HLAA Showcase Webinar: Is Bluetooth Technology the New Standard for Assistive Listening Systems?
Good afternoon, everyone, welcome to the HLAA Showcase Webinar, Is Bluetooth Technology the New Standard for Assistive Listening Systems? With Chuck Sabin. Thank you for joining us today, my name is Melissa Kruse and I'll be your host today. I'm going to start by sharing my screen and giving you some tech tips. First of all, to see captions on the webinar, you're going to need to click on the CC icon and click show subtitles. You can change the font size in the subtitle setting, and to view the sorry.
You can choose the font settings in the subtitles, and to view the view transcript in a separate window, you're going to open a new window in your browser, paste the StreamText URL into the browser. The StreamText URL is going to be in the chat box. I think Tim Browning is going to put it in the chat box right now, and then resize your windows so you see both the StreamText window and the Zoom window. The chat feature is going to be open today solely for technical issues and for the panelists and Tim from HLAA may be putting some links in.
But you're going to want to use the Q&A feature to ask questions. We'll be using this to facilitate questions and answers after the presentation. And if there are any questions that we don't get to, Chuck has graciously offered to go ahead and if you go ahead and put them in the Q&A box, he will go ahead and answer them off line and we'll post the questions and his answers when we post this webinar to the HLAA site. To if you joined by computer, the presentation should be in side by side mode. Your slides should be on the left, and the panelists on the right in the gallery view.
You can change the size of your presentation by hovering between the two screens and moving the gray bar to adjust the size. If you join by mobile device or phone, your view may be slightly different and you may need to scroll to get to the desired view. And just a disclaimer, that HLAA does not endorse any product featured in this webinar. HLAA is providing an educational opportunity to learn about new products, an opportunity on how they can benefit people with hearing loss. As I mentioned today, Chuck Sabin from Bluetooth is our presenter, and Chuck, I'm now going to turn it over to you.
>> CHUCK SABIN: Great, thanks, Melissa. Let me share my screen. So you should be able to view my screen at this point in time. So hello, and thank you for attending today, and I want to thank the HLAA for allowing me to present for this technology showcase webinar. Again my name is Chuck Sabin, I'm the senior director for market development at the Bluetooth special interest group. Many of you through a variety of resources and presentations may have all been introduced to Auracast broadcast audio and we do anticipate that Auracast to be the next generation of assistive listening, and more in terms of its capabilities.
But today I want to walk you through a bit more detail about Auracast and what you may need to know, how it works, how it will be used, how to identify devices and locations with Auracast. Some of this may be familiar. Some of this may be new for many of you. As far as learning objectives are concerned, I want you to come away with a clear understanding about three things, all right? First I want to give you a clear understanding of the new features of LE Audio and how they enable the use cases for Auracast broadcast audio. Second, I want you to have a clear understanding of the impact that LE Audio and Auracast will have on Bluetooth hearing aids and how Auracast is enabling audio accessibility.
And third, I want you to come away with an appreciation for the importance and the user expectation for a consistent infrastructure and support for Auracast in public spaces. Now, as Melissa mentioned, I am planning for Q&A time at the end, but there's a lot of content to share here, so I do want to if we don't have time for the questions, that I will answer those questions off line and post them as well as part of the as part of the posting of this webinar later on. So please put those Q&A questions into that section in Zoom and I'll do my best to help answer those questions. So let's start off first with just a quick reminder of who we are as the Bluetooth special interest group. Now, we are the organization at the heart of Bluetooth technology, servicing industry leading companies around the globe in specification development, device qualification and testing, and promoting the Bluetooth technology and the Bluetooth brand. As an organization, we're based in Kirkland, Washington.
