Audio Stands Out At CES

Audio was one if the stand out topics at CES 2015, pretty much all of the main equipment sellers and many of the smaller start-ups attended to show off new products.

Gibson Brands had a very impressive tent on the green outside the LVCC and a trip inside demonstrated just how much recent acquisitions have added to the companies product portfolio.  Not everyone realises that Gibson Group encompasses many well known audio equipment brands including Onkyo and Philips Audio. Aquisitions over recent years have helped it become one of the largest global audio equipment vendors.

Harman Group is another large collection of well known audio brands including AKG, Harman Kardon, JBL, Mark Levison and many more. Harman took over a section of the Hard Rock Hotel on the strip to showcase its new products across infotainment, lifestyle (home) and others.

Many more audio related companies had exhibition space in the main halls and suites – Sennheiser, Altec Lansing, Polk Audio, Bang & Olufsen, Creative Labs, Dali, Definitive Technology, DTS, Dolby Labs, Klipsch and Pure ti name but a few. There were also many technology companies such as Microchip, Broadcom, Qualcomm, etc which suppy essential building blocks for audio equipment.

All in all Audio was big news and will continue to be a big deal in 2015 and beyond.

High Resolution Audio (HRA) is set to be a big deal at CES 2015

High Resolution Audio (HRA) is set to be a big deal at CES 2015

CES will even have a dedicated marketplace this year for HRA. Companies such as Pono Music will be exhibiting new technology and Neil Young will give a presentation on his views on HRA – Press Briefing on High Resolution Audio Held by Neil Young and PonoMusic

We have started a new Linked In group High Resolution Audio to share ideas and news about the high resolution audio market. Please join us to share your views on new technologies, new devices and interesting developments.


Broadcom Enter the Multi-Room Audio Space

Broadcom announced yesterday (12/4/14) a new dual mode Wi-Fi audio SoC for multi-room audio. It enters a market that is growing rapidly but also already served by many competitors, however Broadcom are approaching the market differently to many other suppliers.

Whilst competitors such as Qualcomm, Microchip and CSR are focused on supplying Wi-Fi audio chips designed to work with their own proprietary streaming technologies, Broacom is focusing on bringing ICs to market that enable multiple streaming technologies to run on it (initially Airplay).

We believe that there is a place for proprietary standards and that many OEMs prefer a closed system today, but this will change over the next few years as OEMs realize that having an open standard helps the whole market grow. It seems that the market needs an interoperable standard (much like Miracast) for multi-room audio and we assume this will start to emerge in the next 2-3 years. In the meantime OS centric standards such as Airplay and Google Cast will fill a gap.

It makes much more sense to have an interoperable standard for Wi-Fi audio; Bluetooth has achieved this with profiles such as A2DP and codecs such as SBC and this is needed for Wi-Fi too.

SensiAn Research will soon publish a report titled “Smart Home Audio Streaming Technologies” which will address this market. Please contact us for more information.

Qualcomm Looks to Acquire CSR

Qualcomm continues it seemingly relentless charge to the top of the semiconductor vendor charts with another high profile acquisition.  It aims to acquire UK based CSR for $2.5 billion, the deal still needs to go through the usual regulatory hurdles and be accepted by CSR but it certainly seems quite generous.

CSR has had its own fair share of acquisitions and sell offs in recent years, it bought Zoran in 2011 and sold its mobile division to Samsung in 2012.

Qualcomm has made some significant purchases to bolster its wireless connectivity prowess over recent years including its recent purchase of Wilocity, but CSR will be the most significant one since Qualcomm acquired Atheros in 2011 ($3.1 billion).

A successful purchase of CSR will put Qualcomm in an enviable position in the connectivity market and certainly see it become a force to reckon with in IoT.

The Global Market for mHealth Wellness Devices

mHealth Wellness/Sports & Fitness Device Market to Grow to $3.8 Billion in 2020; Growth Led by Activity Trackers and High End Sports Watches

The market for mHealth Wellness/Sports & Fitness Devices will be worth $2.4 billion in 2014 and grow at a CAGR of 8% to reach $3.8 billion in 2020. It represents a total opportunity of >$22.5 billion in the seven years from 2014 to 2020. This market includes many end device types, including Heart Rate Monitors, Connected Weighing Scales and Smart Sports Clothing, but the major growth markets will be Activity Trackers and High End Sports Watches.

“Heart Rate Monitors and Sports Watches have been around for many years. However, more recently the range of devices that are emerging and the increasing amount of technology being used is drastically changing the market dynamics.”, commented Peter Cooney, Principal Analyst & Director of SensiAn Research. “Activity Monitors, Smart Sports Watches, Heart Rate Monitors and Smart Sports Clothing are all becoming significant markets for device and technology vendors and the list of device types continues to grow.”

SensiAn Research expects that the total market for mHealth Wellness/Sports & Fitness Devices will grow to almost 25 million units shipped per annum in 2014.  Much of this growth has been driven by the emergence of Activity Tracker devices and consumer demand for these connected devices. Other devices (such as high end Sports and Fitness Smart Watches and Heart Rate Monitors) are also seeing growth but not in the same volumes as Activity Trackers. Smart Clothing is a category of devices that has long term potential, but it is not expected to reach annual shipments >1 million before 2017. It is expected that simple pedometers will continue to have a place in the market but shipments of these have been severely negatively affected as consumers increasingly choose Activity Trackers and Smart Watches with added functionality.

