The internet of things (IoT) started out as a voice-driven world. In those early days, non-standard computing devices connected wirelessly to a network with the ability to transmit data based on voice commands. But IoT devices have evolved tremendously in the last year. Beyond basic voice-driven functionality, these devices are now focusing on providing immersive experiences with visual components pushed to the forefront. Why this transition to video? The new visually driven standards for cutting edge, competitive IoT devices are rooted firmly in modern consumer demand for video everything, everywhere, all the time.
Even with the development of artificial intelligence (AI) assistants and smart speakers that can respond to virtually any question or voice command, Gartner predicts that the majority of people will still overwhelmingly prefer on-screen web browsing, a trend that is projected to continue into 2020. To capitalize on this preference, companies have had to take a hard look at the state of their device functionality. IoT product developers have come to terms with the fact that you can’t replicate a visual experience with audio responses to customer queries.
Video plays a crucial role in storytelling, in service and in a product’s ability to forge immediate connections between people. Recognizing this capability, giants like Amazon, Google and Microsoft have all announced their own “smart display” IoT devices within the past year. The marked impact that popular demand for visual features has had on the IoT device landscape is particularly apparent in the smart home space.
Google recently announced Home Hub, introducing a smart display to the previously voice-only Google Assistant device. Even Facebook got in on the action with Portal, a camera-enabled screen dedicated to AI-supported video chatting. There is a direct correlation between consumer affinity for visual experiences and IoT device developers adapting their hardware products to meet that demand.
Amazon initiates the transition to visual.
This video-first shift has been quietly gathering momentum. The first sign of video infiltrating the smart home IoT market can be traced back to 2016, when The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon was working on adding a visual aspect to Alexa’s audio functions, “so that users could summon web pages, videos or images when, say, their hands are covered in flour.” Amazon recognized video’s crucial role in making more human connections and experiences and was the first to take the leap.
When the Echo Show launched with video compatibility features in 2017, Amazon was praised for the device’s video call feature (prompted by voice command) and for partnerships with video-specific services and apps like YouTube. Introducing integrations with video providers allowed Amazon and partnering brands to produce how-to video responses to common customer inquiries. The hands-off convenience of vocal smart commands was in turn bolstered by the psychological satisfaction of visual results.
At the same time, the Echo Show’s new video focus also opened the door to collaborations in the content space. One of our customers, for instance — legacy media company Daily Mail — works to engage and support IoT device users who rely on smart assistants like Alexa to access their media, news and entertainment, satisfying the noted need for video content on the platform. The Daily Mail launched two skills for the Echo Show: Mail Recipes and news video briefings called Mail Plus.
The floodgates flew open after the arrival of the Echo Show. Hardware companies Sony, JBL, LG and Lenovo followed suit at CES in 2018, announcing four new IoT devices with smart displays designed to interface specifically with Google Assistant.
Video enhances the IoT consumer experience.
With video components in place, consumers are immediately empowered to do more with their IoT devices. They are able to physically interact with a screen when browsing for products, music and more, in precisely the way they’re most familiar with from decades of web browsing. And even if consumers aren’t physically touching buttons and moving a cursor across the screen, voice commands are now focused on returning visual results, from opening web pages and conducting searches to launching apps and making purchases.
Hardware isn’t the only element at play in this pivot. Responding to popular preference for visual versus voice-only IoT devices requires more than just a shiny new screen. Success in the space will require an interface that is instinctive to use and that prioritizes both the convenience of voice commands and purposeful visual results. Screens will be pivotal in powering these interfaces and unifying multiple smart home categories and connected devices with a single control unit, liberating consumers from the trap of toggling through folders full of apps on their mobile phones.
What the rise of video means for businesses.
In just the last few years, we’ve seen a tremendous spike in video for business. Visual content is in high demand and, as a result, has become practically omnipresent. With these cross-industry trends toward the video-enabled future, it’s natural that IoT devices have expanded their interactivity from voice-driven to visual-driven experiences. Introducing screens is key to inviting entirely new segments of potential users to interact with the true benefit of IoT-enabled systems, beyond the just early adopters.
With the rise of video across IoT devices comes new opportunities for businesses to reach their audience. Most businesses today have recognized the necessity of video for their content strategies and have incorporated it on the many platforms and channels that make up their strategy. Screens make IoT devices an appealing new distribution channel, and businesses should begin thinking about how they can optimize their existing video content for IoT to build brand awareness and even drive revenue.
Today’s consumers want their devices to not just tell, but to show. As IoT providers incorporate visual interfaces into their hardware developments, content creators will lean further into video to effectively reach consumers using these new screen-enabled devices. Observing this evident shift in the IoT device market further underscores people’s preference for visual-driven experiences and indicates that other markets may likely face similar changes in the near future.