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Bluetooth® LE Audio: Advancements and Applications

Telink Staff

May 11, 2022

Applications

Man listening to Bluetooth ear buds

Bluetooth® LE Audio offers capabilities that redefine what it means to live and listen in a wireless world. 

Bluetooth® Low Energy (LE) was created to facilitate innovation within the world of wireless connectivity by offering different capabilities than Bluetooth® Classic. Product developers have capitalized on its IoT-friendly features to transform what data streaming looks like at home, on the go, and in public spaces. Now, Bluetooth® LE Audio joins these more established protocols with a focus on expanding the world of sound. 

As this year unfolds, new applications using Bluetooth LE Audio are set to transform how we think about audio and interoperability. Here’s what you can expect from Bluetooth LE Audio, the latest standard for wire-free technology, and how it will optimize products in the near future.

Innovations Behind Bluetooth® LE Audio

Introduced over 23 years ago, Bluetooth Classic transformed how data was shared between smart devices. Using a 2.4 GHz radio frequency band, Bluetooth Classic enables data transferring and streaming over 79 channels at a maximum range of 164 feet. It is intended for continuous use at a close range, making it ideal for exchanging data between personal peripherals.

Bluetooth LE operates on the same 2.4 GHz bandwidth as its Classic counterpart, except its specialty lies in its low power capabilities. Instead of using energy continuously, Bluetooth LE enters sleep mode when a connection is not being initiated. Additionally, it transmits data over 40 channels at a rate of 1 Mb/s, as opposed to Bluetooth Classic’s 3 Mb/s, to further reduce power consumption. This makes Bluetooth LE a suitable solution for a wide variety of applications where battery life needs to be preserved, such as the use of fitness trackers outdoors or low-power sensor networks.

The Bluetooth LE Audio standard goes a step beyond these standards, offering key features that include the following:

  • Low Complexity Communications Codec (LC3): Intended to replace the sub-band codec (SBC) standard, LC3 centers on power efficiency through a lower data rate, providing more wiggle room for product developers to workshop novel features without having to worry about battery consumption limitations.
  • Multi-Stream: With multi-streaming, data transmission is granted scalability, allowing one audio source to deliver multiple audio streams to several devices simultaneously. For hearing aids, this means more access points to connect to media sources in both private and public spheres.
  • Broadcast Audio: Audio sharing via broadcasting will enable one audio source to share data with a limitless number of in-range devices. From sharing a music playlist with close friends and families in a room to sharing TV audio with travelers at an airport, data moves beyond a single stream.

As consumers grow accustomed to a network-like IoT infrastructure, Bluetooth LE Audio will support multi-directional connectivity for more natural and conducive data transferring and streaming.

New Audio Applications for Bluetooth® LE Audio

The increased flexibility that Bluetooth LE Audio’s specifications give developers opens up avenues for fresh audio applications, while solving current problems tied to latency, interoperability, and accessibility. Here are some groundbreaking use cases that will change how we use Bluetooth-enabled devices.

Broadcasting

Implementing Bluetooth LE Audio’s broadcast scanning feature in public infrastructures could assure passengers, travelers, and pedestrians that they won’t miss out on vital travel information. For instance, bus stops today rely on posted notices since audio announcements can contribute to noise pollution on public roads. With Bluetooth LE Audio, consumers can connect to audio sources at bus stops to keep track of route changes, delayed arrival times, and other important notifications.

A similar use case for broadcast scanning can be applied to retail spaces like gyms, coffee shops, restaurants, and bars, where background music and conversations can become distracting for those trying to work or relax. Suppose audio systems in these buildings are fitted with Bluetooth LE Audio. In that case, customers can choose whether or not to listen to background music by tuning in themselves with their personal devices, encouraging a quiet and comfortable environment.

Wearable devices detecting motion and direction are already on the market — but Bluetooth LE Audio can merge augmented reality with real-time audio data, greatly benefitting hearing aid users who may need directional navigation and object finding assistance.

Television

Sound is often muted in public venues where TVs are displayed to avoid intrusive audio. Instead of relying on subtitles that may be difficult to read, broadcast transmitters can be inserted into televisions to give viewers an option of listening to them privately. Moreover, this stream could be merged with other audio streams in multiple languages, such as flight announcements at airport gates or called orders at restaurants. Hotels furnished with televisions can also incorporate this feature to allow clientele more peace and quiet during their stay, elevating their hospitality experience.

Shareable Audio

Just a decade ago, multiple headphone outlets gave listeners the ability to share their music with friends and family from their phones. As wireless earbuds are widely adopted and the availability of AUX inputs decrease, this no longer becomes possible. But by converting the standard unicast stream to a broadcast alternative, Bluetooth LE Audio can link multiple users to the same device wirelessly. Microphones can also be embedded with this feature, further amplifying the potential applications for shareable media.

Personal Wearables

One of the oldest features Bluetooth provides is wireless device control, yet the wearable market has not taken advantage of this due to power consumption limitations. With Bluetooth LE Audio’s battery-saving specifications, this is no longer an obstacle, granting developers an open space for creating new ways of managing data remotely.

Product developers are toying with the idea of embedding control features onto devices as small as an earbud or hearing aid, bypassing the use of a smartphone altogether. Another alternative option being tested is battery boxes. Used for mobile charging, battery boxes are already equipped with a Bluetooth chip to pair and communicate with devices. Elevating these portable tools by implementing volume control, audio transmission, and broadcasting features will help consumers on the move access the audio they want without having to reach for their phone every time.

Get Started with Bluetooth® LE Audio

With Bluetooth LE Audio, the power of cable-free connectivity has reached new heights, enabling developers to integrate features aimed to impress and satisfy growing consumer demands for convenience. But this also means you’ll have to keep up by upgrading your devices to embrace this new potential. Luckily, Telink has the tools you need to enhance any Bluetooth-enabled device, from smart home appliances to electronic shelf labels.

Our top-of-the-line semiconductor chips and firmware are designed to satisfy each client’s needs so that consumers can get the most out of products they rely on. Telink can also combine both Classic and LE Audio on a single chip to ensure the highest functionality at a fraction of the cost. Throughout the development process, our team will guide you through each stage to ideate and test as needed until your final product exceeds expectations.

Bluetooth is evolving — is your brand doing the same?

For more information on how Telink can elevate your technological framework, contact us today or send emails directly to telinksales@telink-semi.com.