iPhone 4S, the First Phone to get Bluetooth v4.0

Yesterday’s iPhone 4S unveiling has most of the mobile phone blogosphere reflecting general disappointment today. 15 months after the iPhone 4 debuted and an overflow of rumors and speculation, it’s clear that nearly everybody was expecting a new design. What’s strange is how consistent the rumored specs were across several well known blogs and financial analysts. Perhaps an iPhone 5 prototype exists with manufacturing or patent issues holding it from retail, we just don’t know.

Personally, I’ve been holding off a new phone purchase for a particular desired feature: Bluetooth v4.0, including Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Upon reading the official iPhone 4S spec sheet, Bluetooth v4.0 finally gets its smartphone debut; A feature that as of this writing, no other smartphone on the market has.

To be fair and practical, the Bluetooth v4.0 spec of iPhone 4S doesn’t have much of a use at the moment. That will soon change thanks to the most anticipated v4.0 feature, BLE, for its power and cost saving advantages. Furthermore, Bluetooth SIG (Special Interest Group) says that the v4.0 spec will be in several model phones by the end of 2011, and a spec of most phones by the end of 2012.

If we had a bunch of BLE sensor appliances waiting to be used, then I’d overlook the modest upgrades and immediately jump on the iPhone 4S. But of course, most of the BLE appliances are in development “holding patterns”, waiting for their all-important host devices. I want to be prepared for the oncoming flood of these BLE appliances by having a Bluetooth v4.0 host device, however at this point in time I see no need to jump on the first phone offering the spec unless that phone WOW’s me. The iPhone 4S doesn’t do that, unfortunately.

Nevertheless, Apple stated at yesterday’s iPhone 4S announcement that the iPhone 4 sales represents more than half of all iPhones ever sold. I don’t have immediate numbers but I know the total iPhones in circulation surpasses 100 million. The point here being: The iPhone 4S should continue to sell extremely well and ultimately arm millions of new smartphone owners with Bluetooth v4.0 possibilities.

What I hope to find out soon is how the iPhone 4S’s new BT specs support legacy devices. If you’re new to this, before this latest iPhone Apple blocked specific profiles of existing Bluetooth generations. Blocks which kept users from being able to use popular mHealth BT appliances, such as heart rate monitors, blood pressure cuffs, weight scales, etc. The only clues I have to go on at this point from my sources say that legacy BT support will be in place throughout the transition from previous generations to BT v4.0.

That said, all iPhone generations are capable of supporting currently available mHealth BT sensor appliances but have that functionality switched off within the iOS firmware. Why? I have no idea. But I’m hoping the new v4.0 BT specs of the iPhone 4S change Apple’s serial Bluetooth connectivity policies.

Sports Tracker Coming to Real Phones Soon!

The guys who inspired this blog made a quiet announcement last week about the future of Sports Tracker; She’s coming to Android and iPhone! Yes, perhaps the first app of its kind to be called Sports Tracker will finally make its way into the Android Marketplace and App Store “sometime” this Spring. “Sometime”, because these guys have a solid reputation for teasing and delays. However, this announcement is excellent news and I’m thrilled for what they could bring to the competition.

There was a time when it was called Nokia Sports Tracker Beta and its core dev team was affectionately known as the Sports Tracker Dudes. Ah, the memories! None finer for me than winning the grand prize in the n79 Active Edition Draw a Heart contest. But the Sports Tracker Dudes split from Nokia early last year, forming their own company in Sports Tracking Technologies OY in Finland. Shortly after that, the Nokia Beta Labs Sports Tracker project was archived, and with it so were my hopes for a better Nokia. I realized that this one little app was the only thing keeping me from switching mobile brands for the past year running. Yet with exciting things happening in Android and iPhone, especially on the sports technology arena, the seemingly then-dormant Sports Tracker dev team gave me no reason to remain brand-loyal to Nokia. Silly as it sounds now, I went shopping for a non-Nokia mobile when I saw evidence that the Sports Tracker Dudes had iPhones and Androids, themselves. (clues via Twitter and Facebook update clients) That was a full year ago, folks. Since then we’ve seen Sports Tracker come back to life and Nokia run itself aground. Now that Nokia are abandoning Symbian for Windows, it makes sense to the future of Sports Tracker that this new platform(s) announcement be made.

Is it too late? Well certainly not. But I think the Sports Tracker Dudes missed out on cashing in big for their pioneering efforts. I’ve been tracking the sports app startups and a few have received fairly large investment sums recently, most notably Endomondo’s $800K. Still, the Sports Tracker Dudes have several thousands of loyal users in the Symbian world and many more who moved on to iPhones and Androids that I’m sure will give them a go again once on their respective platforms.

