Wearables aren’t just something that you wear around your wrist anymore, there’s new trend of wearable devices that are meant for your ears – better known as hearables. Combining conventional hearing aid technology with the consumer audio products, it seems the hearables are about to take a big step forward.
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“There’s some interesting information you can capture through the ear. We’ve been looking at things like wrist wearables, but the ear can capture things like oxygen levels, electrocardiograms, and body temperature,” Craig Stires, associate vice president for big data, analytics and software at IDC Asia Pacific, told CNBC last week.
According to IDC, the total number of hearable devices will reach 2.2 million units in 2018, and up to 12.6 million units come 2022. These include hearables that also function as fitness trackers, language translators, and those that augment audio, the IDC report said.
By the end of this year, the hearables market is expected to reach $5 billion, that’s roughly the same size of the entire wearables industry right now, according to Nick Hunn, founder and chief technology officer of U.K. firm Wifore Consulting.
The service economy can be benefited by the hearables, where workers interacting with a customer to provide a service can improve and speed up service by using hearable devices.
Historically, hearables have been used as language translators, fitness trackers, and as audio enhancers. But in the future, hearables will connect workers with business systems to perform tasks using their voice. This can significantly reduce or eliminate wait times, and make order taking more precise. In the process, the worker’s hands remain free, enabling them to perform task with their hands if necessary.
Fast Company reported in August that Apple, Google and Amazon all have high priority healthcare projects in the pipeline that involve hearable technology. According to the report, all 3 tech giants hired high ranking staff from Doppler Labs, soon after the company shut down. Three former Doppler employees said Amazon already had a team of 70 people working on hearables when the companies were in talks last year.
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In the hospitality industry, hearables have the potential to be used in:
Retail. Workers on the floor can communicate with workers in a warehouse or even ask for inventory report from sister stores, while remaining present with the customer.
Healthcare. Medical staff can handle patient’s file, message other staff or follow up procedure, while keeping their hands free to car for the patient.
Public safety. First responders can communicate with each other during an emergency, keep their hands free to operate equipment or direct others, and share information with other departments.