Think of a product, any product, and I can almost guarantee you, within reason, that the product you’re thinking of will one day have a Bluetooth speaker embedded in it—if someone hasn’t already gone and done it.
And just to prove to you that I’m not talking out of the wrong hole, consider some of the products that have appeared within the Dealerscope pages—both print and digital—in the past few months: We’ve seen and covered Bluetooth speakers found inside beanies by Caseco, there’s the 21st Century boombox (the BeBox) developed by Mohu, and then there’s the BrightTunes decorative string lights (coming this Fall) that will have Bluetooth speakers built-in along the light strand.
Imagine, Christmas music playing right out of your Christmas tree, or inside your outdoor covered patio, or off of the canopy above your college dorm room bed, or wherever you want to hang your decorative lights.
That just scratches the surface of some of the cool and innovative ways we’ve seen companies implement Bluetooth technology into their products recently. And it all goes to show that the Bluetooth speaker segment as a whole has exploded incredibly far beyond the days of the simple desktop speakers that can replace the old, wired speakers of yesteryear.
Related: Check out our review of the Bright Tunes Bluetooth decorative lights on UNBOXED!
With the growth that the segment has seen in the sheer number of products, it should also, then, come as no surprise that the category is performing exceptionally well with consumers.
Just ask the Consumer Technology Association. (That’s what we did.)
“I can definitely confirm that what we’re seeing and where we’re looking, we’re expecting double-digit growth for Bluetooth speakers both in terms of units and in revenue throughout our five-year forecast horizon,” said Sean Murphy, senior manager of industry analytics at CTA. “Not only are they selling like hotcakes now, but we don’t anticipate that slowing down for the foreseeable future.”
The anticipated future growth isn’t coming out of the middle of nowhere, though. Murphy noted that there has been a steady uptick over the past few years in regard to Bluetooth speaker sales performance. The reason? These devices have been steadily replacing those old iPod and MP3 player charging docks. Bluetooth speakers, Murphy said, are proving to be the ultimate sweet spot for consumers who always have their portable connected devices on them—primarily their smartphone—and who want to enjoy a shared music experience.
“First, we saw the major influx of headphone sales, which obviously was at least in part attributable to the Beats phenomenon,” he said. “What I think Bluetooth speakers do is provide people an option to listen to music still unplugged, but in their home or in their office. In a sense, they’re ideal because they are a speaker system that sounds like a speaker dock. You can, theoretically, take it with you to your office, to your bedroom, to your home, and the Bluetooth will pick it up. So it is portable, but you don’t have to use your headphones and you can still get good, quality sound.”
In addition, Murphy said, affordable pricing has really helped the Bluetooth speaker segment. As with any product, the more you spend, the better the quality will be. But even with the lower-priced Bluetooth speakers, consumers have reported high-quality sound output, which in turn leads to higher satisfaction and the consumer feeling like they got exceptional value for their dollar.
“On a broader level it’s really helping this minor renaissance in audio that we’ve seen,” said Murphy. “The last decade has really been dominated by displays. Today, what we’re seeing with headphones and Bluetooth speakers, audio is kind of at the forefront again. I really feel it’s a win-win for manufacturers, for consumers, and for the whole concept of audio as a category.”
The reason why Bluetooth has acted as the savior for audio goes back to what we discussed at the top: it’s a versatile product that can serve the needs or wants of any individual, no matter their age or status in life.
The simplicity of the product, the quality of the sound it produces, and the applicability and reliability of the technology makes it a perfect fit for anyone.
“I don’t care if you’re 12 years old or 75 years old—it is a common technology that we all use,” said Corey Lieblein, the founder and CEO of Innovative Technology, the company behind those BrightTunes Bluetooth decorative string lights. “Bluetooth connectivity and the Bluetooth technology really lends itself to so many great opportunities for consumer products.”
Lieblein said that his company, which also specializes in portable power products and nostalgic electronics, treats the Bluetooth speaker market in a particular way that helps to set their products up for success. “What we do is we try to take products that are different and products that have interest, and products that of course are priced right, and use Bluetooth technology to create new products that are applicable to, and really help improve, people’s lives,” he said.
But how versatile is the technology for real? Just take a gander around Bluetooth speaker manufacturers’ websites, like Innovative Technology’s, and see for yourself. The products run the gamut from outdoor rock speakers that could blend into any backyard setting, to various speaker shelves that serve an aesthetic purpose on top of their ability to produce quality sound, to tabletop towers, to standing floor towers, to Bluetooth boomboxes, to functional lanterns with Bluetooth built into them, to Bluetooth candles, and so on. Decorative lights will be just the latest addition for Lieblein’s company.
What’s next for Bluetooth? Where does it go from here? How can Bluetooth improve, and what sorts of limits can it really push? Lieblein has an idea.
“In terms of what the next step is in Bluetooth—of course what we do see in Bluetooth’s future is stepped-up connectivity in terms of range, which is going to be absolutely huge where you can add to that 10-meter range and be able to amplify the range of how far Bluetooth can be connected,” he said. “We look forward to the next generation of standards that give you 200, 300, 400 feet of range, and I think that’s a very important direction for Bluetooth to go in order to compete with the Wi-Fi systems that have such incredible range.”
And that’s where the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) comes into play. The consortium of 27,500 member companies that represent myriad industries—automotive, computing, consumer electronics, smart home, and health and fitness, to name a few—recently unveiled its 2016 roadmap for enhancements to Bluetooth technology and how it will enhance the experience around the Internet of Things.
Key updates that the group announced include improved range, higher speeds, and mesh networking.
“There is significant demand from our members and the industry at large to enhance Bluetooth with the new capabilities we’re announcing today,” Toby Nixon, chairman of the Bluetooth SIG Board of Directors, said in a statement. “Current projections put the market potential for IoT between $2 trillion and $11.1 trillion by 2025. The technical updates planned for Bluetooth technology in 2016 will help make these expectations a reality and accelerate growth in IoT.”
Bluetooth SIG said that the range of Bluetooth Smart—the rebranded Bluetooth 4.0 that can support sensor-type devices—will increase up to four times its current capabilities, which will help to transform smart home and infrastructure applications, delivering an extended, more robust connection for whole home or outdoor use cases. And the addition of mesh networking will enable Bluetooth devices to connect together in a network that can cover an entire home or building, opening up endless home automation applications.
“The Bluetooth technology roadmap is a powerful expression of our mission to continue as a catalyst for industry innovation,” Mark Powell, executive director, Bluetooth SIG, said in the statement. “Bluetooth has been adopted by countless developers and manufacturers as their connectivity solution of choice for the IoT. The new functionality we will soon be adding will further solidify Bluetooth as the backbone of IoT technology.”
We extended our reach beyond just Bluetooth speakers there for a minute, but all of that was necessary to help drill home the basic point that we’re trying to make. And that is this: Bluetooth is here to stay. At its heart, the technology is about providing simplicity for users, giving them a fast and easy way to access the content that they want to hear, when they want to hear it. And the advancements being made within the industry and within the Bluetooth speaker category itself are only going to make this market all the more enjoyable as time presses on.
This article originally appeared in the Bluetooth Speaker Supplement, which ran in the May 2016 issue of Dealerscope magazine.