Why should we care about the Bluetooth LE Audio standard?

Why should we care about the Bluetooth LE Audio standard?

Imagination Technologies recently released the new iEB110 IP, a complete Bluetooth Low Energy IP solution based on the latest 5.2 specification released by the Bluetooth SIG. The new iEB110 IP product includes radio frequency (RF) circuitry, controller software, and a Bluetooth low energy master stack, giving manufacturers of cutting-edge products from headsets to hearing aids all the tools they need, Help them gain a competitive advantage in the fast-growing wireless audio market with the fastest speed and lowest BOM cost. This is an especially exciting IP product because the Bluetooth LE 5.2 specification introduced LE Audio (Low Energy Audio), a major step forward in terms of sound quality and functionality for Bluetooth audio.

Based on the LE Audio capabilities of our latest iEB110 IP, manufacturers can develop low-power audio products that offer revolutionary new capabilities that were previously unavailable, even through third-party proprietary solutions. The main highlight of this new release (referring to Bluetooth 5.2 with LE Audio) is audio support over the Bluetooth LE link for the first time. Described as one of the biggest developments in the history of the Bluetooth SIG, Bluetooth LE now not only supports audio, its new feature set will also support multiple use cases that will change the way we use and share audio for years to come.

At the heart of LE Audio is the new low-complexity communication codec (LC3), which is required for all LE Audio products today and supports a wide range of sample rates, bit rates and frame rates to give product developers maximum flexibility performance to optimize its products to bring the best audio experience to its end users. Compared to the SBC codec used in Bluetooth Classic, LC3 is more efficient at processing and delivering audio, and as you’ll see below, it provides high-quality audio in the real world.

The vertical axis in the graph below represents the level of audio impairment based on the ITU-R BS.1116-3 specification, where 5 means no difference from the original source can be detected, 4 means there is a noticeable difference but not unpleasant, 3 indicates a significant difference.

Why should we care about the Bluetooth LE Audio standard?

Figure 1 Performance comparison of LC3 and SBC codecs

The results show that LC3 can provide a much better audio experience than SBC even at halved bit rate.

The inherent limitations of SBC mean that manufacturers of audio products such as Bluetooth headsets have to turn to proprietary solutions to improve sound quality, such as AC3 and AptX encoding. However, these all require specific hardware support and inevitably increase the cost of standards-based implementation. With LC3, this problem is solved, and manufacturers no longer have to pay licensing fees for proprietary technology, thus reducing product costs.

True Multi-Stream Audio Support

Additionally, Bluetooth Low Energy version 5.2 introduces a new feature – Multi-Stream Audio, that promises to revolutionize wireless audio. We know that classic bluetooth can only support a single point-to-point audio stream on the A2DP profile. As a result, developers must resort to proprietary methods to implement some of the latest applications, such as True Wireless Stereo (TWS) commonly used in today’s wireless earbuds. In a TWS solution, audio is sent to only one earphone, which then sends the signal to the other earphone. However, it’s a lot easier with LE Audio, which was originally developed to handle multiple audio streams between devices and keep them in perfect sync.

Why should we care about the Bluetooth LE Audio standard?

Low-power audio makes products last longer

The ability to deliver high-quality audio at low bit rates means that LE radios don’t need to work for extended periods of time. This reduces power consumption and extends battery life. Taking advantage of the energy saving benefits of the LC3, developers can use smaller batteries to create more compact products.

Broadcast audio support

LE Audio supports broadcasting, which can be non-public or public, which provides the possibility to realize new application scenarios in public places. For example, for airport announcements or departure lounges, a broadcast can be open to anyone to connect, just like an open Wi-Fi SSID. On the other hand, paid audio guides for museums and galleries can be offered as private broadcasts that can be set to require a password for the listener to access.

Audio sharing

The Audio Sharing feature of Bluetooth LE also offers a whole new way of using audio over Bluetooth with great potential to change the user experience. The feature enables sharing of personal audio with those around us to create a shared listening experience – just turn on sharing and your friends or colleagues can listen.

There’s also location-based audio sharing, a feature through which public TVs can share audio in multiple languages ​​using simultaneous translation.

Hearing Support

Over the years, Bluetooth-based audio transmission has brought enormous benefits to a wide range of users through hands-free calling and wireless music streaming. However, there are others who do not benefit from these technological advancements: those with hearing problems.

This group is estimated to make up 15% of the world’s population, and this number is increasing as people live longer. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1.1 billion young people worldwide may be at risk of hearing loss before the age of 35 due to unsafe listening habits.

LE Audio provides explicit support for hearing aid applications built into the standard. The new high-efficiency codec will allow developers to create more miniaturized products, such as hearing aids with smaller batteries. At the same time, with the growing popularity of TWS headphones, the feeling of humiliating wearing hearing aids is gone.

Figure 2 hearWHO, the hearing loss self-diagnosis app

Smartphone applications such as hearWHO, published by the World Health Organization, enable people to self-diagnose hearing loss. By adding Bluetooth functionality to hearing aids, people can purchase a generic hearing aid outright and use a smartphone app to customize its functionality to suit their hearing needs. An estimated 80% of people with hearing loss live in low- and middle-income countries, and there is currently only one audiologist per 6 million population, so this could be a life-changing technology for them.

Comprehensive Bluetooth Low Energy IP Solutions

With these revolutionary application scenarios, we are excited about the possibilities that these new products will bring in the next few years, and any manufacturer who wants to develop such a product can be well supported and serviced by Imagination’s iEB110 IP .

The Links:   M170EG01-V8 SKM151F INFIGBT

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