This is just outside Seattle, Washington, in the United States. And the Bluetooth SIG operates as a not for profit trade association with over 38,000 member companies that are working to advance Bluetooth technology in a variety of markets and solution. And each year Bluetooth member companies ship over 5 billion Bluetooth enabled products worldwide so it's clearly a technology that's widespread throughout the world. Now, just getting to the heart of the discussion for today, you know, Bluetooth has been leading innovation in wireless audio for over 20 years. However, it has been recognized that developers have stretched the classic Bluetooth as we like to say, the classic Bluetooth audio to its limits, and that's where LE Audio comes in.
LE Audio is the new flexible architecture from Bluetooth to support the next 20 years of audio innovation in the market. Now, just to be clear, and I've heard people talk about this before, but just to be clear, you will see both architectures in the market for quite some time. This is not an instance where you need to throw out your current device because it won't work with the new phones or tablets or PCs or TVs in the market. That's not the case at all. Classic audio and LE Audio will coexist in the market as the ecosystem continues to look for transition of use cases for the new LE Audio architecture. So both architectures will exist in the market for quite some time.
Now, LE Audio, that said, LE Audio will first bring a number of initial enhancements to help relieve some of the challenges that have been seen by developers in the market today. So along with the traditional use cases, there are four key enhancements for the LE Audio release for the market. The first is a new modern codec for higher quality audio at lower power requirements for much smaller devices, so again think hearing aids. Second is multi stream support for earbuds and binaural hearing aids, where you're moving some of the processing that is required for supporting those types of devices from the hearing device itself to the source, so there's new standardization in that area. There's new standardization for interoperable hearing aid support and we'll talk about that.
And the fourth innovation for LE Audio is broadcast audio, specifically support for Auracast broadcast audio, and we'll talk about that for a majority of the presentation today. And we're very excited about these new capabilities for Bluetooth, especially in the areas of enhanced listening, experiences and supporting the next generation of assistive listening systems and more. And so I want to first start off with the standardization for hearing aids and cover that just a little bit, cause many of you have probably experienced this as we speak. Right? Regarding standardization for hearing aids, it was quite frankly the hearing aid ecosystem and the manufacturing that first approached the Bluetooth SIG several years ago and said that they wanted to standardize Bluetooth audio for hearing aids, because the biggest challenge in the market was that for them was that there was no specific adopted Bluetooth specification for hearing aids.
You know, different hearing aid suppliers and manufacturers had to develop proprietary extensions to their technology in order to enable the capabilities that went into hearing aids today. Now, what happened is this caused compatibility problems in the market, which many of you have probably experienced with some level of frustration. And that led to having Apple with their MFi, the made for iPhone program or Google ASHA hearing aid program and they put together specifications to help revolve some of these issues with proprietary implementations but that also made it difficult for true multi platform handset interoperability. And this drove challenges in the market. Including interoperability between hearing aid and mobile devices, and that ultimately limited selection and drove potentially higher costs to the end consumers.
So the LE Audio specification is meant to change this. Right? Standardization and this comes through a standardized profile for hearing aids, and so standardization through LE Audio and the hearing access profile will bring better performance to your hearing aids for the future and standardization will drive through global interoperability for the future as well. And through that, standardization should deliver more selection, more choice, and increase overall accessibility for people with hearing loss. Now, regards to that area around accessibility, right? Today I want to specifically focus on what you need to know about Auracast for devices and public spaces and assistive listening, and if you ask me what will Auracast broadcast audio deliver to the market, you know, Auracast is set to deliver compelling new audio experiences direct to your hearing device that enhance the way that you may engage with others, as well as with the world that surrounds you. So while there may be many ways that Auracast will be used in the market, the simplest way to explain the primary usage is through just a few use cases and use case categories.
The first is share your audio. And this is an area where you are sharing your audio experience with others around you. In this case this means smartphones, tablets, laptops, PCs, allow you to share your audio experience with others that are around you to listen to music together, and to watch videos together. Now, this could also include other applications that are in the market, like tour systems and other group listening use cases, you know, where you're trying to share your audio with the people around you. The second category of use cases is around hear your best, where you can improve the listening experience at a location and in public spaces.
