by Andre Carter Defender Contributing Writer
About 18 or so years ago, Earl Woolfork was at one of his favorite workout haunts – the Santa Monica Stairs, a pair of outdoor staircases near Pacific Palisades in California – when he noticed his fellow exercise enthusiasts “tripping over their wires and themselves,” he said.
Working out with their Walkman – the audio device of the day back in the ‘90s –looked fly, but was problematic for exercising because tangling in the headphones cord could send you tumbling to the bottom of Santa Monica Canyon.
Woolfork, an electrical engineer by background, had an epiphanic moment one day while at the Stairs, when he thought, maybe I can figure out a way to get around these cords connected to these listening devices.
That epiphany was followed by a “eureka!” moment when this Black engineer actually created a wireless audio receiver and became the inventor of the first wireless headphones. Woolfork holds seven patents on the technology he developed.
The initial product he created was a new innovative, media player accessory – a wireless digital stereo device with high quality sound, designed for seamless wireless connectivity to any portable MP3 player, laptop computer, tablet pc, cell phone and other portable audio devices.
Providing high quality wireless digital sound that allows the mobile user to enjoy music and other audio sounds without a cable or cord to limit his/her mobility, the system can be utilized with iPhone, iPad, Android mobile devices, Windows mobile devices, and gaming devices. It also serves as a stand-alone accessory for easy cross platform connectivity to existing portable/mobile devices.
Basically, Woolfork invented a wearable wireless audio receiver with earbuds for music, so that any mobile individual can bike, run, walk, or exercise to their own beat. Woolfork says, “Wireless was not that established at the time of the invention, not in terms of the digital sense. There was nothing out there like it and I saw a need for it. So that’s why we went to work on it and filed the patents way back when. “We worked on that and got to the first patent in 2001 and now in 2016, have seven patents, several continuations and we’re the digital company that brought you wireless headphones. Now it’s kind of a common type of device, but we’re the first; we’re the inventor.”
In 2004, Woolfork and his family established One-E-Way, Inc., an electronic products design and manufacturing corporation with offices in Pasadena, to license the technology he invented in addition to developing hardware product around it – including wireless earbuds, wireless headphones, and wireless speakers. In an obvious product extension, One-E-Way began making associated gear for those with an active lifestyle that includes the wireless receiver.
The result of that has included the E-Cap, which has a built-in wireless receiver as well as built-in earbuds. It allows wearers to stream audio from devices right to the baseball-style cap. Additionally, E-Cap users can make and receive text and phone calls, and get text and call notifications.
E-Cap’s specs include up to 13 hours of play time battery life and up to 14 hours of talk time. The earbuds are ergonomically designed and cushioned, and also include a microphone. The device uses a high-quality audio codec and a 10mm speaker driver for optimized sound.
The company also offers the E-Clip, which clips onto apparel and goes almost anywhere; the E-Visor, which incorporates the headphones into tennis, running or golf; the E-Running Cap, lightweight headgear for runners; the E-Beanie, which has the ear buds incorporated into a cap; the E-Helmet, with wireless earbuds that fit onto almost any helmet; and the E-Hoodie, wearable with a wireless built-in mic and full range earbuds.
Woolfork was born in Los Angeles in the high desert around Edwards Airforce Base. He earned a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California in 1992, and immediately went into the masters program at USC, focusing on image and signal processing. His goal was to work in the aerospace industry and almost literally to send rockets to Mars…until he invented his wireless receiver.
In a December 2015/January 2016 article on Blackenterprise.com speculating on the next Steve Jobs, or whether there will be a Black Steve Jobs, Woolfork was included as one of “a few Black tech hardware entrepreneurs of note” who might be a Steve Jobs successor.
The E-Cap sells for $99.99 and is available for purchase from One-E-Way’s online store. For more information on One-E-Way and its product line, call 818/625-4966 or visit https://wayvz.com or https://shop.wayvz.com.
“We’re actually looking to be in the stores – places like Bed Bath and Beyond, Best Buy and so on – later this year,” Woolfork says.