My 2018 State of Sports Technology Keynote Video

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It’s that time of year again – my annual state of sports technology presentation at the ANT Wireless Symposium.  This year marks the 8th year that I’ve given such a presentation at the event, which includes the vast majority of sports technology companies (even one surprising new one this year I’d never have expected to make the long journey to Banff).

As always, this annual event caps off the busy sports tech conference season (following Interbike & Eurobike).  But unlike those two events, this isn’t a trade show.  Rather, it’s a conference for companies that are largely in the sports technology realm to discuss products and standards.  And, it’s hardly limited to ANT+ these days.  There was plenty of discussion around Bluetooth Smart, and even presentations on picking which protocol makes the most sense for a given project/product.  Heck, ANT Wireless themselves even now makes a chipset (G.FIT) that’s focused on dual-protocol scenarios across the indoor fitness industry for trainers, treadmills, and the like.

Ultimately, just as much conversation is focused on the end-state product as the protocols used.  This year the focus shifted a bit towards the majority of the sessions being outlines of solutions that companies have implemented, both within the fitness industry and outside of it. For example, while companies like The SufferFest, Garmin, and more presented on fitness focused items, there were also presentations on using ANT in agriculture and energy companies.

But more important than all of those are the discussions that happen outside the conference floor rooms.  They’re the discussions occurring on nearby trails running, riding, or hiking (or, given the icy/snowy weather – more at the bar this year).  It’s these discussions that truly influence product direction, whether it be two companies discussing a partnership – or myself trying to convince a given company to implement your ideas.

In fact, that’s really the secret agenda of the symposium for me year after year.  It’s effectively my hunting grounds to be able to convince companies to change products or platforms based on what I hear in thousands of comments each week from you. In fact, I generally don’t create content directly from the Symposium event. It’s more of a behind the scenes thing for me.

In any case, my annual presentation covers the past year in sports technology (wearables/cycling/running/action cams/drones/etc…).  I talk about what’s working and what’s not. I give usually very specific examples of both (sometimes to the dismay of those in attendance). But that’s the way I’ve always done it, so why change a good thing? Anyway, go forth and enjoy!

Additionally, if you’d like to download this year’s keynote presentation (PDF), you can do so below (it’s sorta big).  Further, I’ve also linked to the 2010-2018 presentation files and to the 2011-2018 video clips.  Basically, you can now binge-watch my sessions (whatever floats your boat!).

DC Rainmaker 2018 ANT+ Symposium PDF (Watch here)
DC Rainmaker 2017 ANT+ Symposium PDF (Watch here)
DC Rainmaker 2016 ANT+ Symposium PDF (Watch here)
DC Rainmaker 2015 ANT+ Symposium PDF (Watch here)
DC Rainmaker 2014 ANT+ Symposium PDF (Watch here)
DC Rainmaker 2013 ANT+ Symposium PDF (Watch here)
DC Rainmaker 2012 ANT+ Symposium PDF (Watch here)
DC Rainmaker 2011 ANT+ Symposium PDF (Watch here)
DC Rainmaker 2010 ANT+ Symposium PDF

Boom!

While I don’t plan a secondary post on the ANT+ Symposium from a tech standpoint, here’s three tidbits that are worthwhile noting for those that are curious:

Aero Sensors: Tons of talk on aerodynamics devices this year, including the Aero Technical Working Group, which is nearing a device profile. There were a number of major aero device companies present, as well as head unit makers, virtually all of which seemed to have made good progress on a path forward. It sounds like this path is pretty well solidified. As I cautioned back in July, if you’re an aero device maker and you’re not engaged in the TWG, your solution from a consumer standpoint will quickly become second-rate. The major head unit companies and training log platforms will be supporting the aero profile, and if you’re off dancing by yourself…good luck with that.

Cycling Dynamics: This is super close. I talked about it last year, and it sounds like things are in the home stretch of finalization. This should work out as well as we expected with the major head unit companies supporting the updated profile, and likely Favero being the first company to roll it out soon.

G.FIT: While this isn’t new per se to this conference, it is getting more attention. Kinetic is using it within their new Kinetic R1 trainer for example.  Their website I just linked to isn’t terribly awesome at explaining what it is (hopefully they’ll publish the video from the session this year, which is very good at explaining it).  But essentially it’s a module that goes into trainers and treadmills and allows a bunch of dual-protocol scenarios, including re-broadcasting natively of sensor data from devices into various channels. It’s designed as a dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart scenario for both ANT+ FE-C and FTMS. That said, NPE’s GEM product (recently acquired from Wahoo), dominates this space today. Will be interesting to see how things go, especially in relation to the R1.

With that – thanks for reading and if there’s other areas/questions you’re curious about – feel free to drop questions below, and happy to answer them as best as possible.

