Qualcomm’s New Home Hub Platforms Bring Google Services to Smart Devices
Smart devices (and smart home devices in particular) have grown increasingly popular in recent years. Amazon leads the pack with its Alexa virtual assistant, but faces tough competition from Google. The search giant released the newest Developer Preview of Android Things, its lightweight, Weave-enabled operating system design for home automation, in December 2017. And at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show on Tuesday, it teamed up with Qualcomm to announce two new Qualcomm Home Hub platforms that support Android Things.
Qualcomm’s new Home Hub platforms are based on Qualcomm’s SDA624 and SDA212 system-on-chips (SoC), and they’re designed to help developers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) quickly and cost-effectively ship devices that tap Google services such as the Google Assistant. Qualcomm notes that smart home hubs, which come in a range of form factors and rely on cloud connectivity and edge computing capabilities, are a fast-growing industry, and that the new Home Hub platforms offer a wealth of possibilities.
“The design of AI-enabled home hubs can be a complex task, requiring OEMs to bring together connectivity, compute and security hardware and software elements in a very short time,” said Raj Talluri, Senior Vice President of Product Management at Qualcomm. “Our Home Hub platforms using Android Things are able to integrate the necessary technologies, with support for voice interfaces, connectivity to several ecosystems, and cloud integration to enable a wide range of IoT devices.”
The first of Qualcomm’s new Home Hub platforms leverages the SDA212 SoC, and it’s engineered to imbue appliances such as refrigerators, ovens, and washing machines with digital assistant and high-end audio features. Qualcomm says that it brings together a “unique combination” of processing capabilities, connectivity options, voice user interfaces. And thanks to audio technologies including echo-cancellation, noise suppression, and a “barge-in” capability, these Home Hub-enabled devices can pick up even the faintest voice commands in loud or noisy environments.
The second of Qualcomm’s Home Hub platforms is more feature-rich and based on the SDA624 SoC. It adds edge computing capabilities and brings multimedia, video camera, touch display, and more to Android Things devices such as smart displays, home monitoring cameras, smart thermostats, and security panels. These Home Hub devices are geared toward multimedia — they’ll support video recording, remote video monitoring, movie and video streaming, and more.
Both of the new Home Hub platforms pack built-in Wi-Fi 802.11ac 2×2 MU-MIMO and Bluetooth courtesy the company’s QCA9379 chip.
Devices based on the Android Things Qualcomm Home Hub platforms won’t be restricted to using the Google Assistant. They’re free to use additional cloud-based Google services such as Google Cast for audio and TensorFlow to enable machine learning (ML) applications. The SDA624 variant has more advanced functionality: It supports video streaming using Google Cast, video conferencing using Google Duo, and traffic updates via Google Maps.
Qualcomm says it’s working with distributors to design and make available certified System-on-Modules (SoM), reference designs, and development boards for both variants of Home Hub, and adds that OEMs will be able to purchase the platforms and use Android Things to add custom Android Package Kits (APKs) to their devices. Software updates to Home Hub devices can be pushed through the Google Cloud, which will allow OEMs to add new features, fix bugs, and apply security patches remotely.
Qualcomm’s Home Hub platforms, SoMs, reference designs and development boards will be generally available in the first quarter of 2018 through Intrinsyc Technologies. SoMs based on SDA624, meanwhile, will ship from LITE-ON.
Products based on the Home Hub platforms will be on display at CES 2018 from January 9 – 12. Harman and Lenovo are already working on products that use them, Qualcomm says, one of which is Lenovo’s new Smart Display.