Sena Technologies, Inc. is one of the front runners in the Bluetooth communicator market for motorcyclists. In 2015, the company introduced a raft of new products, and 2016 looks no different. While most of those products are linked directly to both helmet communications and adventure cameras, Sena has just announced a new category of product that could, if it lives up to its potential, be a game changer for motorcyclists who care about their hearing.
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At the AIMExpo in Orlando, FL, Sena revealed its new Smart Helmet with Intelligent Noise-Control (INC) technology to actually cancel out the harmful, distracting sounds inside a helmet, making it easier for riders to hear the important things around them. Sena CEO, Tae Kim stated about the Smart Helmet, “We are ecstatic to yet again be pushing innovation with the world’s first true quiet helmet, with our focus as always on creating the safest and best riding experience possible for our customers.”
Motorcyclists who ride without ear plugs ride with the constant sound of the their helmet rushing through the air at speed. OSHA has defined 85 dB as the intensity beyond which there is the potential for permanent damage to your hearing. On the decibel scale, the smallest audible sound (near total silence) is 0 dB. A sound 10 times more powerful is 10 dB. A sound 100 times more powerful than near total silence is 20 dB. The sound inside a helmet at highway speeds can be in excess of 100 dB. So, you do the math about how many times louder that is than OSHA’s safe limit. Since hearing loss is cumulative, the more you ride; the worse the damage over time. To learn more about motorcycles and hearing loss, read this article. Aside from long-term damage and permanent hearing loss, loud sounds for extended periods of time can lead to rider fatigue and decreased reaction times – two bad things out on the road.
Sena’s Smart Helmet utilizes insulated ear cups inside the helmet to damp the sounds from the outside. Then the INC unit, utilizing “an array of four networked microphones” inside the helmet, calculates the proper sound waves to use to cancel out the the constant noise of the wind rush. This lessens the sound levels reaching the rider’s ears and should allow him/her to hear other sounds easier. In addition to noise cancelation, the Smart Helmet also features an Ambient Mode that the rider switches on from a button on the left side of the helmet to utilize a microphone to hear better without taking off the helmet, allowing for conversations at gas stations and stop lights. The removable INC unit is powered by an internal battery that is charged via a USB plug.
Of course, Sena being a communication technology company, an optional Bluetooth module snaps to the base of the INC, allowing the rider to experience the connection to phones, GPS units, and other riders with Bluetooth communicators. When combined with the INC’s noise reduction, music can be enjoyed and conversations can be carried out at a much lower volume because it doesn’t have to overpower the helmet’s wind noise. Read our reviews of Sena products to see what we think (here, here, and here).
Up until now, we’ve only focused on the technology inside the helmet. The INC system is mounted inside a helmet that is certified by both the DOT and ECE standards boards. The Smart Helmet has the features you expect from a quality helmet: EPS foam interior with multi-zone foaming for maximum safety, multi-port variable ventilation, and an adjustable multi-zone foam pad system. The liner is made of COOL-Quick Dry fabric to wick moisture away from the rider. The outer shell is constructed of carbon fiber for a combination of light weight to lessen rider fatigue and strength to dissipate impact forces.
Sena said the Smart Helmet will be available Spring 2016 or with a retail price between $600-$800. The colors will be white, black, silver, hi-viz yellow, and natural carbon fiber with graphic options to follow. You can bet that we’re excited by this helmet and will test it as soon as units are available. For more information, visit Sena’s website.