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Voice Control Panel PC

Building Skill-free Alexa Voice Control into IoT Devices

Voice Control Panel PC

Voice control is the successor of touch screen interface used in products like smartphones, tablets, home automation, in-vehicle control, vending machines, kiosk and Human Machine Interface (HMI).  It is the next big thing of user Interface (UI), especially for artificial intelligence enabled IoT devices, ranging from smart home products to industrial control panels.  According to ABI Research, “last year, 141 million voice control smart home device shipped worldwide.”  In 2020, “voice control device shipments will grow globally by close to 30% over 2019.”

Since the original Echo device was brought to market in 2014, Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service (AVS) is becoming one of the most popular voice recognition and natural language understanding (NLU) artificial intelligent services for building connected voice control IoT devices. These devices are defined as Alexa built-in products. They can be built with industrial computers, panel PCs, tablet computers or other embedded systems with microphones, speaker and Internet connection. With these products, you can initiate with your voice commands, get responses from Alexa, connect to the cloud and control peripherals with your voice.

Besides embedded control system layers like hardware, operating system and application software, the design of a Alexa built-in product also involves voice front end, Wake Word Engine (WWE), Alexa Voice Service (AVS) cloud services, AVS Device SDK integration, extra communication and control interfaces.

Selecting a Voice Front End

Voice front end is the forefront of a voice control device which mandates high-accuracy of picking up human voice in a noisy environment.  To ensure wake-word triggering and provide clear voice commands for interpretation, a typical voice front end consists of software or hardware DSPs to implement technologies like Acoustic Echo Cancellation (AEC), Beamforming, noise suppression and Wake Word Engine (WWE). 

Loud music or speech playing back by the device is picked up by its microphones.  Acoustic Echo Cancellation (AEC) subtracts the playback noise and allows the microphones to pick up voice commands.  Beamforming uses multiple microphones to locate the source of speech and attenuates all other background noises.  Noise suppression removes background noise to improve voice recognition. The Wake Word Engine WWE listens for the keyword (like “Alexa”) before taking action to send the following utterance for speech recognition and understanding.

Estone’s EMB-2238 reference design is one of the examples of voice front end solution.  It has built-in Amazon-qualified hardware DSP smart codec for AEC, noise suppression, high performance digital MEMS mic array for omni-directional spatial capture and support of Sensor’s TrulyHandsfre wake word engine tuned to “Alexa”.

Voice Front End

Embedding Alexa Voice Service (AVS)

Alexa Voice Service (AVS) is a cloud-based service that allows device developers to integrate Alexa features and functions into a connected voice enabled product. It provides access to complex speech recognition, natural language understanding, Alexa skills and capabilities in the cloud for Alexa built-in products.

After selecting the voice front end with sufficient memory, processing power and a wake word-enabled microphone array, the next step for the developers is the integration of Alexa Voice Service Device SDK. The AVS Device SDK consists of C++ based libraries to communicate with the cloud-based Alexa Voice Service. It also exposes AVS APIs for device application customizations.

Let’s say that when a user asks “Alexa, turn on the AC”. The Wake Word Engine detects the keyword “Alexa” and the device’s AVS API sends the audio as a sound clip (event) to Alexa Voice Service in the cloud. AVS validates the wake-word and uses automatic speech recognition (ASR) to turn the voice command into text. Then, the natural-language understanding (NLU) process interprets what the user wants and routes it to the appropriate skill and action defined in the cloud. AVS then sends the voice of Alexa via text-to-speech engine or action messages back to the device AVS interface as directives.

AVS Device SDK

AVS Device SDK runs on Linux, Android, Windows and macOS.  This video demonstrates the Alexa Voice Service integrated into a Yocto Linux based EMB-2238 voice control reference design.

Building Skill-free Alexa Voice Control

More and more developers are building IoT devices using voice to control their unique hardware or custom peripherals. These products are not just as simple as controlling single-function smart light bulbs or smart plugs. For example, a recreational vehicle (RV) control panel controls HAVC, lighting, exhaust fans, generator, awning and many more. The peripherals being controlled are often connected via CAN bus, serial ports like RS-232/485, general-purpose input/output (GPIO) or wireless communication like WiFi, Zigbee, Z-Wave, etc.

