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Google adds new privacy features to Google Assistant

Mariana Zamoszczyk, Senior Analyst, Smart Home
During 2019, Google was temporarily banned from listening to voice recordings in the EU after it was found that contractors were listening to and leaking private conversations collected by Google Assistant. In an attempt to ease current data privacy concerns, Google has added new voice commands designed to improve the way users manage their privacy settings. For instance, users will be able to delete voice records by saying, "Hey Google, delete everything I said to you this week." Google needs to restore trust in Google Assistant, and the changes to its privacy policy will help users feel more comfortable when interacting with the voice assistant. Omdia believes that streamlining the way users control their data via voice commands is an important step, but Google also needs to work more on user education, guiding users on the precautions they may want to take to protect their privacy when talking to Google Assistant.

 

Google blocks Xiaomi from its Google Nest platform

Daniel Gleeson, Principal Analyst, Consumer Technology
Consumers reported issues with Xiaomi smart security cameras that caused Google Nest Hubs to display images from other users' security cameras. Xiaomi says it identified an issue related to a recent software upgrade, and Google has disabled Xiaomi devices' integrations into its Nest Hub and Assistant while the issue gets resolved.
While such a misstep could be seen as a teething problem for smart home security, the deep invasion of privacy caused by such missteps could seriously damage the reputation of smart home security systems. There is also a longer-term issue with having images and videos processed on an external server. Omdia believes that a "local cloud" will emerge that will retain this processing locally and minimize the risk of accidental data leakage. At the very least, such incidents should boost sales of complete security system packages, in preference to consumers adding on individual cameras in bits and pieces, to minimize compatibility and version control problems.

 

Sonos ends support of legacy speakers

Daniel Gleeson, Principal Analyst, Consumer Technology
Sonos has announced it will end support of some wireless speakers from 2006 and 2007. Unlike with some other withdrawals of support, these speakers have long outlived the initial stated support period. The speakers should still work with newer devices, but doing this would prevent the newer devices from receiving software updates.
The issue of device support is a thorny problem for smart home devices where technology innovation moves far quicker than the lifecycle of the devices themselves. This creates huge compatibility problems for manufacturers, which are left attempting to support outdated hardware for years longer than smartphone manufacturers are, for example. The more smart home grows, and the more people expect from their smart devices, the greater this problem becomes. Larger smart home products such as smart fridges and ovens may become modular in design with upgradable hardware elements as a workaround for this problem.

 

Comcast provides free cybersecurity protection to customers

Michael Philpott, Senior Practice Leader, Consumer Services
After just one year, Comcast has changed its marketing strategy for its Internet of Things (IoT) security offering, xFi Advanced Security, from a $5.99 premium upgrade to free to all customers leasing an xFi gateway. This marks a growing trend for broadband service providers to add IoT security as a new free feature of their smart Wi-Fi gateways, showing that protecting their profitable broadband business from customer churn is currently taking a higher priority than growing ARPU. This is not to say that future ARPU growth is no longer a factor. Indeed, service providers are actively exploring a number of opportunities that smart Wi-Fi platforms open up to them, but for now the strategy seems to be more about introducing features that drive customer satisfaction and engagement; that will then, hopefully, open the door later on to more premium features that consumers will be willing to pay for. The general feeling is that IoT security fits more into the former category than the latter.

 

Telefónica creates new global digital consumer unit

Mariana Zamoszczyk, Senior Analyst, Smart Home
Telefónica has announced the creation of the Chief Digital Consumer Office (CDCO), a global unit focused on new digital products and services for the smart home. The new business unit will oversee the development of Telefónica's smart home ecosystem, working also to propel new customer relationship models via Aura, its digital assistant. In Spain, Telefónica's Movistar Home proposition has enabled the company to make progress in the smart home space, offering access via Aura to value-added services, either from Telefónica (Movistar Cloud and Smart WiFi) or from selected local partners such as El Corte Inglés, Atlético de Madrid, and Air Europa. However, the company has followed a quality-over-quantity approach for its smart home ecosystem, offering limited interoperability with devices from third parties. The new digital consumer focus will certainly help Telefónica to bring on board more smart home partners and improve Aura functionality as a home assistant. Omdia expects this renewed market approach will also help the company to shed some light on its intention to integrate Aura with other popular AI assistant platforms such as Alexa and Google Assistant and to have direct access to their ready-made smart home ecosystems.

 

Further reading

Smart Home Vendor Tracker: 2019, CES006-000121 (February 2020)
5G FWA and the connected home, CES006-000118 (January 2020)
CES 2020: Key Consumer and Entertainment Trends, CES004-000137 (January 2020)

 

Author

Mariana Zamoszczyk, Senior Analyst, Smart Home
[email protected]
Michael Philpott, Senior Practice Leader, Consumer Services
[email protected]
Daniel Gleeson, Principal Analyst, Consumer Tech
[email protected]