Intel, 50 Cent team up to develop heart-monitoring earphones

Just three months after Apple acquired Dr. Dre's headphone-making business Beats for $3 billion, Intel announced this week it's teaming up with rapper 50 Cent to make earphones that monitor your heart rate.

SMS Audio's BioSport In-Ear Headphones will compete with Apple and Dr. Dre's Beats business

Move over Dr. Dre. There's a new beat in town.

Just three months after Apple acquired that rapper's headphone-making business Beats for $3 billion US, Intel announced this week it's teaming up with rapper 50 Cent to make earphones that monitor your heart rate.

The partnership between the chipmaker and SMS Audio, the consumer electronics company founded by Curtis Jackson (also known as 50 Cent), is centred around the BioSport In-Ear Headphones, which Intel calls "the first heart-pounding personal audio system converging lifestyle and technology innovation for an exceptional fitness experience."

The earphones include a built-in optical sensor that will measure the wearer's heart rate, pace of activity, distance, elevation and burned calories — while listening to music. That data will be compatible with RunKeeper, the popular fitness-tracking app. And the earphones pull power from your smartphone's audio jack, meaning no batteries or charging is necessary.

"This is a prime example of Intel driving innovation in wearable devices while being a forerunner in merging lifestyle and technology," said Michael Bell, corporate vice president and general manager of the New Devices Group at Intel.

Bumpin' and grindin'

The deal puts both Intel and 50 Cent in direct competition with another tech-rapper duo. In May, Apple made Dr. Dre the world's first hip-hop billionaire when it bought up Beats Music and Beats Electronics, in part to boost its cachet with teenagers and younger adults.

The headphone market is a crowded one, with no company holding a dominant share. It's also a growing industry that's raking in money from consumers who want high-quality sound. According to the NPD Group, the premium U.S. headphone market (headphones that sell for more than $100) surpassed $1 billion in 2013 — a jump of 21 per cent from 2012. 

"The headphone market is experiencing a renaissance because of the mobile industry and consumers’ increased use of video, audio and apps on portable devices," said Ben Arnold, executive director and industry analyst at NPD. "In a new segment like fitness, sales are growing quickly.”

The SMS Audio device debuts later this year. The cost is yet to be determined, but SMS headphones currently on the market are priced as high as $399.


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