Knowles Blog

Enabling the Adoption of Voice User Interface in System Solutions

February 8, 2021 - Brian Crannell and Christian Scherp

As the world of audio moves into its next stage of evolution, we at Knowles can't help but feel proud. As a longtime market leader in advanced micro-acoustic microphones and speakers, we've been behind many of the most important audio movements and innovations of our time. Half a century ago, "One small step for man" was spoken on the moon through one of our mics, and we've since become the leading global supplier of MEMS microphones and acoustics solutions. Odds are good that you have some of our technology in your pocket or handbag right now, in your smartphone and earphones.

The Business Is Changing

Today, audio technology is expanding into many exciting new directions. Voice user interface (VUI) is becoming mainstream in both residential and commercial settings, even though we're still early in its adoption curve. Personal audio is changing too, with compelling new hearing solutions now within reach for many millions of eager new users. Innovative ideas for personal and group audio are springing up to meet the new demands of remote communications for work, school and play. 

We're thrilled to be at the forefront of this moment in audio history, and for the opportunity to offer the underpinning technologies behind the coming surge of new audio products and services. Our products have always been renowned for their focus on highest quality performance and rock-solid reliability. That's why we ship more than 2 billion microphones each year to Tier-1 consumer electronics OEMs.

What's less widely-known is our company's well-earned character as a trusted supplier and supportive business partner. Our focus is not just on customer satisfaction, but also on customer sensitivity. As a key supplier, we work intimately with our customers to provide best-in-class audio solutions that advance their businesses as well as our own, including superior customer support.

The foundation of our leadership and customer-centricity is the world-class team of experts that we bring to each project. Whether the need is a deep discipline, such as neural networks or 3-D spatial sound, or extracting the most accurate reproduction from the tiniest component, or simply finding ways to make it easier for developers to get products out to market, our people drive our innovation enabling world leading audio solutions for our customers.

In order to help power these new audio possibilities, we are opening up our market-leading solutions and expertise to a broader set of business channels. Simply put, we are now expanding our focus to support the emerging ecosystem of voice and audio developers.

Expanding the Ecosystem

Audio may be a specialized technology, but it's one that is so in demand in so many new applications that consumers will take it for granted. For many of the coming products and services in home, health, security, education, senior care and more, voice control will be the first (and sometimes only) interaction from the end user. We see this trend as something that consumers will simply expect from now on, in almost every avenue of their interaction with technology.

To meet this demand, we have re-organized our engineering to focus on the delivery of flexible, scalable solutions for OEMs, ODMs and system integrators of all sizes and degrees of experience, operating in a broad variety of business verticals. We are placing new emphasis on integrated audio solutions that include multiple components and software to make developer's lives easier. We will also be offering reference designs that will help new customers smoothly develop new products and quickly bring them to market. Our renowned expertise with DSP, audio transducers, audio software and advanced algorithms will now be fueling an entirely new generation of audio-driven technologies across many new channels.

Doubling Down On Distribution & Partnerships

To help drive market growth, we'll be placing greater emphasis on both distributors and business- and sales channel partnerships. For the former, we will be offering new turn-key solutions that will allow virtually any product type to include advanced voice and audio capabilities.

For example, the Knowles IA611 smart mic development kit will now be available on distributor portals Digikey and Mouser. This powerful platform can be used by developers to easily create unique, exciting voice UI experiences for a host of device types. These range from well-accepted products such as smart speakers, wearables and mobile phones to as-yet-unknown devices, as the ecosystem continues to expand.

Standard host drivers will allow compatibility across different host processors and operating systems, and the SDK provides tools for algorithm developers so that they can easily deploy and test on the development kit. Later this spring, the Knowles IA8201 DSP dev kit, with SDK and Raspberry Pi integration will also become available through distribution. This customizable multi-core DSP platform will enable an even broader range of audio applications, including mobile and computing accessories, smart TVs and soundbars, among many others.

Beyond making it easy for OEMs/ODMs to build new products, Knowles will also now build strategic partnerships from both inside and outside of conventional audio-facing business channels. Our world-class expertise can bring state-of-the-art audio capabilities to any broad-scale enterprise, with reliability and support that has been the reason we've shipped over 15 billion of our SiSonic MEMS microphones.

For the Audio Ecosystem

While the markets for precision audio are already exploding, none of us can predict the full measure of how widespread audio will be in the coming tech landscape. New businesses and new business models loom beyond the horizon through augmented and virtual reality, autonomous technologies and intelligent ambient systems, among other innovations.

Whichever shape they take, audio by Knowles will be there. After decades of market leadership, we are truly ready for new business – in entirely new ways. As the industry evolves, so does Knowles along with it. We look forward to  filling our important new role with pleasure and anticipation.