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Three key technologies for next-gen smart speakers

Dec 19, 2019

Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

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This is the age of more immersive smart speaker experiences, driven by fast-ramping consumer demand for better sound quality and increased portability. These new user expectations come in addition to the most fundamental feature of any smart speaker: intuitive voice UI (user interface) that enables people to more easily and naturally interact with their devices.

As we enter this new evolutionary chapter for smart speakers, Qualcomm Technologies — aligned with industry-leaders like Amazon — is working to deliver rich, integrated technology platforms that are specifically designed to support the immersive, intuitive, voice-enabled speaker experiences that consumers most want. 

To help shine a light on what’s driving this great-sounding future, we’ve identified three important technology areas that are needed to deliver the next generation of smart speakers:

1) Smarter, cloud-based voice services

We asked thousands of consumers worldwide if using voice assistants makes life easier — and guess what, we found that more than half of them agree that it does (in some geographies as many as 85 percent). 

There’s little question that the smart speaker sector was pioneered by Amazon, with Alexa paving the way for people around the world to enjoy using voice to access all kinds of “smart” services — from asking Alexa to play the latest music, hear the news or retrieve information, to planning schedules, shopping, and controlling connected smart home devices. Alexa lives in the cloud and is constantly getting smarter, with new capabilities to help make these use cases better, and opening up new functionality that streamlines and enhances people’s daily lives. 

Our findings suggest that many consumers now view support for a cloud-based service like Alexa as the core feature of a smart speaker. Offering this capability as a built-in feature is essential in order to appeal to this huge potential customer base with billions to spend. 

2) More powerful processing, enhanced with AI

To support improved experiences that users desire, the next generation of smart speakers need to be smarter inside as well as out. Today, we’re able to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to enhance and accelerate on-device audio and voice processing. In our most recent platform, the Qualcomm Smart Audio 400 Platform, we’ve harnessed our Qualcomm AI Engine and applied it to improve on specific elements such as the speed and accuracy of wake word detection, the ability to use voice for many commands (even without the internet), and with very low power consumption. With AI we can make enhancements in efficiency that mean we can deliver next-generation voice UI experiences while maximizing battery life. 

3) Sharp uplift in desire for better sound quality

In the last two years, it’s become clear that richer sounding audio playback is the #1 most important feature for smart speaker shoppers. In our State of Play 2019 consumer audio report, published earlier this year, research showed that the demand for great sound quality — already the top-ranked driver for smart speaker purchases — actually increased year-over-year since 2018. In fact, consumers care more about their audio experience than they do about speaker price. 

Integrating superior audio capabilities for richer, more immersive listening experiences into the next generation of smart speakers will be one of the most powerful ways to appeal to consumers — helping to expand the reach and scale of this exciting product category.

Integrating tech for the future 

Advanced, highly integrated technologies like our Smart Audio 400 Platform enable brands to build better performing smart speakers with more sophisticated use cases at all tiers. As this next wave of devices start hitting the shelves, shoppers can expect a wider selection of smart speakers to choose from — and with improved listening experiences.

  • Loud-volume playback without distortion and higher-quality audio that does justice to all your favorite tunes.
  • Greater portability, complete with a battery life that makes it possible to enjoy a smart speaker at the beach or park, and use it for hours with no loss of functionality.
  • Richer connectivity — to the cloud, and to other devices.

All these features will be combined with ever-smarter services from Alexa — and not just in the smart speaker category, but across all types of smart devices.

The Qualcomm Smart Audio 400 Platform development kit for smart speakers is qualified for Amazon Alexa Voice Service, and tightly integrated with the technologies outlined above along with other rich features. Learn more about the latest trends in consumer audio and download the free whitepaper detailing our research findings here.

Get started with the Qualcomm Smart Audio 400 Platform development kit.

Related links

Other solutions that support the Amazon Alexa Voice Service include:

The Qualcomm Smart Audio, Qualcomm AI Engine, Qualcomm Mesh Networking Development Kit for Amazon AVS, Qualcomm Home Hub Development Kit for AVS, Qualcomm Smart Headset Reference Design, and Development Kit for Amazon Alexa Voice are products of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

Opinions expressed in the content posted here are the personal opinions of the original authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of Qualcomm Incorporated or its subsidiaries ("Qualcomm"). Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries. The content is provided for informational purposes only and is not meant to be an endorsement or representation by Qualcomm or any other party. This site may also provide links or references to non-Qualcomm sites and resources. Qualcomm makes no representations, warranties, or other commitments whatsoever about any non-Qualcomm sites or third-party resources that may be referenced, accessible from, or linked to this site.

The OnQ Team

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