Will hearables be the next big thing? One recent study by Juniper Research suggests that the market for hearables could reach $5 billion in revenue by 2020. That’s quite a leap from the current revenue of roughly $1 billion worldwide. But what are hearables? Who uses them? And why would you want to develop this kind of IoT product?
You’ve probably already heard that the next iPhone could be so slim that it might not have room for a headphone jack. Will the elimination of the headphone jack mean that iPhones will only be able to use Bluetooth headphones and earbuds? Possibly. Or maybe Apple is also working on their own type of smart earbud, and maybe that earbud will perform more functions than just transmitting sound. That’s what’s happening with hearables, at least.
Some of the smart earbuds that have already hit the market seem to have taken their cue from what some consumers perceive as a shortcoming of smartwatches: their need to remain tethered (albeit wirelessly) to a smartphone. The new generation of hearables offers features like touch controls, on-board memory, accelerometers, and even built-in heart-rate monitors. They’re designed to work independently of other devices while still offering many of the features we associate with earbuds or headphones. To the relief of many consumers, hearables offer the promise of streaming music while giving them the ability to adjust the level of noise canceling or sound augmentation as they prefer.
Of course, getting all those features into a device as small as an earbud will also mean that they’ll have to be efficient. They’ll have to be designed to make the most of their on-board memory without using too much processing power and they’ll also have to be able to communicate with other devices when users want to track their fitness or download other data from the hearable. Essentially, it could be like wearing a tiny computer in your ear. When you think of it that way, the possibilities also expand rapidly. Developers are already working on in-ear translators, virtual fitness coaches, and smart personal audio devices that can work with other gear in a smart home. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have the lights in a room adjust automatically to the mood of the music you’re listening to through your hearables? Smart hearables promise to be an exciting part of the future of IoT and connected devices.
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