Intel SMS Audio earbuds

Ready for your workout? Motivational tunes on your phone: check! Earbuds to listen to your tunes: check! Earbuds to monitor heart rate: what the what? It’s true, later this fall, you can leave your chest strap in the drawer along with all your other outgrown and unwanted fitness gizmos. Intel and SMS Audio have teamed up to build earbuds that can listen to your heartbeat as it plays your favorite music, according to yesterday’s press release. The SMS Audio BioSport In-Ear Headphones are scheduled to ship in the last quarter of this year.

While there are no Intel chips inside the product, Intel engineers contributed to the design. The buds uses “optomechanical” sensors to monitor heart rate. They also are able to harvest what little power they need for the sensors and other circuitry right through the headphone jack connections. No batteries and no recharging required. Water (and sweat) resistant, you don’t have to leave them behind in wet weather. And they sync with the popular RunKeeper app; plans are to add others to the list of supported apps.

While this is a fitness application, it is easy to see its potential ramifications for the wearable Health Tech market on a much broader scale. This is a mass production consumer electronics product, which should help keep driving down the costs (and size) of the required sensors and other circuitry. This product also has features that could be applied to a variety of health and medical applications, and with volume production on the fitness side, it could help make such applications more affordable.

Perhaps the biggest implication, however, is that Intel appears to be very serious and very visible about making room for its products and technology in the wearables markets at all levels. I expect that this is just the tip of the iceberg for Intel’s announcements in these areas.