Sonos speakers, ‘smart’ buildings, and the importance of upgradability

As of May 2020, Sonos will no longer provide support for some of their oldest products. With this in mind, we want to use ‘smart’ buildings as an example to make a case for the importance of being able to upgrade individual pieces of hardware within a system, to extend its lifespan and prevent the need for a complete overhaul. 

So, what has gone on with Sonos?

Sonos have been designing products to listen to music on for almost 20 years. Because their speakers require internet connectivity, they are more than just a speaker, they have processors, memory, internet capabilities, and so on.  

Therefore, a Sonos speaker is made up of a few different pieces of hardware to keep up with the outside world so it can function correctly. 

Problematically it is impossible to predict the way technology will advance, which makes it difficult for a Sonos speaker to keep up and continue to function. For instance, Sonos name streaming services and voice assistants to wireless networking and Bluetooth capabilities as a few such areas. Therefore, the components inside a Sonos speaker inevitably go out of date once they are unable to work with an ever-changing technological landscape. 

Unfortunately, at this point Sonos have decided that once their systems go out of date, owners must either accept that their products will no longer receive support or trade them in to buy new products at a reduced price. 

Not a great result for the customer

Although Sonos claim to build products that last, citing the statistic that 92% of the products they ship are in use today, are they really built to last if it’s inevitable they will go out of date? 

From reading the announcement blog post, the problem seems to lie in that the components inside a Sonos speaker do not appear to be upgradable, they are proprietary and not modular. 

If Sonos speakers behaved more like ‘smart’ buildings, perhaps they could reap the rewards of efficient upgradability as well as an extended lifespan. 

In a building, there are lots of different systems that have varying lifespans, and all of them require upgrading to prevent the space becoming outdated. It would be unacceptably wasteful and expensive to knock a building down each time one part needed upgrading. At Vanti, we offer a solution called Smart Core that extends the lifespan of a building by allowing systems within the building to be upgraded or changed at will. Smart Core is an open source building operating system that tells hardware and software within a space how to interact with each other. It makes the ecosystem of technology within a building entirely modular so when one system inevitably goes out of date it can be removed without affecting the performance of any of the other systems.  

If a similar ideology was applied to a Sonos speaker, its wireless connectivity chip could be replaced once the technology in wireless routers advanced. Therefore, it would be able to stay connected to the internet to work with streaming services. Equally, if the processor could be upgraded, the speaker might be able to work with more complex technology such as a voice assistants. 

Working in this way would mean that, despite the unpredictability of technology’s future, a Sonos speaker from 20 years ago could be upgraded to stay up to date.  

If you want to learn more about Smart Core, please get in touch