Sound-recognition tech startup OtoSense lands deal with telecom giant Orange

Cambridge-based OtoSense, a sound-recognition technology startup and maker of a mobile app that can identify sounds for those with hearing issues, has landed deals with French telecommunications giant Orange and the U.S. Air Force.

This article originally appeared in the Boston Business Journal

Cambridge-based OtoSense, a sound-recognition technology startup and maker of a mobile app that can identify sounds for those with hearing issues, has landed deals with French telecommunications giant Orange and the U.S. military.

Orange (NYSE: ORAN), a European company whose 2013 revenues were about $53 billion, will release a home surveillance system late next year with OtoSense's sound-recognition technology integrated into the system's sensors that monitor the house and communicate with a mobile app.

Potential revenue for OtoSense as a result of the deal were undisclosed but OtoSense founder and CEO Sebastien Christian said the company will receive a portion of the revenue from each home surveillance system unit sold, through the licensing of OtoSense's API (application programming interface).

OtoSense's sound recognition technology could also benefit members of the U.S. military, including the Army and Air Force, though Christian didn't disclose specifics about the research agreement.

OtoSense's advanced sound-recognition technology can identify a wide range of sounds including doorbells, dogs barking, alarm clocks, microwave beeps, telephone rings, smoke alarms and more. The technology is embedded into a mobile app for those who are deaf and hard of hearing.

The mobile app, currently only available for Android, has more than 350 users to date since it launched earlier this month. The app will be available for iOS in October.

"Thanks to hearing, you know that if you're in the living room and there's someone at the door or a timer ringing in the kitchen, you're alerted," said Christian, a speech and language pathologist. "For someone who has hearing loss, they lose that capacity to react to sounds."

The startup is funded by $350,000 from friends and family, and OtoSense hopes to close a $1.2 million angel investor round by the end of October.

Christian came up with the idea for OtoSense, founded in late 2013, after 15 years of working with those with hearing issues. During that time, he also studied semantics and physics and became interested in technology.

About 390 million people suffer from a disabling hearing loss, according to the World Health Organization. In the United States, there are 48 million people who report hearing loss, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America.

Christian said the total addressable market for OtoSense's technology is 90 million worldwide, and surveys by his startup show there are about 5 million people in the U.S. willing to try a mobile app that can identify sounds.

OtoSense works out of the Cambridge Innovation Center and employs seven full-time and five contractors. The startup plans to hire two more employees by the end of the year: a software engineer and a senior business developer.

"We identified this solution that happens to have a much wider range of applications," Christian said.

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