IFA 2018 Becomes a Showcase for Amazon and Google Voice Assistants in Berlin
IFA is the European version of the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Perhaps half as many exhibitors, yet still numbering over 100,00 attendees and one of the world’s biggest consumer electronics trade shows. And like CES, it has amazing TV screens, too many fitness wearables, Smart EVERYTHING, and the battle of the Voice Assistants wages on. Here’s a little commentary and lots of pictures on the voice assistants.
Google and Amazon Had an Outsized Presence
Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa are in a marketing battle. Nobody else is taking a strong stand in this war. Like CES, Google had the exterior covered with giant ads.
Inside was a different story. Amazon’s VP Smart Home Devices, Daniel Rausch gave the first keynote address and it was all about Alexa and it’s 20,000 compatible devices with 50,000 skills. Google and Alexa had signage at hundreds of booths where their assistants were being used. There were attractive Alexa rings over some of the booths that used it.
I thought it was funny that Google and Alexa both handed out the neck worn badge holders which nobody seemed to wear.
Google had a bunch of hired hands standing around in booths looking awkward in white jumpsuits promoting the Assistant. I spoke with a few and found a range from totally clueless to quite knowledgeable.
Other Voice Assistants Were Noticeably Absent
Although a half dozen other Voice Assistants exist, I saw little to no presence of Cortana, Siri, SoundHound, Baidu, Alibaba, or Tencent. There was a “Sprechen Sie Bixby? ” signage outside of the Samsung area, but that was about it.
Without doing any quantitative counting it seemed like companies are about equally throwing support at Google Assistant and Alexa. Some companies support both along with Apple’s Homekit. My gut feel is that Alexa is covering more companies but Google is getting a higher penetration with the better known and bigger brands. This probably gives Google more presence even though they have fewer companies than Amazon’s purported 3,500 brands and 20,000 devices.
Innovation was Not Limited to Amazon and Google
There are some, but not a lot of companies that are innovating. There were a ton of smart speakers, thermostats, lights, electrical outlets and various appliances that can be controlled by assistants, but little of that rose to the level of true innovation based on where we are today. However, I did see a few new things too
- German Auto Labs, a relatively small startup, has released HeyChris, an automotive assistant that runs embedded in a car. It’s like an Amazon Echo Dot with a screen in the center that mounts to your window. It resembles the Garmin Speak with a speaker and small LCD screen for navigation.
- LG had arguably the nicest display area at the show, and although they supported the Google Assistant in some products they also had a line of of “Hey LG” washing machines, air purifiers, refrigerators and more!
- A Motorola branded DECT (cordless) phone with Alexa for calling into Alexa devices (they swear there’s a market for this in Europe!).
- Of course there was Bang and Olufsen with their innovative designs and most excellent margins for Google equipped smart speakers. I thought they would be bigger!
Infrastructure Players are Betting on Amazon and Google
There’s lots of infrastructure developing 3rd-party support of Alexa, Google and custom voice interfaces. For example, a variety of chip companies like DSPG were showing their ability to enable lower power solutions while design houses like Sugr, StreamUnlimited, and Frontier Smart Technologies can assist with hardware and software development.
Overall, More Evidence of Voice Assistant Acceleration
IFA showed the continuing growth and accelerated market adoption of voice assistants. It was a well organized and like CES, IFA had separate locations that required transportation to access through transportation. Berlin, by the way is a fantastic and unique city with a very liberal feel, friendly people, the best Turkish food I’ve ever had, and very international. Parts of it even reminded me of Berkeley in the 1970s. Of course, there is a lot more presence of voice assistants today!
Todd Mozer is CEO and founder of Sensory.
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