I’ve been getting very excited with myself recently. I had pretty much convinced myself into believing that an ANT+ Running With Power Standard would be announced at 1:03pm on Friday 15th March 2019.
Then I took a step back and thought I’d better check my facts. That’s always a time-consuming annoyance when it comes to writing stuff quickly without interfering with the ‘other job’.
Running with power is becoming increasingly popular and yet is still only used by a minuscule fraction of the total number of global runners. That’s either the sign of massive potential, zero interest…or something in between.
STRYD have mostly invented the market by themselves and offer compatibility on Polar, Garmin and Suunto platforms. Although apps that support STRYD now exist on WatchOS (Apple) and Samsung Gear. STRYD have their own smartphone app too. My educated guess is that the Garmin platform for STRYD’s market is by far the most important and that STRYD have been left to develop their own functionality through Garmin’s CIQ apps and data fields.
RunScribe Plus is an external pod-based solution that does similar running power stuff to STRYD but goes deeper into running gait metrics. Both STRYD and RunScribe Plus’s versions of ‘running power’ are also natively supported by Polar and Suunto. Subsequent developments in the market brought us:
- Garmin developed their own Running Power algorithm for high-end devices. This requires a chest strap/RD-Pod and delivers a nice app (or two) to implement the display of the resulting power metrics.
- Polar have developed their own algorithms for the Vantage V that require no external sensors at all.
This all sounds very nice but, in reality, it’s a bit of a mess when you dig deeper.
Polar and Suunto need to implement Running Power Zones, alerts, running power plans and other running with power-related functionality ALL BY THEMSELVES ie they can’t leave such developments to a 3rd party like STRYD to implement it via an APP as the Spartan/Vantage platforms have no app infrastructure. To some degree, however, that work has been already been done but it is still work-in-progress.
On the other hand, Garmin has made very little effort to provide any infrastructure that directly supports the aforesaid power zones, power plans and power alerts. Perhaps the reasoning is that the CIQ infrastructure lets developers do that themselves? Fair enough. Partly. But those of us with Garmin watches and STRYD know that it would be MUCH easier if Running Power were treated in exactly the same way as cycling power. Yet why would Garmin spend their shareholders’ money to make that easier for us?
There are rumours of a Garmin Running Pod coming to market in 2019. I think that is reasonably likely to be true (the Spanish word for potentiometer is the same as used by Garmin for the Vector – see link).
If you combine that rumour with the limitations of CIQ for running with power then it just seems to make sense that Garmin would be keen, at some point, to properly integrate running with power into any future out-of-the-box infrastructure of theirs.
The most sensible way for this to happen is for the ANT+ Working Group (WG) for Running Power to agree a ‘standard’. The ANT+ WG is ostensibly independent of Garmin but my understanding is that Garmin would be likely to implement whatever an ANT+ WG recommends.
Present Reality in Garminland
Unfortunately AN@STRYD says, “The effort to create a standard is dormant right now” and TC@RunScribe has not made any contact since November 2017.
As DCR poetically put it to me today, “the ANT+ WG for Running Power is pretty much on vacation”
Separate info (2018 ANT+ symposium): dcrainmaker.com
My personal view has been somewhat blinkered by ‘me the athlete’ and what I need from it to use running power. I just want to use it as if it were bike power. In terms of the physics and equations, that I don’t really care too much about, I appreciate that we are dealing with a different beast to the cycling scenario of DFPMs and that Polar Power, STRYD Power, Garmin Power and RunScribe Power are all going to produce different numbers. I can work with that. A coach might find it hard to work with that across multiple athletes, but I can work with it for me.
Here’s where I think we are
- Measurement & Calculation – No agreement, although there are commonalities shared between different players.
- Transmission, Display – No agreement other than the basic ANT+ mechanism
- Recording & Analysis Formats – Most (all?) end-user analysis platform now handle the vagaries of each different source of running power data via the FIT2 standard.
My working assumption was that it should be straightforward to get agreement on the second point, especially if there is going to be a new piece of Garmin hardware. Once that happened, the third point (external analysis platforms) would quickly adjust and fall into place by actions from those various players.
However, my aforementioned blinkers would not let me see that STRYD and Garmin probably can’t agree on the calculations especially if there any elements of commercial confidentiality involved. Yet even though that lack of agreement makes sense to me, I still would have hoped that it would NOT have stood in the way of the rest happening.
DCR: Ultimately for running power to succeed it needs two things: Agreeance on accuracy, and agreeance on a common way to transmit and record the data so that all apps, devices, and platforms can utilize it. Otherwise, we’ll end up with silos of information that neither coaches or athletes can compare year over year and athlete to athlete.
I’d buy that.
DCR and I do seem to differ on the importance of running power. My take is that Running Power is, and will be, a bigger ‘thing’ than commonly perceived. I suspect, but don’t know, that Garmin and other running watchmakers have similar feelings to me. Even having said that, I think Running Power is currently at somewhat of a crossroads, it really seems to be much more widely known about than a year ago and used a fair amount more than a year ago. But can STRYD, Polar and Suunto keep the growth curves pointing ever-upwards or does the market really need the step change and validation that a properly integrated Garmin Running Pod might provide?
Alternate Garmin-Platform Future
AN@STRYD says, “We believe that the level of innovation and rate of innovation enabled by Connect IQ will allow us to deliver awesome customer experiences“. Thus, it looks like STRYD are happy with the current Status Quo.
Garmin’s current Running Power data fields are actually pretty nice. But they are only nice if you compare them to STRYD’s nearly equally nice data fields – STRYD also has CIQ Apps and a better overall offering. They are NOT nice if you compare them to a properly implemented and native running power metric IMHO.
I just can’t see how Garmin can release a Running Pod that will only utilise something similar to their existing Running Power apps. Perhaps Garmin will go it alone in some way, shape or form with a proprietary/private mechanism? But even if they do, and I think they will, I would then imagine that STRYD and RunScribe fall in line soon after. That is, if the Garmin solution is open for them to access….which it may well not be.