QNAP and IEI AfoBot spotted at CeBit 2018
When it comes to QNAP NAS devices, I like to think I know them all! I have been covering network attached storage from many brands for several years now and am rarely surprised y anything brands like QNAP, Synology, Asustor and more reveal at tech events like CeBit 2018. However late last year IEI (the company that owns QNAP) put a device out there that really surprised me – The AfoBot. In all honestly, I thought it was a joke, a wind-up, a fake product for promotional purposes. Then I realised it was real…and then I got EXCITED.
Let me explain, I love the idea of AI and all things smart-home. I was very keen on Google Home and Amazon Alexa very early on. However there is a pretty big drawback to the likes of Google Home and Amazon Echo – they are designed with CLOUD access in mind. One of the reasons I champion NAS so much is because I think you should control where your data lives. Sure use some cloud space as an offsite backup (encrypted of course) but not as your PRIMARY means of file access. Therefore the idea of a smart home hub device that is designed not to use DLNA as a means of communication over your network, will intentionally put up barriers against NAS devices (which the brands have to work around over and over again) and serves as a means to send your data outside your environment without limits is not cool!
This is why the AfoBot interested me so much. I saw it as a means for the NAS brand to give users the control of their smart home in the same way they give internet file access to their files – in a closed a-to-b connection. but what exactly is the afobot, who is it aimed at and what are the practical applications of it?
The Specifications of the QNAP AfoBot from IEI – Quick Reminder
If you did not catch our coverage of the AfoBot previously, below is a quick reminder of the hardware/software specs. Unsurprisingly (and like most of the AI devices we have seen at CeBit) it’s a pretty impressive setup:
|Display||8” TFT LCD with 1280 x 800 Full HD|
|Processor||8-core Cortex-A53 SoC|
|Touch Screen||Projected capacitive touch screen with 10-point multi-touch|
|Memory||On-board 2 GB LPDDR3|
|Graphics||4K*2K H.264/H.265, 4K*2K@60Hz|
|Storage||On-board 32GB eMMC
1 x microSD card slot
|Wireless Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n dual band
Wi-Fi Direct for Miracast
Wi-Fi access point
|Power Adapter||AC Input: 100-240V AC, 50/60Hz
DC Output: 12V 2.5A
|Motion||Body: 360° horizontal pan (motorized)
Camera: 100° tilt (motorized)
Panel: 33° tilt (manual)
|I/O Interface||1 x USB2.0 Type C
1 x USB2.0 Type A
1 x GbE LAN
|Camera||5-megapixel camera, F2.2, FOV103º|
|Audio||2 x Digital microphone
5W 4Ω stereo reflective speaker
Echo cancelling, noise reduction and auto gain control
|Operating System||Host: Android 6.0
Client APP: Android / iOS
|Color||Pantone White and pantone 312C|
|Size||271 mm x 213 mm x 136 mm|
|Certificate||CE, FCC Class B and BSMI|
|Battery||Lithium Ion; 5200mAH; 3.7V; 1S2P run time 2.5 hrs|
Not enough? Here is what we said on YouTube:
Your Questions about the AfoBot Answered
This is not the first time we have heard about the AfoBot home AI. Between unofficial QNAP leaks and our coverage of Computex 2018 here on NASCompares, SPANTv and NCTv, we have let you guys know plenty about the AfoBot. However, now we are face to face with it and the team at QNAP we got a chance to put your questions directly to them. I will keep these questions updated as much as possible and add more if they get popular. Here is what you wanted to know:
Is the AfoBot an alternative to the Amazon Acho and Google Home? Why is it different?
Technically – No. Because the device is still in early development stages, it’s full software capabilities and applications are not fleshed out. It is still in the latter stages of R&D, so therefore commands and support are unconfirmed at this time. Only a handful of software applications were available at the testing session at CeBit (see video) and thought they were fun, fast and intuitive, it was still a far cry from the command abilities of the Amazon Echo right now. At this stage, it serves as a clever access point, communication device and entertainment control point. We will let you know more as it’s full application and target focus is realised.
Will we see a release of the AfoBot in the UK, and if so, when and how much?
Pretty unlikely right now. This is not a fault of IEI or QNAP, this is due to finding what the European or indeed, rest of world audience wants fro ma device like this. Once that is researched,, then they will give us a better understanding of availability. As mentioned, right now it does not challenge popular home AI and is not aimed to do so. But if it started to support Google applications, then we will see a big, BIG change in this.
How close to competition is the AfoBot?
Physically, the device is done. The construction quality, design and utility seemed to be done! However, because of that need for a targeted focus on its audience, it is extremely hard to say at what % software development is at.
What can the AfoBot do that most other home AI cannot?
One small and one BIG difference between this and the Google Home/Amazon Alexa home hub device. The small one is definitely NAS and DLNA support – something Google and Amazon actively avoid (their own cloud/internet based streaming services are their priority). The big difference is a user interface. You can only access the UI of the G Home and Echo by mobile app. Whereas the IEI Afobot has a monitor at its base which can be used to navigate options, video call multiple users, take pictures or record security footage and would be planned on integrating with numerous QNAP and 3rd party software.
What existing services can you connect with via the AfoBot?
Again, it is just too early right now to know. Which is a shame, because I think there is a big gap in the market for a device like the Afobot.