Virtual digital assistants to be on 7.5 billion devices by 2021

Virtual digital assistants to be on 7.5 billion devices by 2021
Ovum report finds that smartphones and tablets are leading the voice AI- capable devices market

Rebecca Gibson |

Globally, the native digital assistant installed base is set to exceed 7.5 billion active devices by 2021, according to new research from Ovum.

The Digital Assistant and Voice AI–Capable Device Forecast: 2016–21 found that smartphones and tablets are leading the market when it comes to voice artificial intelligence (AI)–capable devices. These are internet-connected devices that can hear, understand and respond to voice-based queries. There were 3.5 billion of voice AI-capable devices in 2016.

Microsoft’s digital personal assistant Cortana (pictured) is expected to gain 2.3% of the market share for digital assistants over the next four years.

Ovum also expects an ‘exponential uptake’ of voice AI capabilities among new devices, including wearable, smart home, and TV devices. In fact, the analyst predicts that the combined installed base of active devices will hit 1.63 billion by 2021, a tenfold increase from 2016. Despite the hype surrounding AI-capable connected speakers, smart TVs and media streamers offer a larger opportunity for digital assistants and will account for 57% of the installed base in 2021.

Although most of the AI capabilities will reside on the network rather than in the device, native vendor-led implementations will be critical to gather the contextual and personal data that will feed the AI engines. Consequently, partnerships between technology companies like Microsoft and local service providers will be key differentiators.

“Ultimately, a digital assistant is just another user interface; it will only be as good as the ecosystem of devices and services that it is compatible with,” said Ronan de Renesse, practice leader for Ovum's Consumer Technology team and author of the report. “There is a disconnect between the ‘know-it-all, do-it-all’ approach that current digital assistants are aiming toward and the highly personalised virtual assistance experience that consumers have dreams/nightmares about. Whoever can bring personal consumer data in a secure, non-creepy way to digital assistance will be able to bridge that gap and capture most of the opportunity.”


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