The standard way for the developers to add Alexa voice control into their products is to build separate custom Alexa Skills for their devices and maintain them in a separate cloud. That device maker’s cloud is then used to interface to Alexa Voice Service cloud and the connected device with peripherals being controlled (Figure 1).

Skill-free Alexa Voice Control

However, in many cases, the products being developed may only have a few simple control interface type like the following:

  • Power – control the on and off a connected peripheral, such as turning on/off the exhaust fan.
  • Toggle – switch between two states, such as open or close the awning.
  • Range – set the range of continuous values of a peripheral property, such as setting the temperature of the HAVC.
  • Mode – set a set of values of a device’s operation mode, such as the theme of the ambient lighting.

These control interfaces are part of the Alexa Smart Home Skill API capability interfaces.  With the latest AVS Device SDK, developers can enable these smart home capabilities and add skill-free custom voice control functionality for their AVS devices.  Products running AVS client with Smart Home over AVS enabled can send and receive “Smart Home” events and directives for voice control with a single connection to the Alexa cloud (Figure 2, 3).  This video is a demonstration of Estone’s 7” PPC-4707 POE Panel PC development kit built with skill-free Alexa voice control.

Voice control technology redefines the Internet of Things. Many companies are choosing to use the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) to add voice control capability to their products.  Efforts are underway to simplify the development experience, like providing qualified voice front end reference designs, creating integrated AVS voice control development kits and the introduction of skill-free Smart Home for AVS Device SDK, helping developers to get their voice-enabled designs to market faster.  Get your project started now.

To know more about Estone’s AVS voice control reference design products, see Embedded ARM Boards and Industrial Panel PCs on our website or contact us for details of your project.

New Fever Screening & Access Control System with AI Technologies

IR temperature detection and Face Recognition

Estone Technology is proud to announce the FSAC-80: Compact Fever Screening & Access Control System equipped with AI infrared thermal imaging, binocular camera, and biometrics recognition technology, to enable fast, contactless and accurate temperature detection and user authentication in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Infrared cameras involved multi-AI technologies with deep learning helps to identify non-human heat sources and provide security personnel with real-time alerts. Face liveness detection protects against spoof attacks like pictures, offering higher security and greater user experience than traditional authentication methods. The system also can identify and measure the temperature of people wearing facial masks. This non-contact body temperature detection and facial recognition system are invaluable to help identify illnesses and avoid the spread of viruses. OEM/ODM design and manufacturing services are available. System customization includes the following:

  1. Display screen size, 7” – 43”, either standard alone or all-in-system
  2. Mounting: tripod, wall mount, or pole stand
  3. Multi-person detection for large public application
  4. IO to different altering and gate control system
  5. Linux, Android, or Window operation system 

FSAC-80 Main Features with AI Technologies

Targeting fever screening & access control applications with AI infrared temperature measurement and face recognition technologies, FSAC-80 is powered with a fast Octa-core Cortex A72/A53 CPU. The temperature detection system features a thermal imaging sensor with 32 x 32 IR pixels and can identify and detect fever in up to 120 people per minute. With AI software integrated with a calibrated, bi-spectral thermal camera, it provides temperature detecting deviations <±0.5°C between 0.5- and 1-meter distance away. The system also features a 2MP optical camera for advanced face recognition, supports 30,000 face databases, and ensures liveness detection accuracy rate>98.3% and recognition speed<0.5s, allowing the system to scan as many as 120 people per minute. Our solution also supports the direct release of normal visitors, over-temperature alarm, and mask-wearing reminder.IR thermal Temperature Detection and Face recognition

FSAC-80 Applications

The FSAC-80 System can be easily and quickly mounted and used as a passage gate access controller in communities, office buildings, hotels, scenic spots, transportation junctions, and other public service areas. The IR thermal camera can be used to detect elevated body temperature (EBT); individuals with abnormal temperature in the skin in key areas, especially the corner of the eye and forehead, will be selected for additional screening, which can help to reduce and slow the spread of the virus. For more applications, the system can support API docking, allowing app developers or OEMs to quickly add face biometrics and other related data into any app for mobile, desktop, or other device applications.

