Skip to main content

Smart speakers now help the U.K. to calculate the cost of living

Smart speakers have become hugely popular over the last few years, with big-hitters such as Amazon, Google, and Apple all offering their own devices for the home.

In fact, the popularity of the smart speaker is now so great that it’s become one of a number of products used to help the United Kingdom calculate the cost of living.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) works out the rate by analyzing the value of its so-called “inflation basket.” The basket contains a multitude of goods and services that reflect current consumer behavior. In the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics uses a similar method to determine the consumer price index.

The ONS said this week that new additions to this year’s basket highlight the changing interests of British consumers, for example, the way in which they’re using new technology. So while the smart speaker has found its way into this year’s basket, the increasingly outmoded hi-fi system has finally been given the boot.

Another tech-based addition to the 2019 basket is the electric toothbrush, with consumers increasingly turning to the battery-powered device over regular brushes to keep their pearly whites … well … pearly white.

Commenting on this year’s basket, senior statistician Philip Gooding said: “We want to reflect modern spending habits, and the alterations we have made highlight shifting consumer behavior, whether that is in technology, the home, or the way we communicate with one another.”

Gooding added: “It is important to remember that we change a small percentage of the overall basket. This year we have added 16 items, removed 10, and modified 16, while leaving 688 unchanged.”

Smart speakers

Smart speakers are hands-free, voice-controlled devices that let you communicate with a built-in digital assistant to request information, select music tracks, make calls, listen to audiobooks, control smart home devices, and more besides. Amazon kick-started the smart speaker market in 2014 with the launch of the Echo.

Since then it’s released several variations of the Echo while at the same time enhancing the capabilities of Alexa, the digital assistant that powers its speakers. Amazon said that during on Cyber Monday 2018, it sold “millions” of Echo Dot devices globally, making the smallest Echo speaker the biggest seller across all Amazon categories during the 24-hour sale.

Keen for a slice of the pie, Google launched the Home smart speaker in 2016 before adding two more devices — one larger than the Home and one smaller — to its smart speaker line-up. Apple finally joined the party in 2018 with the HomePod, while other companies continue to enter the market with their own designs.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
9 things you need to know about in-ceiling smart speakers
Herdio Speakers in a kitchen.

Most of the smart speakers we discuss these days are made to sit on counters, tables, or shelves (and sometimes to be carried around). However, there is another option for those who own their own homes: Ceiling speakers that are installed directly into the ceiling to give you built-in sound exactly where you want it.

If that option sounds interesting, read on to learn about ceiling speakers, what they can do, and why they’re a go-to solution for some smart homes.
Ceiling speakers save on space
Built-in speakers may sound like extra work, but they do have their advantages. Not everyone has room for a smart speaker where they would prefer to listen to music or podcasts. Others may not want a smart speaker set up in the same area they cook or where their children play. In cases like these, in-ceiling speakers stay out of the way while still providing the tunes people want.
These in-ceiling speakers also help with home design
Smart ceiling speakers are also much more customizable than traditional smart speakers. You don’t have to have a level surface nearby to use them. That means they can go anywhere you want to direct sound above or nearby -- an ideal solution for certain dens, home theater setups, playrooms, game rooms, and more. They can also be more easily painted without sacrificing sound quality, so you can make sure that they match the surrounding surface and blend in with the decor.
Smart ceiling speakers use apps or Bluetooth

Read more
Google Home (Nest Audio) vs. Amazon Echo
Echo 4th Gen

If you're thinking about buying a smart speaker, you might be undecided on what to get. We hear you. With all the news and info you hear about the two most popular voice assistants, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, it's hard to know which one to choose. Given their usefulness from playing music to some other stuff you probably didn't know they could do, it's no wonder they're so invaluable.

While the original Google Home speaker has long been discontinued (the name lives in the all-purpose Google Home app), Google's line of smart Nest speakers, like the Nest Mini and Nest Audio, carry on the tradition with updated features.

Read more
Bluetooth speakers vs. smart speakers
Woman using smart speaker while working in office.

When looking for the best smart devices for your home or gifts for your friends, you may come across both the terms: “Bluetooth speaker” and “smart speaker.” The differences aren't immediately apparent, and sometimes the terms are applied to the same device, so we know it can get a little confusing.

We’re clearing up the mess right now by explaining just what these two categories mean, where they overlap, and what term may be most useful depending on the sort of speaker experience you want. Let’s go!
Basic definitions

Read more