Audio notifications are coming to Sonos speakers

Alongside the announcement of its brand new Sonos Amp today, Sonos has also revealed an expansion of its developer program. On September 6th, the company plans to “fully open up to all potential partners,” granting third-party apps and connected home interfaces greater control over Sonos devices and its platform. “Hopefully in a year, we’re gonna be discussing all these interesting and innovative integrations that are coming out,” Lidiane Jones, Sonos’ VP of software product management at Sonos. One of the first partners that Sonos will have on board is IFTTT, the popular service that can chain together actions from hundreds of different apps and devices.

A new set of cloud-based APIs will be made available that, among other things, will allow line-in components in a Sonos system to be selected inside third-party control interfaces like those from Control4 and Creston. Third-party interfaces will also be able to access Sonos playlists for the first time. Volume passthrough is another of the new APIs that developers will be able to utilize. New APIs and capabilities will follow “on a regular basis” after the September launch. The “Works with Sonos” certification will remain separate from the main dev program and remains an invite-only stamp of excellence from the company.


Users will have control over the audio notifications that developers will soon be able to send to Sonos speakers.
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

But the most interesting piece is something that will start in a “preview phase”: audio notifications. Third-party devices like connected doorbells will be able to send notifications and alerts to your Sonos speakers. This is completely separate from the Alexa support that Sonos already offers; it’s a direct hook between devices and Sonos hardware. Jones said that Sonos is working with Samsung’s SmartThings division on possible ways of using audio notifications.

Giving this ability to developers could quickly prove annoying if it’s overused, but Sonos will give customers ultimate control over whether they want to permit them at all. “The last thing I want is to get home, wind down, start my Kind of Blue album, and then get alarm or bell sounds coming through my speakers,” Jones told me. “We want to be able to provide some controls so that the user can choose priorities” over how and when audio alerts are allowed to come in and interrupt music playback, she said.

AI and Sonos

I sat down with Jones to discuss the expansion of Sonos’ dev program, but I also wanted to discuss what’s been the industry buzzword for several years running: AI. Does Sonos have any plans to utilize artificial intelligence/machine learning with its platform?

Jones said that Sonos won’t be rubbing up against Spotify or other content partners when it comes to song/artist recommendations and suggested listening. Sonos just isn’t as good at that stuff and is happy leaving it to the big streaming services. But the company is toying with the idea of more convenient, automated listening based on a user’s listening habits throughout the day.

“If you’re listening to NPR every morning in your bathroom, maybe we can make that a little easier for you. It’s early for us, but we’re still trying to explore if there is a place for us for helping our users with that.” A Sonos speaker that just starts playing might be a little too jarring, but if your listening patterns are really that concrete and on a regular schedule, who knows? It could prove useful. More likely, I think, is that Sonos would do this in notification form with the Sonos app. At a certain time of day, you’d get a notification that could play that thing you listen to every day — regardless of what service it’s on — with a single tap.