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Contrary to limited reports, consumer interest in smart home tech is soaring

Interest in smart home tech isn’t waning. On the contrary, according to the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), 2019 is heading toward a record-breaking year in U.S. consumer technology sales. The CTA expects tech sales to $400 billion for the first time, and smart home safety, smart speakers, and home robots are leading segments in that drive. The CTA’s estimates are based on factory sales figures so far this year for more than 300 consumer tech products and related software and services.

Earlier this month, a Thinknum opinion piece used a single data measure, Amazon sales rankings, to suggest consumers are over smart home tech and interest is dwindling. Implying that smart home gadgets, home automation, and the Internet of Things (IoT) all stemmed from The Clapper in 1996 (“Clap on, Clap off”), the Thinknum author suggests smart home devices may have appealed to an early few, but most people don’t care.

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In The Smart Audio Report this spring, NPR and Edison Research found that 21% of U.S. adults — 53 million people — owned smart speakers and of that number 69% used the devices daily. Among smart speaker owners, 48% reported owning one device, 22% said they had two, and 30% said they owned three or more smart speakers. To cap off the preceding figures, the number of smart speakers in U.S. households grew by 78% from December 2017 to December 2018, from 66.7 million in 2017 to 118.5 million in 2018.

According to the Thinknum writer, consumer interest in smart home tech slowed and “even declined” after a 2017 upsurge. We’re sorry, but a 78% increase year-over-year hardly looks like a decline.

According to the CTA, the previous years’ rapid growth in smart speaker ownership will begin to level off in 2019, but the association still expects moderate sales growth with an estimated 35.2 million smart speakers selling during the year.

The most rapidly rising segment in smart home technology is home safety and monitoring devices, the CTA reports. Look for 19% annual unit sales growth compared to 2018, totaling 28.6 million units in 2019. The smart home safety and monitoring category, as defined by the technology association, includes Wi-Fi cameras, smart thermostats, smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, smart locks and doorbells, and smart switches, dimmers and outlets.

Home robots are the third driving force in the continued upward-trending smart home tech market. Citing consumer enthusiasm for the household and backyard helpers that vacuum and mop floors and mow lawns, the CTA projects 3.6 million unit sales in 2019, a 12% annual increase from 2018.

Consumer spending on smart home tech is based on real-world benefits, according to CTA president and CEO Gary Shapiro. “Enthusiasm for A.I.-powered technologies is skyrocketing,” Shapiro said, “more consumers are discovering for themselves how tech innovation can change their daily lives for the better.”

No waning interest here, not according to NPR’s 2018 sales report and CTA’s 2019 projections.

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