Highlighted Product Specifications

  • Dual Optical 2M Cameras for facial recognition
  • 32×32 IR Thermal imaging sensor 
  • 8” IPS LCD display 
  • Fast Octa-core Cortex A72/A53 CPU for data processing
  • Auto-detect Elevated Body Temperature (EBT) with 0.5°C error range, 
  • temperature detecting speed less than 1s, distance: 0.5-1m 
  • Auto identify non-human heat sources 
  • Support face recognition
  • 30, 000 face-matching library, 1: 1 recognition rate >98.3%, 1: N recognition rate>96.7
  • Operational with or without face masks
  • Optional RFID reader or fingerprint reader for additional security check
  • Real-time alerts of high temperature to security personnel 
  • Real-time alerts if not wearing a face mask
  • Configurable API for software/APP development 

For more information about the FSAC-80 System, please click here.

For inquires, please submit a form.

About Estone Technology

Estone Technology is an industry leader in Design & Manufacturing Services for medical and other ruggedize computing embedded applications. We build Intelligent products with a wide range of versatility, including Rugged Tablets, Smart Panel PCs, Enabling Software, and AI modules.

We offer a full suite of services from design, engineering, manufacturing, software, App, to AI integration, enabling you to deliver the latest technologies to the market quickly and efficiently.

Headquartered in the US, with the sales office in Europe and manufacturing facilities in China, Estone brings technology solutions to a breadth of industries, including medical, IT, field services, public safety, and home automation.

To know more about us, visit our product page: Products 

EM-2100 Medical Panel PC

Antimicrobial coating on medical tablets and panel PCs

With the rapid adoption of medical tablets, touch panel PCs, touch screen medical devices and medical computers, the healthcare industry leverages the innovative technologies and features immanent in these types of devices. Medical computers used for telemedicine are some of the examples of those we see in recent headlines, which provide patients and providers solutions for virtual care without face to face visits.

Antimicrobial medical computer

However, preventing the growth of microbes, bacteria transferring through touch screens or the surface of medical computers has become more and more challenging when many of these computers, such as medical tablets and medical panel PCs, are widely used in hospitals, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and other healthcare settings.

On the other hand, even in medical treatment settings, according to CDC’s estimates, one in 31 hospitals patients has at least one healthcare-associated infection (HAI) on any given day. This became even more relevant recently as we are experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic. A HAI contracted during care is the last thing any health facilities visitor or hospital patient expects or needs.

Antimicrobial coating

Antimicrobial coating on medical computers is used to inhibit the growth of bacteria, mold and mildew, prevent the surface transferring of bacteria and reduce the spread of infectious diseases. Unlike cleaning agents and disinfectants often used in health care facilities, active ingredients added to the antimicrobial coating on medical tablets and touch panel PCs provide protection against microbes around the clock, which in turn prevent them from spreading. The antimicrobial substance integrated to the antimicrobial coating typically contains silver ion antimicrobials, zinc antimicrobials and copper antimicrobials.

Silver ions, for example, is suitable for a wide range of materials and applications, including medical coatings, antibacterial films, plastics and powder coating products. For medical devices with touch panel PC, medical tables and medical computers, if the surfaces are protected with silver ions antimicrobial additives, the amount of bacteria on some of those surfaces can be reduced by 99.9%. The antibacterial coating also prevents the spread of fungi.

Antimicrobial touch screens

Antimicrobial medical tablets

Displays with touch panels are becoming more and more popular in medical devices. Medical tablets and panel PCs are often used in surgical displays, patient monitoring units and hand-held devices to improve patient care and productivity. Each time people use these touch screen devices, there is a risk that each of them leaves their mark in the form of more or less dangerous bacteria. Antimicrobial coating on touch screen glass will provide continuing protection in this situation.

The following is an example of the test results of one of the touch screen cover glasses used in one of our ODM products. The test is based on JIS Z 2801:2010 standard for antibacterial products. The test result shows antibacterial activity and efficacy.