The mHealth Wellness/Sports & Fitness Device market is served by a wide range of suppliers, from well-established health and wellness/sports and fitness device vendors such as Polar, Garmin, Suunto, Omron and Beurer, to newer more focused vendors such as Fitbit and Jawbone, large multinational sports clothing suppliers such as Nike, and many smaller niche suppliers.

These are findings from SensiAn Research’s recently published study on “mHealth Wellness Wearable Devices: Activity Trackers, Sports Watches, Heart Rate Monitors, Smart Sports Clothing, Connected Weighing Scales and Other Consumer Wellness Devices”.

Suunto Range of Devices Added. Wellness / Sports and Fitness Device Database Now >400 Products

The mHealth Wellness / Sports & Fitness device database has been updated again, this time an extensive range of Suunto devices have been added and this now brings the total number of devices included to more than 400.

We’ve also opened this up as a free resource to all! :)

Check it out here

Sensor Standards a Must, MIG and IEEE Team Up to Drive Standardization for Sensors

Standardization is usually one of the first steps taken when bringing a new technology to bare, look at Bluetooth or Wi-Fi as examples. It could be argued that standardization isn’t needed for a technology such as MEMS accelerometers as it is already well established and well used in many of today’s consumer devices (MEMS accelerometers are a standard feature in smartphones today).

There are two main drivers towards standardization for sensors today: one is that increasingly more complicated outputs from combinations of sensors leads to a need for standardization of those sensor outputs in order that device vendors, apps developers and those vendors offering complementary components such as sensor hubs can easily use these outputs. Secondly, and leading on from the first point, is a need for devices to be part of a wider ecosystem in order to reach a much larger potential market, for example a nationwide health system.

Having standardization of sensor outputs drives interoperability and in the long run will increase the overall market for sensors as they pervade through many of todays “dumb” devices, helping to make them smart. The sensor industry could perhaps learn a lot from how wireless connectivity organisations operate such as the Bluetooth SIG or Wi-Fi Alliance.

Bluetooth SIG Europe Event, Amsterdam Round Up

I was lucky to be able to attend the Bluetooth SIG Europe event in Amsterdam this week (16/17th September 2014) and it was a pleasure to learn about all the interesting applications that Bluetooth is currently being used for and what is on the horizon.

Day 1 kicked off with a keynote from Mark Powell, Exec Director of the SIG and his presentation highlighted just how ubiquitous Bluetooth is today. Two interesting facts were that >70% of all wireless connectivity related projects on Kickstarter and Indiegogo used Bluetooth and that Bluetooth Audio has grown 451% from 2010 to 2013. Pretty staggering really.

There were many presentations that demonstrated Bluetooth use, too many to include in this blog (a full list is here) but we’ll look at some of those that were most interesting to SensiAn Research.

Simon Drabble from Adidas discussed the Adidas miCoach Elite Training System (ETS) and described the way in which many leading football (soccer) teams, including national teams, are using miCoach to improve and track performance of their players. He also discussed consumer applications for this technology and how Adidas are using Bluetooth Smart as part of a range of wireless technologies.

There was an interesting panel session examining the explosion in beacons (a market that SensiAn Research is tracking). Panellists were from two Beacon users (Autograph and LocalSocial) and from two IC vendors (Dialog Semiconductor and Nordic Semiconductor). Some key takeaways were that Beacons are being used in retail today but have a myriad of uses. Beacons can be standalone devices (such as those from Estimote or but pretty much any Bluetooth Smart device could become a beacon. Today the market is focused on stationary beacons but beacons could move – for example having a beacon in a car could be used to advertise the presence of a vehicle and improve road safety. Sean from LocalSocial coined an interesting phrase “Becosystem” which relates to the ecosystem built around beacon technology.

Dr Kate Stone, Founder of Novalia Ltd talked about her companies various projects using printing techniques to produce smart paper for posters and other interesting printed devices. These combine conventional printing, capacitive touch and Bluetooth for audio streaming and connection to a smartphone. A novel use of Bluetooth to improve existing things.

Day 2 was unfortunately short lived as I needed to catch a flight, but I was invited to join a panel on “The Connected Fitness and Wearables Market” which was timely having recently published a study on the market, see here). I was joined by John Leonard (Nordic Semiconductor), Ernest Chiang (PAFERS Tech) and Pierre Mace (Babolat). The panel discussed innovation in sports and fitness, what would be the next wearable markets to take off, wearable devices use in IoT and interaction with beacons and also the impact of recent devices introductions from Apple, Motorola, Samsung and others on the wearable device market.

Before dashing for the airport I was lucky to catch Radek Tadajewski’s presentation on his company oort’s view of the future connected home. The most interesting thing in my mind about this solution is the hub device that oort has introduced which is Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Smart enabled and could be a key bridging device as a Bluetooth-enabled headless gateway in the home.