ISPO 2016 Sports Tech Roundup: FINIS Optical HR Swim Tracker, Kuai, Evalu, WatTeam and XMetrics


Yesterday I grabbed an early morning flight to ISPO, in Munich, to check out the massive sports-focused show.  Anything and everything to do with sports was there, spread out over a convention floor area that would make Eurobike look like your average inner city grocery store.

As I noted on Monday, you typically don’t see any sports tech announcements here from major companies like Garmin, Suunto, Polar, Fitbit, etc…  Instead, we’ve got some of the smaller players showing off cool and new stuff.

FINIS Optical HR Swim Watch:

You know what’s always fun about going to trade shows? Finding the things that probably weren’t supposed to be found.  This being a perfect example.  Or perhaps maybe it was supposed to be found.  Either way – I found it.

The FINIS ELEMENT optical HR capable swim tracker, and also FINIS LIVE Bluetooth Smart connected swim watch.  First, the LIVE:


Then, the optical HR capable ELEMENT:


These were just chilling in the entry-way to their booth, encased in glass coverings like fine art at a museum.  Details on both were slim (either in English or German), though the plan is to launch the units in March.  Both units can then transmit this data to a FINIS phone app via Bluetooth Smart, which allows you to view data from your swim (presumably sets, strokes, etc…).  Here’s the two-page paper brochure on them (in German, no English version available).  To save paper, I just snapped a photo of it:

2016-01-25 13.36.142016-01-25 13.36.11

Now I’d say both units were a bit bulkier than most other swim trackers, but it’s also possible given these sounded like prototypes, that things might slim down some.


No details on pricing yet, though I’d have to imagine pricing would be no more than Garmin’s Swim (an oldie these days) for the non-optical unit, and probably more inline with the Vivoactive price range for the optical HR version.  Well, that’s my hope anyway.

XMetrics Swim Tracker


FINIS was not the only swim device at ISPO.  There was also the XMetrics swim tracker.  I toyed with this for a little bit in the booth.  Unlike most other watch-based swim trackers, this is mounted to your swim goggles behind your head.  It features a quarter-turn style mount to remove it from the mounting plate.  So the rubber plate can basically stay attached to your swim goggles full time, and you just remove the pod to charge/sync.



There are two versions, a ‘PRO’ version, and then the not-so-pro variant, called the FIT.  The core of both versions is to track your swims including aspects like lap times and paces, and give you calorie information.  However, the PRO will also get you Bluetooth Smart connectivity to the app and further details on stroke frequency (e.g. SWOLF), as well as the ability to share a workout with a coach.


You’ll notice on the side there are headphones, which allow you to get audible details about your workout at each turn (giving you length/lap splits).  However, there is no support for music storage or playback. It’s just the audio prompts of your laps.


Both units can use their web platform, called XMetrics LINK, which allows you to view your splits and workouts.  For the PRO, you can use the app to sync to it wirelessly via Bluetooth Smart.  Whereas the FIT you’ll have to plug-in via USB.

Now unfortunately, things are a wee bit pricey here.  The cheaper FIT version (which doesn’t have BT support or ability to share with coaches), is $199.  While the PRO version is $299.  Both prices are going to be pretty tough sells in light of…well…pretty much everything else on the market for the last 3 years.  Especially since they don’t have an export capability to sites like Training Peaks or Sport Tracks.  Still, the audio splits per lap is cool.

Kuai Biometric Headphones:

I got a more detailed look and chat with the Kuai folks regarding their multisport biometric headphones, at the show.  And I came away quite a bit more impressed on specs than I expected.

The unit is clearly targeted directly at the triathlete (yet, still spot-on for single sport runners, swimmers, or cyclists).  It’s able to essentially be a Garmin watch replacement for all three sports (or, very handily complement it too).  It can do everything from tracking run pace/distance/cadence, to pairing with cycling sensors to do the same there, and also even log your swim details.  All while also serving as a music player.

However, it’s some of the internals that have me more impressed.  Here’s my bulleted list of what I thought were the highlights:

– In-ear heart rate (HR) sensor made by Valencell
– Works in swim/bike/run
– Ability to broadcast your HR over both ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart
– Ability to broadcast your running pace/cadence over both ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart
– Can connect to ANT+ Power, ANT+ Speed/Cadence sensors during cycling
– 3-meter deep waterproofing (though, it’s also internally nano-coated just in case the outer shell has issues)
– 5-meter deep waterproofing on the internally waterproofed micro-USB charging port
– Saves activity files as standard .FIT (standard format everyone uses, for swim/bike/run)

Of course, this unit is definitely bigger than the Dash by Bragi.  A lot bigger.  You can see it in my hand below, and you figure the Dash isn’t much bigger than each individual ear bud.


