My 24 hour trip to the ANT+ Symposium

As many of you know, I was invited to speak at the ANT+ Symposium held yesterday about an hour outside of Calgary, Alberta in small ski & golf resort village and town of Kananaskis (no, I can’t pronounce it, and when I tried – locals just laughed at me).  The Symposium is held annually and offers a place for some of the 300+ companies that make up the ANT+ alliance to come together and plan and hear the future of ANT+, as well as meet amongst themselves around product concepts and development.

From a ‘who’s who’ standpoint, all the big names are here: Timex, Garmin, Saris, Texas Instruments…but it’s also an opportunity for up and coming companies as well, many you probably haven’t even heard of yet: Lap View, Mio, and 4iiii to name just a few.  As well as all the ones that you know and love today: Quarq, MapMyFitness, Addidas, Wahoo, Brim Brothers, etc…

ANT+ invited me to come out and speak on the topic of ‘The Athletes Digital Life’ – to give the over 100 attendees the perspective of not only an athlete that users their products daily – but also one to extensively reviews them as well.  While they did cover my expenses related to the trip, they asked me to share with the group my experiences across the board, as well as convey what I hear from you on a daily basis.  They didn’t want just an ANT+ picture – but rather wanted to understand the landscape as a whole.

So here’s my recap…a trip report of sorts, sorta like a race report – except without any blood or crashes.

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I flew out late Tuesday evening, and landed just prior to midnight – though it would be nearly 2AM by time I’d arrived at the secret mountainous hideaway location (which thankfully freeway signs clearly pointed to).  I was also thankful to avoid the numerous deer that kept on trying to attack my car, though the moose stayed to the side of the road.

While I had pondered doing a morning run at 6AM, once I opened my rental car door up I found out just how cold it was up there.  Yikes, not t-shirt and shorts running weather at 6AM!  Plus, I needed the sleep.  So I aimed for 8AM wakeup instead. :)

Wednesday morning brought an 8:30AM session covering a number of different technical topics from ANT+ semiconductor overviews, to how device profiles work within the ANT+ protocol.  But, the real reason I was here was to present my session at 10:15AM.

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(That’s me, above, giving my session!)

A lot of you asked if I was going to record it and make it available…and thus…ask, and you shall receive.

My presentation lasts about 30 minutes and starts with an overview of who I am and what DCRainmaker.com is exactly, before I profile each of the three sports technology-wise.  Then I go into a bit of the ‘Good, bad and ugly’ of sports technology today before finally talking about mobile devices and the future of sports technology.

You can watch it right here in a nifty little window below:

***Note: Video will be uploaded soon, just working on some bandwidth limitations***

Alternatively, if you’d like to simply download my slide deck – which I should note is nowhere as exciting as me talking – it’s here in PDF format.

From both my perspective, as well as that of a number of people – the presentation went quite well and I was excited to give not only my opinion – but really all of yours.  After all, I was here to convey what folks are looking for in sports technology products – and who better to know that then all the feedback you’ve given over the past few years.  I was also asked in the afternoon to briefly discuss a bit on social networking and sports marketing…which was just basically me rambling off the top of my head.

The rest of the day was quite honestly a complete whirlwind.  I was tag-teamed by company after company for private sidebars and meetings to discuss various topics.  Attempts to get to the bathroom meant I was stopped just about every 3-4 feet by someone else looking to chat.  Next year I’m just going to take diapers.

I spent dedicated time with every company I mentioned at the beginning discussing either future product plans or past product experience.  All in all, it was incredibly productive – both for me, and for them.  I was literally having meetings with folks until 10:15PM, less than two hours before my flight (over an hour away I might add…).

I even got to play with one of the first soon-to-be-publically available ANT+ enabled (yes, firmware and all) phones.  Check out the below pics showing it picking up a few ANT+ sensors that are out there.

