Garmin acquires Firstbeat
Garmin has just announced it has acquired Firstbeat, the provider of most of the physiological analytics that Garmin currently uses.
Firstbeat will remain operating in Finland, at least for now, and no doubt this acquisition will only further enhance Garmin’s access to the sports science that underlies many of Firstbeat’s innovations and which Garmin will continue to integrate into many of their sports watches and bike computers.
This is an interesting move on many levels but let’s start off by standing back in awe and looking at the following list of all of the ‘metrics’/features that Firstbeat creates and supplies. There are now so many that I had to shrink the list to an almost unreadable level even to get them into 3 images.
And the great thing with Firstbeat is that they have got to this stage in a matter of only a few years. I can remember not too long ago using Firstbeat’s ATHLETE software, mostly because it was the only product on the market at the time that leveraged HRV data to the level that I could understand it, they continued to introduce more metrics for Garmin and other companies and it all snowballed from there. Coincidental fun fact: only last week I deleted my last remaining Firstbeat Athlete database…it was GOOD for pre-2015.
Of course, where it’s snowballed TO, is refined technologies that are now used by a lot of sports tech companies, although I would assume that the VAST majority of Firstbeat’s Consumer revenues come from licencing to Garmin. Firstbeat also sells ‘team’ solutions which are not dissimilar, in principle, to one of Polar’s ‘side’ operations. A good fit if ever there was one – although I’m seeing in the press release, below, that Garmin only acquired the ANALYTICS part of the Firstbeat business.
I saw this acquisition happening a couple of years ago when Garmin started to use more and more of Firstbeat’s output and I wondered again very recently why Polar had never tried to emulate Firstbeat’s licencing model. Perhaps now Polar might consider a modified way forward? If they don’t then one of the much smaller companies that already do this kind of thing could well grow to replace a gap that might appear in the market for supplying non-Garmin companies. Which brings us on to…
Perhaps it makes sense for Garmin to have a degree of ownership and control over one of the key ‘ingredients’ in its products? A: Yes, unarguably
Or perhaps Garmin noticed that ever more companies began to see ‘Firstbeat Inside‘ as a badge of honour or a badge of some form of ‘guarantor of physiological accuracy‘. You have to now seriously doubt whether Garmin will allow the future licencing of ANY of Firstbeat’s leading-edge algorithms for new sports computers. If I were Garmin…I wouldn’t, except to follow the letter of the law. Although, like Garmin, I would say that I was going to continue to do business ‘as-is’ with existing contracts – just as Garmin has in today’s announcement.
Some commercial options for Garmin include:
- Garmin just honours existing licencing agreements and signs no new ones
That may present anti-trust issues, so:
- In the future Garmin only licence older metrics like VO2max
- In the future Garmin hike up the prices and/or MOQs of the more tasty features like adaptive training
- In the future perhaps also introducing expensive ‘Pro’ versions of existing features eg Vanilla-VO2max and Pro-VO2max (adjusted for heat and altitude) would be a way to price the competition out of the ‘quality end’ of the market.
- It’s likely Garmin will further incorporate Firstbeat metrics into the (improving) mess that is the Garmin Connect platform, mainly because there will no longer be any licencing limitations to hinder that.
- It’s likely we will see a period of consolidation to refine existing metrics that, politely, don’t always reflect reality.
What won’t happen
- Just because the algo’s are now ‘free’ for Garmin to use does NOT mean they blindly retrofit them to older models. They want you to buy the next-gen device. That’s their job.
- There will be no subscription paywall for app-side access to the metrics. The effective paywall is the watch or bike computer you buy.
Note: Firstbeat’s website has ALREADY CHANGED and no longer lists any of Garmin’s competitors who licence Firstbeat tech, plus it’s now rebranded as firstbeatanalytics.com. Try here (waybackengine) for the old site that lists competing manufacturers
A Forced Hand?
I do NOT think this is what has happened but it’s a line of thought:
Historically, Garmin presumably got an exceptionally good price for the tech they licenced from Firstbeat just because they licenced so much of it for so many devices. Perhaps the price was so good that Firstbeat just weren’t making that much overall profit even when the low margin/high volume Garmin revenues were added to the higher-margin business they got from Suunto, Huami, Samsung, Sony, Casio, Jabra, Huawei, Withings and Mont Blanc?
Perhaps Firstbeat saw economic storm clouds gathering and decided to quickly bow to the financial inevitability of Garmin ownership and a slice of Garmin’s cash stockpile? A: Maybe. There must be a reason as it certainly wasn’t competitive pressures that Firstbeat were worried about.
It’s possible that the EU could somehow delay this acquisition on anti-trust grounds. Ultimately it’ll go through as there are bigger fish to fry.
Huh? Where did that come from?
I see the STRAVA-Garmin relationship as HIGHLY comparable to the FIRSTBEAT relationship; although STRAVA’s continuing woes are more public than ANY of Firstbeat’s financials. It’s comparable in the sense that the service provided is widely known, popular and (kinda) widely loved, it’s also comparable because of the dependency of STRAVA on Garmin for users and probably-low margin revenue. Another similarity is that Garmin moved away from its own physiological measures, for example, the RACE PREDICTOR was recently changed from Garmin’s version to Firstbeat’s version, and similarly, Garmin tried their own version of segments but ultimately bowed to the more popular STRAVA segments.
Hey Mr Apple/Google … now is the time to buy STRAVA because Garmin won’t…yet.
Press Release Text:
SCHAFFHAUSEN, Switzerland–(BUSINESS WIRE)– Garmin Ltd. (NASDAQ:GRMN), today announced it has acquired Firstbeat Analytics Oy, a privately-held provider of physiological analytics and metrics for consumer devices in the health, wellness, fitness and performance markets. Firstbeat Analytics is the consumer licensing business formerly a part of Firstbeat Technologies. Firstbeat Technologies will continue operating its Wellness and Professional Sports businesses.
As one of the most prominent physiological analytics companies in the world, Firstbeat Analytics has been transforming heartbeat data from consumer devices into meaningful information and advice to enhance performance and wellbeing for nearly two decades. Using a combination of sensor data, including heart rate variability (HRV), Firstbeat Analytics blends physiological science with mathematics to provide the most advanced analytics and metrics in the areas of stress, sleep, VO2 max, training status/load, training effect, respiration rate, calories burned and much more. This data allows users to make better, more informed decisions about training and recovery.
“Having utilized Firstbeat’s innovative analytics across our product lines for more than a decade, we are excited to have the Firstbeat Analytics associates join the Garmin team, establishing us at the forefront of physiological analytics,” said Cliff Pemble, Garmin president and CEO. “Together with their team of physiologists, scientists and engineers, we look forward to providing Garmin customers with unmatched technology for greater performance, recovery and overall health.”
“Millions of Garmin customers depend on Firstbeat Analytics data from their smartwatch or cycling computer every day,” said Aki Pulkkinen, co-founder of Firstbeat. “We have enjoyed a strong collaboration with Garmin over the years, and we look forward to continuing to work together to bring the most advanced and accurate health and performance data to our customers.”
Firstbeat Analytics is headquartered in Jyvaskyla, Finland, and will remain operating in this facility. Financial terms of the acquisition will not be released. For more information, visit firstbeatanalytics.com.