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SAN FRANCISCO — For a growing number of Americans, there’s no place like smart home .

New research by Parks Associates shows that 32% of broadband households in the U.S. already own at least one connected device, while 50% intend to buy a smart-home gadget within the next year.

While security has been a major concern for connected-home shoppers , and rightly so, Parks found that platform interoperability is an important consideration for 75% of U.S. broadband households planning to purchase a smart-home product.

“Consumers want robust user experiences; they are not going out to buy platforms but products,” noted Parks research analyst Dina Abdelrazik, and “interoperability is a key factor in enabling a working ecosystem of devices.”

Not surprisingly, Amazon Alexa is top of mind with smart-home shoppers, with 28 percent of U.S. broadband households professing to be “very familiar” with the pervasive personal assistant. Indeed, Alexa leads all surveyed smart-home platforms, Parks said, with Google Home close on its heels.

In fact, about 40% of consumers looking to buy a smart-home device consider interoperability with Amazon Echo or Google Home important, and one in seven broadband households own some manner of smart speaker, Echo, Google or otherwise.

On average, about half of personal assistant device and app users are “highly satisfied,” suggesting plenty of room for improvement.

Parks released its findings in advance of its 22nd annual Connections connected-home conference , May 22-24.  

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It’s the first time smart speakers have been used for music research


LOS ANGELES — It was only a matter of time. The meteoric sales of smart speakers has brought radio — and music back into the home and made listening a social experience again. Someone was bound to figure out a way to use smart speakers to do music research. That day has apparently arrived.

Los Angeles-based technology developer Vipology  claims to have put all the pieces together for a new type of online research. By combining Amazon Alexa, the AI power of IBM Watson and proprietary software, the company claims to have created a platform that will deliver consumer emotional analysis to music testing. The system will be demonstrated at the Worldwide Radio Summit in Hollywood, Calif., on May 3-4.

Vipology says it has combined its own VS3 smart speaker system with software from recently acquired MusicTesting.com. The company also partnered with Benztown in developing the VS3+MusicTesting.com platform, with Benztown providing a library of thousands of song hooks covering 14 formats.

Vipology recently introduced its smart speaker skills product, Vipology Smart Speaker System (“VS3”) to radio stations, as consumer adoption of smart speakers continues to grow at record levels. That product launched across 100 U.S. radio stations. VS3 deliverables include quickly securing the stations’ brands on smart speakers, as well as working with stations in a customer-informed process to maximize their placement on smart speakers for cash or barter.

Vipology claims that its VS3 + MusicTesting.com platform can bring music research into listeners’ homes and enable them to share their passion through emotional responses, thereby scoring listeners’ emotional feedback in ways legacy music testing cannot.

It will be interesting to see how this new testing fares in the already competitive music testing ecosphere. Privacy concerns surrounding smart speakers are already being raised. How will the privacy of research subjects be protected? And, isn’t most listener’s response to music emotional? How will this be different, and how well will it track with existing music research methodology?

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Why should broadcasters care? A consumer identity crisis is afoot

NEW YORK — Chocolate or vanilla?

A new report by behavioral marketing platform SmarterHQ shows that consumers are evenly divided over Amazon Alexa- and Google Assistant-infused smart devices.

According to the survey , which explored the omnichannel shopping habits of 1,000 adults, Alexa barely edges out Google Home products in preference and usage (44.4 % to 43.7%), with Apple HomePod coming in a distant third at 11.9%.

Perhaps more remarkable: American households now have an average of two Internet-accessible devices, while a startling 53% of consumers own more than three. What’s more, the likelihood of ownership increases with the number of kids at home; for example, families with three or more children are 35% more likely to have home assistants, while those with fewer offspring resort to mobile sites and apps for their online needs.

But digital assistants aside, the big takeaway from the SmarterHQ study is that the multitude of in-store and online shopping options has created something of a “consumer identity crisis” for retailers, making it extremely difficult to attract and maintain brand loyalty.

“Consumers view all the channels they shop on — online, in-store, through social media, or via assistant home devices — as a single point-of-contact with a brand, yet many retailers still treat these channels as disparate systems that aren’t connected,” said CEO Michael Osborne. “This puts pressure on marketers to make the brand experience a consistent one, no matter the channel. Without a marketing strategy that includes customer identity resolution, brands risk losing buyers to the more targeted and personalized campaigns of their competitors.”

Among the survey’s other findings:

  • Shopping online doesn’t necessarily mean purchasing online. People prefer omnichannel fulfilment, which pairs the convenience of shopping online with purchasing in-store. In fact, fully 90% of respondents have browsed online and purchased in-store (“web-rooming”), turning the old showrooming fear on its ear.
  • Shop online, return in-store. The majority of online shoppers (55%) prefer bringing their returns to a store vs. mailing them back (45%), although returning in-store decreases as age increases.
  • Stay-at-home parents are itching for the strip mall. Eighty percent of stay-at-home parents prefer to shop in-store, if only to get out of the house.
  • Immediacy of shopping in-store is key. Among brick-and-mortar shoppers, another 80% said they prefer the in-store experience because they can leave with the product in hand that day. 

Read the full article at TWICE.

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There are strong indications that the streaming company is on the way to creating its own hardware

STOCKHOLM — Evidence is mounting that streamer Spotify is gearing up to enter the smart speaker market.

According to a job listing mined by MusicAlly last month, Spotify is seeking someone to fill a new role that requires the employee to “define and manage Distribution, Supply, Logistics, fulfillment and Customer Service for Hardware Products and work with partners to deliver the optimal Spotify experience to millions of users.”

Since the ad was discovered, Spotify’s employment website says the “gig has been closed or canceled,” which either means the company has filled the position or changed its mind about diving into this crowded market. However, other job listings earlier in the year would indicate the former is more likely.

In the US, Spotify is currently available on a host of smart devices , including models from Sonos, Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Denon, Bose, Chromecast Audio, in addition to a number of devices that feature Spotify Connect — including some BMW and Ford vehicles.

According to the Guardian , Spotify “has also faced pressure from a few manufacturers who don’t want to incorporate the Connect functionality into their products – notably Apple, which doesn’t support native Spotify playback on either the HomePod or Apple Watch. (Spotify users can still use the service with both devices through their phones, but with limited functionality.)”

Significant questions remain. Will the company build its own AI system, or license Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant — or both? But Apple, which doesn’t like to play nice with competitors, won’t be an option.

Why should broadcasters care? Spotify is a competing for listeners’ ears, and the potential hardware would be another device where radio would be second fiddle, if AM/FM capability is included at all. 

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