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