Top 10 Voice Stories of 2019 FI

The Top Stories in Voice 2019

The top story in voice in 2019 according to industry professionals didn’t break until the final month of the year. The announced collaboration between Apple, Amazon, Google and the Zigbee Alliance around establishing new internet protocol (IP) based smart home standards was far-and-away the top-cited story with a weighted average 15% ahead of the second-place story and 34% ahead of the average. The next nine stories all fall within a weighted average difference of only 8%.

The performance of the smart home collaboration could be benefitting from the recency effect, but we see the second story was from September, the third from July, the fourth from January, and the fifth from March. So, the readers of Voicebot have spread their top 5 stories broadly throughout the year.

The List of Top Voice Stories of 2019 Rated by You

Amazon and Google related stories dominated the list with eight of the top 10 referring directly to one of the two companies or specific to smart speakers. The exceptions were the third top story which was focused on startup funding in the voice industry and the ninth that was about voice assistants in general. You will also notice that four of the top 10 related to smart speakers. That is up from three in 2018.

  1. Apple, Amazon, and Google Collaborate on Smart Home Standards (December) – When the tech giants collaborate, it’s definitely news.
  2. Alexa Ecosystem Generated Billions of Dollars in 2019 (September) – Is there money in voice? Amazon says yes.
  3. Voice Startup Funding Grew 3x in 2019 Over 2018 (July) – Growth in funding is a vote of confidence in voice as an industry.
  4. 1 Billion Devices Have Google Assistant (January) – Voice assistant access is approaching ubiquity and Google is in the lead.
  5. Smart Speaker Installed Base to Top 200 Million in 2019 (April) – Smart speakers are still popular.
  6. Security Vulnerabilities Announced for Smart Speakers (November) – Now that we have a lot of these, what are the risks?
  7. Amazon Outsells Google by 3x in Smart Speaker Sales in Q3 2019 (November) – Amazon appears to have blunted Google’s quick rise.
  8. Juniper Says 3.25 Billion Voice Assistants in Use Today (February) – Voice assistants are all around us and not just from Google and Amazon.
  9. Smart Speaker Sales Rose 40% in 2018 (March) – Smart speakers adoption reached critical mass.
  10. Thousands of Google Actions Mysteriously Disappeared (October) – The platforms are still immature for third-parties.

3 Stories That Impressed the Media More Than Industry Pros

There were three stories that received a tremendous amount of media coverage that didn’t impress industry professionals nearly as much. One of these was the news that contractors of Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook were listening to voice conversations with smart speakers. The media coverage was copious. Readers of Voicebot rated those stories collectively as right at the average for the top 30.

A second story that received a lot of media coverage but engendered less enthusiasm from the industry was the introduction of celebrity voices to Alexa and Google Assistant. This topic was also in the top 10 for total page views on Voicebot in 2019 but was ranked near the bottom of the top 30 by those surveyed. Finally, the Sonos acquisition of Snips drove a lot of headlines in December but was a collective yawn for industry professionals. Of course, there were some survey takers that thought at least one of these three stories were extremely important but they were definitely in the minority.

The Fake News of Voice in 2019

The biggest non-stories that were stories in the media nonetheless were the numerous security vulnerabilities and supposed hacks of voice assistants in general and smart speakers in particular. We wrote about a few of them and ignored many others. When writing about them we were continually forced to explain why many of these were far-fetched and impractical. Security is definitely an issue that needs close attention, but the security researchers this year had a low hit rate related to legitimate concerns for consumers.

Real News on the Security and Privacy Front from 2019

One story in this genre we did take seriously was a story that Voicebot broke about the operation of Google Home (Nest) devices on shared networks. Google was not clear with consumers that using these devices on a college campus or in an office setting where multiple parties access the same WiFi network exposed private data and potential security concerns for users. That might be the way the solutions were designed, but Google’s admission that its smart speakers were not suitable for these environments was an interesting development.

The other story in this category that bears monitoring in 2020 is whether regulators will start to take action against the leading voice assistant providers. Many of the privacy and security stories of 2019 were overblown and overhyped, but if they lead to regulation that might just be the biggest story because it could cause the largest barrier to voice adoption and feature expansion in the future.

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