This article is inspired from today’s meeting downtown Oslo with the Retail Manager of a large sporting goods chain in Norway. During our meeting we started to talk about Polar and how good they are in their heart rate monitor marketing. But why are they not into the new wave of GPS devices for training?
The Finnish company Polar is the world leader in heart rate monitor devices for sports. They have focus in their business model and done and still does a great job in technology development and marketing of their fitness monitors and sensors. I’ve been to several large international sport events and everywhere there is a strong Polar presence. They have also a strong presence in online stores, sporting good stores. Polar is a large sponsor of key athletes and athlete organizations.
Well, they are simply the best in what they are doing!
Both Timex and Garmin have realised that it’s a great asset for athletes to compare speed and distance with heart rate on maps. Polar has partly solved this by introducing a Fotpood Running Sensor and a data link to Nokias 5140 cell phone with GPS capabilities. A good idea, but it's a limited offering compared to what you can do with a full-blooded training GPS.
Polars success has resulted in a large user group world-wide. Instead of embracing the new possibilities with GPS technology has Polar used energy to explain why they do not believe in GPS. Why? I have no problem agreeing with the arguments against GPS in the Polar S625X monitor FAQ, but it miss some crucial decision-making points:
- The Footpod has also it’s flaws (need to be calibrated and calibration is difficult when a run alters between street and hilly forest path running)
- GPS enables you to view and replay your activity on maps and that’s not only visual useful in analyzis but also great fun.
- When I ski, the Footpood will not work since it relies on footstep input, should I then be happy with a heart rate monitor? I guess not, so what can you offer me?
Following the argument in the Polar FAQ explaining why Polar do not believe in GPS technology they also appear about 2-3 years old. Today you can get new types of GPS chipsets from special GPS chipset vendors like SiRF that combines smaller size with lower battery consumption and stronger GPS signal reception. This is why GPS leader Garmin decided to drop their own GPS chipsets and introduce SiRF chipsets in their new training devices for running and cycling.
Sportsim is one of the few software’s that can combine Polar heart rate files with GPS devices, and we did this because it’s a market request for it. But it will not be a very important function when dedicated Polar users are influenced by the new GPS possibilities. How will Polar resell to all of them? And how will they secure their new-sales rate? Now, that’s a big challenge without adapting GPS technology, and I would say it’s impossible.
The introduction of GPS technology in sports is a disruptive change in the way active people will monitor their performance. This change will also result in a larger amount of fitness monitors users, because they get more out of the data and it’s a great fitness motivator. This is a great opportunity for the market leader in fitness monitor devices, but they need to get around - soon.
Ok, that’s all for now, take care.