The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has forced much of the world to shelter in place inside their homes. Now with more people at home, are smart home devices on the rise?
According to Omdia, formerly IHS Markit, the first quarter of 2020 saw an uptick in the smart speaker market rising to 6.1 million smart speakers shipped during Q1 up from 5.8 million shipped during the first quarter of 2019. While this uptick took place prior to COVID-19, the impact to the smart speaker market may not be felt until this current quarter.
Despite a solid growth of 6% during the first quarter of the year, the second quarter could be harder on sales across consumer electronics, especially since many sales of smart speakers are going into homes that already have speakers, according to Blake Kozak, principal analyst for smart home and security technology at Omdia.
“Although smart speakers could be used as a means of entertainment during lockdowns, the impact of unemployment could reduce demand for smart speakers over the next few months,” Kozak told Electronics360.
However, low-cost options such as the Echo Dot, Google Mini or other speakers could be used for video calls or for watching cooking videos, both of which have increased due to social distancing requirements.
In terms of the rest of the smart home, there could be a slowdown coming in the second quarter and even during the third quarter depending on the continued social distancing guidelines across the U.S.
The reasons for the slow down include that purchases for non-essential items through online retailers, such as Amazon, have been experiencing delays in delivery. Also, retailers are delaying the option to return items. So, if a smart home device does not work or meet expectations, the process of returning it could be difficult. There are also longer wait times for customer support due to reduced or furloughed staff.
“Consequently, the next few months will not likely be a time when consumers try out a new smart home device that comes with uncertainty, such as with installation, compatibility or reliability,” Kozak said.
Smart home to help fight COVID-19
As the COVID-19 pandemic rages across the U.S. and much of the world, a potential new use case for smart homes may be to help those infected with the virus, but only demonstrating mild or non-life threatening symptoms, to monitor their situation without having to go to the hospital or see a doctor.
Kozak said that there are reports that smart speakers or related technology can use audio to detect breathing patterns and other symptoms of COVID-19. Several brands over the past two years have demonstrated cameras that can use analytics to measure chest movements, but most have not made it out of beta testing and into the hands of consumers.
“Although smart devices in homes today could be vessels for combating COVID-19, privacy concerns in terms of video and audio analytics and how this data is used and shared could stymie short-term opportunities,” Kozak said.
All-in-one on hold
Many of the major smart home vendors were on a path toward providing all-in-one services where multiple devices would be provided by one vendor such as Amazon or Google, along with potentially offering services to install these devices in the home so they work together.
These plans are now on hold given the need for social distancing. From the start of March, many alarm monitoring companies noted an uptick in demand and installations for alarm systems, but this was before social distancing rules came into place, according to Kozak.
“So, it is no longer possible in most cases for installers to enter a home for something like an alarm or smart home device installations,” Kozak said.