Apple’s latest AirPods 3 still feature an optical in-ear detection mechanism, according to TrendForce’s 2021 Infrared Sensing Market Trend - 3D Sensing, LiDAR, SWIR LED report. Through the integration of PPG (photoplethysmography) technology, the AirPods 3 contain an improved in-ear detection mechanism based on skin-detect sensors that are equipped with four SWIR (short-wave infrared) LED chips that have two different wavelengths, as well as two InGaAs photodiodes. Industry insiders indicate that the AirPods 3’s skin-detect sensors may potentially detect the water content in the wearer’s skin, giving them the ability to differentiate between human skin and other surfaces. TrendForce expects annual AirPods shipment for 2022 to reach 85 million sets, a 3.7% YoY increase.
While the demand for these end-products rises, the relevant suppliers will stand to benefit as a result. Such companies include SWIR LED chip suppliers Epistar and DOWA; InGaAs photodiode suppliers DOWA and II-VI/Finisar; and module assembler USI.
SWIR wavelengths range from 1,050-2,500 nm, which encompasses the optical properties of compounds such as water, sugar, and alcohol. While SWIR technologies gradually mature, and prices begin to reach feasible levels, wearables manufacturers are expected to officially integrate SWIR technologies into their products in 2H21. With improvements in their algorithm, wearables are increasingly likely to feature PPG-based biosensing functions, which can measure not only heart rate and blood oxygen levels, but also other variables including body hydration as well as blood glucose, blood lipid, and blood alcohol levels in the future.
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