhanced listening devices will boom, tablets and wearables are plateauing. In fact, the analysts from Canalys show that tablet numbers are presently on a slow decline expected to continue through 2023 while wearable bands are sliding up along a similarly shallow curve. As a result, smart speakers will bypass wearable bands this year, followed by tablets in 2021 at around 400 million units.
The gadgets are expected to continue along a relatively steep upward climb through 2022 before the growth reduces to a trend similar to that of the wearables at just over 500 million units.
Where is all this growth coming from?
Although the US is still expected to keep its hold as the top market for the devices in question -- at around 42.2-percent of the market through 2019 -- that's not where most of the growth is predicted to stem from. Growth in that region is expected to come in at a modest 46-percent. The UK and Germany are predicted to see a similar level of growth at 47- and 49-percent respectively, while Canada may see as much as an 80-percent growth in use.
That's still not too bad compared to the six-percent growth seen in the third quarter of 2018 but, by comparison to China, the figures are not great. That's despite the fact that China has no access to the two biggest manufacturers and sellers of AI assistant-enabled speakers, Google and Amazon.
In Mainland China, dominance in smart speaker AI is expected to be maintained by the Tmall Genie in particular, with a 39-percent market share and accounting for a significant portion of the 166-percent overall growth in the country. That will lead to market saturation of just 13-percent and around 59.9-million units in the region. Falling just behind at are Xiao Ai and DuerOS at 25-percent market share and 24-percent share, respectively.
Following just behind China are the regions of South Korea and Japan. The two countries rank among the smallest percentage of users in the overall install base but are expected to more than double as well. Canalys says those should see growth at approximately 132-percent for South Korea and 131-percent in Japan.
5G will almost certainly play a role
Most carriers in the US plan to have a fairly widespread roll-out of 5G networks in place by the end of 2021 and other areas of the globe are presently locked in a battle to ensure they get there first. Although those won't necessarily reach every user, the technology represents a significant step forward in terms of bandwidth and, more importantly, latency.
Canalys notes that "extended technology players in the fields of security, finance, health, data analytics, and others" should watch for the rise of new technologies from the smart speaker trend. That's a similar sentiment shared by most firms with regard to 5G and the next-gen networking tech will almost certainly help spread the inclusion of AI assistants in a greater variety of speaker-enabled IoT devices. So the two technologies seem to be inexorably linked and it wouldn't be too surprising for dynamic shifts in one to affect the other.