LAS VEGAS – Qualcomm’s AllPlay whole-home wireless audio technology is making its debut here at International CES with products from five CE companies and native support planned by six music streaming services.
More CE brands and streaming services plan to support the technology, Qualcomm said.
AllPlay, which uses Wi-Fi and supports high-resolution audio codecs, is promoted as offering advantages over Apple’s AirPlay and DLNA.
Qualcomm also positions its solution as an alternative to single-brand proprietary solutions, enabling consumers to buy compatible products from multiple brands. The AllPlay platform provides a “turnkey solution for cross-platform interoperability,” said Gary Brotman, product management director for Qualcomm’s connected experience group.
At the show, Panasonic and Altec Lansing are showing AllPlay-compatible tabletop speakers with embedded Wi-Fi. Panasonic is also showing a wireless receiver that consumers can add to existing music systems to connect them to an AllPlay network.
Three CE companies without U.S. distribution — Musaic, Lenco and Medion — are also showing products.
Additional CE brands will launch later in the year, said Brotman. The first speakers are expected to be available in the U.S. in mid-2014, with additional models due later this year.
Music services demonstrating native AllPlay support in their apps are iHeartRadio, Rhapsody, Napster, DoubleTwist and SomaFM. The services will add native support to their apps beginning this month through March, and more streaming services will add native AllPlay support later in the year, including Grooveshark.
Equipped with music-management apps provided by the suppliers of AllPlay-enabled audio products, an Apple or Android mobile device will be able to stream one or more locally stored songs to one or more speakers at a time, Brotman said. The apps also double as a controller to direct one or more songs at a time from a DLNA-enabled PC or NAS drive to one or more speakers at a time.
AllPlay supports synchronous streaming of music to up to 10 zones.
And the AllPlay-compatible music-service apps will display an AllPlay icon when they detect AllPlay-enabled speakers and music systems on a Wi-Fi network. From a compatible music-service app, users will then be able to select the speakers to which they want to send Cloud-based music. Music from multiple streaming apps running simultaneously on one mobile device can be directed to different speakers simultaneously.
For streaming services, the ability to incorporate AllPlay support in their native apps offers multiple advantages, Brotman said. A music-service’s native app offers a richer experience compared to other-brand music-management apps that access multiple services, he explained. In addition, a native music-streaming app is able to display ads to help monetize the service, he said.
To conserve mobile-device battery power, streaming- service content isn’t sent from a mobile device to AllPlay speakers. Instead, one AllPlay-enabled speaker designated as the master speaker fetches content from the Cloud and then redistributes the content to other speakers. In contrast, other wireless multiroom technologies use the mobile device to distribute Cloud-based music around the house, said Brotman.
AllPlay also offers other advantages over alternative solutions, Brotman noted. For one thing, Apple’s AirPlay limits streaming of audio content from an iPhone or iPod to one AirPlay speaker at a time. Also with AirPlay, only one PC-stored song at a time can be distributed to multiple speakers throughout the house.
AllPlay also offers advantages over relying on a mobile device’s DLNA technology to send music to speakers, Brotman said. DLNA-enabled mobile devices stream audio to only one speaker at a time via a Wi- Fi network, he said. AllPlay-equipped mobile devices, in contrast, can stream on a peer-to-peer basis in direct mode over Wi-Fi to multiple speakers at a time, and they can do it without connecting to a home’s Wi- Fi network, he said.
One advantage for any Wi-Fi-based multi-room system compared to Bluetooth is Wi-Fi’s bandwidth, which delivers superior audio quality and supports high-resolution formats, Brotman said.
Qualcomm’s AllPlay technology supports lossless 192kHz/24-bit FLAC, WAV and PCM files, he said, as well as MP3, AAC and AAC+.
The core of the AllPlay wireless whole home audio solution is the AllPlay smart audio module, which offers a Qualcomm Atheros 2x2 dual-band Wi-Fi SoC; I/Os including USB, I2S, I2C and S/PDIF; on- and offboard antennas; support for multiple digital-to-analog converters; and global regulatory certification.
The module is designed as a turnkey component said to help save audio suppliers time and resources in creating whole-home audio products. The module comes with AllPlay media player software, which manages multizone streaming, party mode synchronization, audio decoding and group play listing, which lets multiple people with AllPlayenabled handsets create shared playlists. The module also offers DLNA compatibility and support for Air- Play for manufacturers that want to offer their customers multiple streaming options.
The AllPlay solution also includes controller applications and SDKs for iOS and Android. Manufacturers have the flexibility to offer their customers AllPlaybranded apps or create their own customized user interfaces with the SDKs.
AllPlay is built on Qualcomm’s AllJoyn open-source technology, which enables AllJoyn-equipped devices discover and communicate with one other.
AllJoyn also offers Alljoyn Notifications, which lets AllPlay speakers send metadata such as song title, artist name and album art to other Alljoyn-enabled devices such as TVs.