Oticon makes hearing aids and associated devices. Our brand promise is “People First”. We are not simply trying to help people hear more, but – through hearing care technology – to live more.
If you miss sounds, you miss out on conversations, jokes, and things that need your attention and action. Studies show that people with hearing loss become more physically and mentally tired, are less socially active, and have a higher risk of both depression and dementia. This is all due in large part to the extra effort it takes for them to listen, converse, and interact normally.
Hearing loss and hearing aids are associated with the stigma of getting older, and this can cause people to feel embarrassment or insecurity. In addition, some people with hearing impairment need accessories to help them live a normal life. For example, some have extra-loud doorbells that frighten visitors to their houses with an alarming reminder of how their host is different. Those who lack such devices risk missing callers entirely.
We want to empower people to communicate freely, interact naturally and participate actively. We want to ensure people with hearing loss don’t feel “disconnected” and “old” anymore. People must be free to live their lives easily and independently.
Hearing aids help people hear better. Until now though, manufacturers have mainly focused on improving the sound quality in hearing aids, improving audibility and reducing the effort it takes to listen. None had gone deeper to consider how hearing aids could interact with other consumer electronics to make life easier. But we thought: Now the Internet of Things has arrived. What possibilities might that hold?
Hearing aids are wearable technology that users take with them almost everywhere. Therefore, looking beyond the conventional role of a hearing aid, we decided to take them to the next level: to make them into intelligent, discreet, wearable technology that can make life easier and smoother.
With this advanced wearable technology, we imagined boosting people’s capabilities beyond even those of people without hearing loss. The treatment for their ‘handicap’ could be transformed to provide benefits that others would envy!
Due to the universal and standardised nature of mobile phones, and the discretion with which one can use a mobile phone app, we designed an app that uses Bluetooth to conveniently control our newest hearing aid model: Oticon Opn.
To observers, you are merely using an app on your smartphone, instead of reaching up to touch a button on your hearing aids whenever you need to change a setting. The Oticon ON app made Oticon Opn into the world’s first Internet-connected hearing aid, unleashing the potential of a whole new online world: The Internet of Things (IoT).
Connecting hearing aids to the IoT, via a service named IF This Then That (IFTTT), allows them to seamlessly integrate with other devices like doorbells or smoke alarms. This connectivity can minimise the external visibility and audibility of hearing loss, and automate hearing technology in whole new ways:
• Users can instruct an Internet-connected doorbell to gently chime in their hearing aid, so they can hear the door from anywhere
• Users can set their hearing aid to automatically change programme based on their GPS location – reducing their need to manually switch them for different circumstances
• When the hearing aid of a child or other dependent person is low on battery, their parent or caregiver can receive an SMS message
To help people get started, we created some ‘applets’. These are simple recipes and actions that people can choose to activate, such as ‘Send text message when battery low’. People can easily make their own applets that connect to other devices and services on www.IFTTT.com. The IFTTT service is well established, giving access to devices and services from more than 300 prominent manufacturers.
Oticon Opn users can now take control of their hearing devices as wearable, connected technology. They are empowered to set up whatever connections they want. We have even created a forum where users can discuss and swap their automation ideas.
Our innovation enables users to extend their capabilities beyond those of people with normal hearing:
• Audible calendar notifications can secretly remind wearers to take medication
• Household appliances can automatically inform hearing aid users when they require action – avoiding unnecessary trips to the washing machine
• Smoke detectors can alert hearing aid users directly through their devices
• People can set up spoken notifications about specific sports game scores, weather forecasts, or breaking news – and be secretly ahead of the game wherever they are
Hearing aids are already a wearable technology that people depend on and use daily. The synergy of wearable devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) creates capabilities in the ears of hearing aid wearers that other people don’t have. It looks beyond the hearing aids themselves to enrich the lives of people who suffer from hearing loss – all possible in an invisible way.
“The hearing aid and the associated apps will allow you to do so many other things with these hearing aids, it’s almost unlimited,” says Tom L., an Opn hearing aid user from the US.
The technological breakthrough in Oticon Opn was recognised when it captured awards in two categories in the prestigious CES 2017 Innovation Awards: “Tech for a Better World” and “Wearable Technologies”.
CES is the world’s leading consumer technology awards programme. The presence of Oticon Opn in both categories underlines how Oticon’s solution makes a real difference to people’s lives, embracing an ‘Internet of Things That Matter' and leveraging the benefits of smart devices and connected homes.
The first award – “Tech for a Better World” – celebrates products that share a common goal or ability to affect the world in a positive way. The second one – “Wearable Technologies” – covers the burgeoning wearables market of electronic devices that utilise sensors for navigation, information gathering and transmission, or other sensory enhancements.
Large media organizations don’t typically write about hearing aids. Despite the similar role they play to glasses, hearing aids are not perceived as sexy, stylish items. But with this product launch and creative marketing ideas, we succeeded to create get the attention of large BtB and BtC medias for the first time in our history. Articles on these media confirm that our new development is something extraordinary:
• Fortune – Almost 15 million visitors per month
• Engadget – One of the world's leading tech media organisations with 35 million monthly visitors
• Internet of Business – Media organization specializing in the IoT
• MailOnline – Coverage in the world’s most popular English-language news website
• The Verge – Online magazine covering the intersection of technology, science, art, and culture, with 33 million online visitors per month
• BBC Radio and Wired
• National coverage: Politiken, JyllandsPosten, Berlingske Tidende, Elektronista, Harddisken P1, Ingeniøren
As more devices become connected to the Internet, the future looks bright for our IoT hearing aid Opn.