Ok, so it’s been a month since the Garmin Connect IQ Summit. That’s Garmin’s annual conference for 3rd party developers to come to Kansas and drink all the Connect IQ juice about developing on their platform. This would be the 2nd annual iteration of the event, which is roughly formulated after the ANT+ Symposium that’s been going on for 10 years. For those in the IT world, the idea behind the Connect IQ Summit is similar to that of Apple’s WWDC or Microsoft’s Build events, both developer focused on showing the latest application building technologies. It’s also where new developer-specific features are usually announced.
This year had more people than before, and definitely a bit more structure and offerings than last year. I’ll go through some of those new features down below. It’s also worth noting that since the event was held the same week as Sea Otter, Garmin also launched the Edge 520 Plus, Varia RTL-510, and Edge 130 at the start of Day 1 for the Connect IQ Summit. But that was more just a timing coincidence than anything else.
Before we get into all the details, the one headliner tidbit that’s worth noting is there are now 8 million Garmin Connect IQ devices out there, of which there have been 54 million CIQ app download instances, about half of which are watch faces (and the remainder is data fields/apps/widgets). There are currently 4,000 apps in the CIQ app store, from 1,500 developers. Also, there are 54 Skittles in a 2oz bag.
For the second year in a row, I delivered the Day 1 Keynote for the Connect IQ Summit. This keynote is roughly similar to my ANT+ Symposium ones, except focused more on the apps side of things. At least in theory, I usually just end up talking about all sorts of sports tech geekery. It was live streamed via Facebook Live, for those that wanted to watch it all go down live!
It’s always interesting afterwards to hear from different folks in the audience (mostly industry people), on what specific comment/portion resonates with them – or the cause they may be trying to push back at their employer. For example, if they’re trying to convince others within their company to do something specifically, they may leverage something in my presentation.
For my industry-specific presentations, I very specifically structure both the words on the screen and what I say to accelerate these decisions for pro-consumer ideals. Meaning, I’m trying to structure slides and comments into very digestible and easy to re-use tidbits that support the concepts of the consumer being first, data transportability/openness being critical to success for product success, and integration between companies is required for happy customers. You’ll see this theme repeated on almost every single slide in my presentation.
For those that want to download the slides, they’re located here. Oh, and a photo of me onstage taken by Jake Martin. And for lack of anywhere else to stash it, I paid for all my own travel/hotel/etc to the event, as I’ve done in the past.
New Connect IQ 3.0 Features:
Now, since this is a developer conference, it’s developer focused in terms of features. It’s not as though you’re going to see tons of new consumer-focused features. Of course, in reality, these developer features are really about opening the doors for consumer features that either Garmin themselves or 3rd parties take advantage of. And in some cases, the line might be a bit blurry as to whether something is really for 3rd parties or developers, especially when you talk theoretically 3rd party apps that Garmin is actually developing on the 3rd parties’ behalf (as is common in many tech industries).
All of these items are part of Connect IQ 3.0 – which applies only to a certain subset of devices. As is the case in the past, you can generally look at clues here to see what’s coming in new and unannounced devices down the road. Said differently: Garmin doesn’t bother to develop a public API/subsystem for a single model. They want it to be applicable to craptons of new models. Timing-wise, here’s what you’re looking at (if you’re a consumer, all you care about is June):
– Music Becomes An ‘App’ Category: Previously you had ‘apps’, ‘data fields’, ‘watch faces’, and ‘widgets’. Thus, this is the 5th category. This should have been relatively obvious when the FR645 Music was released in how the music provider ‘platform’ was designed. Note that this app category talks exclusively over WiFi. And of course, Captain Obvious would point out that only one current device from Garmin has music on it – the FR645M.
– 3rd Party App Music storage will increase to 500MB (for streaming platforms basically): Of course, I argued that it’s stupid to even have a 500MB limit to begin with, the devices have GB’s anyway. I don’t think this concern fell on deaf ears, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see this tweaks further. Oh, and lacking somewhere else to put it, Deezer is/was still slated for late May/Early June.
