Pushing the Limits of Smart Audio Solutions with StreamUnlimited

Thursday 4/22/21 08:17am
Posted By Ana Schafer
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Snapdragon and Qualcomm branded products are products of
Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

The opportunity for wireless audio devices is experiencing rapid growth, with the smart speaker segment alone projected to reach $19 billion in revenue by 2027.

Factors driving the evolution of these devices include advances in AI, immersive audio technologies, a growing list of streaming music and other media services, and the integration of technologies like Bluetooth and 5G. New and innovative use cases for smart audio devices continue to evolve, especially within IoT and smart homes.

Developing products that support this smart audio technology requires acquiring specific engineering expertise, integrating with new platforms and services, and fulfilling complex certifications.

One company helping to address these challenges is StreamUnlimited. Its core offering, StreamSDK, is aimed at developers building devices for feature-rich audio music streaming connected soundbars with immersive audio, smart speakers and other voice assistant-enabled products, and IoT devices.

StreamSDK is described on the StreamUnlimited website as “… a flexible, multi-dimensional software solution, portable to various classes of silicon, which enables the application of streaming audio functionality to consumer electronics devices”. Its customers include retailers and mainstream smart-audio device brands in Europe, Asia, and the U.S.

StreamSDK is available for the Qualcomm® Smart Audio 400 Platform and complements the Qualcomm Audio Development Kit (available to registered developers of the Qualcomm Smart Audio 400 Platform). This combination provides developers with a rich level of functionality, including voice and audio service integration, and immersive audio.

We recently caught up with Mark Needham, Product and Partner Manager at StreamUnlimited, to learn more about their SDK and our collaboration in porting their SDK to the Qualcomm Smart Audio 400 Platform.

The StreamSDK
Mark describes StreamSDK as “a feature-rich audio streaming stack with a depth of functionality that is unrivaled in the market.” He goes on to share how the SDK aims to reduce the customer time-to-market with a platform on which to build families of products on progressive roadmaps.

While the SDK has its roots in supporting music services like Spotify Connect, Tidal, Amazon Music, Qobuz, and TuneIn, it has now been extended to integrate with other types of technologies. These include Chromecast, AirPlay2, voice assistants, high-end audio codecs, room-correction technology, and smart home interaction.

This is exciting news for developers looking to build audio devices based around the Qualcomm Smart Audio 400 Platform. StreamSDK gives developers increased functionality with Amazon Alexa, including MRM, Comms and Messaging and Frustration Free Setup, Google Chromecast, Google Assistant, Tencent Voice Services, and many of the aforementioned audio features. Immersive audio is covered by Dolby Atmos, with other additions coming soon. Key features from Qualcomm® aptX™ Audio also remain available via StreamSDK.

From an implementation standpoint, Mark says that StreamUnlimited engineers generally conduct StreamUnlimited customer project work on behalf of a brand-customer or an original design manufacturer (ODM). However, there is an API available – StreamAPI – that allows knowledgeable customers to work directly with the technology. StreamUnlimited operates several access models depending on customers’ requirements, and available engineering resources. StreamAPI can be used to access some of the building blocks of StreamSDK, in order to implement brand specific customizations.

Working with Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.
Given StreamSDK and our own SoCs’ premium standings, Mark says that porting the StreamSDK to Qualcomm Technologies’ hardware was a logical step to meet the growing demand from top-quality audio device brands for powerful and innovative platforms.

But as with any software port, Mark says that SDK implementation is often dictated by the target hardware. Variables include hardware and software requirements, security, certification, long-term updates, and maintenance. Therefore, porting the SDK to the Qualcomm Smart Audio 400 Platform required close collaboration and communication between the technical and commercial teams to address the complexities of the hardware and software combinations. Additional complexities arose from the need to accommodate customer-specific requirements and challenging technical features so that brands can confidently push products through certification with specific platform providers.

The results were worth the effort. Developers can now benefit from a well-maintained and progressive software stack, backed by a rich feature set. StreamUnlimited will regularly update and enhance the SDK to ensure it continues to support new hardware, the latest features, and future certification requirements.

Certification is a process that underlying vendors and service providers put in place to ensure that a product built for their platform or service meets their requirements, standards, and target levels of quality. These standards vary by vendor and Mark emphasizes that certification must be a key focus for developers of audio devices. However, many brands often underestimate the certification timeline and effort required for product development. A product’s development schedule can be severely impacted by trying to pass certification, which can be slowed by factors including the use of software that is out of date, or failing to meet the correct standard, for example.

Mark says that StreamUnlimited works hard to ensure that StreamSDK is robust, tested, and maintained to maximize customer confidence with certification issues.

Audio of the Future
Mark says that StreamUnlimited will add functionality to the SDK as required. Current plans on their roadmap include support for the forthcoming Bluetooth LE Audio standard and 5G. With trends towards Hi-Fi music streaming options and immersive audio coming from many music streaming companies, StreamUnlimited plans to port additional functionality to our platform throughout the year.

StreamUnlimited also sees immersive audio transitioning quickly from movies to music, with Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 attracting huge attention from brands and consumers. Available content will increase, and soundbars for example, will become much more than an extension of the TV. Voice assistants, including multi-voice assistant combinations, and smart home integration, will also evolve significantly, as will the evolution of room correction methods and wireless audio transfer.

Qualcomm Technologies and StreamUnlimited are at the forefront of development for audio devices. With the tight compatibility of the Qualcomm Smart Audio Platform and StreamSDK, developers now have powerful hardware and a rich SDK to build audio devices for a growing and diversifying group of smart, wireless audio devices.

Developers interested in using the Qualcomm Smart Audio 400 Platform should register by navigating to the platform web page and scrolling to the Access more section at the bottom. For additional information, check out Working with Qualcomm. And keep an eye out for further announcements on Qualcomm.com and Qualcomm Developer Network, as several devices built with the StreamSDK and Qualcomm Smart Audio 400 Platform are scheduled to come out later this year.

For information on using StreamSDK, contact StreamUnlimited using the contact information available on the StreamSDK webpage.

Qualcomm Smart Audio Platform and Qualcomm aptX are products of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.