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Analyst examines wireless tech for fitness apps

Posted: 10 Mar 2010     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:wireless  Bluetooth  fitness apps 

Increased awareness of health benefits, new devices and value-added services are all driving renewed interest in wireless technologies in sports and fitness equipment. IMS Research's report Wireless in Sports and Fitness Equipment examines the continued developments of the various wireless technology: 5kHz wireless, Bluetooth, Zigbee or proprietary technology being brought on the field by makers of exercise monitoring equipment.

Integration of wireless technology will enable the user to upload data from a sports performance monitor to a host device such as a cellular handset or notebook PC (if necessary by using a dongle) so that performance data can be acquired, stored and analysed

To-date, 5kHz wireless technology has dominated the heart rate monitor market. IMS Research estimated that over 50 per cent of the heart rate monitors shipped in 2009 were enabled with it. However, IMS Research projects that by 2015, this technology will be phased out in favour of other wireless technologies, since many users experience too much interference when using 5kHz devices, and also cannot transmit data to host devices.

Until the ecosystem of Bluetooth low energy communication is built up, the ANT technology is predicted to continue to dominate the sports and fitness markets. A recent announcement by TI means that ANT will no longer be solely sourced by Nordic Semiconductors. With an increase in supply and increased competition, IC prices should fall, and in turn make ANT more appealing to monitor suppliers.

The specification of Bluetooth low energy technology was finalised in 2009 (hardware only). It has received a lot of attention from makers of small, portable devices, and from host device and IC suppliers. IMS Research expects that Bluetooth low energy-enabled monitors will appear as early as Q4 10. However, shipments depend heavily on completion of the profile and software standard. Even if this occurs on time, few enabled monitors will be shipped in 2010, though by 2015 there will be many.

Although some suppliers believe that there is no reason why ZigBee should not be a contender in monitors, it lacks an installed base and support from the fitness and sports industry. Thus IMS Research believes that its uptake in monitors will be limited over the next five years.

IMS Research believes that proprietary technologies (other than ANT), will be integrated into sport and fitness monitors in the period to 2015, and there will be proprietary-enabled monitors available for the foreseeable future. This is because a proprietary technology can create an independent ecosystem of its own, and can be tailored to suit specific devices. Sometimes proprietary technologies come about because the industry is not happy with the current solutions available; also they can often be brought to market quicker since there isn't a dependence on negotiations with many vendors or on industry association schedules; they may cost less to implement than global standards.

However, to hit global mass market volumes it is often felt that standards are the only option. The concept of an established ecosystem, support from leading stakeholders in an industry and making dongles redundant is very appealing.

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