Sock Puppets, Codecs and Bluetooth LE Audio

One of the perks of working in technology standards groups is that you get to go to meetings in nice places around the world.  A more minor perk is that the standards group tends to provide gifts for the participants.  They’re not generally much more than a T-shirt saying you’ve been there, or a packet of the local equivalent of popcorn or haggis, but they’re something to remember it by.

Last year, Covid put an end to international travel and we’ve been having to make do with virtual conferences.  As every standards group is discovering, they’re OK, but they don’t really work as well.  It’s far more difficult to have a good argument when you’re not face to face and there’s no substitute for a fight for the whiteboard markers or the reconciliations and wild flights of fancy that take place over a beer or a coffee.  For most standards, the even greater casualty is in testing, where prototype implementations normally come together to check that the specifications actually work.  Few companies are happy to let their prototypes out of their sight and running tests remotely, especially for wireless standards, is incredibly difficult.  Every standards group is suffering from that at the moment, with the result that we’re seeing release dates pushed back and features cut down.

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Hearables market to reach $80 billion in 2025

Who could have guessed, back in 2014, that a Kickstarter campaign would lead to an $80 billion market segment in just over a decade?  But that’s what is happening with hearables, where a new report predicts that it will reach that size in 2025.

The growth of earbuds, which are now the “must-have” hearable for around 80 million users, has turned into the fastest growing consumer electronics product sector ever, eclipsing even the iPhone.  That growth is set to accelerate even more with the launch of a new Bluetooth LE Audio standard at CES 2020, which allows designers even more freedom, higher quality and new audio applications.

It all started when Bragi managed to raise almost $3.4m dollars for a new concept – a set of stereo earbuds which could stream music as well as measuring your vital signs.  A raft of other startups managed to raise over $50 million in crowdfunding investment between them before Apple arrived with their AirPods, and the rest is history.

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