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Qualcomm's new reference design will allow third parties to build Apple HomePod-like smart speakers

The new platform will open channels to build smart, voice-controlled speakers with less development time.

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The battle in the IoT space has got tough thanks to the entry of Apple HomePod. Now the world’s largest chipmaker, Qualcomm, wants to make it tougher by introducing a new platform that will allow third-parties to build their own speakers from scratch. This would essentially open channels for brands such as Xiaomi, LG, and Sony to perhaps have their own army of voice-controller speakers which might also be mass-appealing for their affordable pricing.

Qualcomm has released a reference ‘smart audio’ design called ‘Smart Audio Platform’ which is a combination of microphone, speaker, and voice-recognition sensor. The reference design runs on the open source Linux OS and Google’s Android Things IoT platform. It can be best understood as a pre-prepared blueprint of a technology on which third parties will be required to simply layer their hardware for a final product.

The platform includes far-field microphone technology that can detect voice instructions such as ‘Ok Google‘ or ‘Alexa’ from a distance. It is further said to get support for Beamforming — which is a type of electronic signal processing which uses multiple microphones to detect user’s voice, echo cancellation, Bluetooth aptX HD audio, and Wi-Fi, Digital Trends reports. ALSO READ: Apple HomePod vs Amazon Echo vs Google Home: Which one is coming to your home?

Qualcomm Smart Audio Platform is further packed with support for codecs like MP3, OggVorbis (Hi-Res 32-bit/192kHz), lossless FLAC/ALAC, and Qualcomm’s newest multi-room AllPlay audio system which allows one to control multiple wireless speakers which are on the same network. The new platform will be powered by the APQ8009 and APQ 8017 chips which will start shipping in the third quarter this year.

Voice assistant forms the core of smart speakers and building a new AI assistant takes a significant amount of time and research to get it right. It is exactly here that Qualcomm’s reference design becomes all the more powerful. The Qualcomm Smart Audio Platform also features support for existing voice assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant which makes the task of building a new hardware even simpler as third parties will be able to leverage the existing potential of voice assistants. ALSO READ: Samsung reportedly working on smart home speaker to take on Apple HomePod, Amazon Echo

While the list of advantages is large, there is one disadvantage with the Qualcomm Smart Audio Platform. There are only a handful of speakers from Hitachi, Panasonic, and Monster that support the AllPlay standard. However, Qualcomm promises to add more functionality to the platform.

  • Published Date: June 15, 2017 5:57 PM IST