CES 2019: Voice, voice and some more voice

Google was the biggest, Amazon announced a ton, but Apple stole the show without even being there.

This week the Consumer Electronics Show took over Las Vegas and flooded it with more than 180K attendees, 4500 exhibiting companies, manufacturers, developers and innovators. CES has served to be the proving ground for innovators and breakthrough technologies for 50 years now — the global stage where next-generation innovations are introduced to the marketplace.

As this year’s CES is wrapping up we can confidently say that CES 2019 was powered by voice assistants in all shapes and forms. There was no shortage of gadgets to talk to, from smart TVs, cars, pianos - and even a toilet - these are just some examples of devices that come with voice-activated helpers.

Smart home ecosystem has had great rivalry as everyone wants to become the best home companion. All the biggest tech companies in the world gathered in Las Vegas to show off. Well, all except for Apple, which just had its best CES ever and it wasn't even at the show.

Google and Amazon made a big splash at CES 2019. As both are fighting to be THE operating system of our homes, they have been selling rival smart speaker systems, including the Echo and Google Home, and rival streaming TV products, such as Fire TV and Chromecast. In the past Amazon didn’t sell Google Chromecast and Google blocked YouTube on Fire TV and Echo.

The stage is set, let’s see what each rival announced at CES 2019:

Amazon Alexa

Amazon showed their strategy of “Alexa Everywhere” with their friendly assistant built into many smart devices from doors, lights to bed frames and kitchen appliances:

Ring Door View Cam,  Dux bed frame, Currant wall outlet, Daikin thermostat, GE Lightning, Gourmia kitchen appliances, FirstAlert Alarm, Kohler toilet, Legrand switch, Lutron lights, Moen shower, Whirlpool oven, … See all.

Alexa was the front and center for Amazon this CES with Key By Amazon (previously Amazon Key) leading the way. It’s a nice addition to the existing offerings for those looking to prevent package thieves or missed deliveries.

They have also made it hassle-free to add Alexa to products, by offering the assistant on a single chip called the Alexa Connect Kit. It offers companies to create high-quality Alexa-connected devices for their customers, making it easily accessible and potentially widespread.

Alexa was until now missing out as Google and Apple assistants were already living in hundreds of people’s homes inside smart devices, just waiting to be used. The new infusion of Alexa-infused devices will seriously jump-start the use of Alexa assistant.

Google Home

Google had big presence, the star being an even bigger booth than last year with a real rollercoaster ride inside to showcase its voice assistant technology and how it works in and out of the home. They kicked off the show with an announcement that its voice assistant would be available in over one billion devices by the end of January.

We see that the rise of smart homes is linked to the other big trend on display at this year’s CES such as the adoption of 5G. 5G is supposed to exponentially increase how much bandwidth our smart home infrastructure can withstand, opening up a whole universe of new technologies and uses.

On the first day Google has been showing off auto-translation of smart display speakers, that lets you naturally talk to each other with the speaker acting as a translator automatically. Google Assistant will be integrated into Google Maps. This will ensure the Google assistant goes out to every pocket. There are new gadgets that either feature Google Assistant or work with it, the most prominent beingKitchenAid and Lenovo Smart Clock. See all here.

They also published a list of what to expect over the next year and it seems that Google Assistant could potentially integrate nearly every corner of our lives. The most important thing Google was talking about was Google Assistant Connect, although it didn’t grab as many headlines as some of the other announcements. It’s a platform that manufacturers can easily build into their devices to make them Google voice assistant compatible.

Apple Siri

Apple is making a move here. After Samsung and Vizio, LG is also adding support for Apple’s ecosystem to its TV operating system. LG is also planning to add support for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa in 2019, This is less surprising as you can find hundreds of devices that support those voice assistants. Here is a research we prepared.

While Google Assistant and Alexa controlled their fair share of the CES spotlight, they did little to overshadow Siri. Apple HomeKit was the winner of the show as Sony, LG, GE, Vizio, Belkin, Arlo, Ikea, TP-Link and several others all rolled out products and updates featuring HomeKit integration. See all new integrations.

It’s safe to say that Apple can officially count itself as a major player in the smart home space. When the new HomeKit-enabled products start hitting the market later this year, consumers won’t need to buy specific HomeKit-enabled hardware, an earlier requirement that inhibited Apple’s smart home growth.

HomeKit may have notched a win at CES, but Siri has a long way to go as people tend to use Homepod more for listening music than anything else.

The new kid on the block is Samsung with its voice assistant Bixby, which currently lags Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa. Samsung announced Family Hub fridge that enables you to start your oven from your fridge, control all your connected devices in your home and more. If your dream home involves a big screen on your fridge, then Family Hub is for you. With the family board, you can leave notes for other family members, view calendar information and see photos.

The main issue is that you need to upgrade all your appliances to create a home that is completely compatible with the Samsung ecosystem. Also, do we really need yet another screen?

We are big believers in multiple assistants. We think that each one will interact in lots of different ways and at the end, there won’t be one single winner, but several winners. Who knows what 2019 will bring in Smart Home tech, but one thing’s for sure - voice is going to play a big role in it.