However, there are the numerous sport-specific features that the Dash lacks that Kuai has (mostly in my bulleted section above).  I don’t think the Bragi folks would disagree that right now their unit is focused on the mainstream audience, whereas the Kuai unit is directly targeting the endurance athlete.  Kuai has got a far longer battery time (now up to 7hrs), and has more music capacity (8GB).  Plus, they’ve likely got much better HR sensing capability (since Bragi seems hesitant about theirs right now, whereas Kuai’s is from the well established Valencell).


I talked with them a little bit about the size, and they noted that the larger size of their unit was in part driven by the size of the storage and battery components.  Both sides have their own batteries, but they use a cable between them to ensure audio playback underwater.  There’s a very small ‘joystick’ to work your way through the menus.


And with the .FIT activity export, they’ll get to virtually any training platform.  The unit will sync via the Bluetooth Smart connection to your mobile phone, which in turn syncs the workout to their cloud platform where you can view stats. Additionally it’ll automatically sync to other 3rd party partnerships they’re working to setup.  Right now that’s slated to be MapMyFitness, Strava, and Garmin Connect.  But they seemed open to doing more based on user demand.


Of course, the unit isn’t shipping yet.  So it’s a bit hard to know how well it’ll perform.  I’ve seen them running with it at both CES and now ISPO.  And they’ve had ultra running guys at both shows running pretty much non-stop (one guy doing one marathon a day, for each day of the show).  Every time I passed by the HR’s they were showing on the screen seemed valid, and appeared to match what I’d expect.


But the devil is often in the details – both from a manufacturing standpoint as well as a software standpoint.  They’ve given a pretty sweet list of specs (hardware and software), so it’ll be interesting to see if they can deliver on that by the time they hit their April delivery time-frames.  Looking forward to it – especially given the price right now is only $149 – a steal for the features they’re promising.

Evalu Run:


Hanging out in the startup area was Evalu, which is a sensor & app system that aims to help folks run better.  Or rather, run in a more optimized way.  Of course, this particular field has become incredibly crowded in the last 6-12 months, with numerous companies getting into the running form and metrics realm.

Those companies can typically be divided up into two sensor categories: Those using accelerometers (e.g. Stryd, Scribe Labs, Lumo, numerous Kickstarter projects), and those using sensors in the shoes or foot beds (e.g. Altra, RPM, Evalu, and a few others).

Evalu has two components, first is the foot bed piece, which is in turn connected to a pod that sits atop your shoe laces.  Out of the gate, they’ll be going with a single-shoe configuration.  But the goal is to ship dual-shoe options as well.  Unlike some of their competitors, the Evalu uses a full sensor mat, so it can detect pressure across the entire surface of the footpad, which is thin enough to be slid directly into a shoe.



This pod then communicates with an app, which then provides you feedback during the run using audio prompts.  Those audio prompts can also be played through headphones (Bluetooth or wired).  It’ll give you specific recommendations on how you can tweak your form.


In addition to mid-run guidance, after the run you can check out the data via the app, focused on both form related metrics, as well as basics like a GPS map of where you ran (using the phone’s GPS).


Right now their target audience is kinda in the middle ground of where others have focused.  If you look at something like Scribe or Stryd, they’re clearly at the upper-end of the running realm.  Meaning, focused on non-casual runners that are looking to optimize their running with lots of data.  They needn’t run fast, but they’re definitely very much into running and data.

Whereas with Evalu, they’re focused a bit more on simplicity and the ‘enjoyment of running’, rather than that last little bit of performance edge.

Still, as I noted to them, they need a bit more clarity on how folks can link up their data with other platforms.  For example, many casual runners are using sites like RunKeeper, Nike, MapMyRun, among others.  So having ties to be able to send your data to those platforms is important.  And if they want to target the ‘higher end’ crowd, then doing the same for Training Peaks, Strava, and Sport Tracks is also important. But they seemed pretty open to that feedback, which is good.

The unit will start shipping May (2016), and is available for 199EUR.

WatTeam Power Beat Update:


Finally, a super-brief update from the WatTeam folks on their power meter.  You’ll remember the latest update had it shipping back in the November/December time-frame. However, at the last minute they halted deliveries to troubleshoot a battery issue.

