For more than 20 years, Bluetooth® technology evolved and expanded to support a wide range of use cases — from point-to-point data transfer applications to building-wide commercial connected lighting systems. The inherent flexibility, low-cost deployment, easy implementation, low power consumption, and solutions-oriented design help make Bluetooth technology the number one choice for IoT innovation.
Recently, those same fundamentals have been used to develop LE Audio, a new Bluetooth innovation that will enhance the performance of Bluetooth audio, add support for hearing aids, and introduce Bluetooth® Audio Sharing.
Why LE Audio?
“LE Audio will be one of the most significant advances for users of hearing aids and hearing implants.”
– Stefan Zimmer, Secretary General of EHIMA
One of the largest specification projects the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has undertaken, LE Audio is a product of collaboration between the Bluetooth SIG and the hearing ad industry. While Bluetooth® Classic Audio is a low-power radio, hearing aids have unique power requirements as small-battery devices that need to be powered all day long. The need for new form-factor devices capable of supporting higher audio quality, along with increasing demand within the hearing loss community for a next-generation assistive listening system (ALS), ultimately led to the creation of LE Audio.
The work on this standardized technology began several years ago and expanded into the development of more than 20 new Bluetooth specifications, some of which are still in process and are the product of collaboration between hundreds of individuals from leading silicon, stack, component, and end-product companies.
Standards, in general, are needed when global, multi-vendor interoperability is required to achieve a desired functionality. Standardizing this technology ensures that a Bluetooth hearing aid supporting LE Audio from one vendor can work with a smartphone manufactured by another vendor. This is especially important for an assistive listening system where audio transmitters deployed in conference centers, theaters, cinemas, airports, places of worship, and more can broadcast audio to Bluetooth hearing aids made by any number of different manufacturers.
The Benefits of Bluetooth® Audio Sharing
Enabled by Broadcast Audio, a new feature of LE Audio that will allow an audio source device to broadcast one or more audio streams to an unlimited number of audio sink devices, Bluetooth® Audio Sharing will let you share your audio experience with nearby friends and family. It will also allow public venues — such as airports, bars, gyms, cinemas, and conference centers — to use Bluetooth audio to enhance experiences for their visitors.
With the rise of voice assistance and the ease of access to music, podcasts, and more, audio streaming plays an important role in the lives of many around the world. Bluetooth® Audio Sharing will further expand those use cases with the added potential of changing how you engage with others and with the world around you. And when combined with multi-language support and enhancements that help those with hearing loss, Bluetooth® Audio Sharing in public venues will support the needs of more individuals in large spaces.
Personal vs Location-Based Audio Sharing
“Location-based Audio Sharing holds the potential to change the way we experience the world around us.”
– Peter Liu
Bluetooth® Personal Audio Sharing holds the potential to bring more people closer together. With personal audio sharing, you will be able to share your Bluetooth® audio experience with others around you; for example, sharing music from a smartphone with your family and friends.
Bluetooth® Location Audio Sharing holds the potential to significantly enhance your experience when you visit public venues. With location-based audio sharing, public venues can now share Bluetooth audio that augments the visitor experience. This will especially be true for people with hearing loss.
“Location-based Audio Sharing holds the potential to change the way we experience the world around us,” said Peter Liu, member of the Bluetooth SIG Board of Directors. “For example, people will be able to select the audio being broadcast by silent TVs in public venues, and places like theaters and lecture halls will be able to share audio to assist visitors with hearing loss as well as provide audio in multiple languages.”
Bluetooth® Audio Sharing is the Future of Wireless Audio
In addition to supporting the development of the same types of products and use cases as Classic Audio, LE Audio introduces new features, including a high-quality, low-power codec, multi-stream audio capabilities, and broadcast audio sharing – a true game changer that will spark innovation for audio devices around the world.