The use of voice activation has been growing steadily, thanks in large part to people's experience with smartphone assistants – Microsoft's Cortana, Apple's Siri, Google Voice, Samsung's Galaxy among others – but it is set to reach a whole new level over the next year as Amazon Echo enters the mainstream.

At the Radiocentre annual conference, held in London in May 2017, the industry body's planning director Mark Barber unveiled research – co-funded by Global, the media company that owns a host of UK radio stations, and by Radioplayer, a partnership between the BBC and UK commercial radio – showing that 9% of UK households currently own one or more Amazon Echo devices (which had only been launched in the country some six months earlier).

But one in four expect to buy one soon and, with 87% indicating they will do so within the next 12 months, he predicted that by early 2018 some 40% of households could have an Echo device installed. "If that seems quite steep," he said, "it's worth considering how quickly smartphones were adopted. The Echo is not only cheaper but people aren't tied into existing contracts that prevent them entering the market early."