As a self-confessed gadget geek and data whore, it’s really exciting to see the technology that’s starting to become available, and at moderately reasonable price-points to boot (ie. power-meters, heart-rate monitors, iPhone apps, etc.).
When a friend of mine forwarded me this Wired article highlighting some neat cycling-specific applications for Apple’s iPhone and it got me thinking about where sporting gadgets are headed and, after further reflection, I concluded that we’re still just scratching the surface of what can be done with our devices.
Some of the iPhone apps mentioned in the Wired article touted routine bicycling needs like speed, distance travelled, and brake lighting, but some went a little deeper – like calculating gear ratios based on crank lengths, wheel sizes and cog/sproket sizes. Definitely some interesting thinking happening here.
Despite some nifty functionality, none of these applications are going to revolutionize cycling as we know it just yet, but they do open the door to combat one of my most hated gadget by-products… Gadget clutter.
The by-product of which is my elusive search for the uncluttered handlebar…
Let’s look at some of the gadgets that any given cyclist may have on them during a typical ride:
- Power meter
- Cell phone
- Heart rate monitor
Now, I appreciate that there are currently gadgets out there that combine many of these things (the or Polar CS600X come to mind), but their interfaces/screens are limited at best and really, there’s one universal piece of technology most people carry with them all the time – their cell phone.
Now join me for a moment while I speculate…
Wouldn’t it be great if you could simply purchase the peripherals (ie. heart rate transmitter, power meter hub, and magnets for the speedometer/cadence, etc.) then have everything transmit wirelessly to your iPhone/Blackberry?
Your phone already syncs with your computer, there’s already a standardized platform for development, there’s a built in GPS, and rather than dumping all that money into building a clunky piece of hardware to display/record the data, that money could be spent on developing a really user-friendly, elegant interface for the iPhone. All you would need to do is buy “add ons” for whatever need you have and a plug-in receiver for your phone.
There’s been similar developments for the iPhone in the medical field, where diabetics can plug a special sensor into the bottom of the iPhone which will measure their blood sugar levels, record them to the application and even submit them to their doctor on a monthly basis.
Imagine the same thing applying to cycling… You simply pop your iPhone onto the front of your bike (perhaps a little scarier for mountain bikers), you’re able to view any data you wish (heart rate, speed, cadence, watts, etc.) so long as you have the related peripheral. The iPhone itself records all the data and you’re able to not only sync it to your computer, but review it and past workouts right on your phone, compare your progress throughout an individual session, or the entire season – all in the field.
Further to that, by applying the “Nike+” principle you could challenge/compete against friends (or strangers) with the same app… The beauty of it is that after a brief amount of time with the system it could even develop “handicaps” to make the competition more interesting – and the more data you have the more accurate the handicap. Heck, bring it online and you wouldn’t even have to be with your friends to make it happen.
Now, all this said, I don’t think we’ll start seeing things like this immediately – at least until mobile devices as application platforms get some significant buy-in from sporting companies (ie. Garmin, Nike, Polar, etc.).
Until then… I’ll just keep dreaming ;-)
If you’re curious, here are some interesting cycling apps for the iPhone:
- (Hideous, but neat)