Sports Devices: Another Area of Convergence

Last weekend I rediscovered Nokia’s Sports Tracker software, which I’d installed on my N95 months ago. Nokia has now launched a Web site to accompany the application. Users can upload their running or walking activities to the site and then view their route on a map. They can also see a range of statistical results, such as top speed, average speed and total distance run. For me, the best part of the site is that users can share their route with other people, and in real time. This means you can monitor the progress of runners while they’re on the move.

When I mentioned the service to some friends, they realised Sports Tracker would be the ideal tool to track a mate who’s running in the London marathon. The application and Web site will allow them to place themselves at strategic locations (OK, pubs) along the route while they support their friend.

Nokia has already produced a few sport-themed phones. In May 2006, it unveiled the 5500, featuring a pedometer and music player. The phone also comes in a rugged, splash-proof casing. In the same month, Apple and Nike launched running shoes that transmitted data to an iPod attachment, allowing runners to track and manage their performance through coaching software.

This week, Samsung will release the F110 sports phone, one of the results of its miCoach partnership with Adidas. Like the package from Apple and Nike, the F110 comes with a separate sensor for running shoes, which measures speed and length of stride. It has another sensor that measures heart rate. Similar to the combination offered by Apple and Nike, the phone gives spoken coaching instructions that change according to a runner’s performance, as measured by heart rate and strides.

Although Apple and Nike laid the foundations for converged sports devices, Samsung and Nokia are taking the idea further. I wouldn’t be surprised if Nokia announced a relationship with a sports brand or a company that made heart-rate monitors. It seems a likely development of its range of sports phones, especially as Samsung is moving into this market.