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Polar rolls out connection for developers, Apple Health & Google Fit integration

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This week, Polar has announced the details of it’s various 3rd party development integration efforts – which cover pretty much every way you can get data out of the platform to other services.

I’ll dive briefly into the main methods, but here’s the quick overview:

Polar AccessLink: This is how 3rd party developers get direct access to Polar Flow & PolarPersonalTrainer.com data, including workouts data and activity tracker data
Google Fit: Access to summary information from supported Bluetooth Smart connected devices
Apple Health: Access to both summary information from supported Bluetooth Smart devices, as well as step data
Polar Flow Export: An end-user focused method for exporting out your workout file data

Each of the four components has a bit of a different target audience and purpose.  For example, if you have an Apple device you’d leverage Apple Health, but not likely Google Fit (and the inverse is true).  While applications like Strava would leverage AccessLink.  Meanwhile, if you just want to export out your own workouts, you’d use Polar Flow Export.

Polar AccessLink allows 3rd party development companies to get full fidelity exports of your workout files, which they can then transfer to their own services.  It also enables companies (typically a different set of companies) to access activity tracker and health information from Polar services.  For the first group, this is where you’d see companies such as Strava, TrainingPeaks, and SportTracks jump in and setup synchronization.  Meanwhile, the second group of companies that would use this would be corporate health and wellness programs.

This first component is likely to be the most interesting to consumers, though, you won’t quite be able to see the major benefits of it quite yet.  As that will require 3rd parties develop solutions against it – just as it did when Garmin announced their synchronization, and the same for Suunto and Strava.  Today, only MapMyFitness as a major consumer brand supports it.

AccessLink allows companies access to the full raw data produced from the unit.  This includes speed, cadence, heart rate, distance, time, and many other metrics recorded by the device.  This data is transferred to the 3rd party partner as a .GPX file and corresponding .HRM file – similar to past Polar export processes.  I asked why they just didn’t hand the partners the .TCX file (as they do for consumers via Polar Flow exports).  I reasoned most development companies would rather deal with one file than two.  They interestingly noted:

“That’s something we’d been thinking too. However, our current partners or the partner prospects haven’t seen this as such a big deal. It’s quite simple to create two data requests if there is route data included. And then there are users and partners who don’t want to transfer routes, so they prefer separated GPX-files. Anyhow, we will keep listening our partners and I don’t see why we couldn’t have TCX-files in future.”

You’ll notice they said “current partners”, that’s because despite making the program more public – it’s actually been there for a while, albeit previously connecting to other Polar web platforms.  For example, MapMyFitness has been using it for a few years, as have other corporate wellness services.  While Polar isn’t quite ready to publicly share the list of upcoming partners – I suspect most folks will be pleased with the planned options seen there once announced on both the workout side, and the activity tracker side.

One company that was ready to confirm support is SportTracks, who has stated they plan to integrate with Polar AccessLink by the end of the year, as well as hope to wrap up integration with Suunto Movescount too.

Now there will be some minor kinks over the next few months with AccessLink.  For example, while the CS600X and CS500 support power, it won’t yet support power exports to AccessLink on the newer V800/V650 until Q1 2015.  That said, it’s not just limited to the newer products.  Ultimately, just about everything that can transfer data, does.  Here’s the rundown from Polar:

Flow compatible products: V800, M400, V650, Loop, Beat iOS, Beat Android, Flow for Club
PolarPersonalTrainer.com compatible products: RC3 GPS, RCX5, RCX3, FT80, CS500, RS800, RS800CX, RS400
Partly compatible products: Polar S610, Polar S625X, Polar S720i, Polar S725X

Finally, Polar has confirmed that there is no fee/price for using these services – either for the consumer or the 3rd party companies.  This is in contrast to Garmin’s $5,000 API fee, a fee that pretty much stands alone in the health/fitness industry where everyone is moving to establish as many partnerships as possible as quick as possible (for free).

Polar notes that they do have an approval process for AccessLink however, but expect that partnerships will be approved in no longer than two weeks.  At which point they’ll be provided full documentation, a sandbox environment, and a full business to business helpdesk to complete the integration.  In the meantime, developers can get a feel for some of the high level flow diagrams here.

Apple Health & Google Fit:

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In addition to bolstering visibility of their 3rd party access program, they’ve also rolled out connectivity to Apple Health and Google Fit.  These platforms will store slightly different data depending on the Polar device you have, your mobile phone OS, and which Polar phone app you use to get the data there.

From a device standpoint, you’ll need either Polar M400, Polar V800, or Polar Loop.  Alternatively, you can just use the Polar Beat app to record activities as well.  Though, as you’ll see in a moment, there’s still some pieces being worked out here.

