The Five Technologies That Are Now -- And Will Be -- In Your Home

from the the-future-is-coming-fast dept

Chances are, I can name five tech devices that are in your home — or pocket — right now. That's because about half of all U.S. households today own at least one television, smartphone, tablet and laptop/desktop.

Collectively, these five consumer technology product categories have represented more than 40 percent of industry revenue since 2011 — and more than 50 percent in the past four years.

But the products we own and the ways we use them are changing.

According to the latest forecast from the Consumer Technology Association, the piece of the industry pie occupied by these product categories — TVs, smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops — is shrinking as ownership rates peak and product life cycles lengthen.

And while their growth over the past decade has largely defined the consumer tech industry, their revenue growth is slowing — a shift that points to the future of consumer tech.

While only 63 percent of U.S. households own their own home, two-thirds own a smartphone, 9 out of 10 own a computer, and almost every one — 98 percent — owns a television. We spend almost 11 hours a day engaging with a screen in one form or another.

Our use of these devices is not only changing the ways we live and relate to one another, they are fundamentally changing our identity. Take smartphones, which have transformed not only how we communicate, but also how we commute (Uber and Lyft), choose restaurants (Yelp), grocery shop (Instacart), listen to music (Pandora) and connect with one another (Facebook).

The inflection point suggested by industry forecasts isn't just one of growth and decline, but a substantial change in how we infuse technology into our core existence. The list of original, innovative, digitally connected products is growing, thanks to emerging tech categories such as wearables, virtual and augmented reality, digital personal assistants and a slew of internet-connected objects showing up in smart-home technologies.

Next year will mark the first year the "Big Five" consumer tech products represent less than 50 percent of consumer technology industry revenue. But, to be clear, this isn't a sign of decline; rather, it's an indication of opportunity and growth and adoption as consumers turn to an increasingly broader array of digital devices to redefine how we live our lives.

The installed base for these large categories has spawned remarkably diverse innovation. For example, smartwatches are today primarily extensions of the smartphone. With that comes a massive period of experimentation, as we try to make sense of how we want to integrate these devices into our daily lives.

As new-use cases evolve, smartwatches will do much more than simply complement our smartphones. It's part of the reason we project continued smartwatch growth, with more than 12 million units sold in the U.S. this year.

Growth in stand-alone digital assistance devices such as Amazon's Echo ("Hi, Alexa!") or Google's forthcoming Home will build in the years to come. CTA projects more than 1 million digital assistant units will sell this year — about one-third more units than last year.

While the smartphone morphed into the hub for a number of connected devices, your voice is becoming the new interface as growing areas of tech integrate into these platforms.

Over the past two years, consumers are focusing more on monitoring and tracking the metrics of their daily activity levels. Today, 20 percent of households have an activity tracker, and our forecast predicts 60 percent growth in 2016.

The desire to measure data that is already there but not currently being captured is now beginning to emerge in other areas of our lives, too. For example, pet tech is expected to blossom into a $250 million segment by 2020 — and this category was essentially nonexistent just a few years ago.

Technology is constantly, continuously reinventing itself, cannibalizing its own growth before something else can. We are now entering the next phase of growth, as we transition from the stalwarts that grew consumer technology into a $287 billion industry in the U.S. to the emerging categories that will propel us forward.

We've spent the past 15 years replacing analog technology devices with their digital counterparts. We are now turning to an even bigger endeavor. We are beginning to adopt digital devices where no analog corollary existed.

Herein lies the great opportunity and challenge for consumer tech. Digitizing elements of our lives that thus far have been completely untouched by technology is a tremendous opportunity with diverse, real-world problems to solve.

To drive adoption within this emerging tech paradigm, consumers need to clearly see the value propositions and the use case scenarios. And this is just the start. In the decades to come, consumer tech, such as autonomous vehicles and virtual reality will push us even further along an innovation frontier.

The opportunity is thrilling. The challenge is real. And the potential disruption to how we define ourselves and live our lives will be phenomenal.

Shawn DuBravac is chief economist of the Consumer Technology Association and the author of Digital Destiny: How the New Age of Data Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Communicate. Follow him on Twitter @shawndubravac.
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Filed Under: predictions, technologies


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Aug 2016 @ 11:50am

    You can youtube search technologies that haven't changed much and you'll get a few good responses. Some common ones that haven't changed much in the last 100 years include

    The toilet/urinals

    The car (ICE or diesel engines, though now we have electric cars so I guess you can consider that a fundamental change in their design).

    Trains/locomotives (though I suppose now we have maglevs. The idea was around a long time but the implementation is still kinda new).

    Sailboat

    Musical instruments

    One video example

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87QCbmlfL3k

    Though, according to that video, one technology that may finally be on decline is the incandescent bulb, being largely replaced by more efficient CFLs and LED bulbs. Like some of the other examples there (ie: books) they may still have a niche, as many old technologies still tend to stick around in niche areas.

    Also things like the keyboard and mouse, the fundamental design, hasn't changed. Sure now we have fancier word processors and whatnot so you can more easily correct and spot mistakes (ie: spell check) but the keyboard as a means of communicating with the computer is basically the same. The computer mouse may have a few more buttons but the general design hasn't changed much.

    Another example there is the land line. One improvement is we now have VOIP services but if you lump them together the basic design and usage is still the same. Though you can argue, with cell phones, the traditional land line is kinda more a niche and cell phones are an improvement because now we don't have to remember or write down numbers or use a Rolodex, which is something that is kinda obsolete now. Also pay phones (a type of land line I guess) have mostly disappeared and partly because of that you now see emergency phones placed in various locations partly to take their place in case of an emergency if you don't have cell service for some reason.

    I guess I can add things like beds, clothes, blankets, and carpentry and how these things are made all haven't changed much. Things like immunizations/flu shots, the basic idea is the same. I guess now we have fancier disinfectants but many of the old disinfectants/antiseptics and their active ingredients haven't changed much. Soap, shower heads, faucets, sinks, the hose, general plumbing, sewage, and sanitation systems haven't changed much.

    The tire. It's still circular. I guess they used wood at one time and they now use rubber and now we have synthetic rubber.

    Steel. Some improvements in the alloy composition based on intended purpose and new materials (ie: Kevlar) have been made that can do certain things better than steel but, overall, steel hasn't changed that much and still has many uses as before.

    Glass. OK, we have gorilla 'glass' and/or various plastics or mixtures and whatnot for some purposes that have made improvements for those purposes but the basic window is still just about the same.

    The basic design of how a speaker works hasn't changed much. Now we have things like noise cancellation. I remember seeing somewhere a fundamental change to sound production that someone made (I think it made the sound through the screen or something?), might have even been shown here on Techdirt, but I can't find it right now.

    I'm sure there are a bunch of other examples.

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