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CES 2013: A look at what’s coming to me next week

While it’s always my goal to secures loot and gadgets to take home the week of the convention, sometimes that just doesn’t work out.   The reasons usually vary, sometimes it’s because the company simply doesn’t have enough units on hand (usually if you wait till the last day of the convention you’ll be in luck), other times it’s because they’re waiting on a last minute software/firmware/something update and they’re concerned about the item before then.  And sometimes, it’s simply because someone accidentally gave away the one with your name on it.

Regardless of the situation, here’s all the goods that I got to spend some hands on time with yesterday, but didn’t get to take home today.  These things are supposed to ship out next week to me, but could perhaps spill over into the first few days of the following week.  In tech timeline speak, that means I’ll probably get them in April.

Actually, I do think I’ll really get most of these next week – as all of these are finished hardware products.

MyBasis Basis Continuous Body Monitoring System:

The Basis watch is a continual body monitoring watch.  It optically monitors heart rate, as well as skin temperature, perspiration, sleep, and activity (motion).  It’s like the mother of all Fitbits.

This has been a long time coming, but I’m excited about the platform.  I first spent time with them at their offices over a year ago getting a tour of things.  Then they went into a bit of hiding until back in November, when they showed up on the scene and shipped out a handful of units just prior to Santa showing up.

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The Basis is a bit different than your average heart rate monitor in that it’s really targeted more towards holistic health monitoring than athletic heart rate monitoring.  Translation: It’s not so good with tracking your heart rate during heavy/extreme movement like running.

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Spending a bit of time yesterday with the software platform, they’ve made significant strides there in taking the data in and really making it consumable and actionable.  They’ve reduced down the website dashboard display rate to once per minute (it averages values over the last minute), so while I was concerned about the reduction in rates upon initially hearing them – I think the display average over a minute is interesting when pulled back at the full day level.  And since the data is up there in a database, in theory if an API were opened up, one could access it at that level of granularity  Additionally, they also will automatically determine resting heart rate on a daily basis.

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Units to media ship out starting next week, and they’re still working through the backlog of orders previously.  And no, I have no idea why they don’t juts re-open their ordering system to folks that want to order units.

4iiii’s Viiiiva ANT+ to Bluetooth Smart Heart Rate Strap Bridge:

I think this is probably the most anticipated product that people don’t realize they want, until they understand what it does.  In short, it it’s a $79 heart rate strap that not only transmits your heart rate over Bluetooth Smart and ANT+, but also (this is the important part), funnels through any other ANT+ devices you may have into Bluetooth Smart for apps to leverage.  For example, it can take that ANT+ PowerTap you have, and funnel it in to a phone as a Bluetooth Smart Power Meter.

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As you can see on the back, both logos:

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The strap is firmware updatable – over the air – and thus as some of these standards get defined, it can make headway on that.  Meaning that today some of the standards for how these athletic devices in the Bluetooth Smart world communicate aren’t exactly solidified yet like they are in the ANT+ world (in time, they will be).  For example, today the Bluetooth Smart heart profile is as good as concrete.  The Bluetooth Smart power meter profile is more like a baked brownie – pretty solid, just waiting official ratification.  Then there’s stuff like the footpod for running, that’s more like…pudding.

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Below, you can see (just barely due to my photo), the connection has been established up top to the heart rate strap, and now the subsequent connection is being established to an ANT+ footpod.

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With the firmware updating of the strap, they plan to offer additional ‘add-ons’.  The idea being that you could unlock additional features in the strap.  For example, for the base $79 you’ll get all the stuff I’ve talked about thus far.  And all that works with Endomondo, MapMyFitness, Runtastic, Runmeter, Strava, Training Peaks and Runkeeper, amongst others.

But, there’s other functionality they have in there, or could develop.  For example, they have an accelerometer jammed in there, so they can mimic a Fitbit (activity monitor).  That could be a $10 update (pricing TBD, just offering context).  They also can store .FIT files too – the idea being there that someone could not even wear a watch at all, and have all the ANT+ data just recorded (HR/Speed/Power/Cadence/etc…).  That could be a race, or, it could be something like recording HR at a pool or openwater.

