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Optical sensors in the earphones send heart rate data to smartphone to track your activity level

Microprocessor manufacturer Intel and rapper 50 Cent’s headphone brand SMS Audio have collaborated to launch the SMS Audio BioSport In-Ear earphones that can monitor your heart rate and send the information to a compatible smartphone.

The earphones incorporate an optical sensor to monitor heart rate. They then send the data to an app like RunKeeper so you can make sure you’re training in the right zone. Intel and SMS Audio are developing their own app that will be able to change the playlist you’re listening to based on your heart rate. We imagine other apps like Strava will be adding compatibility at some stage.

The earphones use a 3.5mm jack and are powered by the phone, so they don’t need their own batteries. They are IPX4 certified so there's no problem if you get them covered in sweat when you’re training hard or cycling in the rain.

“With SMS Audio, we will bring smart headphones to market that eliminate the inconvenience of add-on devices with an integrated, one-device fitness accessory offering high-end style and premier sound quality for an exceptional fitness experience,” said Michael Bell, corporate vice president and general manager of the New Devices Group at Intel.

The earphones eliminate the need for an extra device like a heart rate monitor device, which can often be uncomfortable.The optical sensor in the earphones works by shooting a beam of light into the ear lobe, and measures blood flow through capillaries, which expand and contract in time with the heartbeat. This enables a pulse reading to be measured.

With many more people using smartphones to track and monitor their cycling, the earphones mean you don’t need a dedicated cycling computer or watch if you want to be able to monitor your heart rate. There’s a lot of buzz around wearable tech in the technology and gadget market, and there are exciting implications for cyclists. A GPS enabled watch or band that can monitor your heart rate with an optical sensor and relay that data directly to the smartphone in your jersey pocket could be appealing to many.

"The wearable technology collaboration between SMS Audio and Intel elevates our capability to bring smart exercise to consumers," said Brian M. Nohe, president of SMS Audio.

"With the introduction of the SMS Audio BioSport In-Ear Headphones powered by Intel, we're now the first to provide this level of integrated, seamless and helpful biometric information to inspire customers to advance their fitness experiences."

They’re expected to be available in autumn, and we’ve no word on UK pricing yet. There’s more info at http://newsroom.intel.com/community/intel_newsroom/blog/2014/08/14/intel...

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

11 comments

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dodgy [186 posts] 1 year ago
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In before the "cycling with earphones is dangerous" crowd.

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truffy [653 posts] 1 year ago
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I wouldn't buy any head/earphones endorsed by a rapper. Their base/treble sense is skewed (IMO).

And IIRC optical HR sensors are weak compared to chest/electrical ones (at least on the wrist).

So a double no-no there then.

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mikeprytherch [223 posts] 1 year ago
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Like the idea of these, I wouldn't use them on the road but Turbo Trainer/Gym yes, I hate the chest straps so this is a good option.

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userfriendly [562 posts] 1 year ago
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Not into rap at all, but even less into chest straps and wrist watches, so ... good job, Mr 50 Cent!  41

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pedalpowerDC [334 posts] 1 year ago
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That's a headline if I've ever seen one.

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Joelsim [1975 posts] 1 year ago
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Whilst it's true you can get better sound quality than SMS for sport, and I don't advocate using them on the road, in the gym these will probably be quite good.

A bit of a departure for Fiddy though, obviously realised he can't compete with Beats marketing might.

Not that Beats are very good, mind, unless you enjoy knowing you've paid twice as much as you should have for average cans.

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Beaufort [270 posts] 1 year ago
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Cycling with headphones in isn't stupid, it's idiotic. Adult choice yes, stay safe and aware.

The headphones look rubbish also.

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KiwiMike [1200 posts] 1 year ago
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Beaufort wrote:

Cycling with headphones in isn't stupid, it's idiotic. Adult choice yes, stay safe and aware.

The headphones look rubbish also.

Aesthetics aside, why is it 'idiotic'? When I cycle in an unknown city I frequently use Google Maps voice navigation with headphones, so I can pay attention to traffic/pedestrians and not be looking at the screen for guidance. Is that 'idiotic'? Should I be stopping at every intersection to consult a map, with all the inherent risks of multiple stop/start interactions with other road users?

Also it has been conclusively proven that cyclists maintain the ability to hear/be perceptive of traffic around them even when listening to music.

Q: do you always drive your car with all the windows rolled down and stereo off? As modern cars are effectively hermetic chambers where you cannot hear other vehicles at all, surely that lack of perception makes you 'idiotic'?

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anarchy [100 posts] 1 year ago
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what makes you think Strava will be adding support? They don't even support ANT+ heart rate monitors  2

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truffy [653 posts] 1 year ago
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userfriendly wrote:

Not into rap at all, but even less into chest straps and wrist watches, so ... good job, Mr 50 Cent!  41

It depends on whether the skin in the ear is similar in optical transmittance to the wrist or finger. Reading around, it appears that wrist straps are inaccurate because of skin thickness reducing light transmittance back to the sensor. Skin on the finger is thinner, therefore less impediment.

I don't know about you, but I can never get a snug fit with earphones, which may also impair their effectiveness (for me!). I guess some good tests and comparative reviews will sort out the questions.

Darker skin also impedes light transmittance. So either Mr Cent doesn't really care about measuring his HR, or he's just 50 cents short of a full dollar.  1

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middleagedmoaner [14 posts] 1 year ago
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I find myself with Beaufort here. This is possibly one of the silliest products ever. What next, a blindfold for measuring your blink rate?? Your heart rate when you have been killed by a car you didn't hear is zero...  2