In their brief announcement they said, “The apps come packed with all the great tracking features you guys love, plus some exciting additional features enabled by the new platforms”. Additional features enabled by the new platforms? Technically speaking there is only one feature I can think of that is additional to today’s Sports Tracker on Symbian and that’s ANT+. iPhone has it via plugin accessories and Android is beginning to see it in some Sony Ericsson models. Aside from ANT+, there’s really nothing new the platforms bring to talk about besides better user interfaces and experiences. Yes, I’m biting my tongue here but I cannot think of what the Sports Tracker Dudes would call “exciting additional features” based on the technical understanding I have of the current platforms. If anything, the new platforms present a few challenges:

  • The iPhone, for example, wont be able to use the Polar WearLink+ BT HRM that was originally designed for use with (then-Nokia’s) Sports Tracker. For one reason or another, Apple have decided to block the types of BT connections that today’s Polar WearLink+ uses. Which brings me back to ANT+ speculation.
  • On the other hand, besides a minor ANT+ debut, not every Android model has a stellar Bluetooth and/or GPS antenna track record.

It seems logical to guess that Zephyr’s HxM and BioHarness will not be made compatible with new Sports Tracker Android app. Remember, the Polar WearLink+ BT HRM was originally made exclusive for Nokia’s Sports Tracker and I’ve always thought of it as their honeypot. I welcome any corrections here but I thought the Sports Tracker Dudes got a portion from every sale of the Polar WearLink+ BT hrm. Regardless, if they have an interest in Polar then Zephyr is clearly out of the picture for Sports Tracker Android. Too bad, Zephyr make much more useful BT monitors, hands-down.

The elephant in the room for me is the name, Sports Tracker. Sure, many of us know who began using it first. But it’s not about that. SportsTrackLive.com’s Sports Tracker has been around since 2008 and Endomondo’s Sports Tracker has been around since 2007-2008. Legally speaking, I don’t know if any of these guys have a trademark going on Sports Tracker but I think the former-Nokia Sports Tracker might have a tough time keeping the name across platforms.

What I hope to see from Sports Tracker: There’s plenty of room for improvement when you look through the current sports tracker apps. That said, the now-Symbian Sports Tracker will have to pick up its development pace to match that of the current standouts. Updates from the top apps are frequent and strong. Several devs are giving great attention to making their apps compete with the traditional monitors from Polar, Garmin, Suunto, and the like. Features like intervals and training plans are gaining appreciation, while maximizing the advantages a mobile computer provides. Connectivity being a major point, the ideal sports app would bring in multiple types of data from a variety of sensors.

Good luck to the original Sports Tracker team and congratulations for continuing their pursuits of better health for everybody!

What is E39 by Under Armour?

Well, actually I know the answer but if you’re interested in new wireless sensors for sport science then you’ll want to pay attention to the ongoing coverage of the NFL Combine.

Here’s an excerpt via NFL.com on the E39:
New to NFL Network’s Combine coverage this year is the UA E39, an Under Armour compression shirt fitted with electronic sensors that track the body’s natural motion and biometric signals, which are then sent to a tiny device on the front of the shirt. This device tracks and keeps all of the athlete’s critical data, including breathing rate, heart rate, horse power and G force generated. The UA E39 will give NFL general managers, coaches and scouts an unprecedented look at the athletes during their evaluations.

What I can tell you is that the E39 is a collaborative project between Under Armour and Zephyr Technology. Under Armour is supplying specially engineered compression shirts that accommodate wireless sensors provided by Zephyr Technology. Each one of these scientific setups will be worn by prospective NFL recruits as they go through the arduous testing of the NFL Combine. You’ll be able to see that data Live.

The details of the E39’s capabilities will sound familiar to you if you’ve read my Zephyr BioHarness review, where I demonstrated it capturing and remotely displaying variables such as heart rate, breath rate, skin temperature, ECG and activity levels. However, this is a brand new product from Zephyr, based on the technology found in the BioHarness and better suited for athletic applications. The details of this new device will be announced very soon.

Pretty exciting stuff to be able to see the correlating physiological data of each athlete as they go through the most famous physical fitness tests on the planet.

Edit: Some folks have emailed me about the pricing of the E39. Well, Under Armour is planning a retail version for 2012 with no clues now as to its price. There are currently 150 E39 units being used for this initial research phase, used in the NFL Combine and other sports technology projects. The concept is a solid one with years of research contributed by Zephyr’s FDA approved BioHarness used by US special forces, US pro sport teams, Chilean miner rescue effort and numerous academic studies. (case studies available at Zephyr’s web site) The E39 concept compression shirt from Under Armour uses Zephyr’s next generation BioHarness sensor module which will be made separately available very soon. Until that availability is officially announced, all I can say is that we can expect a competitive price below that of the current BioHarness2 ($710). Please read my BioHarness review for all its capabilities.

Mobile World Congress 2011 Wrap-Up: Molt Excepcional!

