- Although the rise of virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa has made it easier to use connected household products, smart home devices are still generally “too complicated,” David Limp, Amazon’s senior vice president for devices and services, said in an interview with Business Insider.
- Part of how the company is trying to fix that involves working with competitors Apple and Google. The three companies announced a partnership in December to create a common standard for connected home products.
- The move also highlights how companies that have traditionally been competitors are required to work together to boost the adoption of smart home products, a market that’s been slow to take off.
- At the same time, large tech firms like Amazon and its subsidiary, Ring, have found themselves at the center of privacy-oriented concerns. Limp says Amazon has increased security and privacy resources “across the board” in recent years.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
For years, smart home devices have struggled to take off — despite the “Jetsons”-esque future that Silicon Valley giants have promised.
In 2016, for example, a survey of 2,000 homes in the United Kingdom conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that the majority of people were not interested in purchasing smart home gadgets.
But roughly three years later, it looks like that may be finally starting to change. Global shipments of connected home devices are projected to hit 1.39 billion by 2023, and in 2019, the market grew by 23.5% year-over-year, according to the International Data Corporation. In the first quarter of 2019 alone, global shipments grew by 37.3% compared to the previous year, the IDC also said.
Much of that growth can be at least partially attributed to voice assistants made by Amazon and Google, which can be found in everything from sink faucets to wall clocks to ovens.
But despite the proliferation of Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant, the technology itself is still too complex. So says David Limp, Amazon’s senior vice president for devices and services, who oversees the company’s sprawling line of Echo and Alexa products.
“The smart home is still too hard,” Limp told Business Insider in a recent interview. “It’s not really that smart yet, and it’s too complicated.”
Making the smart home work is critical for Amazon if it wants to compete with Google, Apple, and Samsung among others in the consumer technology market. Amazon missed out on the smartphone craze with its ill-received Fire phone, which Amazon quickly discontinued after its 2014 launch and resulted in a $170 million write-down for the company.
But since then, the company’s Alexa voice assistant has become the face of the company’s consumer presence. The company has said that there are now hundreds of millions of Alexa devices in the wild, and customers interact with Alexa billions of times each week. With roughly a quarter of the worldwide market for smart speakers as of the second quarter of 2019, Amazon’s Echo devices have ousted other major players like Google and Chinese tech giant Baidu, according to market research firm Canalys.
“Amazon has a strategic imperative to be successful in this,” Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at market research firm Moor Insights & Strategy, said to Business Insider in a previous interview. “They weren’t only enough to be part of the PC revolution. They failed in smartphones … So it’s strategically important, and more important for them than for Google and Apple, to be successful.”
Boosting the adoption of smart home tech could be crucial for that goal. Amazon may be the leader when it comes to voice assistant usage in the home through it’s smart speakers, but Apple and Google have an inherent advantage in the smartphone space, since their digital helpers are integrated into the world’s most popular mobile devices at the operating system level.