Retail Observer

December 2017

The Retail Observer is an industry leading magazine for INDEPENDENT RETAILERS in Major Appliances, Consumer Electronics and Home Furnishings

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RETAILOBSERVER.COM DECEMBER 2017 52 I t's a new age for interfaces. The days of touch, type, and swipe are migrating toward voice control, where with the utterance of a word or phrase, consumers can control and manipulate their surroundings, forever changing the way they interact. Whether it's in the smart home, the smart car, or with totally connected entertainment, voice is becoming something shoppers have come to expect. But it's not all wine and roses. The sheer number of connected devices, not to mention competing protocols, are creating serious confusion for many consumers. A recent study by Parks Associates research firm stated that the average American household has 8.1 connected devices and 2.1 smart home devices! That's a lot of devices, and ultimately, a lot of different ways to control them. Sonos, for one, is looking to create customers from the chaos by offering it all. It recently introduced its voice assistant speaker, the Sonos One, which will launch with support for Amazon Alexa voice assistant and later Google Assistant and Apple AirPlay support. According to Sonos, that will make it the first smart speaker to support multiple major voice services. Meanwhile, Amazon recently announced that any Echo product can now recognize individual voices! This is ideal for families in which multiple members of the household are using Alexa. To set it up, you simply read a few phrases to create a voice profile, that voice profile is stored, and you are ready to start flinging commands at your Echo with reckless abandon. Many of our own ProSource vendors are playing hard in the voice arena, as well. For example, lets you control your entire smart home security system with Apple TV, Amazon Echo, and Google Home voice control. Want to check the arming status of your smart home security system, change the temperature, or turn your living room light off? Just ask through any of these different protocols. Control4 systems lets you use Alexa to tell your house to lend a helping hand, too. A simple voice command—such as "Alexa, turn on Welcome"—lights up the hallway and kitchen, fires up your favorite music, while the door locks itself behind you. Likewise, Elan lets you control your entire smart home with Amazon Echo hands-free voice control, and Denon Heos speakers now support Alexa as well, allowing you to utter commands such as Mute, Volume Up, and more. HARMAN International has different products for different technologies. For example, it announced in October new details of the Harman Kardon Invoke, a voice-activated speaker featuring the voice intelligence of Cortana from Microsoft. It can play your favorite music, manage calendars and activities, set reminders, check traffic, and deliver the latest news. You can also control your smart home devices using voice to do things like turn out the lights or control the temperature. Meanwhile the Allure voice-activated speaker features Amazon Alexa and the JBL LINK voice-activated speaker has Google Assistant built-in. Users can stream music, ask questions, manage everyday tasks, and easily control smart devices around the home – simply by using voice commands. Samsung has its own voice assistant called Bixby, which is available on some Samsung phones and has planned for a smart speaker that uses the audio assistant to launch soon. Specialty retailers again have a great opportunity in audio here. Sure, most anyone can buy and set up an Amazon Echo or Spotify speaker, many of which are becoming more and more custom-install friendly. However, by offering and installing these products, you get a step into the consumer's home where the world of smart home integration awaits you. Now that your customer has that new voice-enabled speaker, they are going to (of course) need to tie it into all the other services available like lighting control, security, control systems, climate, and more— all of which are in the wheelhouse of the specialty custom retailer. Even better, by offering an ongoing service contract, you'll have the opportunity to make recurring monthly revenue and create lasting relationships with your clientele. By bundling service as part of your offering, you create happy clients with fewer issues and can be on top of the voice trend as it continues to evolve, seamlessly integrating as new improvements and upgrades are introduced along the way. Companies like ProSource vendor Ihiji are designed to help specialty retailers and custom integrators do just that. And rest assured, they will continue to happen as the technology is refined and it becomes more and more seamless for the consumer and ultimately, your clientele. Dave Workman Consumer Electronic Trends Dave Workman is CEO and President of the ProSource Buying Group. RO THE VOICE ERA What's new in the world of voice control and how it affects the specialty retailer

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