Initial Note: You can go back and see all my past ANT+ Symposium posts from all the years, here with one handy link!  Yes, even including when I ran into a moose on a run. Don’t worry, I’ve got a fun recap of the last few days of activities I’ll be posting shortly.

Secondary note: I have ANT+/Dynastream donate my speaker fee to charity each year.  This year that went to the Newfoundland Easter Seals organization.

Third note: That’s it, have a great weekend all!

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25 Comments

  1. hdb

    Glad to see the progress on Cycling Dynamics, especially with reference to Favero. Given the recent inclusion of Pioneer’s metrics on Wahoo, I’ve been hoping to be able to better leverage the same information from my pedals.

  2. msterling

    I learned a heck of a lot from your presentation. You did a great job speaking for the consumers, thank you!

  3. ReHMN

    Good insight, Ray!

    I would be curious how companies will cooperate to solve Running Power issues, when they are competitors and currently they are unable to utilize users feedback…

    If integrating Spotify into devices was a milestone, then this is a road to hell…
    What you said about new product releases (hack/crap) applies to device functionalities as well. Applied bike profiles in 910XT is a good example. Why can’t we have it in 920XT or Edge520?

    Weather is not a reason to skip a training…

    Medical devices should be integrated in IFTTT, because it opens a gateway to other great/life saving features/options.
    In this field Garmin is very much behind competitors…

  4. Geoffrey

    Hey DC…..great keynote speech and I got a lot of information on the future of the industry. Keep up the great work.

  5. Michael A Coyne

    Good stuff! Glad they finally gave you enough time!

    I slightly disagree with you on Garmin Pay infrastructure-wise being ready – at least as far as the East Coast of the US goes. I’ve moved around several times in the past few years and at this point every store everywhere I’ve gone supports NFC payments, and the Garmin list of supported banks also supports every bank I’ve ever seen around here.

    However I still completely agree about the feature not needing to be dial-tone yet (and actually think people will realize music isn’t that important either) for one big reason – no cellular.

    Until they have the trifecta of music, payments, AND cellular, I have to bring my phone. And if I HAVE to bring my phone for ANY of those 3, there’s no reason my watch needs any of them at all as my phone has all 3 covered.

    I realize Apple has that trifecta, but unless I’m mistaken or my thoughts are outdated (still waiting on your Apple Series 4 review), there are some key features of Garmins that as a Half-Ironman looking to go Full-Ironman I still would miss with the Apple watch.

    I think the biggest one that even 3rd party apps couldn’t make up would be if the Apple watch can’t connect to other fitness sensors (can it?) Also need the GPS battery life to last me a whole Ironman.

    Otherwise watch + phone is still the required minimum when out training for me right now. Would love to ditch the phone, but I see little point to paying for a few phone features that are cool when they aren’t yet enough to ditch the phone.

    I still view the real watch race there being between Apple closing the fitness feature gap and Garmin and the like closing the “ditch your phone” gap. And while I think people who already have Garmin features don’t want to give them up, I see a lot of pretty serious athletes in my local clubs getting an Apple watch as their first smart/fitness watch (because it’s more well-known mainstream wise), and not wanting to move to a Garmin and lose the Apple features even though they’re getting podium places in Half-Ironmans.

    Thanks again for your coverage and thoughts!

  6. fisao

    Thank you Ray for sharing this with us, loved the video, as usual very insightful and informational.

  7. Stuart T

    Thanks for sharing the slideware. Most insightful. I’m baffled by the music use cases and how they drive usage and purchase.

    Out and about running, cycling or elk trekking with headphones and no audio environmental cues / engagement? I can’t understand that one little bit.

    I’m very clearly in the minority. Cheers again Ray for the write up and info.

  8. ReHMn

    …another view captured from the net…

  9. Giles E

    Thanks for posting all the old ones…… The most interesting thing for me, is the gaps in 2010 and still basically gaps in 2018 despite all the other stuff, these are still pretty open.

  10. Flo K

    Excellent speech, congratulations.

    Very good insights and thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Duncan

    Thanks, really valuable insights. But you are missi9ng out on a really exiting area for spots technology: Suspension setup for mountain bikes like the ShockWiz and Sussmybike. I have been using one of these and transformed my ride. The bike is more stable and planted but still subtle on the rough stuff. I would recommend it to every mountain biker and in my opinion it’s a far better tool than a power meter, especially for the more gravity focused disciplines. Keep up the good work.

  12. Greg

    Any news on if more gps devices (like the lezyne mega xl and mega c) will support fe-c to control indoor trainers? Thanks

    • No, and to be honest I suspect we’ll actually see head units probably skip implementing it going forward. The general feeling I’ve heard from companies is that while head unit adoption of FE-C was important a few years ago to solidly the standard (especially by Garmin), very few people actually use it these days in the world of trainer apps so widely supporting it and the interface generally being better.

    • Greg

      Thanks for replying Ray. Your insights are second to none, you are the best.

