Dec/Jan 2020

cameras and sensors), heating, power and lighting,” he explains. “Products enabled with Wi-Fi 6 (the latest Wi-Fi standard that is faster with more capacity for IoT devices) are starting to appear. Mesh Wi-Fi is also emerging as an alternative to traditional single point systems.”

Above: The WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones from Sony. Far right: The Philips OLED+ 984 TV and soundbar. Below: Hive’s smart thermostat.

Smart bundles comprising TVs, speakers and other devices are going to become more prevalent, says Mr Slater, adding: “A combination of a smart speaker with smart lights can make a real difference in the home. Also, smart doorbells are the fastest growing category in smart security and Ring is the market leader, integrating with smart assistants and TVs.

“Trends will range from Thermostatic Radiator valves (TRVs) which add individual room temperature control to wearable health devices that will share data with doctors.”

Let the music play Audio is another key feature of home entertainment, with 76 per cent of music listened to via streaming nowadays, according to Exertis. Playing music is one of the top use cases for voice-activated speakers – Sonos 1 and Harman Kardon are good examples – and 56 per cent of speakers sold in 2018 were smart and that trend continues. True wireless headphones are particularly growing

as are features like Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) headsets. However, almost half of all headph ones sold in the UK are less than £25. There is a growing trend in 360 Reality Audio, announced by Sony in 2019, which offers an immersive music experience for listeners. Comments Claire Poux, UK and Ireland Head of

Sound at Sony: “Most of our 1000XM3 headphones support 360 Reality Audio, including our latest WF- 1000XM3, letting users feel as if they are at a live concert or with the artist recording in a studio.” Soundbars are on the increase too; Atmos Vizio models are compact, providing a premium home theatre sound system with Dolby Atmos at an affordable price. Small soundbars like the Sonos Beam are also increasing in popularity as are portable Wi-Fi systems.

“The sound bar market is constantly evolving,

Above: The A&norma SR15 audio player from Astell&Kern. Left: The AeroBull XS1 wireless speaker family from Jarre.

Ireland TV Marketing Manager. “They can create a complete smart home eco-system through a single hub, such as the XB501G, meaning less wires, remotes and fuss. Smart home technology is giving consumers more autonomy over their homes, all through the power of their voice.” Rod Slater, Head of Smart Tech and IoT at Exertis,

agrees that voice assistants will continue to be an enabler of smart tech in the home, however he states that products that do not require a hub and operate over Wi-Fi continue to attract consumers with the simplicity of their proposition. “There will be a continued interest and growth in the core smart tech categories – security (doorbells,

as we’ve seen with the HT-X8500 soundbar, with 2.1ch Dolby Atmos to let users experience cinematic surround sound from the comfort of their own home,” continues Ms Poux. It also incorporates Bluetooth wireless connectivity.” Glen McClelland, Commercial Director for

Premium Audio at Exertis, adds: “There is also a growing interest in lifestyle designed, home entertainment brands such as Jarre or Naim. “Whilst 80 per cent of the music industry’s

revenue comes from streaming, according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) mid-year report, it also showed that revenue from sales of vinyl records were on track to overtake the sales of CDs by the end of 2019 for the first time in 33 years. This is creating a revival in the interest of turntables with brands like Victrola selling well.”

As technology is constantly advancing, it is important that

manufacturers and retailers work together to ensure key product messages are communicated effectively. However, consumers are increasingly beginning to start their shopping journeys online nowadays; indeed the online share of retail sales for durables (largely IT, CE, SDA, MDA) is around 30 per cent, according to GfK.

An omni-channel approach to retail is clearly

required and retailers will need to cater for those that not only do their research but also make purchases from their smartphone. Nevertheless, Mike Buley, Exertis Consumer Managing Director, adds that physical stores still have the advantage of enabling the customer to handle the product and, providing it’s in stock, gain instant access to it. “The most attractive retailers are those that can personalise their service based on how their customers like to shop,” he says. “Using the latest technology will enable engagement with in-store promotions and recommendations, much like online. “Artificial intelligence is an area which may well influence consumer behaviour in the future with its ability to quickly analyse a lot of data, which can provide valuable insights and lead to better business decisions that will help to create customer loyalty. Mr Buley concludes: “In-store, customers will

be more drawn to those retailers using virtual and augmented reality to increase the customer experience by enabling them to visualise products in different settings. As mentioned before, this will be enabled with the advent of 5G as it’s rolled out across the country this year.”


Sony’s HT-X8500 soundbar offers users a cinematic surround sound experience.

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