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The phone is the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini (Android), which should be available an an undetermined carrier near you in the next few months.  Yes, the platform will allow 3rd party developers to take advantage of the ANT+ chipset right from the start.  It’ll also be the start of a family of devices, for example the X10 Mini Pro, which has a built-in keyboard.

Also, on the 4iiii heads up display front, I had a good chat with them and should have some working product in my hands very shortly to check out.

One area that I outlined for a number of companies last night was what levels of product testing and/or review I get involved with.  I can best summarize it in the following three groups:

1) The first is products that are out and available on the market today that you can go and buy today (i.e. – a review of the FitBit for example).  You as blog readers see these most visibly.

2) The second is products that are publically announced by vendors, but not yet publically available.  An example being the Garmin Edge 800, I have one but it doesn’t release publically until November.  You as blog readers see these as well.

3A) The first portion of this last one is products which are in the prototype phase but not yet publically announced that they want NDA (non-disclosure agreement) type feedback on, but don’t want made publically quite yet.  They may be 1 day, 1 month or 1 year away from product release.  Eventually these products make their way to the category 2 above.

3B) Finally, the last portion is products that are purely in the conceptual stage or early prototype stage where they are looking for feedback on market validation and/or thoughts on direction.  These products may or may not ever see the light of day (or even be made), but ideally they eventually get to category 3A or 2 above.

The goal of what I do is primarily to act as both a sounding board, but also as a athlete advocate for what you all want in products.  I attempt to do this via the three-point-five groups above.

Moving on…

While there certainly many technical announcements that were made (open-sourcing ANT+ for example and announcement of combined ANT+/BT chipsets, just to name a few) – I wanted to touch on how impressed I was at the coordination and dedication of everyone there.  I spend a LOT of time with techy groups for work, and also a LOT of time at various conferences, symposiums, ‘off-sites’, and things of the lot.  I’ve never seen such a well organized and well run summit before.  I was pretty amazed that even though it was Day 3 of the symposium when I arrived – everyone was just as engaged as you’d expect to see on the morning of Day 1.

I was also impressed to see the level of collaboration between companies.  People here legitimately wanted what was ‘best for the goose’.  I think some of it comes from the fact that if you peeled away their company names and titles, most everyone is an athlete of some sort.  Everyone shares a common bond – whether it be a product designer of 10 years from Garmin – or the same from Timex.

So I was impressed there with that aspect.  Plus, I’m really excited about many of the products that will be coming out over the next year – from all of the parties mentioned in this post.  Garmin best probably summed it up in our sidebar when they said: “Hopefully you have a lot of time next year…’cause we’re gonna be releasing a lot of awesome products.” – but Timex echoed the same sentiment as well.  To be clear however, I don’t have any specifics on either of those at this time (beyond what I posted in the Timex interview).

I was also impressed at how well this lot partied.  Not ‘drunk partied’, but just simply a good relatively clean time.  While I missed the horseback riding of the previous night, I did get to partake in a bit of put-put golf, mini-pool golf and golf-ball spoon races.  All with the spectacular backdrops of the mountains right outside Banff.

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I nearly forgot to mention late-afternoon before the put-put, I got to get in an amazing run outdoors doing about 7 miles worth of mile-ish intervals.

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Plus, I nearly ran over a dear while running.  I was quite literally admiring the views and mountains around me when I came within maybe 6-8” of broadsiding a dear just standing there on the path.  Luckily he sidestepped out of the way before I ran straight into him.  He then turned around and gave me an annoyed look that simply said: “Really?!?”

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I was moving along pretty well at about 6:08/mile for the interval portion  – but thought it was odd I was working a bit harder than I expected.  It didn’t occur to me how high up I was until afterwards…turns out 5,000 ft!  Dang!

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So with that, I boarded a plane that departed at 12:05AM – just a hair over 24 hours later…onto my next destination I go!

