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Deutsche Telekom unveils its new AI smart speaker
Mariana Zamoszczyk, Senior Analyst, Smart Home

Like other telcos in Europe, such as Telefόnica and Orange, DT has finally entered the AI assistant market with the launch of its new smart speaker, Magenta. The AI assistant offers integration with DT's products and services, such as telephone, Magenta TV, and Magenta SmartHome. The company has also decided to partner with Amazon to offer additional capabilities beyond DT's proprietary ecosystem and reduce the functionality gap with existing AI smart speakers. This strategy enables native integration with Amazon's Alexa as a second voice service, unlocking numerous features, services, and access to a comprehensive partner ecosystem. As the multi-voice assistant speaker trend grows, Ovum expects DT to also consider partnering with other key consumer AI platforms such as Google Assistant. Moving forward, developing solutions that work with multiple AI platforms will be crucial to offer flexibility and value to customers, securing at all times an optimum user experience regardless of the chosen AI assistant.

Orange Spain reduces the smart home cost barrier with new packs
Michael Philpott, Senior Practice Leader, Consumer Services

Orange Spain has added to its smart home portfolio by introducing four new smart home device packs (one around lighting, one around smart plugs, and two around surveillance), all of which come with a 24-month interest-free, pay-in-installments option. To ride on the smart speaker wave, Orange has included a Google smart speaker in each of the packs which start for as little as €2.50 ($2.80) per month. Additional devices can be added and again paid for over a 24-month period. Orange's professional smart home security service remains in service with a standard monthly price of €38.

As Ovum details in its forthcoming Digital Consumer Insights smart home analysis, it is clear that vendors and service providers need to reduce the cost barrier to stimulate greater smart home adoption. By offering monthly installment options, Orange has taken a good step in this direction. However, it would still be nice to see a greater, and cheaper, range of devices being made available. Even with a monthly installment option, ~€30 for a lightbulb will still seem rich for many consumers. 

Signify expands its smart home portfolio and partnership ecosystem
Daniel Gleeson, Principal Analyst, Consumer Technology

Signify (Philips Hue) unveiled a wide range of new devices at the IFA tradeshow in Berlin recently. It launched a range of updated lights, ranging from a relatively basic white candle up to fashionable filament-style bulbs. Signify also unveiled a variety of smart lighting solutions such as its smart plug for non-smart lamps and its programmable smart button. Lighting is an incredibly broad category and even though Signify provides over 200 different lighting products, one company alone will not be able to replicate everything on offer in the regular lighting market. Widening its portfolio is important to help build the smart-lighting market but providing ways for consumers to include non-smart lights as part of their smart home settings via the Hue smart plug is crucial to prevent a piecemeal smart home ruining a customer's experience.

IKEA strengthens its smart home strategy
Michael Philpott, Senior Practice Leader, Consumer Services

Ikea has been investing in smart home since 2012, and although to date investment has been relatively modest it has still become a relatively important player in the ecosystem, especially around lighting. Its influence however is about to rocket given its decision to significantly invest in the area and establish a new business unit called Ikea Home Smart. With its reputation for clever but affordable design and strong high-street presence, Ikea is set to become a key driver of smart home adoption.

BBC to enter the voice assistant market
Daniel Gleeson, Principal Analyst, Consumer Technology

The BBC is the latest to invest in its own digital AI assistant. The UK broadcaster is aiming to launch the assistant, tentatively named "Beeb," in 2020 with the aim of enabling people to interact with BBC apps and online services with their voice. Localization of voice assistants remains an issue even in English, the primary language voice AIs are developed in. Regional accents and colloquialisms are difficult to capture, and this is where local players like the BBC will have an advantage over the likes of Amazon or Google. Given that playing music is the most popular use of voice assistants, the BBC is hoping Beeb will help its radio stations compete with other streaming services.

Centrica discontinues its assisted living solution, Hive Link
Mariana Zamoszczyk, Senior Analyst, Smart Home

Centrica has decided to discontinue its smart assisted-living service proposition, known as Hive Link, less than a year after its commercial launch. Using smart sensors, the solution was designed exclusively for the senior market, aimed at helping families and caregivers look after elderly people who wish to live at home independently. Cost is generally one of the most significant adoption barriers for assisted-living solutions and Hive Link was no exception: a monthly subscription fee of £15 ($18) for the service and upfront charge of £150 for the equipment. Functionality wise, the solution wasn't ground-breaking either, as it mainly offered passive monitoring through app alerts that carers and relatives received when there was unusual activity in the elderly person's daily routine. Even though Centrica's bet on elderly smart home care has failed to pay off, Ovum believes this market offers a great potential for service providers that go to market with the right products and marketing strategy. Great perceived value is not enough, as affordability and truly advanced functionality are also essential. Most importantly, it is necessary to bear in mind that this is still a niche market with a very fragmented supply chain, which makes any B2C market approach even more difficult.

Further reading

2020 Trends to Watch: Smart Home AI Assistants, CES006-000092 (September 2019)

2020 Trends to Watch: Smart Home Services, CES006-000095 (September 2019)

The Road to 2023: Consumer AI, CES004-000103 (September 2019)

The Road to 2023: Smart Home, CES006-000086 (August 2019)

The Road to 2023: The Ultra-Fast Connected Home, CES006-000089 (August 2019)

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Michael Philpott

Senior Practice Leader, Consumer Services UK 24 + years experience
Specialities include Connected Home, Broadband Access, Smart Home
Products covered Media & Entertainment

Mariana Zamoszczyk

Senior Analyst, Consumer Services UK 19 + years experience
Specialities include Artificial Intelligence, Smart Home
Products covered Internet of Things, Media & Entertainment

Ronan De Renesse

Practice Leader, Consumer Technology and Media & Entertainment UK 17 + years experience
Specialities include 5G, Connected Home, Innovation, Strategy, Smart Home
Products covered Consumer Electronics