– Apps now have access to maps: This will allow a 3rd party app to utilize the onboard maps of a device. For example drawing atop the route, adding in waypoints, or other interfaces atop them. Captain Obvious is also here too, to remind you that Garmin currently only has one wearable model capable of maps – the Fenix 5X (and the derivative of it, the Descent MK1).
– New actionable Garmin Push Notification Service: This is fairly dev focused, but the idea here is that apps can (if allowed) have notifications that bypass a phone notification center. For example, you could technically give kudos to friends on Strava from your wrist when a new activity upload notification occurs, without having to open the Strava app. Garmin will be rolling this out slowly at first, so it won’t be totally widespread on Day 1.
– Crypto for apps is coming: This was born out of the streaming platforms wanting the music storage bits to be encrypted, but it’ll also likely start becoming more important as other 3rd party apps look to secure data stored on the wrist. Especially so as we look down the road to the inevitable medical classifications of some devices/components as various brands have talked about in this space.
– HRV Data is now accessible to apps: Technically it’s beat to beat intervals, but still, this starts to open up some interesting 3rd party app integrations driven by HRV/RR data.
– App Trials Coming Up: This will allow a 3rd party to ‘unlock’ their app via an external platform. The idea here is effectively allowing apps to be unlocked based on subscription to a service. Putting it another way, getting payment for apps without Garmin having to step into the messy payment arena. Now, the astute of you know this already occurs today, just less gracefully. For example, Xert’s Trainer app isn’t useful without an Xert subscription. Same goes for TrainingPeaks or Strava. The idea behind App Trials is to give those developers more control to unlock features within the app based on a token. Note this too will be rolled out slowly and with approvals, as Garmin doesn’t want consumers getting redirected to a bunch of PayPal pages for every watch face. Also, good news: This will be supported back to Connect IQ 2.0 devices.
– Dedicated Connect IQ App Store App: Currently you ‘get’ apps via the Garmin Connect Mobile app. Down the road you’ll start using a separate app to do that (on both iOS & Android). There are some nuanced differences between those two platforms, primarily around the unlock bit I just mentioned due to Apple restrictions. As part of this new dedicated app coming in June, the ‘Face-It’ (which allows you to stick pictures of your cat as your watch face), gets rolled into the general Connect IQ App Store App. I’m not entirely sure I like this approach of having a separate app, but it sounded like things were starting to just get too cumbersome within the Garmin Connect Mobile app in terms of functionality.
– Bike radar is now supported in Connect IQ: Many people don’t realize that the bike radar device is actually a standard ANT+ device profile type (meaning Wahoo could add support for it). But with this bullet point, apps can now start leveraging data from it too. So an app could potentially start to track the number of vehicles overtaking riders (including how many were at dangerous speeds), and plot that against heatmaps of where a rider goes. Pretty fascinating stuff here.
Phew. Also, for the super geeky among you Garmin made some changes to Menu2, Byte Arrays, and Symbol Checking. All of which are detailed in the SDK you’ve probably already read if you care about this stuff.
Oh, as for devices that get Connect IQ 3.0 support – that’s below:
Descent Mk 1
Edge 520 Plus
Edge Explore 820
fēnix 5 family
Forerunner 645 family
Oregon 700 family
Rino 700 family
Obviously, not all features above apply to all those units (for example, no music on anything except the FR645 Music), and in some cases, updates apply to older watches. Also remember that Garmin typically announces these CIQ versions well before they have a majority of devices that support them. A rolling-forward sort of approach. Said differently, if you’ve got a Fenix 3 – you were already two generations ago from a CIQ version. Here’s a handy chart that shows V1/V2, but doesn’t yet have V3 on it.
In many ways, the Connect IQ Summit follows in the footsteps of the ANT+ Symposium. Of course, that’s no surprise, Garmin plays a large part in both, and the success of the ANT+ Symposium each year (past 10 years now) makes it obvious to replicate. With the ANT+ Symposium in Fall, and this in Spring, it makes a bit of a perfect yin/yang thing.
