Qualcomm Announces Smart Headset Development Kit to Promote Alexa Use in Hearables

Qualcomm Announces Smart Headset Development Kit to Promote Alexa Use in Hearables

Two days ago Qualcomm announced the release of  the ‘Qualcomm Smart Headset Platform’, a Bluetooth Smart Headset reference design featuring push-button activation support for the Alexa Mobile Accessory Kit. This will enable users to connect Bluetooth enabled audio devices with Alexa via the Alexa App. Qualcomm claims manufacturers will be able to bypass the bulk of coding for their Alexa integration without any other communication hardware besides Bluetooth. The reference design is based on Qualcomm’s existing family of Bluetooth audio chips, and includes hardware and software required by manufacturers to develop the Bluetooth headsets. Qualcomm’s Smart Headset Platform can be found here, and is available now. Anthony Murray, senior vice president and general manager, voice & music of Qualcomm says,

With this solution, we expect to support companies big and small to develop innovative and exciting headsets covering a range of styles featuring Alexa.

Dedicated to Alexa Everywhere

It is not Alexa’s first move to hearables, however this is a significant move because of the partnership with Qualcomm. After the release of 66 Audio’s PRO Voice Headphones with Alexa integration, Fast Company reported on the difficulty of integrating Alexa into devices where Amazon does not control the architecture, specifically mentioning Qualcomm’s headphone chip,

Part of the problem was that Qualcomm’s existing wireless headphone chips aren’t set up for voice controls. Instead, nearly all of their power consumption goes toward basic features like audio playback and Bluetooth connectivity. To accommodate Alexa, 66 Audio had to tack on external flash memory and a separate digital amplifier, which in turn required a new circuit design.

Qualcomm’s new reference design is what Amazon had in mind when it announced the Alexa Mobile Accessory Kit (AMAK) back in January as it is inline with Amazon’s ‘Alexa everywhere’ strategy. Amazon has a history of creating tools to make it easier for manufacturers to integrate with Alexa. Prior to the launch of AMAK, Amazon also launched the Alexa Voice Service Device SDK for Manufacturers in August 2017.

Amazon very clearly wants Alexa to be everywhere. Just in the past few months alone, Amazon has announced a slew of new Alexa devices, the opening up of Alexa for Business to device makers, and the launch of the Alexa Gadgets Toolkit. Amazon is promoting Alexa through multiple channels at every stage of development, from device manufacturers to consumers themselves. This all consuming strategy seems to be how Amazon plans to hold on to its market lead.

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