Now, one of the things that we have heard is overcoming loud sort of ambient noise can be a challenge in public spaces for everyone, and this is especially true with people with hearing loss. And where Auracast broadcast auto comes in is that it enables direct audio listening to things like public address systems and other transmitters to help you hear your best using your listening or hearing device, and this includes augmented audio experiences at theaters, and assistive listening in public spaces and locations like places of worship, transit centers, conference centers, and other public gathering places, and this can also include assistive listening capabilities for public counters or other one on one type listening use cases. The third use case category for Auracast is around unmuting your world, and this is in waiting rooms, restaurants, bars, gyms, and so on. 'Cause silent TVs and monitors are everywhere, and simply stated, Auracast allows you to join the audio broadcast of a program, or monitor rather than watching in silence to create what we could consider a more complete watching experience, not just the silent TV, but the actual audio associated with that as well in the public space, and this can also include things like multi language support, depends on the manufacturer, depends on the deployment, or listening to any audio source that provides a simulcast in an alternate language.
These are only some of the ways that Auracast will be used in the market in the near future, but they do provide you with sort of a clear direction on the thinking that we have around where Auracast will come into play. And I want to emphasize that Auracast applies as we think about it to more than enhanced audio and assistive listening. It can apply to all manner of accessibility. One of the challenges around this, of setting up let's say a location with a loop system, is that the impact is the overall impact that you have on the venue or the location, especially for a retrofit for the existing building. You know, this can ultimately, depending on the installation, can limit the installation to a single use case, and limit the overall accessibility at that particular location.
Now, the point in our system like Auracast can be simple and easy to reconfigure to any of the changes that happen in that environment versus becoming obsolete because it's a stern and firm installation like a loop system. Now, that with an RF system, it can work right alongside an existing loop system, so this is not about pulling out loop systems and putting in RF systems. The two will coexist and the two can and will work together, because similar to deploying like a Wi Fi network, essentially you have affixed an Auracast transmitter to the ceiling or the wall and plug it into the audio system, and you're ready to go, and with unlimited end points, and there's and no need to sit in a specific area to receive the audio experience or the signal that you want, Auracast can easily cover a large area or be configured to cover any area that you're looking to deploy an assistive listening system. And additionally because it supports multiple channels and multiple broadcasts, you can improve the overall user experience with multiple audio options and potentially multi language support as I mentioned earlier, all from one technology and deployment. And all this has the potential to improve the overall user experience and increase the location value to more people.
So let's talk a little bit more detail about how Auracast broadcast audio actually works. Now, this may be a little bit more detailed than you're used to, but I want to touch on this, because there are two questions that I consistently hear the most during these types of presentations in talking about Auracast. The first is does Auracast use the standard Bluetooth pairing methods that you know today when it comes to audio? And the second question is, is this the smartphone required in order to listen to an Auracast broadcast audio stream? So to answer the first question, the simple answer is no. You know, this is not the standard Bluetooth pairing between two devices. Auracast is meant to be accessible by everyone in the area, not just you. For broadcast, a transmitter advertises the ability of a standard quality broadcast audio stream, and any Auracast receiver or assistant can listen for that broadcast and join based on the request of the user.
So you have the choice to join. Now, some of those broadcasts may be encrypted and may require additional input by the user depending on the implementation, but at the heart of an Auracast broadcast, the transmitter or source has no idea what or how many devices are listening to the Auracast stream at any given time. And what this allows is one transmitter to broadcast effectively to an unlimited number of people that are within range and within that venue or within that location. Ultimately the transmitter broadcasts audio to everyone to listen and people listen depending on their desire to tune in.
On the second question, is the smartphone required to listen to an Auracast broadcast audio stream, the simple answer is no. Once joined, the receiver, whether it's the hearing aid, earbuds, cochlear implant, and so on, they listen to a direct audio stream from the transmitter. The smartphone is not involved. The stream comes direct to the hearing device itself. Now, that said, you know, there are effectively two common models for finding and joining an Auracast broadcast audio stream that will available in the market as we see it. These are, as I like to say, you know, with an assistant, and with a without an assistant, right? In both cases, it starts with the transmitter advertising the availability of a standard quality Auracast audio stream.