Well, after four days on a stationary bike at MWC 2011 for a total of 36,5 hours riden and an estimated 17.000 kcal burned, I’m back. I was able to squeeze in a couple runs, too. Hey, I couldn’t waste those gorgeous 16C (61F), snow-free roads of Barcelona! In fact, my flight home took me from a mild 16C in Barcelona to a frigid -25C (-13F) in Stockholm via a 3,5 hour flight to the north. Back to reality.

Mobile World Congress 2011 was a huge success from my perspective. The entire event I was surrounded with some of the most important and influential companies and individuals in mHealth today. Most notably were they who made up my partnering team from Qualcomm Health and Zephyr Technology. My role was simple: Demonstrate the “remote physiological monitoring” capabilities of Zephyr’s BioHarness for up to 10 hours a day while engaging in what would be hundreds of fascinating discussions about the future of mobile technology in healthcare.

Having used numerous mobile wellness solutions since 2006, involved with the testing and proving of familiar and failed alpha/beta projects across multiple OS platforms, I can say I have a lot to share when it comes to pushing innovation and the future of mHealth. What began as a way to consolidate my gadgets and fitness logs by taking advantage of the powerful computing and networking potentials within a smartphone, has now become an full-fledged launch toward a brand new career in the burgeoning world of mHealth. I’m a mobile tech geek and fitness freak of the highest order; This is my space.

I had a prime opportunity at this year’s MWC to better comprehend mHealth’s bigger picture and forward vision. Sure, my sports tracking tools are more dynamic and robust than ever. New wireless health sensors are coming from several sources, facilitating data collection that is not merely more complete and convenient than ever before, but more economical and far-reaching as well. The same technology pioneered in my mobile wellness apps is now bringing organized medical records and diagnosis to those who’ve never previously had access. Connecting doctors and patients without object to space and time. From disease control to pre-natal care, mHealth’s impact in medicine is revolutionary and… this is only the beginning.

My Qualcomm Health neighboring partners within the MWC Embedded Mobile House (EMH) provided me with an abundance of mental fuel to keep my physical stamina a non-issue while on the bike. The time virtually flew by as we proudly compared our individual solutions, sparking conversations from a never-ending queue of visitors through the EMH. I spoke at length with every kind of entrepreneur, from doctors to national ambassadors. From easy to conceive concepts to the most extraordinary ones. All the while I was kept company and mentored by Qualcomm Health’s brilliant executive team. Speaking of them, I extend special thanks to Don Jones, Clint McCellan, Grant Kroeger, Vicki Smith, Elaine Winans and Jamie Eisinger for their priceless support and experience of this year’s MWC. Of course, I wouldn’t have been there in the first place if not for Asher Gendelman, VP of Marketing at Zephyr Technology. If you ever have the privilege one day to work with any of these visionaries, you will be impressed.

All of my fellow Qualcomm Health partner exhibitors gave me something valuable at MWC, but none more than the encouraging words of a fiercely spirited CEO of Great Connection Inc.’s, Åsa Nordgren. Check out http://www.greatconnection.se/ for her touching mHealth innovation.

Where do I go from here? For RunningDigital.com, it’s still about mobiles and fitness with plenty to write about and products to review. I haven’t yet been able to intercept the interviews I gave to the likes of Bloomberg TV, BBC and CNN. When I do, I’ll surely post them here. Until then, here’s an EMH tour with a brief spot with me on my demo bike.

Setting up at Mobile World Congress 2011, Win a Zephyr BioHarness!

Immediately after I picked up my access badge, I walked through the barely finished labyrinths that make up the hopes and dreams of some, and the no-expenses-spared standard-operating-procedure of the big guys. This event is only four days long, but the elaborate “booths” looked like permanent installments. Plaster and paint is fresh everywhere. Electricians busy trying to extend even further past the one-point-twenty-one-jiggawats needed, and that’s just for France’s showcase.

I’m in an special exhibit outside the eight halls of the mobile spectrum that is MWC2011, called “The Embedded Mobile House”. I just received my mission, too: Demonstrate the mHealth solutions of Zephyr’s BioHarness, namely remote vitals monitoring, by riding a stationary bike from 9-5 every day of MWC. Barcelona’s tap water is very unpalatable, so I’m going to need some big ol’ jugs of water and pray my padded shorts hold up. :-)

I may not be able to write much until this congress is over as I have events to attend every night here on out. But I plan to attempt Tweeting about my demo, my Qualcomm partner neighbors and those of you visiting me at the Embedded Mobile House in MWC’s main Courtyard.

Please follow me on Twitter @RunningDigital, but especially follow @ZephyrAnywhere and @Qualcomm_Health for more details and instructions as we will be giving away the BioHarnesses I’m so excited about. No, not the sweat-soaked one I’m using, brand new ones. Again, follow all of us in this paragraph for the important details and your chance to win some remarkably innovative mHealth tech, which is all wrapped up in BioHarness.

Root for me to last all four days on the bike and good luck winning your own BioHarness!

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