WELLINGBOROUGH, UKThe use of wireless monitors and sensors to enhance physical activity is a trend that is sweeping the fitness and sports-equipment industry as well as the general public. Wireless technologies, such as 5-kHz, ANT, Bluetooth, Bluetooth low energy, GPS, ZigBee, NFC, and Wi-Fi low energy, each could be the front-runner for devices like consumer heart-rate monitors, speed and distance or cadence sensors, and foot pods. However, the playing fields aren't necessarily even, as noted by Filomena Berardi, Market Research Analyst from IMS Research, in the report, "Wireless in Sports and Fitness Equipment."

GPS has created a niche in many outdoor sport devices. It can be used for tracking speed and distance in addition to being used as a compass. Furthermore, GPS can be used in conjunction with Bluetooth, Bluetooth low energy, or ANT to stream data back to host devices. The main obstacle for GPS is that it is power hungry regarding certain sensors.

Consumers also can purchase ANT-enabled devices. For a long time, ANT was the key wireless technology in sports and fitness devices. Since the conception of Bluetooth low energy, the industry has questioned whether ANT will still lead the field. Backers of its rival contend that standards always win. Yet there are talks of incorporating ANT in multichip protocols to overcome this issue. From an IC supplier's perspective, the question is whether the benefits of adding ANT outweigh the cost of a combination development. The odds seem stacked up against it.

Despite these uncertainties, some facts are clear. For example, 5-kHz technology will run out of steam. Although this technology has been used in gyms for many years, gym-equipment suppliers are looking for an option to overcome crosstalk, poor range, and poor pairing. Other wireless candidates, such as ZigBee and low-power Wi-Fi, also are considered to be out of the running. Meanwhile, one option is threatening mass short-range wireless adoption: the smartphone. If there are smartphone-independent applications for sports and fitness, the public will have little incentive to buy special devices. For more information on the report, contact Filomena Berardi at Filomena.berardi@imsresearch.com.