In a previous post, Tractica outlined how AI-powered user interfaces (UIs), including voice, gesture, and biometrics, will fuel the growth of smart home use cases over the next few years. According to our estimates, smart home devices leveraging AI-powered UIs will grow from 43.7 million devices in 2017 to more than 860 million devices in 2022. Tractica believes the most important smart home use cases for AI-powered UIs over the next few years will be security, entertainment, sleep, and kitchen. Climate control and lighting will be less important for AI-driven UIs.
Security is the most established and lucrative smart home use case. Home security and monitoring, from services as simple as door locks and baby monitors to more complex perimeter surveillance, is one of the prime smart home use cases in which AI has the most impact. Many home camera-based security systems have popped up in recent years. Computer vision (CV) is enhancing them by introducing intruder detection, object detection, face recognition, etc. Many of these systems are controlled by voice UI, and a few are beginning to incorporate gesture UI. An example of how innovators are blending AI in this space is Project Nursery, a smart baby monitor system that leverages a camera and an Alexa smart speaker, which was announced at CES 2018. According to the press release, “Thanks to Alexa’s 70 baby-focused skills and 10,000 general Alexa skills, parents can ask Alexa to ‘play a lullaby,’ ‘check the room temperature in the nursery,’ ‘record a video,’ and so much more – all while engaged in other parent chores elsewhere in the home.”
Alexa Component, Project Nursery
(Source: Project Nursery)
Climate Control and Lighting
Climate control and lighting are two well-known smart home use cases. Vendors are incorporating voice and gesture UI as a more convenient way to manage climate and lighting when users are at home. However, AI-fueled UIs are not particularly helpful when smart home users are away, and remote-based climate control and lighting management is usually best handled by smartphone apps. It is unclear if consumers will find a high amount of utility from using AI-driven controls in the home for climate control. Unlike lighting, climate control requires a minimal amount of adjustment on any given day.
The battleground where AI-driven UI will be most intensely contested will be entertainment. Smart speakers and voice UI, primarily from Amazon and Google, have established markets for managing streaming music services. Apple will attempt to contend there. However, this market will suffer from fragmentation and competing music streaming services, not only from Amazon, Google, and Apple, but from others as well, such as Spotify, SoundHound, and Pandora.
If the entertainment use case were viewed as a banquet, then music streaming would be viewed as an appetizer to the main course of video streaming and cable TV. Smart TV devices and now smart gateways will be driven by voice and gesture UIs.
TV users are predisposed to remote controls. Voice and gesture UIs could lead the way to remote-less entertainment, which not only means less clutter, but more intuitive control.
At CES 2018, contenders revealed how they are placing their bets. Many smart TV original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have begun to enable voice assistant controls, either as proprietary options or as integrations with Google Assistant or Alexa. Roku announced a licensing program to “enable OEM brands to build sound bars and smart speakers, surround sound and multi-room audio systems that use Roku Connect software to work together as a home entertainment network… controlled by voice commands.” Universal Electronics and TiVo introduced a voice command remote. Samsung will now include its Bixby voice assistant in all of its 2018 smart TVs. However, it is interesting to note that all of these initiatives depend on a physical remote as the conduit.
Comcast’s 15 million Xfinity gateway users will soon have smart hub capabilities via updates. Its vision is for the gateway to be able to integrate not only entertainment, but other smart home functionality as well. The key UI for Xfinity will be voice.
The newest frontier in the smart home is sleep technology and the AI-driven UI for it is biometrics. A range of companies, including Nokia, Sleep Number, and Sleepace, are building smart beds leveraging biometric sensors. Sleepace’s solution monitors the bedroom environment to adjust temperature and humidity, and then in the morning, it activates lights and an alarm, opens curtains, and brews coffee. Nokia Sleep uses biometrics via a smart pad inserted beneath a user’s mattress to record and analyze sleep patterns, as well as activate wake conditions. Sleep Number’s 360 smart bed uses biometric sensors to dynamically adjust the firmness and head and foot heights to maximize restful sleep and minimize snoring.
Tractica believes that smart sleep is a very practical smart home use case and anticipates that the market for smart sleep products using biometric sensor UIs will grow significantly over the next few years.
Sleep Number 360 Smart Bed
(Source: Sleep Number)
Vying with the living room TV for the heart of the smart home is the kitchen. AI-driven UIs in the form of voice and gesture are important in the kitchen, where hands-free operations are common. Voice assistants found early traction in helping smart home users navigate recipes and build shopping lists. GE’s connected suite of appliances is integrated with Alexa and Google Assistant, Samsung’s Family Hub refrigerator line will include Samsung’s voice assistant Bixby.
Best Practices: Focused Use Case
For the next few years, the smart home AI-driven UI market will be driven by users interested in specific smart home use cases, and not by a more universal platform approach. A number of disparate AI-driven UI smart home devices and platforms will live within any given home, as consumers choose to use a specific AI-driven UI for a specific purpose. If the cost/benefit makes sense to the end user, they will live with some inconveniences, such as having to remember which devices use specific wake-up commands.