Qualcomm, the chip manufacturer that Broadcom really wants to buy, is using this year’s CES to launch a new platform for smart speakers, displays and other devices with built-in support for Google’s Assistant. In addition, the company also announced that its Smart Audio Platform is now certified by Amazon for Alexa Voice Service and that it supports Microsoft’s Cortana assistant, too. All of these platforms, the company hopes, will allow other hardware manufacturers to more easily build devices that support these virtual assistants.
In total, there are quite a few announcements here: the Qualcomm Smart Audio far-field reference platform that is now qualified for Alexa; Smart Audio Platform support for Android Things; the Google Assistant and Google Cast for audio; and the new Qualcomm Home Hub platforms (which comes in two different flavors) with support for Android Things; and Microsoft Cortana support.
The Home Hub platform is the most powerful of these (at least in terms of computational power) and, among other things, forms the basis for the Google Assistant-enabled smart displays that Lenovo and others are announcing today. The Home Hub platform comes in two versions: the more powerful SDA624 system on a chip (SoC) for devices with video cameras and/or displays and the SDA212 SoC for more audio-centric devices.
As for the Smart Audio Platform, Qualcomm stresses that the Alexa version includes six-microphone far-field voice support while on the Google side, the company is stressing that the platform also supports Android Things, Google’s Android-based software platform for IoT devices.
“Our Smart Audio Platform helps allow traditional speaker OEMs to more efficiently join and participate in the growing smart speaker segment,” said Anthony Murray, senior vice president and general manager, voice and music at Qualcomm. “Demand for voice control and assistance in the home is rapidly gaining traction, and this platform is designed to offer great flexibility for manufacturers wanting to deliver highly differentiated user experiences taking advantage of the power of Google cloud-based services.”
Seshu Madavapeddy, Qualcomm’s VP of product management for IoT, told me the company is using a lot of the building blocks it developed for mobile devices to build these home IoT platforms (though the company is obviously also making investments specific to IoT). Madavapeddy stressed that the company always focuses on security, though, no matter the price point of its chipsets.