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Biometric headphones measure a wearer's heart rate

Biometric headphones measure a wearer's heart rate

The headphones from SMS Audio, majority owned by rapper 50 Cent, work with a popular fitness application

SMS Audio BioSport In-Ear Headphones

SMS Audio BioSport In-Ear Headphones

Ever wonder what your heart rate is when you're running while listening to music?

SMS Audio's BioSport In-Ear Headphones, announced at an event Thursday evening, will tell you. The headphones are good for people who work out as well as those who just want to check their heart rate, said Brian Nohe, president of SMS Audio, which was founded by rapper 50 Cent, who is the majority owner.

50 Cent, whose real name is Curtis Jackson, wanted headphones with top-quality audio, fit, form and functionality, Nohe said. The rapper, along with New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, who is the minority owner of SMS, were scheduled to appear at the event.

The headphones have sensors to measure the heart rate of users, drawing power from a smartphone through an audio jack. No batteries are required. SMS Audio is using technology from Intel in the headphones.

"Open the box, plug it into your smartphone device and it works," Nohe said.

The earphones will ship worldwide in the fourth quarter this year. The price will be announced later.

The headphones will work with RunKeeper, a popular Android and iOS fitness application that assembles and tracks fitness data.

"The general marketplace is ripe for having more products in this area," Nohe said. "We understood what was happening with wearable technology and what was going on with biometrics."

The engineering challenge for Intel was how to draw power and transfer data through an audio jack. Intel also had to figure out the frequencies at which to handle data transfers. The goal was to deliver accurate heart-rate readings.

"It's a seemingly easy thing to explain, but hard to implement," said Mike Bell, vice president and general manager of the New Devices Group at Intel.

Intel didn't want to use Bluetooth or other wireless technologies to transfer data, Bell said. Those technologies would require batteries and not fit well within the small size of headphones.

"The best technology is invisible. It's as much form as it is function," Bell said. "That's the road we're going down."

Beyond tracking heart rate, headphones could also be enabled to capture more health information, the executives said. Other opportunities are being explored by SMS Audio and Intel.

"You don't start a strategic alliance and become a one-trick pony," Nohe said.

The headphone space has gotten attention lately because of Apple's US$3 billion purchase of Beats Audio, founded by Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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