Table 1: Antimicrobial touch screen cover glass test result

Antimicrobial enclosures

MD-100 Medical Tablet PC

Besides the touch screen, the enclosure surfaces of medical tablets and panel PCs also need to be protected to reduce the growth and spread of microorganisms. To add antimicrobial protection for plastic enclosures, antimicrobial additives based on a natural active substance in the form of silver can be added to the polymer for injection molding. In the case of metal enclosures, antibacterial powder coating options are available based on specially formulated silver ionic technology. Without antimicrobial coating, the enclosure surfaces will require cleaning often and may degrade with the heavy use of disinfectants or strong chemicals.

The following is the test result of an antibacterial plastic enclosure material used in one of our medical grade tablets. The test is with reference to ISO 22196:2011 standard for measurement of antibacterial activity on plastics and other non-porous surfaces.

Table 2: Antibacterial plastic enclosure material test result

Healthcare-associated infection and other risks of infection cause enormous costs throughout the world, especially for healthcare facilities, hospitals, nursing care facilities, home healthcare services and clinics. It is important to utilize antimicrobial technology to protect the surfaces of medical computers that are in high risk of contamination with germs and require ongoing protection even between cleaning cycles.

To know more about our product with antimicrobial coatings, see medical tablets and panel PCs on our website or contact us for details of your project.

Estone Panel PC and HMI Display Interfaces

Selecting Industrial Panel PC and HMI Display Interfaces

There are a number of key parameters that must be considered when implementing a LCD into an industrial panel PC or HMI (Human Machine Interfaces) design. They include size, resolution, brightness, touch control and display interfaces. The display interface that is used to connect to the panel PC embedded board is a critical factor in selecting a suitable display.

LCD Display Interfaces

Estone Panel PC Embedded Board LVDS Display Interface

For the past two decades, parallel RGB and serial LVDS (Low-Voltage Differential Signaling) have been the two major display interfaces in the industrial LCD applications. Most of the smaller displays, like those 3.5” 4.3” and 5” LCD touch panels or HMIs, use RGB parallel display interface. Larger displays, like 7”, 10”, 12”, 15”, 21” or larger for many of the industrial touch panel PCs, are connected with LVDS interface.

With the emerging of IoT (Internet of Things) systems with displays and interactive display systems, new generation display interfaces like eDP (Embedded DisplayPort) and MIPI (Mobile Industry Processor Interface) DSI (Display Serial Interface) are starting to make their way into the industrial panel PCs and HMIs. These interfaces have been specifically designed to be simplistic and cost-effective in industrial LCD applications and provide higher data bandwidth, scalability for large and small displays.

Solutions for Long Life Cycle Support

Another consideration of display interface selection is LCD display product life cycle. Many eDP or MIPI DSI interfaces displays in the market today are tied to the consumer markets like notebooks/tablets/smart phones and thus don’t support the long life cycle generally required by traditional industrial panel PCs and HMI applications. Solutions like eDP to LVDS, MIPI DSI to LVDS or RGB bridges are implemented to panel PC embedded boards to address the long life span product requirement.

The following are display interfaces supported by some of our panel PC embedded boards:

Embedded Board ModelProcessor PlatformDefault Display InterfaceLCD Interface SupportPanel PC/HMI Example
EMB-2230NXP i.MX6LVDSLVDS, LVDS to RGBPPC-4210 (LVDS), 5” touch panel kit (RGB)
EMB-1200NXP i.MX6LVDS, RGBLVDS, RGBPPC-4107, 3.5” touch panel kit (RGB)
EMB-2237NXP i.MX8MMMIPI DSIMIPI DSI, MIPI to LVDS, MIPI to RGBPPC-4907(LVDS),  5” touch panel kit (RGB)
EMB-2610Intel Atom Z8350eDP, MIPIeDP, MIPI, eDP to LVDSPPC-6610 (MIPI), PPC-6612 (eDP)
EMB-7610Intel Celeron N3450eDP, MIPIeDP, MIPI, eDP to LVDSPPC-6710 (MIPI), PPC-6712 (eDP)

For more information about our panel PCs with different display interfaces, visit our product pages at Industrial Panel PCs or contact us today.