BAA Vice President, Karen Shepherd, attended the September launch of Audacious, a new UK mobile phone network, designed for those who struggle to hear on their mobile telephones.
This world-first technology is the brainchild of Matthew Turner, who has lived with a severe hearing loss since birth. Whilst forging a successful career in finance, Matthew struggled with mobile telephones. Asking the question, ‘Why is there not a voice signal as powerful and clear as a hearing aid?’ Turner set up Goshawk Communications to do something about this.
Teaming up with Emeritus Professor Brian Moore, of the University of Cambridge, they developed the first algorithms to measure someone’s hearing loss over the telephone using the mobile network – effectively creating an individual map of hearing loss.
They then worked with Dr Michael Stone, from the University of Manchester, who developed the audio processing algorithms. These would be used to pass calls through the mobile network, using the individual’s hearing profile, automatically adjusting the sound to the customer’s needs. And the service was born.
Clinical trials were held in June-September 2018 which showed that 90% of participants found that speech was clearer and easier to understand, thanks to the service. Soon after, the service launched in the Isle of Man free of charge, to all Pay Monthly Manx Telecom customers.
Ten years since Matthew Turner’s initial idea, the technology has been fully tested and is available for all. He said, “We know [this] can make a huge difference to people’s lives. Ideally, this should set the Global Standard – that, for me, would be a wonderful achievement.”
The launch event featured a series of business, disability and research professionals. Steve Best, Managing Director, Product Management, Strategy and Regulatory Affairs for BT, talked about their work with Audacious. BT has offered the Audacious sim to all 80,000 employees who could benefit from the technology. Best’s 14-year-old son has a severe hearing loss and personally rated the new mobile service as a 9 out of 10 (compared to 4 out of 10 for a previous service used). Joanna Wootten, a business disability forum ambassador, age, disability and inclusion expert, called for smart employers to improve accessibility on phones and to provide reasonable adjustments under the equality act.
Brian Moore and Dr Michael Stone answered questions from the audience and advised that the technology is best suited for moderate to severe hearing losses, not profound or mild impairment. They said the design of the test was tricky to conduct and take through to implementation, including storing into the network, signal processing with minimal/no latency. It has different codex on different networks … but the shaping has a better frequency response with Audacious, even on a narrowband network.
Members of the Audacious team – Rob Shardlow, Managing Director, Paul Coleman, Chief of Sales and Nick Rowling Chief of marketing – took some time to run through this world-first technology, how customers can test how they hear with their phone and then access the technology. The system can be used with or without a hearing aid, whichever the user prefers. The user does need to stop their current mobile contract and switch to a new contract with an Audacious Sim card.
Audacious has applied for a patent in 25 countries and multi-channel distribution is available – online, telesales, Connevans, AOHL and other partners. More information can be found on www.audacious.co.uk