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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.

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