Taiwan-based smart home enabler Philio Technology is going to launch the Snowball Series which includes a mini-sized speaker that can be embedded in the wall in every room to enable immersive voice control at home.Taiwan-based smart home enabler Philio Technology is going to launch the Snowball Series which includes a mini-sized speaker that can be embedded in the wall in every room to enable immersive voice control at home.
In the shape and size of a baseball, the Snowball speaker may be embedded under a surface with no protrusion from a wall/ceiling. The speaker may run on batteries or may be connected to a power line.
The Snowball Series speaker will provide the most basic voice control functions. That is, to receive voice commands and to respond to users. Most of the time the speaker will be in the sleep mode, and will be awakened only when it hears trigger words.
Smart speakers like Google Home or Amazon Echo have great audio systems. They have 6-8 microphones in order to receive voice from different directions and for noise cancellation purpose. The microphones, however, result in larger speaker size and greater costs, and homeowners are unlikely to put a smart speaker in each room. Smart speakers also require power line connection, which can constrain their placement location too.
It is better to have speakers in every room, according to James Huang, CEO of Philio Technology. If there are 10 lights in the home, a command like “turn on the light” may not work. To do the setup, a professional, not end users, will have to write the programming into the gateway, Huang said, adding that this is not very user-friendly. Since the Snowball speakers can be placed in every room, they will know which light to turn on.
Philio’s Snowball speaker runs on the Ultra Low Energy (ULE) communication protocol, which is the same technology used in wireless phones. “We believe it is the most appropriate voice medium. It can cover a wider area, up to two floors,” Huang explained.
With Philio's solution, voice commands are passed to a gateway that relays control signals to smart devices at home. Because the gateway understands communication standards like Zigbee, Z-Wave and Wi-Fi, it can control almost any kind of smart appliances.
The merit of a local voice system, as provided by Philio, is that the commands don’t have to go to the cloud. “A simple command like opening the curtains should not require cloud processing,” Huang said.
“IoT should help people with their everyday life, and our products aim to be the eyes, ears and mouth for the user,” said James Huang, CEO of Philio Technology. Users may even change the default speaker voice to the voice of a celebrity they like, he added.
“The idea is to create servant-like automation. Some people believe robots can do this, but they are very expensive. Also, their development pace may not be quick enough to really make them your servants,” Huang observed.
Market waiting for the right moment
Commenting on the development of the smart home industry, Huang said he feel there is a momentum, which is not yet awakened to be palpable. “The key could be when the demand will be triggered. When, for example, the demand for energy conservation in Europe, or demand for elderly care services suddenly rises, then IoT applications may quickly become universal,” he said.
Commenting on the market, Huang said there are potential opportunities all over the world, since the convenience that technologies may bring is universal.