  13. vk7s

    everything is good with ant+ except one. As I see this is very unfriendly thing. I’d like to go another watch system, but with ant+ I have to stay with garmin. I think Garmin understand this. And Suunto understand that ant+ is important option but can’t add this. What do you think about any chances of suunto with ant+?

    • From a watch standpoint, it’s really on the individual companies. Suunto used to be part of ANT+, and for whatever reason they decided against including it going forwards a few years back. I suspect we’ll see some ‘new’ companies come into the ANT+ fold in the nearish/medium term.

      Realistically, all these companies use the Nordic chipsets that support dual ANT+/BLE. It’s simply a matter of unlocking the license key to do so (it has three modes, BLE-only, ANT+ only, and dual ANT+/BLE).

    • Nate

      Ant+ is soooo much better than Bluetooth because it allows you to pair one fitness device to multiple recording devices at the same time! You can pair your power meter and speed/cadence sensors up to a head unit on the bike as well as a watch for backup purposes. (Until a future Bluetooth version allows multi-device pairing…)

      I would generally say that any company not doing Ant+ is not targeting the true fitness market, which wants to pair multiple devices for lots of data…

  14. I like the call out for how Stanford screwed up their study. Are there any good studies that got published? Or was everything you saw bad?

  15. Giles E

    Hey Ray,
    This morning I was thinking about wireless charging, which the Stryd plunged me intoafter being a long time disbeliever, but they’ve started to open my mind. With so many devices, all with proprietary sockets for charging, Garmins/Suntos/HR straps etc all needing a separate cable, why do you think the sports-tech world is hiding from QI charging so much? Surely it’d make things so much easier with multiple devices? Out of interest, how much space does the internals for QI in a device take up, could that be an issue? I couldn’t find anything.

    Where do you see the wireless charging for sports-tech topic?

    • Wireless charging is tough for wearables. I love the idea, but implementation is tricky.

      Take Stryd for example. Less than 10 centimeters to the right of my laptop right now is an Ikea wireless charger that I installed into my makeshift desk. It’s awesome. Except, it’s finicky with Stryd. Sometimes it charges for hours and then doesn’t result in any meaningful battery power.

      About 30cm to my left right now is a cool new Hyper wireless charging dock thingy. It too is awesome, one of my favorites. Except Stryd doesn’t charge on it at all.

      In the box down to my right of random crap is yet another charging pad, a cheap one for $10 on Amazon. Does Stryd like it? Nope.

      Now – this is definitely not to pick on Stryd. In fact, that neglects my point. Last February while travelling I was chatting with Stryd about this challenge, as I had brought that cheap $10 wireless charging mat instead of the Stryd one. Turns out, the coils are too far apart for Stryd. And that’s really true of everything I have, except the default Stryd one. Since those pads are mostly designed for phones, the coils want to be more spread out, to allow more flexible placement. But if you’ve only got a few coils and Stryd is tiny, it makes it tough to charge.

      Other wearables will be the same for the most part.

      Looking at Apple’s much delayed wireless charging station, it’s rumored to have upwards of 15 coils in it. Which is also why it’s rumored to be so darn delayed, making that work power-wise has been challenging it sounds like.

      Now, does this mean I don’t want wireless charging? Nope, not at all – I’d love to see it on a Garmin or what-not. It just means I’m realistic that it’s a long ways away still from being across the board functional. 🙁

    • Paul S.

      Sounds like the solution might be simple, then. Simply put some indication on the pad of where the coils are, so you can use them as targets for small devices.

      What would bother me would be how to recover from disaster. If the connection is completely wireless with no external ports and your watch gets bricked (as has just happened with the Apple Watch and WatchOS 5.1), how do you recover? Seems to me that recovery with a device like a Garmin which plugs into a computer and shows up as a disk would be easier. How do you recover a bricked Apple Watch? Even for mundane tasks, I’ve often grabbed FIT files (or GPX or TCX earlier) from my Garmin’s when something didn’t work right. What do you do when everything is wireless and something goes wrong?

    • Yeah, things get messy there. But in some ways that goes back to improving software quality to the point where those incidents are so incredibly rare – ala Apple Watch, which uses wireless charging today.

    • Giles

      Thanks for the response Ray. Do you see guys like Garmin trying in the lab and failing to make it reliable or are they just passively waiting for the technology to mature?

      Scosche is interesting, they sell iPhone wireless chargers, which makes me think they really could be in the position to do that with the R24…but didn’t.

    • I suspect they’re probably looking at it for specific use cases, but I’d doubt they’re actively working on it across the board.

      As for Scosche, I’d guess that given the size is basically the same as a wearable, it’d suffer the same issues.

      It kinda goes back to Stryd. While as a geek I think it’s cool they did wireless charging, I’d love to know what the BOM looked like compared to doing what RunScribe did. Perhaps Qi was cheaper, but I doubt it.