And when you have an assistant like a smartphone, the assistant can scan for available broadcasts and provide an interface for the user to choose which broadcast that they ultimately want to join. And once the broadcast is selected by the user, the assistant directs the receiver, your hearing aid, on where to go and the receiver joins that broadcast your hearing aid joins that broadcast directly. Now we anticipate that this will probably be one of the most common methods for users to find and join a broadcast. Very similar to discovering an available Wi Fi access point as an example. Now, the second model is without an assistant.
This is on the right hand side here. But the process is very similar. The difference here is that the receiver, the hearing aid, or the hearing device, can both scan for available broadcasts and provide the mechanism on the device, whether or not it's a button or a swipe or a switch of some type to ultimately join the broadcast that's available. Again no smartphone or assistant is required for the listening of that broadcast. For devices that are really size and resource constrained or when multiple streams are available, this may not be the most practical method for the user, meaning the switches on the device itself, but the choice to use an assistant or not is actually up to the manufacturer and the capabilities of the receiving device.
Now, there are additional methods for discovery that are under discussion, like getting within proximity of a broadcast or, you know, using QR codes or NFC is another technology that may also be used by developers in the future, but these are all still under development or and are all being developed by the manufacturers and those that are deploying Auracast systems. Now, you may have noticed that I kept saying standard quality Auracast audio stream or standard quality public broadcast audio stream, and why is this important? You know, why do I keep emphasizing that? And why the emphasis on standard quality public broadcast audio? The standard quality audio stream is the universal and common denominator for accessibility of Auracast to all transmitting and receiving devices. You know, whether or not it's your earbuds, your headsets, your headphones, hearing aids, cochlear implants, you know, it is required for those devices to support standard quality audio streams. It's also required for all Auracast locations to support the broadcast of a standard quality audio stream.
So if it is a location that says it's Auracast, it will broadcast in the standard quality audio stream. So transmitters at those locations that support the standard quality audio stream ensures that Auracast support and audio accessibility is available for all receiver types at all locations. So effectively, global audio accessibility hinges for Auracast hinges on devices and locations following the Auracast brand requirements, and it's your advocacy and your emphasis is important in helping drive this global audio accessibility. So now, how do you know a device or a location actually supports Auracast? Well, there's two paths to identify support for Auracast broadcast audio. First is on the device, and second is at the location. First let's start with the device.
Now, this past June, we introduced the Auracast brand and trademarks to the market, and similar to the core Bluetooth trademarks, any device is eligible to use these Auracast trademarks, as long as it is qualified, and proven it follows the Auracast brand requirements, right? That's the promise of the logo on the device. And the Auracast word mark and associated trademarks can coexist with the core Bluetooth trademarks as depicted in the product pictures that you see here on this slide. Now, these are just pictures. They shouldn't be construed as actual product just yet, but for both device manufacturers and locations, we're encouraging them to use the Auracast trademarks to help convey back to consumers their support for Auracast within that device. So now let's talk about the support at the locations. How do you recognize support at the locations themselves? For the locations, we're introducing a new stylized identity for the use in a public space.
Now, having looked at location branding and identification of services that they support, we felt that the Auracast trademark needed to stand out a bit further for simple consumer recognition and easy spotting of support in public spaces. Now, different from Auracast combination mark, the new stylized identity is designed to depict support for assistive listening, but also capable of showing support for new enhanced and augmented listening experiences and we're encouraging promises display of this identity to quickly display to consumers that they have access to these new audio capabilities at the location and we're providing the capabilities for service providers to help ensure that they have ample opportunity to support installers and installations with Auracast branding materials. Now, clearly we recognize the tremendous accessibility of hearing loop and successful hearing loop deployments today. Auracast and hearing loops can and will coexist in the same location for years to come. Right? And in this case, what we are recommending for locations is to use both the Auracast and loop signage to signal the availability of both systems at the location and let the user determine which experience they're looking for at that particular location.
