You could be forgiven for thinking industrial use of traditional audio components was limited to warning sounds and PA announcements. But in today’s connected world, it pays to understand where these simple components will be used over the next five years, and to align with suppliers who can service the many requirements these new opportunities are likely to bring.
This guide discusses some of the applications really exciting the audio device manufacturing community and the effect it might have on component sales. Don’t forget to leave a comment after you’ve read it.
1. Wireless Audio Devices
By far the largest audio device market on the horizon is the burgeoning wireless sector with a predicted 18% CAGR over the next 5 years. The effect of this growth will be continued improvements in manufacturing technologies for small microphones and speakers and reductions in prices at higher volumes. That means every audio component from mics to amplifiers and speakers will likely be affected.
Improvements in voice recognition algorithms, coupled with GPS locator technology is making the machines we talk too much better conversationalists than they used to be. As someone with a Scottish accent it was all I could do sometimes to hold back from throwing a heavy object at my truck’s OnStar voice system just a few years ago. Now these platforms are able to adjust recognition based on local speech, turning the tables and making it more of a challenge to get systems like Apple’s Siri to actually miss what is said these days.
2. Voice Activated Electronics
Improvements in voice recognition algorithms, coupled with GPS locator technology is making the machines we talk too much better conversationalists than they used to be. As someone with a Scottish accent it was all I could do sometimes to hold back from throwing a heavy object at my truck’s OnStar voice system just a few years ago.
Now these platforms are able to adjust recognition based on local speech, turning the tables and making it more of a challenge to get systems like Apple’s Siri to actually miss what is said these days. The market for microphones and small speakers is flourishing in part because suppliers solved the problem of making machines understand humans in any language, including local dialects. Now we see new mass markets for these products in TV remotes, cars and GPS control, public transport, smartphones, home security systems, thermostats, smart door bells and locks.
The day is also coming when voice interface will be a choice for most of the machines in our kitchens. As technologies improve and people become more comfortable talking to machines, traditional, relatively expensive switch panels and push buttons will feel the cold shoulder of decline in favor of infinitely programable, very much cheaper, voice activation.
3. Noise Cancellation
A side effect of the voice control market is the need to boost signal in audibly noisy environments. That can either be done by improving noise absorption in the materials surrounding humans in the applications, or with noise reduction technologies that use microphones to capture ambient sounds, especially hums, buzzes and hisses, and generate the inverse sound profile at the users or control system’s listening point using low cost loudspeakers.
Even domestic appliances are getting a makeover with noise cancellation technologies, adding to the complexity and the opportunity for low cost sound modules under our kitchen countertops.
4. Agriculture and Farming
Agriculture leaders like John Deere are now using MEMS mics to sense the exact moment a blockage occurs in seed planting. With more than 60 seed drills planting 10 seeds a second, corrective action on a blockage using traditional optical methods occurred many yards after the initial jam because it relied on seeds stacking up to the level of the sensor. Acoustic technologies detect variation from known good sound signatures that can be used to indicate a seed jam whenever one occurs, maximizing crop potential from the planted field.
5. Consumer Medical Devices
Buzzers and small speakers are the essential feature of every consumer medical device like blood pressure sensors (BPS), heart rate monitors, electrocardiographs (ECG) and digital thermometers. As the US population ages, more and more people are expected to take control of their own health monitoring functions because it’s relatively simple to download the results from such systems to the doctor. Patients save the $100 for a nurse practitioner to take the measurements and the whole process creates more engagement between individuals and their own health and fitness.
6. The Internet of Things (IoT)
Loudspeakers and microphones were one of the very first IoT enabled devices on the marketplace, primarily because of their use in smartphones. In this application they assumed their traditional role of detecting and producing audible sounds. The next phase of their use is potentially very exciting for manufactures of small audio modules because it elevates their use to IoT signal carriers.
New technologies aimed at the Beacon traffic monitoring space use sound in the near ultrasonic range to send beacon data. The traditional Beacon is a Bluetooth device, usually in a retail environment, that is loaded with sales data a shopper might want to see. To understand how they work, imagine trying to buy a truck on a busy auto dealer’s lot. You have several questions you’d like to ask, but as usual when you need a salesman they’re all busy with someone else.
An IoT Beacon loaded with specs and possible deals on individual vehicles can be placed inside every truck. When a potential buyer passes, the Beacon sends data to her smartphone allowing instant engagement. Every vehicle the prospect looks at sends that truck’s beacon data and the app controlling all this is smart enough to provide pop up prompts like ‘Would you like text’s on our reserved deals for these trucks?’ creating virtual salesmen of every Beacon able to at least push the prospect to the mailing list for future engagement.
Audio versions of the Bluetooth beacon are showing great promise in the retail shopping space.
The point here is there are many new applications of audio products wrapped up in the projected growth numbers discussed at the top of this article. In the vast majority of these new technologies, the form factors, critical specs and encapsulants will have to change to fit ever smaller pcb real estate requirements. This is where a manufacturing partner like RDI USA comes into its own and is able to use its vast knowledge in custom design and manufacturing to create the audio product that fits the bill exactly every time. If we don’t have the exact speaker, microphone or buzzer you need on our website, give us a call or drop us an email and we’ll talk about what you need.