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Google reduces Nest camera quality to help ease home traffic surge

Mariana Zamoszczyk, Senior Analyst, Smart Home

More people staying at home because of COVID-19 has increased the pressure on broadband networks. As part of a global initiative to prioritize internet bandwidth for learning and working purposes, Google has decided to temporarily adjust the camera quality settings on all Nest cameras in the US. This change applies specifically to cameras with bandwidth settings that are higher than the default configuration. But this is not compulsory as customers can still revert their settings back if they want higher-quality images. Google has already made similar changes to other products and services such as YouTube to help reduce the current strain on internet bandwidth. In this sense, Google has shown proactivity and promptness to address an unprecedent problem via a simple change in the settings configuration. Moving forward, it would be crucial for all smart home market participants to set up contingency plans and be ready to take immediate action if similar problems call for it.

Amazon expands the Blink lineup with new home security camera

Mariana Zamoszczyk, Senior Analyst, Smart Home

Amazon continues to make progress in the highly competitive residential security market with the launch of Blink Mini. The new indoor HD camera works with Alexa and supports two-way audio, motion detection, and night vision. Compatibility with Alexa means that users can arm/disarm the camera via voice commands and play the video stream on smartphones and Echo Show smart displays. Available at $35 and with a free trial of Blink’s cloud video storage service (until the end of 2020), Amazon’s new mini camera offers advanced functionality at a very affordable price tag.

The COVID-19 crisis is changing people’s priorities with regards to home security and taking care of loved ones, especially if they live in different locations. Omdia expects the launch of Blink Mini will allow Amazon to target a new segment of the market that have a new interest in home DIY self-monitoring, but who are also concerned about not spending too much money on non-essential items considering the current pandemic and potential economic recession.

Amazon launches new accelerator program as part of the Alexa Fund

Mariana Zamoszczyk, Senior Analyst, Smart Home

In partnership with Techstars, Amazon has launched Alexa Next Stage, a new and improved accelerator program designed to help companies with an existing customer base and mature product offering to scale up their businesses via Alexa. Amazon understands that the ecosystem plays a key role in Alexa’s development, especially to offer value and enhance its functionality as a home assistant. The company has therefore relentlessly offered full support via numerous tools, resources, and financial incentives to any company and developer willing to embrace Alexa as key user interface for the home. The new Alexa Next Stage program represents a further example of Amazon’s determination to promote Alexa within the developer community. Omdia expects Amazon to continue to provide full support, but also explore new ways to monetize AI-assistant usage and generate a more sustainable income for companies and developers as it can still be difficult for some to make a profit without Amazon’s direct support and funding.

Apple acquires AI startup Voysis

Daniel Gleeson, Principal Analyst, Consumer Technology

Apple continued its investment into its voice AI platform Siri with the acquisition of Irish start-up Voysis. The eight-year-old company specializes in improving digital assistants in online shopping apps. The company had raised $8 million in venture funding. Apple has remained aggressive in the voice AI space ever since acquiring Siri in 2010. Siri has since become a headline feature for the company and Apple has supplemented its own development efforts with acquisitions such as init.ai, Laserlike, and Shazam. The specific focus of Voysis in online shopping will help Apple better compete with Amazon’s Alexa which has been unsurprisingly built with e-commerce as a key functionality.

Roku introduces improvements to its voice platform

Daniel Gleeson, Principal Analyst, Consumer Technology

Media streamer Roku updated its voice platform in late March to add Spanish language support in the US, Mexico, Canada, and the UK. The update also extends Google Assistant and Alexa integration beyond the US for the first time. Roku has made no secret that it harbors international ambitions alongside its success in the US. The company has extended its licensing agreement with TV manufacturers to Europe, which will mean Roku-powered smart TVs will start coming to market there. It also launched The Roku Channel in the UK in April. Supporting more languages is a vital requirement of any international expansion, so Omdia expects more announcements in this vein over the next year.

Further reading

Smart Home Devices and Services Forecast: 2020–25, CES004-000148 (April 2020)

Smart Home Services Forecast Report: 2020–25, CES006-000129 (April 2020)

“The post-COVID-19 world will see the rise of smarter homes”, CES004-000151 (April 2020)

Author

Mariana Zamoszczyk, Senior Analyst, Smart Home

Daniel Gleeson, Principal Analyst, Consumer Tech

[email protected]

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