Update on Polar/Look Keo Pedal Power Meter Bluetooth Smart Plans

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While Polar is strangely absent from this years Eurobike show floor, their partner with the already released Polar/Look Keo Power System – Look – was present and more than happy to sit down and talk about their upcoming plans for Bluetooth Smart.

You’ll remember I reviewed the Polar/Look pedal based power meter last summer (2012) when it first came out.  At the time they discussed their plans for eventual incorporation of Bluetooth Smart into the device once the Bluetooth Smart profiles were standardized.  While loose timelines were bantered about, nothing formal was fully communicated on those dates.

Since then, it sounds like things have gotten a bit more solidified – at least on paper. Or rather, on the booth displays:

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I spent time chatting with two engineers from Look’s power meter team, which is based nearby in France.  While they were limited in what they could discuss – primarily at Polar’s direction – we were able to cover some key points about what’s on tap.

The Bluetooth Smart update is being targeted for March or April of next year (2014).  It may come sooner, but that’s the timeline they’re sticking to for now.  The ‘upgrade’ package will actually incorporate two different items:

1) They’ll swap out the pedal pods from being Polar W.I.N.D. to being Bluetooth Smart compatible (they’ll still remain backwards compatible)
2) At the same time, they’ll be updating the software on the pedal side of the crank to add additional metrics that can be broadcast by the power meter

The pedal pods are the small little things that hang off the side of the pedals, and where all the communications occur.  As part of that change, the pods have been redesigned (old pods shown below, they didn’t have new pods on hand).  Specifically, they are minimizing the thickness of the pod to minimize issues some folks have with it hitting the chain.  Further, they’re changing the dimensions to allow for wider crank arms that have come onto the market recently.

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They were very closed lip when it came to discussing what additional power meter metrics they’ll be adding to the pedals themselves, but I suspect we’ll see them roughly in line with what other pedal and left/right power meters are adding around Torque Effectiveness and Pedal Smoothness.  But again, that’s just a guess of mine based on the fact that everyone else is doing it.

They won’t be adding any additional calibration modes though, nor any way to check the torque of the system (both of which aren’t available today).

The swap out will require the units be sent back to the distributor and/or Look (it’s still being decided).  A price hasn’t been set yet either, but they didn’t expect it to be expensive.  While the pedal spindle software upgrade will be free, the switch to Bluetooth Smart won’t be.  But they deferred to Polar on that from a pricing standpoint, clarifying it’s up to them.

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As far as Bluetooth Smart standards go, I got slightly conflicting answers that I’m working to get a bit more clarification on from others (language barriers can sometimes be tricky in complex technical discussions).  At one point they noted that they were adopting the standard Bluetooth Smart power meter device profile (like Stages and other BLE power meters such as the newly announced PowerTap units).  However, at another point they noted the creation of an app to be able to read the Polar BLE pedals.  The reason being that upon sending back to the factory and as part of the swap-out they’re doing away with the master/slave concept, and instead just assigning left/right.  What that really means though as they explained further is that it truly becomes two virtually independent power meter systems (left and right).

As such, the Bluetooth Smart power meter device profile today and the apps available today don’t accommodate that natively (the concept of two PM’s really being one PM).  Technically speaking, both statements above could be accurate – resulting in a scenario where you’d essentially have to pick one leg or the other.

Speaking of devices, it should be noted that there’s still not actually any Bluetooth Smart power meter sensor-capable head units on the market today, nor any announced.  There are cycling head units with Bluetooth in them (Edge 510/810), but that’s not Bluetooth 4.0, and thus not Bluetooth Smart compatible.  The TomTom Multisport units while technically capable of connecting to Bluetooth Smart sensors, do not connect to power meters today.  Finally, units like the LEIKR watch while Bluetooth Smart capable, aren’t configured to receive sensor data from Bluetooth Smart power meters.

While the Look folks conceded the obvious – Polar is working on “something” to fill the gap – that’s about as specific as they were going to get.  No specific timelines, though obviously it’d have to be prior to next March/April.  And with the potential for them finishing the pedal update earlier in 2014, I’d guess they are targeting a bit earlier than March/April for a Bluetooth Smart capable head unit.

In any case, it sounds like things will mostly go back into the underground until then.  The team plans to start field testing of the Bluetooth Smart pods in the next 2-3 weeks.  I suspect the next point we’ll hear more information is at CES in early January (where Polar is traditionally present).

Thanks for reading!

Welcome to Eurobike week! This week during Eurobike I’ll be tweeting from the exhibition show floor quite a bit, as well as posting frequently. Here’s a quick and handy link to all Eurobike-related posts.