From talking to them, the battery issue has been resolved. It was due to a change in the battery model they were using when they went to do their final production run.  The battery supplied for the production run was prematurely cutting off power to the unit, kinda like a toddler playing with a light switch.  They’ve resolved the issue, and have a different battery that they’ve tested.

Since all the production units had completed manufacturing and are sitting in a warehouse on pallets ready to ship, the team will be flying to LA over the next week (where the units are).  From there they’ll be creating a Mountain Dew & Starbucks driven assembly line to swap out the part and get the units shipped out.  Their target sounds about mid-February for folks to see units start appearing on their doorsteps (so about 2-3 weeks).


For those curious, above/below is a final production unit.  I found the build quality is far better than the prototypes (normal), and feels quite solid.


I’m looking forward to giving it a whirl, especially since it did fairly well in my testing of a prototype unit this past summer.

With that – thanks for reading!  If you didn’t check out my Twitter timeline yesterday, swing over to see some of the more ‘unique’ things I found on the show-floor.  Which can mostly be summarized by me being sarcastic.

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  1. SHay

    Any updates from WatTeam when they estimate the availability on carbon cranks?

    • As you might have noticed, it’s attached to a carbon crank. 😉

      I’ll see if I can get them to answer that question here, as far as their plans.

    • Shay

      I didn’t even notice that. Thanks!

  2. Matt

    Thanks for the interesting roundup. I like the looks of the evalu, but details seem pretty sparse at this point. Will be interesting what they come up with in terms of running form data/advice. What I’d like to see is some sort of foot strike pattern data recording.

    • Mike Richie

      That strap from the pod to the insert looks like it would chafe against the side of your foot, rendering any data somewhat compromised I would think. My sneaker fit is one of the most important aspects for getting me to run efficiently.

  3. Doug

    Hi Ray, Interesting you bump into WatTeam in Europe but they don’t ship there at the moment. Unless that’s changed…? :)

    • Not yet changed unfortunately. They’re basically trying to get the US shipments out the door first, then let support stabilize, before expanding. In some ways, I’ll give them credit for not biting off more than they can chew. International support brings with it a whole lot of logistics (as frustrating as it may be for us consumers).

      As for ISPO, the timing just sorta ended up wrong. You’ll remember they had planned to have been shipping way back in the summer. So when they signed up for this booth a long time ago (probably last ISPO), they likely thought they’d be in a different spot.

    • Just a quick update – it looks like they’re aiming for Summer 2016 to Europe.

    • Doug

      Woo! thanks for confirming Ray :)

    • Phil B

      Would that be the same for Canadian availability?

    • Yes, that includes Canadian availability; the POWERBEAT just completed certification for sale to the Canadian market.

  4. Matt

    Any word if the kuai team has managed to get HRV during workouts?

    • No, it uses Valencell, and Valencell isn’t there yet for workouts. Here’s a video I shot with them at CES (using the exact same reference earpod design), talking about HRV: link to youtube.com

    • Matt

      Okay. thanks, not a big deal, but not sure if i’m ready to spend another 150 on that.

  5. Adam

    I apologise in advance, but you need to read this Ray!

    link to theoatmeal.com

    • Funny. I so rarely use it, and managed to bungle it up three times in one post. Fixed!

    • Nigel Pond

      Resisting the temptation to explain based on the meaning of the original Latin expressions. Oh what the hell: i.e. = id est, “that is”; e.g. = exempli gratia, “by way of example”. Yes I am a Latin nerd and I’m not apologising for it!

  6. Brianf

    Regarding Kuai did you discuss with them the planned coaching features including audible feedback during training? If implemented properly this seems like it would be much better than watch based alerts and prompts currently available.

  7. Mike B.

    I gotta know, Ray. Was Limits there?

  8. Don


    Did WatTeam fix the issues you’d found with both temperature and cobbles?

    • Hello Don,

      Since Ray’s summer preview, we’ve made good use of time to make many refinements. The spike he encountered on the cobbled roundabout was a freak occurrence, and the final production units are sturdier and better protected against the influence of impacts. In terms of temperature compensation, we’re leaps ahead of where we were in the summer and the accuracy is better than ever.

      The Watteam

  9. Alan

    How do ear based heart rate monitors compare with chest straps and other opticals?

  10. Mike S.

    Hi Ray,

    Very interesting article. I have a question about the Kuai Biometric Headphones:

    Do they have built in GPS to map your run or does it need to pair to a smartphone to do that? Or does it map the run at all?

