Conexant started investing in far-filed audio about five years ago, targeting voice controlled smart TVs from companies such as Sharp and Samsung.
“We had some design wins in China TVs, but no huge uptick until this big sleeper called the Echo” said Awsare. “What was missing was cloud infrastructure,” he said.
For its part, NXP released last week a reference design for Alexa using its i.MX processor and a seven-microphone array similar to the one used in the original Amazon Echo. OEMs need to request an invitation from Amazon to preview the design.
QuickLogic is bullish about a market for using Alexa to add voice control to systems using the EOS sensor hub it started shipping in November. So far three smartphones, one wearable and one IoT device are using the chip.
“My peers at my customers say the next user experience is voice, it’s a paradigm shift we are just at the beginning of and they all see that happening whether it’s in the next six months or five years,” said Scott Haylock, a director of product marketing at QuickLogic.
NXP released its seven-mic Alexa design kit last week. (Image: NXP)
“Amazon made it quite easy” with its Alexa OEM program, he said. “We work with the OEM to make sure the Android API they want to use integrates with the Alexa voice service…from getting an SDK to getting a demo working can be days,” he said.
To get ahead of Google and other rivals, Amazon initially offers Alexa free to OEMs and end users, said Richard Windsor, an analyst at Edison Investment Research.
“Amazon is offering a one-time credit of $100 as well as $100 per month towards any charges that they incur as a result of usage of their [Alexa-based] devices. This is likely to ensure that almost all developers of smart home devices will not have to pay anything to Amazon until they are generating so much usage that they are making plenty of money themselves,” Windsor wrote in a research report.
Although Google Home, its answer to Alexa, has sold less than a million units so far, “the Google Home experience is so superior to Alexa that we still see a risk of Amazon losing this race,” he wrote. “This is why it is still Google’s battle to lose but Amazon is clearly doing everything that it can to ensure that it is Alexa rather than Google that dominates the potentially extremely lucrative market for intelligent home automation,” he added.
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times