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Auracast is one of the features that the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (Bluetooth SIG) – a global community of 36,000 companies responsible for setting Bluetooth technology standards – has included in its latest specifications for the Bluetooth LE (Low Energy) Audio standard (which also introduced the LC3 codec for better quality audio at lower data rates and increased power efficiency compared to the ‘standard’ SBC Bluetooth).

It is actually a rebranded version of a feature SIG introduced much earlier – Audio Sharing – which focused more on sharing audio between source devices as opposed to broadcasting out multiple channels. The Bluetooth SIG likens the technology to how radio signal is transmitted, in that a standard radio transmitter sends out one signal that any number of in-range radio receivers can tune in to.

For a device to support Auracast, it must support Bluetooth 5.2 or later (as many wireless headphones from the past few years do) and the Public Broadcast Profile (PBP) spec within the new LE Audio standard (not as widely supported from a hardware perspective). Auracast is supported by Android 13 and 14 (no word on iOS) and by Qualcomm’s latest two generations of audio and mobile chips that are in various headphones and phones of this year and next. TVs would need Auracast support built-in too, or alternatively some sort of plug-in Auracast transmitter that is bound to show up. But actual nameable Auracast-compatible products are very few and far between right now – Philips’ Fidelio L4 headphones are one example.

Now that we're more than a year on from Auracast's announcement, we asked for a state-of-play update from Qualcomm, who was excited to say that the first customers are coming to market “very, very soon”. Sarabec will have Auracast-ready equipment available in the first quarter of 2024. According to a blog post on Bluetooth.com, "by 2027, there will be more than 3 billion LE Audio-enabled devices on the market, which will, in turn, incentivize nearly 2.5 million public venues to deploy Auracast broadcast transmitters globally by 2030".

It’s a promising road for Bluetooth to travel down. Auracast could genuinely open up a whole new world of audio experiences on a range of scales, not least for those with hearing loss

Existing Bluetooth streaming

For hearing aid and cochlear implant users, streaming audio using Bluetooth from personal devices like smartphones has been available for some time. However, currently, it only allows you to connect to a single device at a time and sometimes only works with specific devices.

How/why Auracast is different

1. Access to audio for everyone

Anyone with Auracast ™ enabled Bluetooth earbuds or hearing aids will be able to access high quality audio, through the privacy of their own device. This might be public announcements like when you are at an airport or train station or a private conversation, such as talking to someone at your bank.

2. Share the experience with others

The new Auracast™ will be the first truly universal Bluetooth connection. You will be able to stream audio from any Auracast™ capable device to your Auracast ™ enabled Bluetooth device,  earbuds or hearing aids. This means you can all listen to the same audio signal from one streaming device together.

It will take a long time to move from existing systems to new technology. It is therefore important that existing technology like loop systems continue to be used to provide vital communication support for those who need it.

Below is an interesting podcast which explains what Auracast is, and how it will impact users, in particular Hard of Hearing People.

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/...

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