I suspect that the value of the Connect IQ Symposium falls into essentially two camps for most attendees:
A) To learn about actual Garmin Connect IQ developer stuffs (technical sessions, etc…)
B) To have business development meetings and make connections
I further suspect that for most people, it’s ‘Part B’ above that’s actually most valuable about the summit – just as it is for the ANT+ Symposium. And that’s largely the case for me too.
I briefly stopped in a few different technical sessions, but for the most part I was chatting with folks as part of impromptu side meetings with various non-Garmin entities, almost none of which were scheduled (the day before the Summit I spent in Garmin-specific meetings…and eating BBQ).
A few general things in bulleted fashion:
– The variety of attendees is fascinating: There’s everything from folks making watch faces as largely a hobby, to the biggest companies in the world there. In total, there was about 130 non-Garmin attendees at the event, plus Garmin folks too.
– The companies are just as varied: Some of the attendees are ‘expected’, for example, having Yelp or REI given their recent app announcements. Or FitPay, which runs Garmin’s payment processing system (Vivoactive 3/FR645M). Same goes for Training Peaks, SufferFest, Xert, Quarq/SRAM, and many others – all of which are major players in the endurance sports realm, and most of which have Connect IQ apps already.
– A number of companies are there, sans-apps: In some cases companies will send folks to the event merely as a bit of recon. They’re looking at sorting out whether or not Connect IQ would make sense as a platform to develop apps for their products. For example, Spotify was there. I had a really good and fairly long discussion with Spotify about music and wearables and how it all fits in. Hopefully something comes of that…
– Garmin now has a dedicated music industry relationship manager. Previously they didn’t, and now they do. Not really a surprise, but does show you where Garmin’s focus is on going forward.
– There were also just non-company developers: While businesses were far and away the most populous attendees, there were also a handful of local/semi-local folks who showed up and were watch face or similar developers. More hobbyist developers of sorts than a formal company. It was awesome chatting with those in this camp, and I think they also provide a more raw level of pain-point feedback to Garmin too, since they tend to have less official channels to funnel issues into than a larger entity like Strava would.
– I had lots of meetings: Not only with various companies that were there, but of course Garmin. Some were about existing products, some then upcoming products (like at the time, the inReach Mini), and some just general state of the state type stuff. That’s where I’m able to funnel overall feedback from y’all, to them. This included program managers for all of their fitness/outdoor product lines, as well as their CEO. I had some incredibly frank (and long) meetings with them, especially around the state of Vector 3 and at the time the Edge 520 Plus. They probably thought I killed their kitten.
– I went for a run: Though, not the group run at 6AM. Unfortunately the morning of the group run I was slammed at that hour putting final touches on a multitude of review posts going out at that very minute. Still, the day before I did a loop. You can find my very rectangular run below:
In general I think Garmin’s got the right idea and formula for this. There was some discussion on whether or not it made sense to have the event in Kansas, versus some other city such as Chicago, San Diego, or otherwise. Obviously, for almost everyone Olathe, Kansas is less convenient than really anywhere else. But I think the value of being at Garmin HQ is being able to pull in various Garmin employees on topics and have them there to not just present…but also listen. Listening to feedback from their developer community is key, even if the topic isn’t specifically developer focused. Sometimes it’s feature or overall device focused too.
One of the things I quickly learned in my 12 years working at Microsoft was that often times larger corporate product groups didn’t want to listen to employee feedback on a given topic change, even when it was a near direct relay from what a customer was saying. However, once you brought that customer/partner/etc face to face to Redmond, then the product team had an immediate real-life connection with understanding the challenge at hand. And as such was far more likely to fix the issue than what an e-mail could do.
The same was true here as well. Thus, I’m looking forward to next year’s event for the same reasons. Also, the BBQ is really good in Kansas. Just sayin’.
Thanks for reading!
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