PINE64 Enters the Home Automation Sector with the Privacy-Preserving PineVox Smart Speaker

Slick hardware not yet supported by functional firmware, sadly.

Open hardware specialist PINE64 has announced it's dipping its toes into the smart home sector, unveiling a smart speaker voice assistant platform dubbed the PineVox — though, continuing the company's approach to launches, the hardware is ready long before the software.

"The PineVox is a [Bouffalo Lab] BL606P based home assistant smart speaker. Designed to help build a good community option for voice interactions with software such as Home Assistant," PINE64 writes of the new hardware in its March community update. "Giving users control of the smart devices in their home and allowing for you to control the security is important, and we are working on the PineVox to help enable that future."

Built with voice applications, rather than music playback, in mind, the PineVox offers an interest approach to privacy control: while the microphone can be muted in software, it can only be unmuted again through the physical act of pushing a button on the compact speaker's top. "Muting the microphone disables the clock connection to the microphone," the company explains, "giving peace of mind that it really, really isn't listening to you."

As is the company's typical approach, though, the hardware is ready long before the software: PINE64 confirms that "work is ongoing […] to get a minimal firmware image ready to allow for demonstration and to prove all hardware [is] fully functional," meaning it could be quite some time before the PineVox is ready for the average user.

That's not unusual for PINE64, which launches hardware prior to or during the early stages of software development in order to enlist help from its community. The company's PineTab-V, a RISC-V-powered convertible tablet, remains as "vaguely functional" as it was when it launched almost a year ago, and orders opened for the PineNote ePaper tablet in January 2022 yet its software is still described, two years on, as "in its infancy and therefore […] only suitable for experienced developers."

For those who aren't put off by having to roll their sleeves up and get involved in the development of firmware to make the device functional, more information on the PineVox is available on the PINE64 website; "a small number of developer seed units have been given out," the company confirms, with no word yet on when orders will open.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire:
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