There are few smartphone users who haven’t used Bluetooth, by far the most-recognized wireless standard for audio streaming, with an estimated 1.1 billion devices shipped per year.
LE Audio, the next generation of Bluetooth Audio, is expected to boost this number, with earbud users as the main contributor. LE Audio brings broadcast audio to Bluetooth technology, a new feature that enables an audio transmitter to broadcast to an unlimited number of nearby Bluetooth audio receivers.
Under the brand Auracast, Bluetooth moves into earbud-inspired broadcast audio for all types of public locations — from large venues such as airports and conference centers to smaller establishments such as gymnasiums, cinemas and houses of worship — to deliver audio experiences for sales promotion, visitor satisfaction and increased accessibility.
An unlimited number of in-range Auracast receivers will be able to join an Auracast broadcast from a nearby Auracast transmitter.
An Auracast transmitter begins an Auracast broadcast that includes advertisements, which provide Auracast assistants with information about the broadcast (e.g. name, content, codec configuration, etc.), as well as one or more audio streams (e.g. left and right stereo audio streams). Auracast assistants scan for Auracast advertisements and provide a user interface (UI) to enable users to select an Auracast broadcast to join, similar to the UI commonly used to connect to Wi-Fi networks in public spaces. Once an Auracast broadcast is selected, the Auracast assistant provides the Auracast receiver (e.g. headphone, earbud, hearing aid, etc.) the information it needs to join the Auracast broadcast.
A set of defined configurations of Bluetooth broadcast audio, Auracast promises to enable a new, globally interoperable audio experiences for consumers — this could be a big deal for digital signage, education, public spaces, retail, museums, events and other industries.
Public locations that provide silent TV screens such as airports, gymnasiums and waiting rooms could use Auracast to offer a more satisfying watching experience by allowing visitors (using their own Auracast-enabled Bluetooth earbuds or hearing devices) to listen to audio broadcast from the screens. Public locations that provide tours such as museums, convention centers and tourist attractions might create a more compelling tour experience by enabling visitors to use their own Auracast-enabled Bluetooth earbuds or hearing devices during the tour.
Public locations that support simultaneous translation services, such as conference and meeting centers, can provide an enhanced audio experience and let participants use their own Auracast-enabled Bluetooth earbuds or hearing devices to listen to audio in their desired language.
Locations that deploy public address (PA) systems, such as airports, cinemas, lecture halls, conference centers, houses of worship and more, could provide a significantly higher quality audio experience by enabling visitors to receive the PA audio directly into their own Auracast enabled Bluetooth earbuds or hearing device. In this way, Auracast broadcast audio functions as a high-quality, low-cost, next-generation assistive listening system (ALS), improving the audio experience for visitors with and without hearing loss.
The Bluetooth SIG will soon publish a deployment guide for public locations looking to offer Auracast broadcast audio. The guide will provide best practice recommendations to help venues deploy Auracast transmitters. It will also remind installers of certain deployment requirements they must meet to use the Auracast trademarks when promoting services available at their location, which includes registering with the Bluetooth SIG. In addition to gaining a license to use the Auracast trademarks, public locations that register will be listed in a searchable, public database of locations offering Auracast broadcast audio.
If all that sounds like a lot of fuss, Bluetooth is leveraging its famous brand and its public confidence to foster a new ecosystem. After all, it’s bringing billions of consumers who recognize and trust the technology — as well as holding the faith of most of the world’s device manufacturers.