Voice-activated home assistants are all the rage. A number of players such as Amazon and Google already have a dedicated device on the market. Other players such as Apple and Samsung have implemented voice interfaces into smartphones and smart TVs which can then be used to interact with and control other devices. Facebook is one of the large online players yet to launch such an initiative (at least for the home). However, its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, spent last year working on a personal project to create a home AI assistant, releasing a video in December that showed the fruits of his labor. The video attracted significant press coverage and speculation about how long it will be before Facebook does something official in the home assistant space and what impact such a move will have.
Facebook must create a home assistant that is superior to any other on the market
AI-enabled home assistants have the potential to become the main interface in the home and in doing so become a goldmine for data that can enable a personal level of service for each individual living in the home. Facebook would be at a significant disadvantage if it allowed its competitors to dominate the smart home assistant space and capture this valuable consumer data – particularly because it builds its business on advertising. Facebook must now decide when and how to enter the home assistant space.
The great advantage that Facebook has over companies such as Google and Apple is its extensive social graph. As hard as Google and co. have tried, they have never managed to disrupt Facebook in this space. But Facebook must think carefully about how it can use its social graph to differentiate a core interface such as a home assistant, creating an assistant that is superior to any other on the market. Zuckerberg's video suggests that what he has created is already fairly sophisticated; however, the video is so heavily scripted it's hard to tell what's real.
Can Facebook ever gain enough trust?
In Ovum's Consumer Insights surveys, Facebook continually comes out as one of the least trusted of the online/CE brands when it comes to looking after personal data. Observers will rightly point out that this doesn't seem to stop people using Facebook – but this is still different to giving the company cart blanche to our homes and all we do in them.
As Figure 1 shows, in Ovum's Smart Living Survey, respondents named Facebook as the least likely brand they'd turn to for any type of smart living service or application other than when a brand didn't make sense for delivering that particular brand or service (e.g. Fitbit delivering a home security service). Even if Facebook has the R&D capabilities, which it no doubt has, whether it can ever become a trusted home assistant is another matter entirely.
Smart Home Case Study: Google, TE0003-000960 (December 2016)
Smart Home Case Study: Amazon, TE0003-000936 (September 2016)
"Smart Home Summit: AI-enabled hubs point the way to the mass market," TE0004-001125 (November 2016)
"Google Assistant is really at the heart of Made by Google,"TE0004-001119 (October 2016)
"Google leads the way on AI acquisitions,"TE0004-001113 (October 2016)
"Amazon fuels the use of AI at home with the launch of Amazon Echo in Europe," TE0003-000958 (September 2016)