Now, you may have noted earlier that I mentioned sticker designs will be available for registered locations, and the reason for that is we are actually encouraging all Auracast locations to register their location with the Bluetooth SIG. 'Cause not only does the location gain access to the Auracast brand and trademarks and promotional materials, but that location will be showing its support for the global community, you know, looking for audio accessibility. That location can stay up to date, and that a location will ultimately appear in an upcoming consumer searchable database for Auracast broadcast audio locations. So in the future, we have intentions to help publish this location information on mobile mapping and search services to help increase the overall consumer awareness and availability for specific locations, and this upcoming database can also be a place for advocates for accessibility to see and track available locations in your area, and again it will take time to build out this database, but as you can imagine, developing and delivering a new consumer audio capability like Auracast from Bluetooth, it has been a monumental effort so I do want to reinforce with you that this is a global and an ecosystem wide effort to deliver Auracast into the market. You know, the Bluetooth SIG is not acting alone.
The Bluetooth SIG has brought together key stakeholders and the consumer and the audio ecosystem. And this graphic shows some of the many companies and organizations who have supported this development effort, and many more have already pledged their support for Auracast broadcast audio in the devices that they're going to deliver and their distribution models. So as much as I'd like to snap my fingers and say that global support for Auracast will be in all public locations overnight, it will take time, and we do recognize that it will take time for this type of capability to make its way into the market, but I'm encouraged, and I'm encouraged because analysts' estimates show that the speed and uptake of opportunity for LE Audio and the use cases for Auracast broadcast audio to be quite significant.
In a recent published market research note in partnership with ABI, ABI is estimating that there will be over 3 billion LE Audio enabled devices shipping each and every year within the next five years. These are your phones, tablets, PCs, hearing aids, earbuds, and so on. ABI also estimates that there are 61 million establishments that could benefit and take advantage of Auracast broadcast audio, and while it's still early to track trends, ABI estimates that roughly 2.5 million Auracast broadcast audio deployments will be available in the next five to seven years.
So this information is all available in a new market research note titled LE Audio, the future of Bluetooth audio, and this is available on Bluetooth.com or through the link you see on the slide here. And I'm confident that with your advocacy and your support of the many companies and organizations that Auracast will ultimately change the way we engage with others, through audio and the world around us. And so this kind of concludes the core part of the overall webinar. So if you are curious, and you want more information on Auracast, or wish to stay up to date on new information, I encourage you to visit Bluetooth.com/Auracast, 'cause I've shown a number of resources through this presentation, and there are multiple resources that are available supporting both developing Auracast products as well as those deploying Auracast in public locations.
So again I invite you to go to Bluetooth.com/Auracast. I want to thank you for your attention and taking your time with me today. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out. I'm an advocate for audio accessibility and I'm committed to doing, you know, what it takes to make this happen for everyone. So thank you very much.
Now, I know we're out of time, and we don't have time necessarily for the Q&A, but as I mentioned before, I'm committed to answering your questions that you've put into the Q&A, and we'll have those published as part of the output from this particular presentation. Melissa, I'll hand it back over to you. >> MELISSA KRUSE: Thank you, Chuck, as you mentioned unfortunately I think we are out of time to take Q&A. But we have quite a few questions, it looks like over 50 that were put into that, so we will be publishing those with a full copy of this webinar in a couple of weeks at the HLAA website. And I want to say thank you for participating, and thank you Chuck for presenting. Thank you Lisa, for the interpretation, and Jo for the captioning.
I hope we answered some questions again, and please check out all of our webinars, upcoming and previous ones at the HLAA website, and thank you again. >> CHUCK SABIN: Thank you, everyone. I appreciate your time and your attention. Thank you.