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Digital assistants will outnumber us all by 2021

According to analysts, the number of digital assistant-equipped devices will surpass 7.5 billion in four years.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The number of devices with digital assistants built-in will grow to over 7.5 billion in 2021, according to new forecasts by the research and consulting firm Ovum. That just surpasses the current world population, according to the US Census Bureau.

In their analysis, Ovum breaks out the various digital assistants and discusses their past and future. In 2016, about 3.5 billion active devices were already on the market, says Ovum, and that number will grow quickly as more types of devices introduce digital assistants. For instance, most of the devices hosting digital assistants on them right now are phones, but with the rise of smart speakers such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, smart TVs and connected cars, the territory for assistants to claim will only grow.

Ovum predicts that Google Assistant will reign supreme in the digital assistant realm, followed by Chinese assistants, Siri and surprisingly Samsung Bixby. These predictions are likely due to the large share of devices that phones represent. Further behind will be assistants such as Amazon's Alexa and Microsoft's Cortana.

One of the biggest variables that will affect these outcomes is language and international presence. Ovum noted that around 95% of Alexa and Google Assistant installations are in North America, whereas it's closer to 24% for Siri. With the massive markets in Asia and even emerging markets in parts of Africa, the question will be who best taps into the international consciousness and provides the most universal vocal interface. For now, that remains to be seen.