Here are some thoughts around the recently FCC-registered POLAR OH1 optical armband. Other information has been circulating the internet at these and other sources: Federal Communiations Commission (FCC), gpsrumors, montre cardio, bikerumor gadfit.
Polar have decided to re-use the high-end, 6-LED sensor found in the M430 and M600, as shown above. But they are integrating it into a waterproof, upper-arm worn band. There will be cross-overs with Polar H10 functionality such as workout caching and it will likely be firmware-upgradeable via Polar’s BEAT app.
It will probably be highly accurate because of both the sensing location AND Polar’s already excellent, well-tested and accurate 6-LED unit. That’s no guarantee of accuracy just a good likelihood if Polar get the finer details of the implementation right.
Battery life is rumoured to be 12 hours and it will be rechargeable in a similar manner to the Polar M200 (picture, above) ie in a cable-free charging cradle that just simply plugs into you computer’s USB port or, equally, into a USB wall socket.
Is this a new MIO Link or a new Scosche RHYTHM+? Well, yes and no. Both the MIO and Scosche are ANT+ and BLE (Bluetooth SMART) whereas the Polar will be BLE-only. The MIO can only really be worn on the wrist whereas the Scosche is designed for the upper arm but can also be worn in other places successfully. I would imagine that the Polar could be worn successfully in many places like the Scosche. The MIO is mostly fairly accurate and the Scosche is accurate. BUT neither of them cache data and therefore cannot be used in the water.
With Garmin NOT SUPPORTING OHR AT ALL IN SWIMMING Polar have a slight edge here.
But people wanting oHR whilst swimming must be a relatively small market in itself. So let’s cast the net wider and look at a few sports/examples:
- Team sports EXAMPLE: when you play soccer you shouldn’t wear jewellery ie a watch – it’s dangerous. Polar already have a TEAM solution based on the H10. The OH1 could just give another wear-location option to people who don’t like those pesky HR straps. Team sports usually require CACHING, the OH1 has it but this may NOT be the intended market.
- Pure swimming: Yes we’ve alluded to that already. The other benefit of the upper arm location is that the speed of the water in that area is probably not so great as to flip the sensor when moving or when pushing off. That latter assertion will need validating but most swim chest straps need to be worn tight to avoid flipping when pushing off hard eg HRM-TRI, Suunto SMARTBELT and Polar H10. And the HRM-SWIM I just find uncomfortable. this is less of an issue for those who wear costumes/tri-suits of some sort as the chest strap is covered.
- Open Water Swimming – I would imagine wearing an upper arm strap under a wetsuit will be tricky. My wetsuit is TIGHT. And I’m not quite sure what would happen when removing the wetsuit quickly eg T1 in a triathlon race.
- Runners – yes why not? Just like the Scosche.
- Cycling – The upper arm will be a good location. Wrist-based oHR suffers lots of motion artefact issues and I’ve found that, for example, the new Garmin Fenix 5 range struggles to get continuously good HR readings in that location. But this will be no different to the Scosche.
- Weights – again a similar argument to cycling against wrist-based sensors. the Polar should be good here.
- GYM CLASSES – this will be a key market. The caching will be important in case the smart phone or other device in the bag at the side of the room gets connected. Scosche can’t do that. Many gym classes also have exercises that involve rigorous wrist movement, again favouring the Polar’s upper arm position.
- Triathlon and 2018’s replacement for the V800 – don’t get excited here. Yes the product would work with the V800 replacement but I would be surprised if the V800 replacement did not have inbuilt optical HR. If the replacement V800 does NOT have oHR then I think Polar have made a mistake as the earlier OWS scenario does not probably lend itself to an upper-arm worn oHRM.
- 24×7 HR tracking – yes, why not. Much more viable than a chest strap.
- Sleep, Recovery & HRV – maybe. Probably not. Possibly sleeping HRV? and then that could open up a whole area of recovery stats for more serious athletes. Sleeping optical HRV is much easier to achieve than sporting optical HRV – products exist in the former realm but not the latter.
I see swimming and team sports as relatively small markets, I could be wrong. So the OH1 is very much an accompanying caching device for Polar’s BEAT app. That’s a large potential market. Does that market NEED super accuracy? Probably not. But we all seem to want and prefer at least the illusion of accuracy.
Of course there will be lots of people who use it for other things as we have just discussed but I don’t think they will be the main target markets.
CAVEATS: If you read the above link for TEAM SPORTS (also here), you will see that GPS capability possibly COULD be enabled later in the OH1 if the hardware is viable for that. If you also read through the H10’s capabilities then you will see it DOES have an accelerometer, albeit currently not enabled. So IF the OH1 also has either an accelerometer, GPS capability or some other sensor(s) then the target markets could be different again.
Happy Days!! I Iike heart rate monitors for some strange reason that I’m not quite sure of myself.