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19 Comments

  1. Harmless Harm

    Thanks Ray,

    You are talking powertap BT smart, will their soon be head unit out from them (joule_x), supporting BT smart?
    If so they could have an edge.

    Reply
  2. RoadRunner

    Ray, thanks for the super fast write up. It is good that they are making progress on this, but they are really behind the eight ball now. I think next year is too late. With the Garmin Vector out there the first mover advantage the Keo Power once had as the first pedal based power meter on the market is now gone. I think Look are being let down by Polar who are fast going the way of Nokia (remember when everyone once had a nokia cell phone?). Polar’s head units are reliable and display basic data well enough, but they are years behind where the rest of the market is now. Innovate or die is a business adage which is apt for Polar.

    Reply
    • Mark Spencer replied

      I have been using the LOOK KEO POLAR POWER pedals for 12 months ,very unhappy with it. Head Unit Polar CS600x with limited functions is like something out of the dark ages.No ANT with other units. The set up of the pedals from bike to bike is a mission!Both LOOK pedals wear plates fell off for no reason after 4 months of use,the right pedal polar sensor scrapes the chain when on the 53×11.Software is so lmited I had to purchase Training peaks WKO.

      The back-up from Polar and Look is none at all.No response to my email I sent stating the faulty power readings of late.
      Would I spend that AMOUNT of monies on this system again if I had done more indepth research? No WAYS.Costly mistake indeed.

      Reply
  3. Chris

    So did powertap sneak one in on you? I thought it was odd that powertap would release an app that connected to Bluetooth sensors without a Bluetooth wheel set. Is there more information on these somewhere?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      There’s more on the PT BT wheelset…I’m just writing it up as we speak. ;)

      One post (foot) in front of the other.

      Reply
  4. Still no comments from them about their memory capacity? It’s so… 90′s.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Well, these guys wouldn’t comment on that since it’s really more of a Polar thing. This was with the Look guys.

      Reply
  5. Sean

    Hi Ray, fantastic newsfeed from the floor of Eurobikes, thank you.

    A quick question regarding the upgrade package, are Look / Polar going to replace the pods for those people who bought the first generation pedal system?

    Reply
  6. Markus

    Very disappointing to see that there is no other new stuff vom Polar, right?!?
    No updates on watches or bike computers? Already winter sleep in Finland?

    …I love my RCX5 but I’m afraid of the Nokia-way

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      No, Polar wasn’t at Eurobike. They do plan however to be at Interbike in two weeks.

      Reply
  7. Phil Barnes

    should have grasped the nettle and gone Ant+

    Reply
  8. Lukman

    They should have just offer the upgrade to ANT+ standard…. when do they ever learn…?

    Reply
  9. Marko

    Anything new about Look Keo Power at Interbike?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      There wouldn’t be actually. I’ll certainly double-check if they’ve commenced field testing, but otherwise we won’t expect to hear anything until next year beyond what’s seen above.

      Reply
    • RoadRunner replied

      Ray, would be good if you could hit up the Polar folks at interbike to determine if they are doing a total revamp of their cycling headunits with BTLE, and the timing for this. I would guess that they would be seeking to do this at the same time as the BTLE update for the Keo Power, as a bluetooth enabled smart phone won’t be much chop on the handlebars…. It would be interesting to hear from them as to why it has taken so darn long – they must realise they are years behind their competitors in this segment…

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      They do plan to, but obviously aren’t talking about it until announcement time.

      Reply
  10. Thomas Dineen

    HI DCR,

    so maybe you can help me better understand the technical benefits of preventing knee injuries by having a meter for:
    “Left / Right Power Distribution”

    I don’t understand that this can help one’s knee health by preventing possible tendonitis… as per LOOK’s stated benefits on their website.

    I too have knee issues, but the shims under my cleats are helping, but if this meter also helps prevent injury to knees, I’m in..

    Again, thank you for your efforts DCR, keep up the good writing.
    Tom

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      There’s honestly absolutely nothing it’ll do for prevention. If Look is saying that, that’s pretty poor of them because there’s zero evidence to support it (there’s not even a study on it).

      There some studies on what left/right balance looks like, but honestly not much current nor comprehensive – it’s an area that’s very much uncharted territory, and within the last year as more units have come on the market showing such metrics, the data come back is all over the place – very few clear trends. And if you come across anyone saying the goal should be 50/50 balance, then I’d run fast away from them – because they’re not well informed.

      Reply

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