With the industry scrambling to match Apple's wireless earbuds, adding Valencell Inc.'s tiny PerformTek biometric measurement module to an earbud goes beyond Apple's newly announced AirPods. AirPods house a single microelectromechanical system (MEMS) accelerometer as a sensor. In contrast, PerformTek adds to biometric sensors already fine-tuned for health-care caliber performance metrics for sports, fitness and medical applications.
According to analyst Nick Hunn at WiFore Consulting who predicted a $30 billion market for wireless earbuds by 2020 before the iPhone 7 AirBuds announcement, he's considering upping his prediction now that the "keep up with Apple" factor is in play.
"It gives me confidence that we will probably meet or exceed that number," Hunn told EE Times. Seeking Alpha has already estimated that the opportunity for Beats this year as a result of the iPhone 7 will be around $5 billion and that's just with 45 percent of the market share. That suggests that the loss of the 3.5mm jack will produce additional annual revenue."
The Valencell PerformTek biometric measurement module has all the sensors and algorithms already perfected for accurate heart rate, distance, speed, cadence, oxygen consumption and other biometrics.
"NPD noted that trend when they reckoned that wireless headsets overtook wired sales by value back in June. The Apple announcement suggests that will now accelerate," Hunn told EE Times. "I’m going back to my numbers to see whether I need to increase the prediction for 2020."
With the iPhone 7's AirPods giving wireless earbuds much greater visibility in the market, the effect of the iPhone 7 will be to make wireless headsets much more popular in the short term. That will spur innovation, according to Hunn. And since the AirPods are essentially an entry-level hearable — doing only audio and voice. — the startups like Bragi, Nuheara and Doppler Labs will one-up Apple with noise cancellation, biometrics and audio curation, according to Hunn.
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