Sponseret indhold

Jabra now look upon Sony and Apple as competitors – they are attracting exciting collaborators and a new approach to development

The development of headsets and wireless earbuds is expanding rapidly and Danish company GN Audio, under their leading brand Jabra, want to maintain their position at the top of the market. A new development philosophy makes it possible to compete with the largest companies in consumer technology.

Af TECH RELATIONS for GN Audio
The new development philosophy at GN Audio brand Jabra has led to the introduction of so-called Experience & Technology teams. Here the work is based on the consumer experience that a particular feature or product should give and which technology should be matured in order to deliver. In the photo, from the left: Denise De Leuw Kristensen, Henning Schwarz, Bolaji James Adesokan, Nuno Beleza Freire, Anne Marie Sänger and Brian Hermann. Illustration: Jeppe Carlsen

True Wireless earbuds for the cellphone market began a new chapter for Jabra, which as a part of GN Audio, is pushing the renowned, respected Danish company based within GN Store Nord out into the enormous market of consumer technology. That means the field of competitors is expanding to include electronic giants like Apple and Sony. The rapid maturation of new technology and increased focus on consumer experience is essential in order to compete.

Working from home provides a demand for headsets

At the same time, Jabra will continue their efforts to maintain and expand their market position in headsets, for example, for contact centres. The rise in working from home due to the Covid-19 pandemic has led to an explosion in the demand for headsets in the home office. So there is enough to be getting on with for the company based in Ballerup that has 6,500 employees worldwide within the GN group.

Will employ more than 100 engineers in 2021

Therefore, GN Audio will undergo a marked shake up of their staff. Partly due to the need for a large group of engineers specialised in the field of audio, but also for people working with usability. This combination is a sign that Jabra is developing based on a new philosophy, where there is as much focus on consumer experience as there is on the technology.

Experience & Technology teams

Head of R&D Product Conception Brian Hermann called the work being undertaken in Experience & Technology teams ”working in the unknown” Illustration: Jeppe Carlsen

The new development philosophy has led to the introduction of so-called Experience & Technology teams. Here the work is based on the consumer experience that a particular feature or product should give. There has already been progress in the process of establishing a voice-team that works on the voice pickup of the headsets. An example could be the removal of the boom arm on a headset in a call centre without compromising on sound quality or microphone sensitivity. It is a simple goal to aim for, but it demands the development of a lot of technology. The development is undertaken by developers, usability staff and product management collaborating as a team. This way, the technology is developed faster and can be implemented in physical products.

Working in the unknown

Senior Director for Product Conception Brian Hermann describes the work being undertaken in Experience & Technology teams as ”working in the unknown”:

Henning Toft Schwarz, the Head of Product Management, Experience & Technology explains that the preliminary experiences from the voice team are good. Illustration: Jeppe Carlsen

»That is where it is very difficult to make a specific plan. If you include it in some development programs where you have already made promises, then it becomes super hard, stressful and there is lots of pressure. And in many cases, we only make it halfway because we have already promised the boom arm. So we would very much like to remove the uncertain part of the process from the actual product development,« says Brian Hermann.

Concentrated innovation

Henning Toft Schwarz, the Head of Product Management, Experience & Technology explains that the preliminary experiences from the voice team are good.

»Some would say that it is unrealistic to make an office product without a boom arm. So we make a roadmap and take it step by step. No one is standing there snatching it from them, and they focus on it in an audio team. They get the opportunity to concentrate on the issue and innovate, and they don’t do much else other than that,« Henning Toft Schwarz explains.

Here you can meet four people from the new Experience & Technology teams:

Balancing between technical features and a good experience

Nuno Beleza Freire is originally from Portugal. The job as Audio Engineer in GN Audio’s Audio Product Development is his first after completing his Master’s degree in Acoustics Engineering at DTU two and a half years ago.

Nuno Beleza Freire is an Audio Engineer in GN Audio’s Audio Product Development. Illustration: Jeppe Carlsen

»I am an Audio Engineer, and audio is why I’m here. But I need to have a broader perspective. Even though we make audio products, it isn’t just the audio-technical aspects that influence the consumer experience. If you want to produce a headset that removes the majority of background noise, then you can produce a set of earplugs that can do the same thing, but they may be uncomfortable to wear. They will be good from an audio perspective, but not a good experience for the consumer. Working on this experience demands that you step back and look at the entire product – not simply your own speciality.

