September 14, 2014

I think we’re at the stage with the $10B/pa hearing aid industry that Tomi Ahonen described happened to the computer industry, camera industry and music industry in his Jan 2010 summary of the Nokia Decade (see my visual interpretation of it here). Just as Nokia didn’t start selling computers/film/CDs, Apple and Samsung obviously aren’t going to start selling hearing aids but rather super comfortable sensor laden earphones that we will all want to put in/on our ears.

As such it surprises me that Apple have announced the $3.2B acquisition of the popular premium headphone manufacturer Beat Electronics as unless it’s just to add their profits/revenues and some talent to iTunes I would’ve thought a firm like Starkey Laboratories (manufacturers of the Halo ‘Made for iPhone’ Hearing Aid) would’ve had a much better fit and been a much more scaleable opportunity for a brand like Apple.

If you don’t yet see this opportunity watch this great “iMergence: the impact of iPhone technology on our industry” talk at the Hearing Innovation Expo by Brent Edwards, VP of Research at Starkey, and then think about how big this opportunity is going to be around the world when we start hearing about smart hearing devices that are being ‘Made for Android’:

The made for iPhone Hearing Aid technology is just a glimpse of what’s going to happen in the audio wearable computer world… …I do think our industry is going to change. I think our technology, our business and our Patients are going to change over the next several years. Now it’s difficult to predict how but here’s a vision: the traditional Patient will always be with us. That 70+ year old retiree who isn’t tech savvy, who likes to talk about their grandkids during office visits, who needs counselling, who needs rehabilitation for their hearing loss, they are always going to be here in fact the size of that group is going to grow over the years as the average life expectancy improves with improvements to medicine. But a new Patient group is going to appear in the same way that Google Glass is going to evolve to be accepted and provide benefit for everyone in the world, made for iPhone hearing aid technology is going to evolve as well. In the same way. And the benefits that that technology will provide will be useful for everyone. Not just people with hearing loss. People with normal hearing are going to want that technology and when that happens a new Patient group is going to emerge: That elusive underserved Patient group – the fifty something professionals with mild hearing loss who don’t want hearing aids. They’re going to become clients not because they are looking for a hearing aid but because they want that amazing technology that everyone else is wearing and by the way happens to help them with their speech understanding – a problem they are just starting to experience. And if you want to provide a solution to this group you’re going to have to change because they’re going to demand a different approach to sales. They’re going to demand a different fitting approach. But they’re going to be here and they’re going to be large in number. They’re going to be demanding their audio wearable computer. They’re going to be demanding all the benefits that the made for iPhone technology is going to develop over the next decade. So the future ultimately is really about the emergence of this new group that’s what’s important and the question that you can ask yourself is are you going to continue to serve the traditional group and traditional Patinet only or are you going to change with the future and provide a solution not just for that traditional Patient group but also for this new emerging group as well?

To learn more about the mHealth opportunities in Wearable smartphone accessories join me for the launch of Wearable Wednesday in Dublin on the 28th May 2014.

Some related posts you might find interesting:

Why would Apple make a wristwatch or paid of glasses when smart earbuds could let them cannibalise the $10B hearing aid industry
Nuance GLobal Healthcare Meeting ‘mHealth: Beyond the Beep’.
Google Glass: has silicon valley invented something so useful it’s primary market will be serving health needs?


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