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Virtual digital assistants to overtake world population by 2021

23 May 2017

According to a recent study from Ovum, by 2021 the native digital assistant installed base will exceed 7.5 billion active devices - more than the current world population.

Google Assistant will dominate the voice AI–capable device market with 23.3 percent market share, followed by Samsung's Bixby (14.5 percent), Apple's Siri (13.1 percent), Amazon's Alexa (3.9 percent), and Microsoft's Cortana (2.3 percent).

In terms of devices, Ovum’s report asserts smartphones and tablets clearly lead the market with 3.5 billion active devices in 2016, the majority of which use Google Now and Apple Siri.

However, the use of AI in conjunction with other devices greatly increases consumer engagement and is set to unlock new opportunities, particularly in the home.

Ovum expects huge growth of voice AI capabilities among new devices, including wearable, smart home and TV devices, with a combined installed base of 1.63 billion active devices in 2021, representing a tenfold increase on 2016.

The report also asserts despite all the hype surrounding AI-capable connected speakers, TV devices (e.g. smart TVs, set-top boxes and media streamers) offer a larger opportunity, accounting for 57 percent that installed base in 2021.

Practice leader for Ovum’s Consumer Technology team and author of the report, Ronan de Renesse says the channel will be crucial in the coming years.

"Ultimately, a digital assistant is just another user interface. It will only be as good as the ecosystem of devices and services that it is compatible with, says de Renesse.

“Partnerships between tech giants and local service providers will therefore be key differentiators.”

Ovum says while most of the AI capabilities will reside on the network rather than in the device, native vendor-led implementations will be critical to gather the contextual and personal data that will feed that AI engines.

However, Ovum affirms the most important challenge for vendors will be to deploy and maintain their digital assistants globally.

At the end of 2016, almost all of the installed base for Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant was in North America, compared to 24 percent for Apple's Siri. This is an important point, as Ovum says by 2021 47.6 percent of voice AI–capable devices in use will be in Asia & Oceania.

"There is a disconnect between the 'know-it-all, do-it-all' approach that current digital assistants are aiming toward and the highly personalised virtual assistance experience that consumers have dreams/nightmares about.”

“Whoever can bring personal consumer data in a secure, non-creepy way to digital assistance will be able to bridge that gap and capture most of the opportunity,” de Renesse concludes.

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