Sonos testing clever WiFi analysis tech to improve smart speaker sound quality

As it faces mounting competition from the likes of Apple and Amazon, a new report today suggests that Sonos is studying new ways to “optimize audio” using Wi-Fi. As first reported by Protocol, Sonos recently filed a patent application focused on enhancing its smart speakers using an analysis of Wi-Fi signal changes.

For context, the full-size HomePod released by Apple in 2018 used an array of built-in microphones to listen to the room environment and make adjustments. So HomePod could sense if it were placed next to a wall and adjust sound quality to best fill the room with sound.

The technology described in this Sonos patent takes a different approach to optimizing sound quality. Titled “Systems and Methods for State Detection via Wireless Radios,” the patent application says that the Sonos tests found that certain Wi-Fi signals can be “negatively affected by water.”

Therefore, this can be used for “detection/absence of a human given the physical properties of humans (which are essentially water).” For example, if the Sonos detected a human, it could automatically “adjust audio characteristics” based on the location of the human, so that the human is “always in an acoustic sweet spot.”

The Protocol report surmises:

  • Once such a water-rich human is detected, speakers can “adjust audio characteristics, or variables, (e.g., volume, balance, etc.) based on a user’s location in the area between the playback devices such that the user is always in an acoustic sweet spot.”
  • Presence detection via Wi-Fi could also be used for hand-over of audio from speaker to speaker, which can include “initiating playback when a person enters a room or sits on the couch, stopping playback when a person exits a room, and/or transferring playback to different sets of speakers as an individual moves throughout a home.”
  • Sonos is even exploring the idea of using Wi-Fi signals to offer safety and security services, with the option to trigger mobile alerts, activate security cameras, and more when movement is detected while the homeowner is gone

As always, it’s important to take patent applications from big tech companies with a grain of salt. With that being said, however, Sonos went as far as to test this technology in its labs (versus having an idea and patenting it right away). This could signal the companies’ more ambitious plans to roll out something like this to the public.

What do you think of this technology? Would you be interested in room-sensing technology for speakers powered by Wi-Fi? Let us know down in the comments!

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