The smart speaker ecosystem is yet to materialise in India, but it’s been touted as the “next big thing” overseas. Given our propensity for new technologies, it’s inevitable that these speakers make it to India eventually, and Qualcomm’s announcement today could be the stepping stone for that. The company announced the Qualcomm Smart Audio Platform at its voice and music developer conference in Shenzhen today. The platform is of course driven by Qualcomm’s chips.
That basically means Qualcomm sees potential in this industry, and like in smartphones, wants to drive the ecosystem with its chips and software. In doing so, Qualcomm is also making it simpler for new companies, especially smaller ones, to develop smart speaker systems quickly. The platform essentially asks as a sort of plug and play system for developers and OEMs that do not have the massive resources akin to a Google, Amazon or Apple.
The Smart Audio Platform includes technologies like echo-cancellation, noise suppressions, support for voice assistants, and a “reliable” voice interface for noisy environments. There’s also a “barge-in” capability, and developers can plug in a pre-built assistant like Amazon’s Alexa or the Google Assistant.
Further, Qualcomm enables multi-room audio technology using its own AllPlay tech. This should be an achilles heel at least in the beginning, although with more OEMs using Qualcomm’s platform, AllPlay could also become more useful. Where an Amazon Echo and Google Home can’t work with each other, Qualcomm AllPlay may allow different speakers to work in sync with each other. “AllPlay compatible speakers are designed to be easily configured to play synchronized music across multiple rooms, different music in multiple speaker zones, and multi-channel wireless surround sound to multiple speakers in the same room,” says Qualcomm.
Of course, that’s contingent on whether OEMs actually want that to happen, which would be unlikely to say the least. Most companies want consumers to remain in their own ecosystems, especially the bigger ones like Apple, Samsung, Google and others. The Qualcomm Smart Audio Platform also allows Linux and Android Things operating systems, which allows more interoperability if the OEM so chooser. Using Android Things will also make speakers Google Cast capable.