    This sounds similar to the Sony Smart B trainer. By the way, have you tried the Sony product and if so, will a review be coming out?

    Take care.

    • No GPS, so it would require an app.

      I haven’t tried the Sony yet, though it’s also sporting the exact same Valencell chip as Kuai.

    • Jeff

      The Sony is supposed to come with integrated GPS.

    • Mike S.

      Yes it does.

  11. a

    Is that the iphone under water too ? nice effect :)

  12. giorgitd

    The evalurun pod looks a *lot* bigger in the model wearing the crazy colored Asics shoes compared to the pic that just shows the insole + pod. I’m guessing that the pod on the shoes is a preproduction (but functiona) piece and the pod on the insole is what the expectation is for final delivery?

  13. Brian

    Hi Ray,

    If I were to swim (prolly indoors) with the Kaui headphones, while using my Fenix 3, would they be able to sync automatically afterwards to provide HR to my swim training session?


    • No, as the Fenix3 requires the HR provider to understand how to save/sync the HR file. Now, from my understanding Garmin did implement it according to the ANTfs spec, and they’ve said that others could implement it too.

      Given Kuai has storage, they could technically support offline storage of HR and then sync afterwards. Today I’m not aware of them doing it, but I’m betting they could be nudged to provide it.

    • Brian

      Hi Ray,

      Are you talking about Kaui sending it to the F3, before going to garmin connect or kaui sending their file to garmin connect enhancing the swim file there?

      Is any of the below feasible:
      A) swim file + Kaui file=>F3 => garmin connect (so you see HR directly on F3)
      B) Swim file => F3
      Kaui file=>Kaui app
      Both files merging into Garmin connect (HR in GC but not on F3)
      C) both not possible atm

      A or B would be fine either way, although A looks more polished.


    • I was referring to ‘A’. So effectively the Kuai emulating an HRM-TRI or HRM-SWIM.

  14. Eli

    Why are the headphones for the xmetrics device a 4 wire connector of they only have audio out?

  15. Jaakers

    Has anyone noticed Cosinuss One?
    What should i think of that?

  16. HH


    Would you consider doing a review of the SHFT running sensors?

  17. R Johnson

    I have used both the Garmin strap and just bought a new Wahoo strap riding my bike with the Garmin 500 and 810. Nothing seems to show correct calories burned on either one. I have correctly input all of my information.
    I used the Wahoo on the spinner at my club and tracks very closely with my other HRM (strap)
    The Garmin is not even close – it shows about 1/4 of those of other HRM’s. What gives? The 810 is a great device, but how do I get it to work or should I just give up?

  18. Hello Ray

    Did you talk to the people from Kinematix as well about TUNE?

  19. Manette

    Any chance you’ve seen any good quality underwater (for swimming laps) Bluetooth ear buds, or do you know if FINIS is planning to add Bluetooth connectivity to their bone induction offering?

  20. Aaron

    Bikerumor.com is reporting compatibility with 2012 and later carbon crank arms from SRAM and FSA. Have you received any confirmation of this from Watteam and if so, do you plan to test a carbon crank setup?

    • Unless they tell me otherwise, I plan to test with carbon, because quite frankly I don’t have aluminum.

      It doesn’t surprise me on carbon. It was never a technical issue for them. And in fact, I’m pretty sure if you look at some of my tests previously…they were carbon. 😉

  21. okrunner

    As to the Kuai headphones, if you know,:
    (1) Am I correct in that the ant+ data could be broadcast say to a Garmin watch (Fenix, etc.) for heart rate data that could then be uploaded to Garmin Connect, etc. from the watch, thereby not using the Kuai app at all.
    (2) The headphones can be used stand alone on a treadmill or outside using the internal sensors but have no gps in the unit. In this instance, no mapping. This would be using them without a gps watch or smartphone. Accuracy would be similar to gps watch in treadmill mode.
    (3) The sensor is the same or similar Valencell used in the Jabra Pulse headphones but is transmitted in both ant+ and bluetooth instead of bluetooth only. Your thoughts on the reliability of the sensor based on the Jabra Pulse history (doesn’t seem good based on Amazon reviews, etc.).

    Any response would be appreciated. Thanks.

  22. sclim

    Regarding the Kuai capability of connecting to bike cadence and power sensors and head unit after getting out of the water, is it usual for Triathlon rules to allow earbuds during the bike ride? Or would this generally be prohibited for safety reasons.