As part of work, I regularly deal with new technologies to assist sporting performance. Over the years I have tried many different methods of measuring running speed/distance, from a unit around my waist that worked like a speed camera to see how fast I was moving in relation to surrounding objects right through to current technologies (by the way, the waist mounted speed sensor wasn't great, especially around passing traffic). However it is the technology that I am going to mention today that makes me most excited as not only does it offer the most accurate means so far, but it is a rather ingenious use of technology packaged into a small and well priced unit.
As I have stated previously in this blog, I am not a big fan of GPS for running. The foot pod offers a cheaper, smaller and less energy hungry method of measuring speed to the same accuracy as GPS. For example, my 9 gram Suunto foot pod is generally 1% off when doing 1km repeats.
However, I also acknowledge that many runners believe that GPS is the superior method and it offers the obvious benefit of mapping. It is this popularity that has resulted in Suunto developing it's new Ambit heart rate monitor (or training computer when you see all the functions it has). Personally, I don't see inbuilt GPS as being overly exciting but what I am really excited about in the new Ambit is that the inbuilt GPS is combined with an inbuild accelerometer. One of the major issues with GPS is their accuracy in a watch as small as they are and the arm is continually moving meaning the GPS is far from ideal. Additionally the smaller the GPS, the less the signal strength and thus the greater drop outs. By intergrating the accelerometer, the watch can then smooth out these errors as it knows the arm movements and is far more sensitive to rapid speed change. All sounds good, right? But now comes the really exciting bit.....
When the GPS signal is poor, the accelerometer can take over and provide speed measurements on it's own. So the accelerometer in the watch is not only correcting the GPS but offering to ensure good accuracy even when the GPS signal is lost.
The Australian release of the Ambit is expected next week and I am very excited to try it and see if it lives up to all these promises. Currently I use my T6d daily and love it, so the Ambit looks like a super powered T6 with all its extra features.
If this post is of interest, you may also like this YouTube clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCpOK0L8o5E