The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) has been talking about the trend of seeing smart assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant breaking out from smart speakers and being incorporated into devices across the whole of consumer technology.

The CTA is the organisation behind the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that takes place in January each year with Pocket-Lint in attendance.

“The idea is that these digital assistants will occupy more vessels,” said CTA research head Steve Koenig. Why? Because consumers are going to expect that kind of interaction across their entire consumer tech landscape.

As voice recognition technology is integrated into more speakers at a variety of price points, smart speakers are the device to watch in 2018. Interestingly though, it was about Amazon and Google during CES 2018, with little talk about Apple's HomePod and so few mentions of Microsoft's Cortana, a significant change from last year's event

The CTA reckons 4.4 million units of smart speaker devices (so mostly Amazon Echo and Google Home) were sold in the US in the run up to Christmas, up 22 percent compared to 2016.

Sales increased 279 percent in 2017 and the CTA projects 2018 unit sales will reach 43.6 million units (60 percent increase) and earn $3.8 billion in revenue (93 percent growth). However it's projecting a decline after 2019 as assistants break out from the confines of the smart speaker. 

Harman – owned by Samsung – carried out a worldwide survey on the popularity of smart speakers together with Futuresource. 41% of users already said they couldn't live without their voice-controlled speakers, with 64% increasing their usage once they realised how effective they can be. 34% liked their time-saving benefits.

For the UK specifically, 54% of adults expected to further increase their usage of voice control this year because 46% have discovered new applications and uses, 25% have found it fun and engaging, and 26% have invested in associated smart home technology they can control using their voice.

Indeed the CTA reckons that smart speakers will have a knock-on effect on the sales of smart home devices like Wi-Fi cameras and smart locks. It expects the 2018 market to grow by 34 percent versus 2017.

The CTA also talked up the future potential of smart cities (going beyond transportation) ingredient technologies like 5G and AI, the latter of which was big at CES 2018; especially for Google Assistant.

Expect to hear a lot more about 5G as this year goes on and at CES next year as we move towards the launch of the first 5G phones in 2019.