The plan is that those would be updates that will be unlocked through in-app purchases directly via the iTunes Appstore.  Timeline wise, they’re hoping to have the final firmware done in the next week or two, and units out no later than February 15th, but they’d like to see that be more in the January timeframe.

Polar H6 Bluetooth Smart Heart Rate Strap:

The Polar H6 pretty straightforward.  It’s a Bluetooth Smart Heart Rate strap.  Unlike the previous Polar H7 Bluetooth Smart strap, this does not include the analog signal alongside it.  Just pure Bluetooth Smart.  It’s priced a touch bit cheaper at $59 Euros ($69US).  Note that like any other Bluetooth Smart-only product, you’ll need a compatible device.

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My only concern is that at this point, with the Viiiiva costing just $10 more, it makes for a tough case.  I was hoping to see the H6 a bit cheaper (like $49).  That said, Polar has a leg up on most folks in that they’ve spent more time on reducing/eliminating heart rate spikes/dropouts than others.  So assuming that carries through here – that could be a reason to go with the H6 instead, especially if you don’t care about the other features of Viiiiva.

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O-Synce Wireless ANT+ Lap Button:

As I mentioned earlier today, I’ve picked up the O-Synce Navi2Coach unit, but they didn’t have any spare wireless remotes.  This little yellow remote uses a standard industrial rubber band to snap in place on your handlebar.  It then can remotely control the lap button on the unit itself.  That way you don’t have to take your hands off the bars to hit lap.  Probably most useful for mountain bikers, but really applicable to anyone.

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This is one of those cool and simply inventions that would be cool if more companies supported it.  Especially since it’s already an approved ANT+ spec item, so it would be straightforward to do.  Translation: There’s nothing stopping Garmin or CycleOps or whomever from supporting this on an Edge 810 or a Joule GPS.

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PerformTek Earbud Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor:

The next one is interesting in that it’s not an actual saleable product.  Instead, it’s the underlying technology for other peoples products.  Meaning, that they (Valencell) aren’t selling what you see below (in orange).  But, you’ll find the exact same technology in other devices – such as the recently announced iRiver On – seen a couple pictures below.

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The heart rate is measured via earbuds, and then runs down the cord to the little music controller which also acts as a Bluetooth transmitter (standard BT, not BT Smart).  Again, this is just the underlying technology, as you can see in the iRiver implementation, it’s all effectively cordless.

The earbud measurement is optical an IR emitter to measure your heart rate – in a similar style to that of both Basis and Alpha HR, except in the earbud and not on your wrist.

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Below, you can see the athletes heart rate being displayed on the live screen to the right via an app they’ve developed.  In fact, the app on the whole was actually pretty impressive and well polished for what is essentially a demo app.  Also of note is that they are measuring cadence too – and thus, distance.  Pretty cool.

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My interest here is mostly just to understand the technology and see how well it works in real life.  Like the optical wrist band technology – there are lots of skeptics, and I’m curious to find out where it works and doesn’t.  I don’t at the moment have an iRiver On, and that’s targeted for later in March or so.  My hope is that even though it’s coming from a music company, that they’ll follow some of the standards out there and thus it’ll be just as useful to serious athletes as those more casual.  Oftentimes I see companies that feel the urge to release fitness products do it in a way that’s not compatible with other stuff out there, making them of less use to many than if just a tiny bit of time had been spent to understand the existing landscape and integrate with it.

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At any rate, cool stuff.  And funny looking back at this post that so many of the items are focused on heart rate.  Who said HR technology was dead?

Now, fear not, there’s more stuff from CES coming!  I’ve got a whole raft of new fitness and health trackers (activity monitors, scales, apple testers, etc…), some time with a 360* sports camera (like a GoPro, but shots everything around you the entire time and you can adjust view later), and then of course the Leikr GPS sport watch.  Hang tight!

46 Comments

  1. waiting for polar or Garmin or Basis to build in the HR and GPS all in line...to get rid of straps for running and for biking include with bluetooth/ant technology so can transmit to separate head uint on the bike handle bar.

