Sonova unveils revolutionary wireless chip unlocking the potential of universal direct connectivity

Sonova SWORD
© Sonova

On August 17 Sonova has announced the introduction of the Made For All (MFA) 2.4 GHz wireless chip. The SWORD™ (Sonova Wireless One Radio Digital) chip enables direct connectivity to any cell phone* as well as ear-to-ear communication using only one single radio technology.

As it supports the classic Bluetooth®**protocol, it provides direct connectivity to cell phones – including Android™, iPhone® and even classic cell phones – with no extra body-worn streaming device required. It also works seamlessly with Sonova proprietary 2.4 GHz wireless protocols, including AirStream™ technology, enabling a new plug and play solution for high-quality TV streaming with excellent stereo sound quality1. This breakthrough chip will make its debut in the Phonak Audéo™ B-Direct hearing aid, which will allow true hands-free calling. The chip technology will power future generations of hearing aids with even more sophisticated connectivity features across all Sonova’s product brands Phonak, Unitron, Hansaton and Advanced Bionics.

“Our revolutionary SWORD chip is a prime example of how technological leaps are possible when companies truly listen to their customers”, says Lukas Braunschweiler, CEO of Sonova. “Customer feedback (1) revealed there is both a strong desire and a tremendous opportunity for a solution that provides direct connectivity for all hearing aid wearers. By offering a solution to the entire market – including the more than 80% of the world’s smartphone owners who purchased Android devices – Sonova becomes the first and only major hearing aid company to unlock the enormous potential of universal direct connectivity. Our chip will be the foundation for a wide variety of unique and innovative solutions in the coming years. The Phonak Audéo B-Direct hearing aid is only the beginning.”

Innovation made for all

Research reveals that consumers will consciously postpone the purchase of a new product in anticipation of a future generation product with improved performance (1). These consumer insights were a key strategic driver in Sonova’s quest to innovate far beyond currently available technology. Today’s direct connectivity solutions for hearing aids are designed solely for iPhone owners, who account for only 13% of the world’s smartphone buyers, while Android dominates the global smartphone market with a 86% share (2). In addition, a study commissioned by Sonova revealed more than a third of hearing aid wearers over 60 years and nearly half of wearers aged over 70 still use a classic cell phone (3). By introducing hearing aid technology that directly connects to any cell phone*, Sonova is well-positioned to fill a large unmet customer need.

SWORD: future-proof chip is the most advanced ever used in hearing aids

Sonova’s breakthrough chip SWORD employs the most advanced semiconductor process ever used in hearing aid manufacturing. With more than 42 million transistors placed on less than 7 mm² of silicon, the low-voltage radio chip has the lowest power consumption of any hearing aid using Bluetooth Classic. This is made possible through the introduction of 40 nm CMOS technology, combining one radio chip and one antenna to power all applications. SWORD runs multiple communication protocols to choose the best solution for any specific application: Standard Bluetooth (Bluetooth Classic and Bluetooth LE) protocols to connect to hundreds of multimedia audio sources, proprietary protocols such as AirStream for a true plug and play solution with excellent sound quality for TV streaming and the ear-to-ear communication protocols supporting binaural applications. No commercially available radio chip can fulfill these extensive requirements. The cutting-edge chip is future-proof, capable of even more advanced wireless features for future hearing aid generations as well as accessing the world of eSolutions such as distance support.

Phonak Audéo B-Direct: instantly connects, easy-to-use, plug and play

The Phonak Audéo B-Direct RIC hearing aid extends the successful Audéo B family and is the first product to reap the benefits of the new SWORD chip, offering direct connectivity to any Bluetooth phone*, no matter if one uses iOS, Android or any other cell phone. This Phonak hearing aid is based on the innovative Belong™ platform. It simplifies the life of hearing aid wearers by offering them the freedom of direct connectivity, hands-free calling, and excellent TV sound quality. Hearing aid wearers can answer or reject a phone call without touching the phone by pushing the button on their hearing aids. When answered, the wearer’s voice is picked up by the hearing aid’s intelligent microphone network and transmitted to the other caller providing truly hands-free calling. The TV Connector, the new plug and play solution, easily connects and delivers TV audio streaming to multiple Audéo B-Direct wearers simultaneously. This essentially turns a person’s hearing aids into wireless TV headphones.

Phonak Virto™ B: the world’s first In-The-Ear with Biometric Calibration

At the same time Phonak introduces Phonak Virto™ B, the world’s first hearing aids with Biometric Calibration. Each ear is unique and each ear hears differently. Identifying over 1,600 data points, the Phonak proprietary 3D modelling software calculates the unique calibration settings for each Virto B hearing aid. The result is a 2 dB improvement in directionality leading to better hearing performance1. Virto B comes in a full product family launch.

Both Audéo B-Direct and Virto B will be available in the U.S. end of August with Europe and other countries worldwide following step by step from September 2017 onwards.

Unitron Tempus™: Advanced technologies to make speech easier to understand

In August, Unitron will extend the success of its Tempus™ platform with the release of the Insera™ In-The-Ear family and followed by the Stride™ M R rechargeable hearing aid in October. Insera and Stride M R use the advanced technologies in Tempus to make speech easier to understand, while keeping sound real.

Hansaton SphereHD: spatial acoustics in a new dimension

Hansaton will build on the success of its sound SHD Receiver-in-Canal products and its AQ sound SHD lithium-ion rechargeable product portfolio and will update to its jam SHD Behind-the-Ear and jam SHD custom products in November 2017.

* with Bluetooth® 4.2 wireless technology and most older Bluetooth phones

** Bluetooth is a registered trademark owned by Bluetooth SIG, Inc.; Android™ is a registered trademark owned by Google, Inc.; iPhone® is a registered trademark of Apple, Inc.

(1) Field Study News under development. Full details available in September 2017 at www.phonakpro.com/evidence

(2) Global mobile landscape 2016, eMarketer, November 2016

(3) Figures based on an internal Sonova Market Insight Study, 2016