ANT+ wireless is an increasingly common way of connecting exercise trackers – or even exercise machines like treadmills – and you don’t need a dedicated exercise computer like the miCoach to use ANT+ sensors. With an ANT+ adapter like the $80 Wahoo Fisica Key (a small dongle that fits into the dock connector of an iPhone 3, 3GS or 4) you can use just about any ANT+ tracker with a range of free and pay-for tracking and exercise apps.
Wahoo also makes a waterproof iPhone case with ANT+ built in for use on cycles and sells compatible cycle computers, stride sensors and heart rate chest monitors. Other manufacturers have heart rate sensing watches and scales, and blood pressure, blood glucose and temperature sensors are coming soon. Although there are fitness gadgets that give you similar measurements while you’re exercising, ANT+ sensors let you capture the data and analyze it later.
We tried the Fisica Key out with the stride sensor, which fits in between the laces on a trainer or walking sandal (and was rather harder to fit than the equivalent Adidas sensor, although both stayed securely in place for several weeks) and the WahooFitness iPhone app, which collects the data from both of them.
The app finds sensors automatically, but to save power they’re not active until you’re actually walking around. We found that walking across the room was enough to wake the stride sensor and the app paired with it very quickly and then gave us a countdown on screen to starting the workout. After walking, jogging or doing anything else that gets you out and moving, the app shows you a map of your route.
ANT+ sensors and adapters like the Fisica Key are ways of building up your own suite of monitoring tools; to make the most of them you’ll want to pick an app that brings the tracking data together in a way that makes sense. Many of the apps link to Web communities where you can compare routes with friends – or compete with them. Pick ANT+ if you’re a self-starter, willing to put some effort into finding a community that helps you along – and you’re primarily jogging, running or cycling.
[Editor's Note: As of 7/22/11 the Fisica Key's name was formally changed to the Wahoo Key.]