    Reply
  2. Steve Kang

    Hey Ray,
    Good stuff. I clicked the link to the 4iiii site and one thing I noticed is that they do not use "Bluetooth Smart" compatible instead say "iPhone Connectivity"; I'm thinking that is the same thing? Is it a legal issue that they can’t' use Bluetooth Smart. Seems odd...thanks

    Reply
    • Ian Andes replied

      Steve,

      GREAT catch! we're sorry about that! it is indeed BTLE compatible. From a marketing perspective, we're trying to eliminate the confusion as much as possible... so we "thought" the easiest explanation was to tell people they can get all their data, to their phone, with no dongle! As well, most users aren't aware that on standard BTLE devices, you can't have a phone, AND a watch, receive signals at the same time (like you can with ANT+ devices). So we tried to simplify :-)

      Hope this helps, and thanks for checking us out!

      ian

      Reply
    • ifor replied

      I am sure that the fact that BTLE under Android is in a real state API wise is another good reason for “iPhone Connectivity” There are no real BTLE Android apps because there is no standard BTLE API under Android. Google need to pull there finger out.

      Reply
  3. Nick

    No one said HR technology was dead. HR training has been dead for years.

    Reply
  4. Gunnar Christensen

    Wow. The 4iiii's HRM is sounding better and better. I love the possibility they will add .FIT stored workout capabilities.

    Reply
  5. Utsav Khan

    Really looking forward to the 4iiii Viiiiva strap. I have been waiting for a LONG time to get ANT+ data to my iPhone without a dongle! Now i can use all my fitness apps with my reliable ANT+ sensors. Super Sweet! A very good price as well for this HR strap which does double the work as conventional HR straps! Awesome!

    Reply
  6. Tooraj

    Thanks for the report. Any news from Mio Alpha?

    Reply
    • Dr. D replied

      The BLE version is now available. Their site states 'Currently only shipping to Canada and the USA. International orders will be available soon. Thanks for your patience!'

      Reply
    • Tooraj replied

      I found this as well! link to dcrainmaker.com

      I am waiting for an ANT+ Alpha to give up my chest belt.

      Reply
  7. Mans

    Just wondering, can you compile a list of the HR straps you have and rank them? (maybe even make a list of combinations of electronicunits vs straps)

    Reply
  8. dieter neirinck

    Hi Ray. Lots of new goodies for you to toy around with it seems ;-) Since there doesn't seem to be an easy solution (like the wahoo dongle for iphone) to get ANT+ data on an android phone (except those sony phones with the ANT+ chip built in), the viiiiva looks like an elegant way to get ANT+ data on an android phone. Except... when I start googling around it seems like bluetooth smart is currently not supported on android. The galaxy S3 is bluetooth smart ready only in marketing blah blah, but the developer forums show otherwise. Do you (or the guys a 4iiii) have an overview of currently available phones that will recognise the data being consolidated by the viiiiva ? Or should I rather head over to that brand that "just works" ?

    Reply
    • ifor replied

      Only viableoption other than a phone with ANT built in is to use an ANT USB stick with your Android phone as mentioned in the other post.

      The BTLE situation with Android makes that none viable till Google sort out and API and apps use it and phone manufacturers make drivers for it. This will all take time but is all stalled on Google doing there bit first at the moment.

      Reply
  9. The Viiiiva Strap is really really cool! This is finally a great solution for the people with all kind of Ant+ devices *AND* a smartphone.

    Reply
  10. Really curious on what his remarks will be about the Leikr.

    Reply
  11. Eli

    Wondering how long it will be till someone comes out with handlebar wrap and/or replacement shifter covers that could measure heart rate on the bike the same as bikes in the gym. Then you won't need a chest strap to get your hr while biking.

    Reply
    • Jan replied

      And how about those times you take your hands of the handlebar? Cycling without hands = without heart rate?

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I think we'll see a move towards the Alpah-like watches, and likely pretty quickly. This will probably be the year of determining if that HR model works in widescale in athletics (it does for me, but it may not for everyone). If so, I think it'll be a incredibly quick switch from chest to optical.

      Reply
  12. Karl

    What do you mean by averaged over the last minute for the Basis? I suppose it records average values per minute but how many values does it average—per second, 5 seconds, or what? If it’s not so good for certain exercise, then I can only assume it’s not for every second. Does the watch at least continuously update sensor values on the watch’s display? For example, if I increase my intensity all of a sudden, will it at least display the higher HR, or will there be huge lag before it updates on the watch itself?