Apple Health: On the Apple side of the ecosystem, you’ll be using the Polar Flow app to get data into Apple Health.  Thus means that you’ll need to have one of the Polar devices noted above since Polar Beat to Apple Health is still being worked on.

Google Fit: Meanwhile, for Google you’ll use Polar Beat and it won’t yet support any devices.  This is because the Polar Flow support for Android for the V800 and M400 hasn’t been released yet.  That app update is scheduled for release by the end of the year, bringing Android support for all of Polar’s latest Bluetooth Smart connected fitness devices.  The exact timeframe for when the Polar Flow Android app will support Google Fit isn’t yet available though.

Now the different platforms will in turn transfer different metrics.  Here’s the rundown:

Apple Health: Sport ID, time, duration, distance, calories and HR samples from workouts, and steps from daily activity

Google Fit: Sport ID, time, duration, distance, calories and HR samples from workouts

Now the metrics are somewhat slim only supporting a few of the available platform categories.  Polar says you’ll eventually see more alignment between the platforms and more metrics supported.  They noted that: “the activity based calories and sleep were not included in this first phase, as we aimed for fast integration with basic set of data. We are planning to add more data category support but to start we will make our apps compatible in this basic level.”

Polar also produces this little chart that tries to clear things up as well:

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For those unfamiliar with the week calendar system, Week 45 was last week, and Week 46 was this week.  So basically, they’re both in place today.  The screenshots you see above are ones I took on my iPhone and Android phone using the publically available app store apps.

Overall, it’s great to see Polar moving forward on these and more openness in the platform.  This is combined with the .TCX export for recent devices, which continues to improve to work out some of the initial teething items.

Thanks for reading!

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34 Comments

  1. Hans Oosterhof

    Hallo Ray,
    thanks and don’t forget the great working swim update from yesterday for the V800.

  2. Steve S

    A few days back many of us probably got a cryptic email from Strava that hinted at new premium services/features/etc – I think the date on that release was Nov. 14/today. Maybe connected to this integration release in some way, along with other linking/data connection capabilities? For now, just hoping Clever Training gets stock to fulfill VIP preorders of the Polar M400. Many folks have it locally at this point, so a little awkward to continue to wait for an unknown shipment almost 2 months after initial preorders were made.

    • Steve S

      So the Nov. 14 “release” from Strava appears to be a new jersey/bibs combo for Premium members. Oh well. Hope they and others recognize we are anxious for capability and data freedom, not more clothing.

  3. Mark Webb

    It will be even better when the Polar Flow Android app supports the V800!

  4. Benjamin Hesselberg

    Now I just need to get my hand on the V650 and we are ready to go!

  5. Simon Anthes

    Great news & a step in the right direction, however notice that this seems to be one way communication, i.e. only receiving data from Accesslink, no communication the other way, i.e. uploading data to Accesslink (as far as I can see), which means years of data from other services can’t yet be transferred to Polar.

  6. Francis C

    Interesting. That’s definitely a good move for Polar. Looks like they are friendly towards exporting your full data to xyz company. How does this compare to Garmin?

  7. Pedro Manzana

    Dear Ray, thank you for the update. Do you know when Trainingspeaks will offer a connection like Garmin does? The Garmin connection is really cool and made me change from many years with Polar (RS800Cx) to Garmin FR620 seem to be resolved soon. (I hope). Do you know when Polar will be able to have the promised import from Polar Trainer 5 to Flow?
    The FR620 works great for me as a runner. I have no issues with the GPS precision (90% of the time). Biggest downside are the extremely bad elevation measurements. Biggest downside from V800 is the large footpad, I am as well considering the FR920, but they seem to have massed up the elevation as well. The footpad issue from Polar could be solved with the upcoming Wahoo Footpad….

    Thanks for your great reviews.
    Pedro

    • Pedro Manzana

      I got this response from Trainings peaks:

      Hi Peter,
      Thanks for the email. We do have a planned integration with polar happening next year but I don’t have a timeline for exactly when that will happen. You can export .tcx files from Polar Flow right now so workouts done with the V800 should transfer okay. The only issue I’ve heard of is that the lap data is not getting transferred with it. I hope that helps. Is there anything else I can help you with?

  8. Aaron Kessler

    Ray – I’ve been happy to see the Polar updates. I’ve been noticing an issue when I export from Polar Flow and import to Strava that the time zone is incorrect. It seems that Strava assumes the data was recorded in UTC time but I believe this is because the Polar data has the wrong times listed in TSX and GPX files. Have you noticed this?

    • Matthias

      I have the same issue as all my exports are in Zulu time (it should be eastern time). Is there a way to fix this?

      Thx!

  9. Bo

    Thank you for the up-date, Ray.

    Very happy about the ‘opening of the (automatic) gates’ from Polar Flow. Giving choice is important.Go, Polar!.

