What heart rate monitor works with Precor, Nike and Suunto systems?
August 3, 2010 8:16 PM   Subscribe

Are there differences between heart rate monitors (is there a "universal" protocol they all use?)? I want to buy a heart-rate monitor but I see three difference places that I want it to be compatible: with the Nike+ system, with the treadmills and other ("Polar-compatible") cardio equipment at the gym, and with the Suunto technology that Crunch gym uses for its "Red-line" rides.

I'm having a very hard time finding out if heart rate monitors use a universal protocol so they can be shared... but I'm after something that will work with:

1. Cardio equipment at the gym, which is all labeled "Polar compatible." Polar seems to be the dominant player in the HR monitor market and I think the most basic.

2. The Nike+ system (supported natively by later-generation iPhones and iPods, with great integration with the whole Nike+ web site).

3. And for the wildcard, my gym has a thing called "Red-Line Rides" where you are in spin class and you wear a Suunto-brand heart rate monitor and your rate is projected on a screen in front of the room. It's really cool (check out that link!); I love that idea and want to get a monitor that's compatible with their system. But I don't want to buy one that ONLY works with their system. They have these things called "PODs" and I am pretty sure those are the actual monitors that attach to a belt around your chest. And it says they're "compatible with most cardio equipment."

To further confuse things, I found this recent article (June 2010). Be sure to read the first comment on that article... it definitely generates more questions than it answers (is that Nike+ monitor going to work with all Precor equipment, too, or just Nike+? Does the fact that it's brand new [and possibly not even shipping yet] mean that it's the first one that works with both? what is a "subset" of Polar computers that it works with?).

Bottom line, a decent HR monitor looks like it's going to be somewhere between $50 and $100 and I'd rather get something that will address all my needs (as outlined above) than a device that only works as one single solution. You'd think this would be clearer from all these web sites-- after all, I'm trying to spend money here :-) --but the answers I'm after just aren't spelled out.

Thanks for any light you can shed on this situation.
posted by pnoeric to Health & Fitness (5 answers total)
There is a common protocol called ANT+, but it's not universal. If the gadget in question doesn't say ANT+, it probably doesn't support it.
posted by adamrice at 9:21 PM on August 3, 2010

Response by poster: @adamrice - thanks - I found this ANT+ interface for the iPod/iPhone. Not sure what it works with. http://digifit.me/
posted by pnoeric at 10:36 AM on August 5, 2010

Response by poster: Further info -- it appears the ANT+ protocol is not what Nike+ or Polar use, since the Digitfit connect dongle says "Not compatible with proprietary sensors such as Polar (any), Nike+ iPod sensor (foot pod) or Nike+ heart rate monitor." Sigh.
posted by pnoeric at 10:38 AM on August 5, 2010

Response by poster: Oops, found one more bit of data that I thought would be useful to post here. Suunto sells a "dual heart rate belt" that appears to use two different technologies to transmit the data:

"ANT: 65,500+ frequency provide interference-free digital radio transmission between the heart rate monitor and your Suunto training watch."

"Coded Analog: 29 codes and open transmission allows data transmission with cardio gym equipment. The Dual Belt works with most major gym equipment brands, included Precor."

FWIW I also emailed Precor and Digifit and invited them to leave a comment on this thread... it seems absurd that I'm having to work so hard to track down straight answers about all this stuff :-)
posted by pnoeric at 10:47 AM on August 5, 2010

There's a more interesting ANT+ dongle for the iPhone now: Fisica. What's interesting about it is that they've opened up hardware access to other app developers.
posted by adamrice at 9:09 AM on December 1, 2010

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