Connectivity Options Explained

Connectivity Options Explained

There are many different connectivity options when it comes to fitness trackers, and the terminologies can sometimes get confusing. This article will explain some of the different protocols used in activity trackers. Let's go over some of them now.

Bluetooth

Bluetooth is a popular standard among fitness trackers, and most of them come with Bluetooth 4.0. Bluetooth 4.0 is an upgraded, lower power version of the popular Bluetooth protocol that is much more power efficient than its predecessors.

Bluetooth is most commonly found on activity trackers that lack a heart rate monitor, such as the Fitbit Flex or the Polar Loop. Essentially, Bluetooth is a medium of exchange between the fitness tracker and whatever device you have paired with it (typically a phone). Bluetooth is a great way to sync up here your phone with your fitness tracker to record stats in real time,

ANT+

ANT+ as it is known as an offshoot of the ANT wireless protocol that was originally created by Dynastream Innovations, a company that is owned by Garmin. Dynastream Innovations created this wireless protocol with device coexistence in mind, since typical connection options like Bluetooth do not allow for 3 different paired devices to exchange data amongst themselves.

Most commonly you will fine ANT+ on standalone devices such as heart rate monitors, smart scales, or power meters. This allows the device to communicate with both your paired phone and your fitness tracker simultaneously.

ANT+ works by standerizing device profiles. Any manufacturers that creates a device with ANT+ protocol will typically have a set of profiles that they will share among other devices that supports it. this allows any ANT+ adopter to create a heart rate monitor or smart device that can operate interchangeably with other devices. The great thing about ANT+ plus is that it's basically optimized for low power consumption which makes it ideal for fitness trackers and sensors like heart rate monitors.

​To put it another way, heres a quick example from the creators of ANT+:

ANT+ is a set of mutually agreed upon definitions for what the information sent over ANT represents. These definitions are called device profiles and are typically tied to a specific use case. For example, a heart rate monitor will send information about your heart rate which is defined in the ANT+ device profile for a heart rate monitor. These device profiles are shared among all of the ANT+ Adopters, enabling any ANT+ Adopter to create a heart rate monitor or heart rate monitor receiver that will operate interchangeably with one another. When ANT+ is branded on a device it means it has been certified to be interoperable with other ANT+ branded devices.

Because ANT+ is built on top of the proven ultra-low power ANT protocol, the network is optimised for power consumption, cost, latency, robust communication and ease of implementation.

Even when both sides are talking ANT, they still may not understand one another.

ANT+ profiles allow both sides to understand one another.

Wi-Fi

Wireless protocol is found on many devices such as routers and tablets. Typically it comes in two flavors: 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz radio bands.

When it comes to wearables, wireless protocols are typically found in many smart watches. This is mostly for connecting the smart watch to an access point so you can download apps or browse the Internet.

GPS

Global positioning System or GPS for short is the American network of satellites that allows you to figure out your location no matter what part of the planet you're on. GPS is typically found on smart watches and is used for location tracking or sometimes even turn by turn navigation if the device supports it. When it comes to fitness trackers, GPS functionality will allow you to get a much more accurate read of your steps and distance traveled then and accelerometer only device will.

GLONAS

GLONAS is the Russian equivalent of the US-based GPS satellite system. GLONAS has many more satellites (about twice as many) than GPS but its accuracy about the same. Many smart watches are now coming with both GLONAS and GPS support which is mostly for liability reasons. The basic idea is that if one system goes down you can use on the other or vice versa.

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Alex Fischer