    One feature still missing from Flow is the abilty to pre-create routes on Flow and then download these to the V800. This functionality has existed on Garmin Connect for a while. Let’s do it.

    Hanging out to see their Keo Pedals now.

    Bo

  10. Jeff T.

    This is great! Polar is making a good push with their new devices and open platform.

    Random question here – I’m headed to Paris for a week from the US. Any suggestions of the best SIM/data plan I should pick up while there? I don’t need talk, just a decent data plan to hook my phone into for the week. I’m guessing something local would be much cheaper than AT&T’s horrible rates!

    • There are lots of major cell networks in Paris proper. I know that both Bouygues and Orange (like ATT & Verizon) have data deals. When friends/family come in, we’ll usually get them the $15 200MB data SIM card. You also get about 60 minutes of free international calling on it. Obviously, you’ll need an unlocked phone – so be sure to sort that out ahead of time.

  11. Petr

    Helo Ray, good news. Do you know something about the import features (for route guidance)? Thank you, Petr

  12. Ivan

    any news about firstbeat integration ( exporting to firstbeat athlete)

  13. Congratulations to Polar to permit users to dispatch and use their data as they want.
    This kind of opening will weight a lot in the future when people will choose running tools.
    All the “wearables” that we see at the moment should keep that in mind not to end in a drawer :)

  14. Polar, what are you doing? Other platforms have led the way, and then this. I get two files? *scratching my head* Why? I’ve never understood why you separate it? And then the file formats. We are no longer in 1980 where Windows INI files are cool (HRM is nothing else). And have you any idea how much garbage is in XML files. In second-exact recordings GPX and TCX files are very large. Traffic is not free! A binary format such as FIT or Protocol Buffers (by Google) are much better. Thumbs up for the free interface (can I invest this in Internet traffic ;-)). We’ll see how that develops…

  15. Charlie Murphy

    Great post as always Ray!

    When you do your review of what gear you use for this year I wondered if you had any plans to talk about which fitness websites you use and why? It would be great to get your insight on what features are good where and on what each site offers over the others.
    I know you have talked about some sites in reviews (Garmin Connect) but I don’t think you have covered Maymyrun, Stravav etc?

    Thanks for all your posts over the years

  16. Mike Cem

    Better connectivity is a good shift for a previously closed system. I like my v800/loop combo better every day and this makes it sweeter. Polars customer service has even improved. I had the dreaded expanding battery issue with the v800… They had the whole thing swapped out for me in 3 days. Polar was my first HRM so many years ago (20+) and frankly the last few years I thought they were finished…. But After a couple bad garmin experiences with so so customer service and polars new attitude…things are getting interesting again.

    Polar seems to be doing all the right stuff now so… But the amount of device’s are exploding and customer service, data portability and market experince are going to be the differentiator. So far I’m firmly back in the polar camp.

  17. jd67

    Good to see that Polar are moving in this direction. I just wish the functionality to import data into Flow from PT5 was available now. Are any timelines available Ray?

  18. LPHovercraft

    No daily steps in Google Fit? That seems like a glaring omission.

  19. Mikey Norfolk

    There does seem to be issues with syncing data with HealthKit. I have a M400 and within the HealthKit settings, Polar Flow can only write Steps, Heart rate and Workout. But doesn’t write running distance. RunGap’s implementation does allow you to write distance to HealthKit. So suspect it’s an issue with Polar Flow.

  20. Hi Ray, this is really good news – my RCX5 has been pretty much consigned to the drawer for a long time now. I’d really like to start using it again. Will the transfers to Strava, etc. combine the separate GPS and HRM files from the RCX5 and it’s G5 GPS pod, do you think?

  21. ASR1927

    Will the Polar Flow export include lap data for the TCX-files soon?

  22. CJ

    Does anyone know if there is a way to import old data from other devices into Polar Flow? I’d like to have everything in one place for easy comparison etc.

  23. Anton Ashmarin

    Hi,
    I wanted to get acces to this API but request was rejected without any comment. Does anyone already use it?
    I want to know what details should I provide in my request to have it satisfied.

  24. TEG

    Anyone know of if Runkeeper has an upcoming integration with this – or in general, how many partners have signed up and launched?

  25. Pedro Agrafos

    Hello, I use TICKR X Workout with my smartphone when I´m training and compete. Last moth I damage my phone on water with a waterproof case.
    So, I really interest tochange to Polar M400 (nice features and low price). Do you know if this watch works with TICKR X Workout? It can sync all the metrics? Most importante for me HR and cadence (spm).
    Thank you very much

  26. Mathieu Webster

    Hi, wondered how much you have used Apple Health Kit with Polar and other devices? Although Polar state they provide Calories they are hidden within the ‘Workouts’ dashboard only and even now January 2016 Polar still don’t update the ‘Active Calories’ dashboard which is where you would expect calories from workouts to go.