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Forecasting at the Speed of Innovation


Tracking the pace of change in the consumer technology industry can be dizzying. Anybody visiting the startups at CES’s Eureka Park knows that there are hundreds of fresh and exciting ideas that have the potential to make a mark on the industry. While it is impossible to report on every new product on the market, CTA’s January 2018 edition of the U.S. Consumer Technology Sales and Forecasts reflects the addition of several new technologies that are making an impact on the industry bottom line.

CTA’s most recent forecast shows that the retail value of the consumer technology industry grew 6.7 percent to $339 billion in 2017 and will grow another 3.9 percent this year to $351 billion. Last year saw growth in four out of five of the largest hardware categories (smartphones, laptops, LCD TVs and factory-installed automotive tech) and these technologies will continue to contribute to growth in 2018.

Equally important are the emerging technologies in our forecast, which also show much promise for the industry. Four relatively new products will register more than $1 billion in revenues this year, including smart speakers ($3.8 billion), OLED TVs ($1.3 billion), VR/AR eyewear ($1.2 billion) and drones ($1.2 billion). Smart speakers (wireless speakers enabled with digital assistants) are the biggest rising star among new technologies. More than 43.6 million smart speakers will ship in 2018, up 60 percent over 2017.

Smart speakers demonstrate how one product alone can make a huge impact in just a few years. Smart speakers are rejuvenating the audio category, and they serve as a harbinger for the industry in regards to voice-based artificial intelligence. Digital assistants are proving useful as audio-based user interfaces for devices without touchscreens and for situations where our hands may otherwise be busy. These interfaces are beginning to appear on televisions, light switches, smoke detectors and in vehicles.

The Smart Home

CTA also took a closer look at connected home products and began forecasting sales of devices such as smart lightbulbs, door locks, doorbells and home security systems. Collectively, there will be 40.8 million connected home products shipping to the U.S. in 2018, up 41 percent over last year. Whole-home Wi-Fi solutions, another product new to the forecast, will also grow with connected homes with more than six million units shipping this year. These devices help people maintain a consistent internet connection throughout the home to accommodate the increasing number of devices taking up residence on the home network.

Finally, the forecast includes subscription streaming services for the first time. Given the consumer shift to streaming music and video services, CTA believed it was time to begin more closely tracking the rapid growth of this new technology trend, both to capture changes in how consumers are accessing content and to accurately measure the uptake of devices they are using to access these burgeoning services. CTA expects consumer spending on subscription video streaming services to grow 39 percent to nearly $13 billion in 2018, and $6.6 billion on subscription music streaming services.

Stay tuned for the July update of the U.S. Consumer Technology Sales and Forecasts, where we will continue to follow these emerging technologies, along with whatever innovations 2018 brings us.

Rick Kowalski

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