    Also I wonder if the Navi2Coach’s wireless remote would fit on drop bars?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      It sounds like it was taking samples every second (which would match the display as it does seem every second), but only recording the average. Watching them in the booth, I saw the display go blank a few times on their wrists - so it appears to go ahead and display null values.

      The reason it's not good for exercise is that the optical side of things jostles around too much. Some companies have addressed that (Alpha), but that's not where the focus is for Basis.

      Reply
    • Mindz replied

      Yep, while I like my Basis watch it has trouble picking up the heart rate when I am just walking for example. I did not buy it for monitoring my activities but rather my day-to-day life. On a larger scale it tracks HR fine, but for example if I ride my bike to swim training (about a 20min ride) it might only pick up my heart rate once. Or yesterday while driving in the car, it could not pick up my heart rate for 45mins. That's kind of annoying and I wish it would track better (still, on a larger scale it tracks very well).

      Reply
  13. EF

    Hi Ray, so with the viiiiva strap i can run with my iphone and still use my garmin foot pod and upload everything through garmin connect app ??

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Well, Garmin Connect might be an outlier, since it depends on the little Garmin key. I think in general, we're going to have to wait to see how it works in real life across a number of apps.

      Reply
  14. Pete

    I got my basis watch 3 weeks ago and I've worn it every day since. Watch is comfortable and battery lasts about 4 days. Stats it displays on the computer are ok, but I was disappointed with sleep data (only shows how long you have sleeped and how many times it was interrupted) the watch does not wake you up. Also I'm noticing that it was recording my walking while I was taking a shower. Data analysis seemed off when doing activities (when snow shoeing up a mountain and calories burned seemed way off) the watch stops recording heart rate with any sustained movement. Tonight the backlight on my watch stopped working and there seems to be moisture or water under the glass. That is not normal ti supposed to be water resistant. I have an email out them.

    Reply
  15. Adam

    Rainmaker, did you see any sign of ANT+ keys for the iPhone Lightning connector. I would have bought a Wahoo ANT+ key, but I only found out about it at about the same time I got an iPhone 5. I have adapters, but I think it will just be too bulky.

    Reply
  16. Ryan Lally

    Ray,
    Any talk of a next generation IRONMAN type watch to replace the 910XT? I'm still rocking the 310XT and my first Ironman is IMFL in NOV 2013--I have some time to consider buying a new watch and don't want to waste my money on the 910 if an even better watch is on the horizon. The 910 is still pretty appealing, though.... Thoughts?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      No, no talk of it. Either from Timex or Garmin. I don't expect Garmin to release one this year, probably next year (2014). For Timex, it's a possibility, but I haven't hear anything, and they weren't at the show (at least in any sort of presenting fashion).

      Reply
  17. Steve

    RE: O-Synce Wireless ANT+ Lap Button

    Hi Ray,

    Do you know which ANT+ device profile the wireless lap button is covered by? Is it be a new device profile not covered as yet? I'd like to know how to program for it.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      The ANT+ site appears to be down for me at the moment. But I'm pretty sure it's the new ANT+ Controls profile that was released in December.

      Reply
  18. kelly

    Finally! Someone made an Ant+ to Bluetooth Smart converter. That idea has been swirling around in my head for a couple of years now and its good to see someone make it. Integrating it into a HR strap is brilliant. I'll definitely be picking up one of these. Good job 4iiii!

    Reply
  19. Steve

    Hi Ray,
    Did the NPE WASP make an appearance at CES 2013?

    It seems like an important product. Do you have any thoughts on it?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      It wasn't at CES to my knowledge. It's a pretty cool device however, and had some really interesting potential.

      Reply
  20. Steve

    Ray- I have an iPhone 5 with a Wahoo BlueSC sensor for cycling. What's your recommendation for a bluetooth HR monitor currently? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      For another couple weeks, it's a bit of a wash between the Wahoo BlueHR and the Polar H7. The Wahoo has done a lot of solid work on eliminating dropouts/spikes, while the Polar has the added benefit of analog transmission for treadmills.

      That said, as soon as the 4iiii's strap comes out, it's no-contest. The extra functionality there (heck, even if only half of it works) is still a big benefit over the other straps.

