The CEDIA Talks -- Part Two

Ed Wenck | Sep 17, 2020

Josh Capecelatro, the brain behind Josh.ai (and a CEDIA Board Director), knows the business of voice control – the Josh platform, is after all, just such an interface.

In his CEDIA Talk at this year’s “virtual booth,” Capecelatro is trying to answer the question: “Why is Voice Control so Hard?”

VUI does have its critics, which is to be expected given its growth: 157 million Americans now own smart speakers, up from 67 million in December of 2017. And naturally, as its popularity expands, so does that vocal group of naysayers.

Capecelatro covers the mechanical issues inherent in these controls. A perfect VUI device environment  would be free of dust, vibrations, ambient noise, and objects placed between microphone and speaker. Of course, that’s not possible.

The bigger problem here, though? ASR, or Automatic Speech Recognition

“ASR takes a word, converts to text, then translates it with a probability formula,” says Capecelatro. Of course, it’s easy to trip up those formulas. “Think of words like ‘would’ and ‘wood,’ or even ‘we can’ and ‘weekend.’” Mix in accents and the like, and the issues multiply.

Additionally, there are literally millions of ways to ask your VUI to “set an alarm for 6 a.m.” “Wake me at …” “I need to be up at …”

“Now think of a phrase like ‘turn on the lights,’” says Capecelatro. “The lights in a room? Sure, but there’s a show called ‘The Lights,’ several songs called ‘The Lights,’ a band called ‘The Lights,’ and so on.” It’s why Capecelatro and the other folks developing these interfaces are working doubly hard to provide the perfect voice experience for the customer – it ain’t easy, but when it works, it’s a jaw-dropper.


Wi-Fi 6 Update

Nathan Holmes, Director Of Training and Development at Access Networks, has the latest deets on Wi-Fi 6 – the new name of next-gen wireless was to eliminate consumer confusion. (“802.11ax” does seem a trifle clunky, after all.)

“Wi-Fi 6 has dual band support: 2.4GHz and 5GHz,” says Holmes, “And there’s some good news for IoT devices: Wi-Fi 6 includes something called High Efficiency Extended Range Single User format – simply put, that’s a stronger signal for gear at the very edge of its range – that’s especially great for outdoor devices at the perimeter of a property.”

Another advancement due in the next year and a half, says Holmes, is Wi-Fi 6E.

Holmes tells us, “The FCC approved an additional 1200MHz of bandwidth for 6E, mainly in the 6GHz spectrum – this gives you up to seven channels that are 160MHz wide.

“It’s the first time we’ll be able to achieve data rates that these standards are capable of.”

Wi-Fi 6’s efficiencies also include tech borrowed from the cellular world: Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA). “With legacy wi-fi, a device used a whole channel,” explains Holmes. “Using OFDMA, each client device only requests the amount of bandwidth it needs for its given broadcast. Now, one can send or receive from multiple client devices.”


Company Culture and the Lifecycle of the Employee

Joe Whitaker – also on the CEDIA Board of Directors and the owner of the firm Thoughtful Integrations -- had some thoughts about how a company’s culture and the life-cycle of its employees are intertwined.

“Company culture is critical,” says Whitaker. He cites a survey that found 39% of employees would leave a firm if they had negative views about that culture.

But what is “company culture,” exactly?

According to Whitaker, the components are:

Values – Perhaps this is summed up with words like honesty, integrity? What’s the “moral center?”

Ideals – What is it that your firm does -- what do you offer to the client base?

Attitudes -- How do your people work with each other, how do they do things for clients – does the tech greet the customer with a smile?

“We sell a lot of the same boxes, and at the end of the day, most clients pick you based on your people,” notes Whitaker. It stands to reason that finding and then retaining those people is really the key, and there’s strategies for doing that. One obvious one? Whitaker says, “Look for life milestones. Empathize. Is the employee getting married? Buying a house? Coping with a divorce? Just by asking that simple question: ‘Are you OK?’ can go a long way toward building employee loyalty.”