We are not just focusing on our office products competition. We are also looking at the big user brands that are much larger. This makes competition tougher. It means that we are setting more ambitious targets for our products, which also means that we have to develop and mature more technology. It can be seen clearly in our growth. When I started here two and a half years ago, there were 30 in my department. Today, we are 60. And things are only moving onwards and upwards for the whole of GN Audio. It is huge and exciting to be a part of«.

A holistic approach to tough competition

Bolaji James Adesokan is originally from Nigeria. He has been employed by GN Audio for three years as an audio engineer working on front end audio engineering.

Bolaji James Adesokan has been employed as an audio engineer at GN Audio for three years, working on front end audio engineering. Illustration: Jeppe Carlsen

»I am actually a mathematician, and I was a postdoc in mathematics at DTU when I was inspired to apply for a job at GN Audio. For me, it was important to have a holistic approach to solving technical problems. You should always attack problems from the user’s perspective and place yourself between the theoretical and the practical. For example, would a headset user sitting in front of their computer screen at the office or an online presentation experience reflections that can disrupt the sound waves. It means that a communications algorithm in the headset is not functioning correctly. You need to think about that when developing new technology. I knew very little about sound when I started – in fact I just solved equations on wavelengths with Finite Element. Now I helped develop the headset I use today, as well as many other things. That can’t be done on your own. You need your team, and you need to get to the laboratory. You must always be asking, “Can I do it better?” Market competition is tough, and that is good. You need ambition, and as colleagues, we help each other. I want to win. It is about listening to people. And being ambitious, but humble.«

Trying to see five years in the future

Denise De Leuw Kristensen is a Senior Conception Product Manager for GN Audio. She has an education in business, is from Holland and has worked for GN for seven years after founding the sister company GN Hearing that makes hearing aids.

Denise De Leuw Kristensen is a Senior Conception Product Manager for GN Audio. She has an education in business, is from Holland and has worked for GN for seven years. Illustration: Jeppe Carlsen

»We want to mature our ’technology building blocks’ earlier in the development process, which is the main reason we work in these Experience & Technology teams. I think it is really interesting because I don’t come from a technology background. My perspective is attempting to predict where the world is heading over the next three to five years. I translate this into expected consumer behaviour, technological development etc. I think it is a huge advantage that we have integrated everything into a single team. In my position, I can be inspired by what technology can enable us to do as I follow the development of future technology, which I have 20 years of experience doing. I also think it is nice for the engineers to get an understanding of what we are attempting to achieve together – for the consumer«.

»I have learned a lot about hearing, sound and how the ear functions. Sometimes there can be a lack of understanding between us, so we have to ask – in layman’s terms – what real improvements it will give the consumer. Then we begin to understand each other better. It is an enormous challenge to compete with the large electronic consumer brands, but at the same time it is that which keeps us sharp«.

Technology development should get out of the project plan

Anne-Marie Sänger is originally from Germany and is an Audio DSP Engineer in Audio Product Development. She has worked at GN Audio for four years.

Anne-Marie Sänger is originally from Germany and is an Audio DSP Engineer in Audio Product Development. She has worked at GN Audio for four years. Illustration: Jeppe Carlsen

»I started at the front end two years ago, which was when we began working with early technology maturation. Before that, we had a lot of technology maturation as an integrated part of the projects. It is a risk because then the entire project machinery is already running, and people from marketing, for example, could pull a project. By maturing a technology earlier, it reduces the risk, and it is possible to work with larger amounts of technology that don’t necessarily fit into a project or a timeline. We engineers are always thinking: “What is technically possible?” We like to turn things around and see what experiences benefit the consumer first and foremost. Afterwards, we can start thinking about which technologies will be required and how to tackle solutions that will give the consumer the desired experience. I think this enables us to make products that are more relevant for the consumer.
It is fun to work in other areas and see how things come to life. The best part is that when a product is released, there is already an in-built solution that I have worked on. For example, the Engage 50 headset that I’m using now. It’s really fun«.

Read more about career opportunities at GN Audio here.