      Especially since all units are oddly the same price.

      Reply
  21. Very interested in the basis but mostly as I want to keep up with calories burned for the day to help with calorie intake etc to lose weight

    Would like to know calories during the excessive too. Example how much burned during racquetball vs running etc. doesn't seem like it will do that. But anxiously awaiting the review. Thanks rainmaker

    Mindz just curious when you say you bought it for your day to day not for your activities wouldn't you want itfor both. Curious what you use it for daily? Your calorie? Or your overall hr thro the day

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Yeah, it's hard to say whether or not it'll do that accurately, that's what I'll be checking out. The issue is that in bouncy activities (such as running), the optics on that particular unit (the Basis implementation) just aren't as solid and get dropouts in HR. Alpha has a different implementation that solves that - but really lacks the other side of the coin that Basis has, which is the 24x7 piece.

      So, for me, I'm most interested in what HR does throughout the course of a day - over time, as well as some of the other metrics it has that we just haven't seen on a watch or in a 24x7 setting.

      Reply
    • Mindz replied

      Mostly for HR, yes. I like the fact that it tracks your resting heart rate and thus can give you information on stress, overtraining etc. I don't want it for activities because my Garmin does a much better job at it (no HR dropouts, GPS, data fields etc.). With the pattern view on their homepage It's pretty easy to see whether your heart rate was higher in a specific night (let's say after a hard workout) compared to previous nights.
      And secondly, it tracks my sleep in a simple way so that i don't need to put on another device since I am wearing the watch 24/7 anyway. You can set up "goals" to fall asleep and rise at a regular time or to sleep more in general.

      Reply
  22. Bill Murray

    Did you see or hear of any signs of a waterproof version of Garmin FR 610 or similar. I'm new to running and trying Chi Running with 180 steps per minute so being able to display 4 fields as per 610 ( Cadence, Time, Distance and HR) but with waterproofing to allow me to snorkel and kayak with would be my ideal watch.I don't need the complexities/features of 910xt and the FR610 is nice size to wear when out and about on hols too.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Nothing. Though, I would expect a new Forerunner this year. Either in the April timeframe, or in the September timeframe. I'd lean more towards September, but, wouldn't be surprised by April either.

      I'd be blown away if it's not fully waterproofed (like the FR10). I think they got the message.

      Reply
  23. Nic

    Ray,

    do you know if at this point the Viiiva HR strap will be able to take the .fit data from a watch like garmin 910xt and be able to upload it directly to the iphone and other apps like runkeeper or stava after a workout even if you didnt have your phone while working out similar to the way the wahoo dongle works? or will you have to be running that app also while working out?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Yup, it does indeed store it as a .FIT file. However, I wouldn't expect the FR910XT to upload it. I would expect that either 4iiii's as part of their application would enable the uploading functionality. In theory, if it followed the normal pairing process of the Forerunner series, then the Wahoo app could do the trick.

      The goal though is that you don't need an app running to capture data. An example scenario being a swim, with nothing else but the strap.

      Reply
  24. Matt Dokken

    I like to use heartsync programs on the treadmill, which adjust speed/incline based on heart rate. Will the 4iii strap be able to send heart rate signal to treadmill, while tracking/record heart rate data to a specified program on the iPhone?? Looking to purchase new strap, and if this new 4iii strap does what it claims to, I see no reason to even entertain the other straps on the market, wahoo/polar.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Not likely. That's because most treadmills utilize legacy analog HR transmissions (old school), which the 4iiii's unit doesn't. There are indeed a handful of treadmills out there that do support ANT+ (which the 4iiii's does), but they are so few and far between that honestly it's unlikely you'll see one.

      This is the one area that the Polar H7 (but not H6) strap covers (legacy transmissions).

      Reply
  25. So the 4iiii's strap will let you take ANT+ sensors and feed them to a BTLE head unit (e.g. your phone), but do you know of a way to go in the other direction? I have a BTLE device that I want to send data to my Edge 800 somehow.

    Reply
    • Jim Robinson replied

      Wondered the same thing, could be a possible solution to getting a Kurt iRide connected to a Windows machine running trainer road.

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Right now it's not going that direction, but that's a bit of the medium-term plan.

      Reply

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