Accessories for portable licensed mobile radios (LMR) have long attempted to increase productivity and safety for the individuals who use them. Yearly improvements for portable LMR accessories include increasingly longer battery life, faster charging batteries, and better sound in speaker microphones. These improvements and increased demand have led to a market which was estimated to be worth $1.3 billion in 2014 and is forecast to at a 2.1% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) to $1.5 billion in 2019. However, over the past couple of years manufacturers have started to focus on products which take advantage of Bluetooth Smart technology to provide wireless functionality.
The advantages of wireless technologies like Bluetooth Smart are numerous when applied to products like headsets in the LMR market. In heavy industrial applications where there are large machines with many moving parts, wireless connections between certain accessories and the terminals mean that there is one less cord which can get caught in the machinery. Furthermore, by using a wireless connection between a headset and the terminal, the radio no longer need to be holstered on the hip and can instead be in a backpack or placed in another location which is out of the way.
While there has been increased interest in Bluetooth Smart, adoption by end-users so far has been slow. One of the issues is that some end-users still believe that Bluetooth drains battery relatively quickly. However, Bluetooth Smart, released in 2010, considerably reduced the power consumption of the technology. Another issue impeding the adoption of Bluetooth is that many end-users have a very limited budget when it comes to accessories and Bluetooth products are inherently more expensive due to the technology. Finally, many LMR manufacturers are making the Bluetooth in their radios proprietary so only they can provide Bluetooth accessories for those products. This has limited competition in the market for Bluetooth capable accessories.
While these can be substantial issues for manufacturers to overcome, it will be up to the LMR industry to better educate end-users on the advantages of Bluetooth Smart accessories. Dedicated accessory manufacturers will have the additional issue of having to try to enter partnerships with LMR manufacturers in order to produce Bluetooth Smart products. As these concerns are straightened out, IHS forecasts that Bluetooth Smart will become an important technology for headsets and other accessories over the next few years.