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, 12 Aug 2016 @ 4:44pm

    This is an odd post to find on TechDirt. Quite blatant shilling.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Aug 2016 @ 5:36pm


    Shilling for...what? It's incredibly generic and vague.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Aug 2016 @ 5:38pm

    Re: Re:

    And not exactly insightful either.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Aug 2016 @ 5:45pm

    I'm going to pass on "stand-alone digital assistance devices" until I'm assured that they can't be bricked by arbitrary server shutdowns and that they support robust end to end encryption.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 12 Aug 2016 @ 5:52pm

    Re: Re:

    Shilling to sell tech.

    What he does not mention are the additional vectors for surveillance, and not just by the NSA, FBI, DEA and other agencies. Every piece of tech means another opportunity for data collection companies to know more about you and offer opportunities to hackers to collect sufficient information to maybe do some harm. Not to mention the ads and the very private information that compilation of a lot of data provides.

    If the average citizen was actually aware of the threat, and the potential consequences, they would stop buying tech, and the industry really does not want that. To put actual security, if that is even possible, into their products would harm their profits, though no one seems to mention actual numbers on that. But shiny.

    That the average consumer is unaware of the downside is sad, sad, sad.

    Not everyone is capable of establishing a secure network for themselves. Maybe that is a vector the tech industry should be following up on. While there is no such thing as secure, maybe more secure would be an achievable goal, open source and ratings by the likes of Bruce Schneier and others on each efforts ability to achieve better security.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 12 Aug 2016 @ 6:00pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Oh, I should have added that I like tech. I have one notebook, dual boot, and four Rasberry Pi's, as well as a tablet.

    The 'smart phone' is in pieces, the phone over there, the sim card over there, and the battery over there. Too many vectors associated with that one.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Aug 2016 @ 6:10pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    I think you have absolutely no idea what the average consumer wants.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    streetlight (profile), 12 Aug 2016 @ 6:10pm

    A lot of words that don't say anything

    No Text

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 12 Aug 2016 @ 6:24pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Want and need are often significantly different. Sometimes there is a need that is not included with the tech they want and are buying.

    And no, I am not an average consumer, nor do I state anywhere in my comment that I know what an average consumer wants. I do mention the need for security that the average consumers are apparently unaware of. They are unaware of the downside of the tech they are buying, in its current state.

    If things were safer, I might be tempted to buy. But I would not trust the company vending the product to tell me it was safer. And, those that tell me it is safer would have to have earned some credibility from somewhere else for me to trust them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Aug 2016 @ 6:34pm

    We are on the way to the brain

    Since all of our senses ultimately are interpreted in the brain, eventually we will be tapping into and augmenting the brain itself. Within ten years, you might find yourself experiencing sound as if every nerve on your body now can respond to and transmit it. Sight, touch and smells as well will be shareable and reproducible virtually.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Aug 2016 @ 8:20pm

    Re: Re:

    Generic and vague to the point of being a waste of time to read. "Technology is changing the planet! New things are coming!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Skeeter, 12 Aug 2016 @ 9:32pm

    Best Solution

    I ditched buying any more 'TV's' when it seemed that most of them had 'interactive capabilities' that you (the owner) couldn't control - features like microphones and cameras that who-knows could activate. The easy way around this is a large LED-LCD computer monitor and an HDMI switch. Then, you can have a 'living room PC' that can play Hulu, YouTube, Netflix, etc. via the PC, and if you want to watch cable, just hit the HDMI switch remote, and you're watching cable TV. Granted, some of the newer cable boxes also have 'interactive features', but it's relatively easy to tape-over the viewport or microphone ports on those.

    Shame when 'personal privacy' means inspecting and securing any new thing you bring in your house, anymore.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    Whatever (profile), 12 Aug 2016 @ 10:04pm

    For me the key here is the smart phone and it's point as the hub of all things. it's your personal input device and what really runs the show.

    The future appears to be mostly secured / controlled black boxes that will do your bidding.

    The good news is that it means that devices should continue to be relatively cheap, as engineering the control panel and interface is often very time consuming and adds complexity to the build. Giving a device bluetooth, wifi, or a network connection and having a software interface seems way more practical.

    Perhaps that is the next new startup... :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. 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).


    Musical instruments

    One video example

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Aug 2016 @ 11:52am


    Calculators, ultrasounds, EKG's, X-rays, and much of that medical equipment is still in use and hasn't changed much. Some of the info gets digitized sure but other than that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Aug 2016 @ 12:37pm

    Re: Re:

    Also doors, hinges. Haven't changed much.

    Mechanical locks. I guess now we have 'digital locks'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    Aaron Wolf (profile), 13 Aug 2016 @ 2:55pm

    63 percent is so much less than two thirds!

    "While only 63 percent of U.S. households own their own home, two-thirds own a smartphone…" Yeah, that's a remarkable stat there. Such different magnitudes. /s

    Incidentally, smart phones are owned by individuals, not by households, so your stat is really confusing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Aug 2016 @ 3:47pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You must live in a strange bubble. I'm sorry to burst it, but the average consumer simply doesn't care about the same things you do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 13 Aug 2016 @ 4:03pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I'm not sure why that's a relevant point to what AAC was saying, but I will add a simple historical truth.

    The average person doesn't care about the security of anything until they get bitten. Sooner or later, people will start to get bitten by the security problems in newer technologies.

    When that happens, people will start to care. Companies who are already prepared for that will become the new kings of the hill.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. icon
    Jeremy2020 (profile), 15 Aug 2016 @ 7:55am

    Re: 63 percent is so much less than two thirds!

    I saw that and was like wtf is this BS. So...*only* 63% own their own home, but a vast 66% own a smartphone....uhhh...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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