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Americans not entirely sold on smart-speaker personalisation


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There are many studies on adoption of smart speakers and which companies are dominating the market – with research firm Canalys forecasting that more than 200m devices will be sold this year globally. However, other studies have picked up on potential privacy issues around speakers ‘listening’ (and recording) within people’s homes.

Now the Pew Research Center has published a study of how Americans feel about these devices, and what features they want (and don’t want) from them. 54% of respondents said that they are “very or somewhat concerned about the amount of personal data their speakers collect”. Related to this, only 25% of respondents feel it is fine to have audio recordings from smart speakers shared with police in criminal investigations. Delightfully, more than half of smart speaker owners say “please” when they ask their device to do something. But perhaps the most interesting finding is around smart speakers and  personalisation of their preferences. Only 18% of respondents said “it is very important that their speaker take into account their interests and preferences when responding to questions or commands” while 38% said it is “somewhat important”. Against this, 31% said it was “not too important” and 12% said it was “not important at all”.

Looking at how devices will evolve, even more interesting points about personalisation arise, with 58% of respondents from one survey group saying “they would not like their speaker to do a better job of taking their interests and preferences into account in the future”.

Linking it all to music, this raises a number of issues about devices as the interface between users and services, including the algorithms powering their music service of choice on their smart speakers. We tend to assume that more personalisation is a good thing, but perhaps more of the people buying smart speakers disagree with that than we might have expected.

Eamonn Forde

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