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How Do Smart Speakers Work? Best Way Explained In 2021

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Glad to be living in the 21st Century, isn’t it? We have seen literally everything. From typewriter to computer keyboards to laptops, from boxed TV to LCD’s to LED’s, from keypad phones with 2 megapixels camera to touch-responsive smartphones with 24 megapixels camera.

Time flies and here we are, about to enter 2021 with all the basic needs available just a phone call away. Today, technology really changed the way the human race lives and in this article, we are going to talk about one such invention, smart speakers, and answer the curious question ‘How do smart speakers work?’

Earlier, there were wired radio speakers which were used to listen to music on FM, gossips about celebrities, and yes sports updates. Then back in 1994, Larry Schotz applied a patent for something that every one of us owns one or need one desperately, a wireless speaker.

Just 6 years back, in 2014, smart speakers were introduced by Amazon with their own AI-powered virtual assistant named ‘Alexa’ in-built in the speakers.

First of all let’s know what a smart speaker actually means.

What Is A Smart Speaker?

Google Home smart speaker
Upcoming Google Home Smart Speaker

A smart device is a gadget that will make day-to-day tasks easy and automated without any hassle. Likewise, smart speakers are voice command devices that come with an in-built virtual assistant that is capable of performing interactive actions.

The virtual assistant is activated over a voice command using ‘a hot or keyword’ like ‘Alexa for Amazon’s virtual assistant’. Once you activate the Alexa-enabled speaker, it can now do a whole lot of things for you and your home.

The AI-powered virtual assistants in our smartphones like Google Assistant and Siri can interact with you via playback and are limited to smartphone functions itself. But there are some smart speakers that work on high-frequency standards like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth which are can perform next-level functions, like a home or office automation.

 And yes, the features this kind of smart speakers offer have no ends or restrictions. Features from locking your home door or turning ON the air conditioner or changing lights to calling someone.

Also, various virtual assistants have their own interacting ways, user-interface, and features and can be easily controlled by using respective applications and home automation software. Some smart speakers like Amazon Echo Show 5 also have a smart display which helps you get a visual representation of the actions performed.

Now, let’s discuss how do smart speakers work in real time.

How Do Smart Speakers Work?

All the smart speakers have one mutual principle of working which is based on Automatic Voice or Speech Recognition (ASR) technology.

Different brands have their own functioning virtual voice assistants like Amazon devices have Alexa, Google Home devices have Google Assistant, Apple have Siri, and Microsoft owns Cortana.

So the basic working is that the voice assistants receive and grasp the voice or command specified by the human and acts accordingly. For every assistant, there’s an ‘activation or wake up’ word that you need to utter in order to Turn ON or activate the virtual assistant built inside the speaker. Once it wakes up, you can then command it to do anything you want, all hands-free and effortlessly.

Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) technology is now used almost in every advanced platform, be it any smartphone application or browsers. Browsers now also support text-to-speech system where what you say is typed within the text area.

With smart devices, there are a set of algorithms that come into the role when we talk about its actual working. A plethora of data and programmed commands are fed to the devices.

Because of these sets of algorithms, smart speakers are able to grasp what the owner says/speaks, and then it is processed within a fraction of seconds, and the virtual assistant inside the speaker responds.

Let’s break down the working process, shall we?

For e.g. A person declares a statement, “Alexa, remind me that I have to collect groceries at 5 pm.”

First, when we address this sentence to an assistant like Alexa, since our voice travels as sound waves, it is signaled and captured by Alexa using the Automatic Speech Recognition technique.

Then, the second part is about Alexa processing and understanding what the human said. This is done by Machine Learning and Deep Learning models and is fed to Cloud ASR.

At the third stage, Natural Processing Language (NPL) is used to let the assistant grab the meaning of the only essential and interpretable words in the sentence that the human spoke (in the above sentence important words that the assistant considers might be {remind, 5 pm, grocery}) and ignore the redundant words (the remaining words like me, at, that, and so on) for better and precise outcomes.

In the next step, there is a Dialogue Manager which takes all the bits of important words and helps the assistant to decide what to respond/reply back to the user’s command. For the above input, it might reply back as, “Ok, a reminder for collecting groceries at 5 pm is set.” The kind of data where you ask the assistant to remember something is stored on Cloud or database for future reference purposes.

Now, this response created by Dialogue Manager for an assistant to answer is converted into Text-to-speech, and sound form is replied via speaker and is the final output of the conversation.

How do smart speakers work
Basic Working Of Smart Speakers Represented In Flow Chart

And as time goes by, because of Machine Learning and Deep Learning, the AI-powered assistant learns the speech pattern of the owner, daily tasks that he/she performs, favorite music playlist, and other such details.

That’s a clear explanation of ‘how do smart speakers work?’ There is a whole lot of stuff that comes into consideration in knowing the work of smart speakers in home automation. This is because a lot of data collection and algorithm takes part in this process which is not possible to explain in a single article.

Security Concerns And Privacy

Well as you know, with high-technology devices comes a high level of effort to maintain its security. Smart speakers are fun to have and can be your most efficient buddy. But holding that thought, there are few areas where you should be concerned about your privacy and also security for that matter.

Regarding privacy issues, the major concern is that smart speakers can also be active wiretapping devices says Wikipedia. Besides, when it comes to awakening the virtual assistants, with smartphones there are buttons you can use to activate and interact, but with speakers, you can communicate hands-free just by using a hot wake-up word.

This can be an issue sometimes, especially in public places where there are chances of people around you hearing your personal or social content via sound coming out of the smart speaker.

Also, if you didn’t configure your speaker before using it, meaning if you don’t authenticate your speaker with your own voice recognition and ownership, the speaker being smart, it will awake and work on any one’s command and illegal or harmful data might be stored in your absence. So, these are a few things you should consider taking note of if you are or going to own a smart speaker.

Final Words

No wonder how technology carries us away with it. But it matters that we should know what we are buying. Especially their working, security the product offers, and other major things.

Regarding smart speakers and the most frequently asked question ‘How do smart speakers work?’ has been explained in detail above along with the security concerns and privacy. Feel free to comment below if there’s still any doubt that your brain comes up with.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Question)

Can Google Home Call 911?

No, virtual assistants like Google Assistant or Alexa cannot call 911. This is because one of the 911 departments claimed that on average they receive three to four hundred emergency 911 calls per day.

Officers say that in order to understand the case properly, they need to stay connected on a call, they also require proper and accurate locations for them to reach the right scene of the crime and most importantly to track the call record for detailed information, and through smart speakers, it is just not convenient at all.

Hence, Federal regulations won’t allow the feature of calling 911 on Google Home and other smart home speakers.

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