Garmin joins with LIFEQ – what about TomTom?

TomTom Runner 2/Spark - SensorsThe clever little optical sensor in TomTom’s highly successful Runner2/SPARK was developed by South African company LIFEQ – seen here on the right.

Whilst we have all figured out by now that optical HR on the wrist has its limitations, TomTom’s implementation was good.

Indeed, LIFEQ’s measurement solution is validated (here).

All well and good. Presumably TomTom take the LIFEQ sensor further and integrate it into a Multisport2 Cardio watch as a replacement to the original Multisport Cardio? This would make sense as there is a gap in that part of the market and such a move would build on people’s love for the SPARK/Runner2.

Except the proverbial spanner has been thrown in the works (maybe).

Read to the end this could be a BIG move for Garmin. I WILL get to the point, eventually.

Garmin have just signed a deal with LIFEQ to deliver a ‘connected health solution’ press release <here>.

Does that mean an end to TomTom+LIFEQ?

Of course it could but all would depend on the contracts they have in place.

There’s a couple of points here though.

Firstly LIFEQ will no doubt be aware of Garmin’s tie-up with MIO Global to produce ‘Garmin’s’ first optical sensor in the short-lived Forerunner 225. We assume Garmin used that experience to quickly get a product to market to keep up with the optical-enabled competition. Garmin’s ELEVATE technology was not, at the time, sufficiently robust to make it to market. Of course then the MIO+225 technology was ditched on the 235 and all other subsequent Garmin optical HR models as soon as Garmin were able to use their own ELEVATE technology.

Let’s hope for LIFEQ’s sake that a longer relationship is planned this time around. The link-up is announced in the press release as a PREFERRED partnership – sounds good but ‘preferred’ is not ‘mandated’.

Secondly if we actually read the press release rather than aimlessly speculating (less fun) then the tie-up appears to be for MORE than just optical HR. The HEALTH AND LIFE INSURANCE markets are being targetted (does health include fitness/sport?). We will also notice the phrase “range of physiological measures”.

So this is MUCH MORE than just optical HR.

Presumably we are talking non-invasive medical-grade sensors. That’s a hard market to break into. Good luck to Garmin.

In fact what I think this is, is the first move in on the territory occupied by BSX Insight and MOXY Monitor. These guys use NIRS technology to, simplistically, shine light into the body and infer from the reflected light’s composition what concentrations of various chemical molecules exist in the body. So BSX and MOXY look at levels of oxygen but why not fat composition, iron, water/hydration or many, many other aspects of health and fitness that you and I have not even thought about. But it’s going to be about MORE than that as there is NOT a mass market for people wanting to know about their SMO2 levels, as useful as that data might be, it’s going to be about inferences and actionable insights from such measurements on health and sporting well-being. Maybe.

This site gives a slightly different, and probably more correct view than my bias towards sports  🙂

Summary: Potentially very interesting move whichever you look at it.



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