Intel expanded its role in the wearables market, and puffed its chest a bit toward Samsung and Apple, with its Aug. 14 introduction of BioSport In-Ear Headphones, in collaboration with SMS Audio.
SMS Audio (the SMS stands for Studio Mastered Sound) is backed by the rapper 50 Cent, who's a majority owner of the brand.
The hearty-sized earbuds are said to feature both first-rate sound quality and biometric sensors that include a heart-rate monitor and can provide users—from ultra-marathoners to casual exercisers—with fitness data, via mobile apps.
"We're now the first to provide this level of integrated, seamless and helpful biometric information to inspire customers to advance their fitness experiences," Brian Nohe, president of SMS Audio, said in a statement. He added that his company's collaboration with Intel "elevates" its capabilities.
Intel was a bit light on specifics about the headphones, which will arrive "later this year," though it did say that they're waterproof so you can wear them in the rain and not worry about sweat.
The company also said that they'll feature a "patented ear-hook design" for maximum comfort and have an "energy-harvesting audio jack" that eliminates the need for extra batteries or chargers.
Further, Intel said the headphones don't need to be charged because they have a "3.5mm gold-plated audio jack that powers the biometric monitoring capabilities."
The BioSport In-Ear Headphones will work with RunKeeper apps, which plot users' routes, show steps taken and calories burned, help users track progress and motivate them, include a social component, and more.
The headphones will come with a tangle-free cord with an in-line microphone, a neoprene carrying case and three sizes of ear gels and hooks. Pricing has not yet been announced.
As for 50 Cent's role, the company says he's involved with "product development, style and sound," and that he "has brought something new to the industry" by designing "some of the most true-to-sound audio-producing products on the market today."
Wearables Meet Health and Fitness
With the Galaxy S5, Samsung introduced the first smartphone with a built-in heart-rate monitor, among a raft of other fitness and health-related features on the phone. While any number of mobile device companies have had designs on the health care market, the GS5's features were the first highly evident, consumer-facing sign of this.
In June, Samsung launched a Digital Health Initiative, and introduced a Digital Health Challenge and a cloud-based open software platform called the Samsung Architecture for Multimodal Interactions—or, more conveniently, SAMI—that it hopes will encourage developers to deeply consider how health and fitness information might be collected and used to benefit consumers.
In an introductory video, Samsung asked, "What if you could ask questions and hear answers from your heart, your lungs, your muscles, your skin? … You would learn a lot, and you would live a better life."
Samsung rival Apple this summer introduced Health and Health Kit apps within iOS 8, and this fall it's expected to introduce a wearable device—a smartwatch is the popular guess—that will optimize the apps' ability to collect and collate user data, and to share it with the FDA-approved applications of major medical facilities.
Apple also acquired Beats Audio in May, and with it, a new headphones business—with, of course, its own rapper, Dr. Dre.
Expect still more companies to find new ways to combine health features, music, wearables and mobility (it's easy to imagine the connected car market, too, attaching itself to such capabilities), as the web of connected devices and sensors around us grows.
Michael Bell, corporate vide president and general manager of the New Devices Group at Intel, said the new headphones move beyond the "inconvenience" of add-on accessories (think chest-based heart monitors).
"This is a prime example of Intel driving innovation in wearable devices while being a forerunner in merging lifestyle and technology," said Bell.