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More Alexa-powered smart speakers are coming, thanks to Qualcomm

Qualcomm and Amazon have just announced that Qualcomm’s Smart Audio platform has been qualified by Amazon for the Alexa Voice Service.

Published onJanuary 24, 2018

Wireless speakers are increasingly common in today’s homes, and the search for greater product differentiation is already pushing companies to pack smart assistants into their speakers. Ecosystem developers Google and Amazon already have their reference designs on the market, and more and more manufacturers are launching their own products too.

Smart speakers development is more specialized than designing a regular speaker, which prolongs development times and pushes up costs. To expedite product launches, Qualcomm and Amazon have announced Qualcomm’s Smart Audio platform is now qualified for the Alexa Voice Service. This means Qualcomm’s platform is certified by Amazon to contain all the building blocks necessary to support Alexa for everything from media streaming to custom skills.

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“We are pleased to be the first fully certified single vendor end-to-end AVS platform and to be able to combine our proven audio capabilities into a fully integrated smart speaker reference platform with AVS to meet the requirements of customers seeking to rapidly create innovative, voice-controlled smart speakers and networked audio products,” said Qualcomm Technologies International senior vice president and general manager of voice & music Anthony Murray in a press release.

There are two tiers of certification offered by Amazon for Alexa. The first is really just a bare minimum applied to single products that means they technically work with Alexa, but don’t have to support all the feature well. The second qualification tier is much stricter, as it encompasses a wider range of possibilities from reference platforms. Qualcomm’s platform is the first end-to-end solution to achieve this level of certification.

Qualcomm’s Smart Audio platform, unveiled last year, includes support for up to six far-field microphones, always-ready wake-word detection, and integrated Hi-Fi audio playback complete with amplifier. The platform offers developers a quad-core CPU for running applications, an Adreno GPU if they need a display, a Hexagon DSP for efficient audio processing, Bluetooth 4.2 and LE, aptX HD codec, Wi-Fi, Fluence noise cancellation technology, AllPlay for multi-room networking, and even Quick Charge 2.0 support for portable speakers.

The platform also offers a Google version, which runs on Android Things. This includes support for Google Assistant and the Cast for Audio standard.

With certification under its belt, Qualcomm can now position its Smart Audio platform as a heavily customizable reference for smart speaker developers. The all-in-one nature of the platform should also help to accelerate time-to-market and keep product development costs down.

Qualcomm’s certified Smart Audio platform will be available to its partners in Q1 2018. The first consumer products powered by it could appear within the first half of the year.

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