This is a special edition of “We Noticed” devoted to what was new at Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas last week.
Suunto released an update to its Spartan Sport line with the Spartan Sport Wrist HR. Most notable with this release is the use of the optical sensor from Valencell, renowned as being the most accurate optical sensor available. Other optical HR watches such as the Garmin Fenix 3 do not in my experience measure up. Slowtwitch covered Valencell (these guys are Slowtwitchers, which is always a bonus). If Suunto’s optical HR proves itself accurate, this could be the answer to those reluctant to buy an optical HR watch for fear of inaccuracy. The Sport Wrist HR version will have all the same features as its Spartan Sport line, and will be available in the Spring of 2017 for $649. Slowtwitch will be testing it in the coming weeks.
This other Finnish electronics maker announced several updates at CES including: GoPro connectivity on the Polar V800 and M600, an updated HR monitor (H10), and Polar Team Pro Shirt. The GoPro connectivity will allow Polar users to have heart rate data overlaid on GoPro videos along with allowing V800 and M600 owners the ability to perform some basic controls (e.g. start, stop) of their GoPro via their watches.
The H10 heart strap, an update to its popular H7, is claimed to more accurately detect RR-intervals; be less susceptible to external interference; with an improved chest strap design featuring silicon friction dots to keep it in place; is waterproof up to 30 meters; and is capable of firmware updates, all using BTLE. The GoPro compatibility updates for the HERO4 and HERO5 are scheduled to begin in January 2017 (V800) and H10 functionality with GoPro commencing before April 2017.
Polar’s release of the heart rate and GPS monitoring apparel was unexpected (by me). Polar’s heart rate technology is built into the fabric along with a pod in the back collar that can measure speed, distance and acceleration. Its target audience is team sports (Polar has a huge presence in team sports) but the ability to monitor heart rate and GPS portends well for the endurance market. The Polar Team Pro Shirt is scheduled for release in March, 2017.
The new Garmin Fenix 5, 5s, and 5x devices are updates from its popular Fenix 3 line. There are maps (Fenix 5x), a slimmer version to appeal to those with smaller wrists (Fenix 5s), and BTLE sensor compatibility. Yes, you read that correctly, Garmin is finally supporting BTLE sensors. Garmin also made hardware improvements, and responded to user requests such as: Strava Live integration, Garmin Varia integration, BSX/Moxy and electronic shifting integration, and claimed improvements to their optical heart rate readings.
Clearly the BTLE support is an effort to increase Garmin’s market base as many consumers have sensors that function in both Ant+ or BTLE and dual support will appeal to athletes who may have peripheral sensors that are BTLE only. It is also nice to see integration with electronic shifting and BSX/Moxy without the need of Connect IQ. The Fenix 5 is scheduled for release at the end of the Q1 (April 1) at a price of $599.
Following a successful Kickstarter campaign this company showcased its LINX Smart cycling helmet at CES. The LINX uses stereo bone conduction speakers to transmit sound so that riders can hear environmental sounds, such as traffic, and still enjoy music. It can transmit music, navigation via 3rd party apps, and also includes a microphone in the helmet to allow users to take phone calls. Is it likely that the audio quality will be as good as earphones? Probably not, But increased safety more than makes up for it. The helmet will also detect a crash and call for help via Coros’ mobile app.
How good is this as a helmet? Don’t know. Is this a technology that can be licensed; is subject to license; is likely to be licensed; to other helmet companies? Don’t know. Coros is currently shipping its helmet for $199.
One of the more interesting releases was the Motiv Ring heart rate, activity, and sleep tracker. Available in either rose gold or slate gray, it is certainly a fashionable and discrete way to wear an activity tracker. Utilizing BTLE and an optical sensor, the device reports up to 5 days of battery life using a lithium ion rechargeable battery, and its light titanium outer frame looks durable. It is available in 7 sizes and will sync via an iOS app. Motiv is reporting a shipping date in the Spring of 2017 (USA only) for $199.
The Oakley Radar Pace combines Oakley’s popular Prizm Road lens sunglasses with Intel’s technology to provide a real-time voice activated system that can collect, track, and analyze your data via 3rd party sensors (e.g. Power, hear rate). Featuring both Ant+ and BTLE compatibility, the Radar Pace works via a hands-free interface and BTLE audio headset allowing athletes to listen to music, and make or receive calls or SMS when paired to a mobile device. When used with the no-charge Radar Pace app (iOS or Android), the device can also provide virtual coaching.
Unlike the Recon Jet's use of a HUD to display real-time metrics, the Radar Pace features Intel’s Real Speech allowing users to ask questions (“Radar, what is my pace?”) and receive real-time feedback. The Radar Pace won a CES Innovation award at this year’s event. The Oakley Radar Pace is available now for $449 and Slowtwitch plans to compare the Radar Pace versus the Recon Jet in the coming months.
Scales are not very exciting, for the most part, but most endurance athletes probably have at least one around the house. Garmin, Polar, Fitbit, and Withings all produce scales with the capacity to output body fat percentage, water weight, lean body mass, etc. ShapeScale scans your body before it weighs you, telling you where you're growing or shrinking. It may make weighing yourself a bit more interesting, or it might be too much information for those already afraid of the scale!