“The codec is more robust in how it handles loss of packets in terms of how choppy the conversation can become,” says Dr. Alfonso Carrera of Fraunhofer IIS, which developed the audio codec for Bluetooth LE Audio. “It also has an implication for battery life, since a codec that’s more resilient to packet loss you don’t have to send so much power.”
One consideration with Broadcast Audio in Bluetooth is discoverability: How will people even know that a stream’s available, and even if they do, how will they know what to do? Clearly, there would need to be some kind of signage that would tell patrons in a venue that a Bluetooth® broadcast is available, at least until people get used to scanning for them.
And there will be. The Bluetooth SIG is introducing branding for Auracast™ broadcast audio specifically, a logo that a venue can use to signal to customers that a Bluetooth broadcast is available, even in multiple languages.
“The best analogy is probably Wi- Fi,” says Kolderup. “Right now you walk into a location and you say ‘I want to connect to Wi- Fi,’ and you scan for networks. You can expect the same type of thing: So you open the app for your earbuds or your headset, and it shows all the Bluetooth® audio broadcasts near you.”
On the Bluetooth SIG’s timeline for Bluetooth LE Audio, location-based implementations of Broadcast Audio are expected to come later than other features, with the first of them coming in the back half of 2021 at the earliest. It’ll probably take some time after that for it to arrive in your gym since most venues are on a fixed cycle for replacing equipment like TVs (although aftermarket solutions will likely be possible, too).
But there’s no rush: Bluetooth LE Audio is meant to lay a foundation for the future of wireless audio for developers and vendors to build on, and, as my experience at CES shows, Broadcast Audio has clear utility. In five years, listening to tours with your own wireless headphones might be the norm, and those awkward, cheap headsets could join corded phones on the pile of obsolescence.