Use your smartphone as a heart rate monitor with ANT+

16 February 2011 by
Some of the newly anonunced Sony Ericsson Xperia phones has built in support for ANT+, a industry standard for communication between sensors and monitors

ANT+ facilitates the collection, automatic transfer and tracking of sensor data for monitoring of personal wellness such as heart rate, power meter, step count data, position data, bicycle speed data and much more. A large collection of companies has products and services compatible with the ANT+ standard. To mention a few: Garmin, Adidas, Beurer, Suunto, Epson, Texas Instruments, Timex, Pioneer and now also Sony Ericsson. A couple of the older Sony Ericsson phones also has support for ANT+ and a firmware enabling this was released yesterday. If you are the owner of a Xperia X8, the X10 Mini or X10 Mini Pro you should update the firmware to transform your Android device to a heart rate monitor. You will of course need to buy a sensor for this and luckily there are several to choose from. The new Xperia Arc, Xperia Neo and Xperia Pro are also ANT+ compatible. Six in total. Sony Ericsson is the first mobile phone manufacture delivering smartphones with ANT+.

Xperia X8 with ANT+

ANT+ uses the licensed-free 2.4GHz band just like Bluetooth does, but the power consumption is much lower. You should expect 4 years of battery life on a coin cell when sending a message every 2 seconds, 24 hours a day. Texas Instrument was kind enough to demonstrate this for us using a Bicycle and Xperia X8. It works like advertised. I have a Garmin Edge 705 back home which I use for keeping track of how fast, and how long my bicycle exercises are. The new Sony Ericsson smartphones can now monitor my hear beats and RPM instead of the Edge 705 which I usuall bring along. In reality, I don't think a smartphone will replace my Edge 705 anytime soon. On my trips the tracks out in the woods, I need something robust, water- and shock resistant. The Xperia Arc is not exactly what comes to mind there, but if protected properly with a quality housing I might change my mind.

Sony Ericsson Xperia X8 mounted on a bicycle monitoring the speed and RPM cadence

Endomondo on a Xperia X8

What is the future for Garmin, Suunto and Polar then? Well, these makers of cadence monotors, training- and diving watches will probably sell more accessories such as heart rate monitors. But sales of data collection devices will fall when smartphones can do this just as well. According to sources I spoke to during MWC, Garmin will leave the monitor business but maintain the position in the accesory and software market. This is an important part when using these wellness products. The devices can collect an enormus amount of data, but these are of no use if they not are very well presented back to the user. Below is a image of one of my morning runs with a bicycle on the track nearby my home. In addition to a Garmin PC application, the web site keeps track of my training activity. I can choose to share all my activites with the rest of the world, or just choose it to use it as a private motivator.

Olav on a morning moutain bike run

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jplacson11 years, 9 months ago
Google's My Tracks app will support ANT+ and BT sensors as well. I also hope they add a calorie calculator as well.
HxH11 years, 9 months ago
Thanks for interesting news! I'm looking forward to this one.
But anyway, I'm just wonder if I buy the ArC sometime in the future.
It will use as heart rate detector even any exercise activity for real?
GPS required? Indoor exercise? detection method? (accelerometer?) and how much it accuracy?
Now I use some variety of fitness apps on my iPhone which use accelerometer to detect my activity.
Some work fairly well some not depend on GPS detection even it have A-GPS
jplacson11 years, 9 months ago
HxH, ANT+ detects an external sensor. You can have it on all the time if you want since ANT+ sensors don't use that much power.
Regarding the app, My Tracks is specific for outdoor activities. If you're doing indoor, another app might be more suited to your needs as it tracks position, speed, distance and elevation.
masseur11 years, 9 months ago
This is something I'd like in my iPhone.
I'm currently using a Polar athlete watch and belt and my Iphone with the Nike + GPS app, which is fantastic.
Even the iPhone heart rate monitor which works by putting your finger over the camera works very well too.
But to have a single app with it all would be fantastic
great to see bringing features like this to their devices

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