P.S. – I can now take credit for giving cycling legend Greg LeMond bunny ears in a photo…that will soon be posted…

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14 Comments

  1. I applaud you for speaking up. One thing that I would consider letting these companies know is that their goal should be to make a 310xt in the size of a FR60 which supplements its power from solar cells. That would be more enviromentally friendly and minimize cradle recharging time. I'd probably also mention that some of sensors should be solar powered as well.

    Reply
  2. No worries, I talked extensively to that in side conversations. I can say that the big names get it...I'd be really surprised if we don't see a FR110 watch with the functionality of the FR60 by spring. I also talked to the usefulnes of including ability to record power to such a device as well.

    Reply
  3. zkaizen

    Thank you for the 'report' you are doing a great job, sounds exciting. I hope a proper ANT+ swimming heart rate monitor/transmitter will be out in the market in the near future...

    Cheers

    Reply
  4. KB

    The SE-phones has already been on the market for a while in Europe. Do you know if they are ready for ANT+? Is there a WiLink-chipset inside the mobiles?

    SE has also announced a small 1,3” OLED-display bluetooth gadget. Seems to be meant for training and other purposes when your hands are occupied. link to blogs.sonyericsson.com

    Wrote about your blog post at MyTracks for Android.
    link to code.google.com

    Was Suunto at the symposium, are they planning for ANT+ instead of the old ANT?

    Thanks for a great blog!

    Reply
  5. Like KB said. The SE X10 mini has been out in Europe for quite some time. I think they launched it at the beginning of the summer. But I can not find anywhere where it says it is ANT+ compatible.

    Do you know? Is a firmware update perhaps needed?

    Reply
  6. Yep, the Mini is allready available in europe, but even at the se developer site, ant+ is not mentioned at all.

    It would be great to have at least a realse date...

    ... and yes, thanks for your blog!

    Reply
  7. Correct, it is the addition of ANT+ chips that is the primary change here. Unfortunately, no exact release date is available.

    Reply
  8. WKP

    Looking forward to seeing a review of the 4iii product. I've been following the progress of the Recon Instruments ski goggle (http://www.reconinstruments.com) with built in GPS, speed, altitude, stopwatch, etc. and thinking how cool it would be to get my run/bike data the same way.

    Reply
  9. What a great opportunity and it definitely sounds like good sharing session for everyone.
    Yes, deer in Alberta can sneak up on you very quickly. It's a good thing you weren't running at night. And, better a deer than a bear.

    Reply
  10. Eli

    I thought the WiLink chipset from TI which was built into many Android phones already supports ANT+? That is how the HTC team uploaded their stats during the tour with an HTC phone. So any knowledge on when the drivers and or apps will be out to make full use of the hardware functionality already out?

    Reply
  11. Jim

    It looks like AT&T and Best Buy are now selling the X10. $99 with contract. I'm not sure it's worth getting over an iPhone with the Fisica dongle.

    Reply
  12. KB

    "With the release of Xperia™ arc, Sony Ericsson is the first handset manufacturer to have integrated support for ANT+. The ANT+ support will also be introduced in Sony Ericsson Xperia™ X8, Xperia™ X10 mini, and Xperia™ X10 mini pro through software upgrades in Q1 2011. Several future Sony Ericsson Android™ devices will also support ANT+ technology."
    link to blogs.sonyericsson.com

    Reply
  13. More on Sony Ericsson ANT+ support...

    link to blogs.sonyericsson.com

    Reply
  14. I have Xperia X8 phone, and trying to find some ANT+ based app that will enable me to train in wanted HR zones. I want to use it for intervals on bicycle. App like Endomondo ( which I use ), SportyPal, etc. are useless since they are basically only shows momentary pulse.

    I wan app where I can input (for example) firs 15 min in zone2, then 3 min in zone4, 2 min in zone2, .... at the end of intervals again 15min for cooling down. Of course if I get out of wanted zone it should alarm me.

    Something like A HIIT Interval Timer app for Android, but with ANT+ and HR added.

    I really cant believe that this is so hard to develop. :/

    Reply

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