From the Bragi Dash wireless pods to the smart earrings from Ear-o-Smart, wearable tech is taking on a new area of the body— the ear. Instead of smartwatches and fitness bands, some clever makers are discovering how to track activity, calories burned, heart rate, and other functions with some miniscule devices about the size of a hearing aid or a flashy earring. But are the big movers in the industry keeping up with the trend? Find out how in-ear wearables are reshaping the market.
The Bragi Break-In
Bragi was the first to break into the space of wearable in-ear technology, creating something that had never existed before— a pair of tiny, secure, reliable earbuds that are not only wireless, but touch-sensitive. The top of each earbud allows you to control it through taps, swipes, and pressure. Not only does the Bragi Dash set play music for you, it also tracks your activity and monitors your fitness level, syncing seamlessly with your mobile devices via Bluetooth.
The Effectiveness of In-Ear Monitoring
How exactly can in-ear devices accomplish high-level fitness tracking? According to medical experts, the in-ear devices, or hearables, can actually be much more reliable at monitoring heart rate and related data than devices worn on the wrist. According to Dave Wright, maker of the MyZone chest strap monitor, the ear suffers “less physiological interference” than the wrist area. The blood flow is more predictable and steady through the ear area, offering up a stronger signal without so much interference.
In fact, blood flow through the ear differs depending on the part of the ear you are monitoring. Those differences can be tracked and interpreted to gauge different metrics related to fitness, activity levels, and overall personal health. So with a hearable, or in-ear wearable device, you have headphones, a microphone, and a fitness tracker all in one, along with convenient access to content on your larger mobile devices.
Apple and the long awaited AirPods
Since Apple lost innovator and leader Steve Jobs, the company hasn’t produced products to quite the same high level. Arguably, the company’s releases have simply been re-workings on products that already existed, lacking in some of the freshness and flair, the groundbreaking and breathtaking quality that characterised Apple when Jobs was at the helm. Now that the Motorola Hint+ and the Bragi Dash have already entered the market, it may seem that Apple is late to the game, at least where wearable in-ear tech is concerned. However, what Apple lack in first mover advantage, they often more than make up for in their ability to smash it out of the park as fast followers, allowing their competitors to validate markets, before moving in to provide a better, more rounded version that consumers are ready to lap up.
To reduce the number of dropped wireless connections for their tiny devices, Apple has equipped the AirPods with a purpose designed W1 chipset, created to strengthen the connection between the wearable in-ear tech and your other devices, such as your smartwatch, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. You can even tether two devices to the AirPods, a capability that opens up all kinds of possibilities for users. In addition, the AirPods feature a bunch of sensors, enabling enhanced voice recognition, noise cancelling microphones, and a motion-activated on-off feature.
The future of in-ear wearable innovations is a promising one. One can imagine tiny bits of wearable in-ear tech being paired with virtual reality devices or innovations like Google Glass. Some experts in the field believe that in-ear devices are the way of the future for athletes, including the Olympic-level professionals who need precise, accurate monitors. While Bragi, Apple, SMS Audio, Jabra, Samsung, and Motorola are all entering the hearable market, there’s still plenty of space in this field for innovators and startups with a new idea, a more functional design, or a creative way to squeeze more useful tech power into a smaller device.