Category Archives: Insight

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.

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 Kontact.io) 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.

Moto 360 Available from Today, On Paper It’s Looks Very Impressive But Can It Be Successful in the Market?

 

The eagerly anticipated Moto 360 smartwatch goes on sale today (9/5) and it its specs are very impressive, some that stand out include:

  • Wireless Charging
  • Accelerometer
  • Optical HRM
  • Bluetooth Smart
  • Stereo Mics
  • TI OMAP AP

Moto 360 Dynamic Black

This device really looks like a good all rounder, providing much of the functionality that consumers are looking for in a companion smart watch. The smartwatch/band market is still developing and very fragmented but this could be a good solution for many. This has come a long way since the Moto ACTV (although we still believe this was well ahead of its time).

Motorola has a good chance of getting ahead of its competitors (again) as long as it puts lots of support behind it (users will remember how the Moto ACTV was discarded and will be wary it may happen again).

No doubt many will point to the possibly imminent arrival of an iWatch as the killer of any other smartwatch but I don’t agree. Yes, an iWatch will be successful, if not purely due to the Apple ecosystem but the Android ecosystem has grown significantly over the last few years and we believe there is a place for 3-4 main brands, with a few specialist suppliers on the fringes.

For the last few years start-ups have been the major innovators, now is the time for the incumbents to start to flex their muscles and take over the market as it starts to reach significant volumes. Watch (no pun intended) out for an uptick in mergers and acquisitions in this space as major consumer device manufactures start to gobble up smaller specialist suppliers in order to purchase interesting technology.

This market is just starting to heat up …….

Silent Disco

Wireless Audio in (Mass) Action

Being a bit of a wireless audio geek it probably comes as no surprise that my recent trip to the End of the Road Festival, UK one of the highlights was the Silent Disco.

In a silent disco the revelers are given wireless headphones and are able to choose (usually) between 2 DJ or music streams to dance and or sing to. It all comes together for a unique and really enjoyable experience. You have to try it to really appreciate it!

It’s not new, silent discos have been a regular attraction at music festivals for a 10+ years, the Flaming Lips (which incidentally I also saw at EOTR and where excellent) played one of the first headphone concerts in 1999 at SXSW) but it’s not a common experience for everyone.

So why add this to the LWW blog? Well it is a good example of what can be achieved with wireless audio that wired audio just couldn’t do, imagine groups of people trying to dance around with wired headphones, it would not end well.

FM has largely been the technology of choice for these systems but there is potential for other wireless technology to be used.

It may be a small market when compared to smartphones but it should still be on the radar for equipment and technology vendors. It is growing in popularity not only at music festivals but for cinemas, weddings, etc.

Family Tracker – Sync Smartband Reaches Goal on Indiegogo

Image courtesy of Indiegogo
Image courtesy of Indiegogo

Although the activity tracker market is becoming increasingly crowded there is still room for innovation and for new products to capture the imagination of consumers.

Indiegogo continues to be one of the major enablers for entrepreneurs to reach a wide audience and help get their products to market and move from a concept to production.

The Sync Smartband is another device that is making waves on Indiegogo and has reached its rather modest goal of raising $50k with almost 4 weeks to go before funding close date. The underlying technology doesn’t seem to be all that different from other products on the market – it seems to uses Bluetooth for proximity, tracking and connection to a smartphone/tablet and an accelerometer for motion detection.  What sets this product apart from others though is that it is aiming at a family market.

We’ll be keeping an eye on this campaign, our guess is that it is on track to reach $200k+ before the campaign is over.

WSTS Predicts Growth for 2014 and Near Future

The latest press release from the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) predicts good news for semiconductor suppliers in the short term.

WSTS expects the overall market to grow 6.5% in 2014 (from 2013) to reach total annual revenues of US$325 billion. It stated “All major product categories will show a high single digit growth rate, except microprocessors which will show a soft decline. The growth will be largely driven by smartphones, tablets and automotive. The highest growth rates are shown for the Analog (9.1%) and Sensor (9.1%) category. ”

SensiAn Research’s assumption is that while overall microprocessor revenue may be falling the market for microcontrollers is growing as many low power devices associated with IoT (wearable devices, beacons, etc.)  are growing rapidly.

WSTS predict that overall market growth will continue into 2015 and 2016 reaching US$350 billion in 2016.

A Big Deal in Audio Signal Chain ICs – Cirrus Logic + Wolfson

The total number of audio signal chain ICs shipped for use in mobile devices reached almost 4 billion units in 2013. Strong growth is predicted as improvements in audio quality and volume are required by mobile device vendors whilst “always on” functionality is desired for voice control applications, particularly in smartphones. This gives opportunities for growth of various audio signal chain components including audio speaker amplifiers and MEMS microphones, at the same time integration of audio functionality into audio hubs continues to drive innovation and change the market place.

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