Nike+iPod system uses proprietary 802.11, not Bluetooth

Confirming whispers heard by iLounge over the past several months, an individual familiar with the product disclosed that Apple’s first wireless iPod accessory—the Nike+iPod Sport Kit—will use a proprietary 802.11 protocol, rather than Bluetooth, for communications. Announced earlier today, the $29 Sport Kit consists of an in-shoe sensor that transmits running performance data, and an iPod receiver that helps record the data and provide audio feedback to the runner. Though not conclusive in any way as to Apple’s future plans, the company’s use of a proprietary 802.11 protocol rather than the widely-licensed Bluetooth 2.0+EDR standard, combined with the surprisingly low price point and small size of the Nike+iPod Dock Connector-based Adapter, suggests that future iPod wireless accessories will use similar technology. Such a move could conceivably help Apple avoid the bandwidth limitations associated with Bluetooth standards, and reduce the number of fully “iPod-compatible” wireless accessories released by third-party developers.

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  1. Maybe the Nike shoes will have cute little cubby holes for the transmitter. You just know the shoes will cost some crazy price.

    If I still ran every day, this would be cooler…oh well.

  2. Can’t you just call it a 2.4Ghz RF signal? Or else we should say that 2.4Ghz cordless phones run on proprietary 802.11 signals as well!

    The sensor’s battery is listed to last 1200 hours, that’s 12000km of running for me. I’m sure I’ll find a way to break this virtually unbreakable sensor before the battery ever runs out.

    Also you CAN run this on iPod Video… but why would anyone want to run with an iPod Video? Could you imagine the undue stress on the hard drive?

  3. What’s “proprietary 802.11?” That’s like saying “somewhat pregnant.” It’s either 802.11 according to the standard, or it’s not.

  4. Won’t they have locked down the wireless signal so someone can’t come along and sell a knock off of the original for less money taking the revenue stream away from both Apple and Nike?

  5. m.s. — just because the transport layer adheres to a standard 802.11 protocol doesn’t mean any of the layers above have to be open. They can be as proprietary as Apple & Nike want and still use 802.11 for transport.

  6. ms – you’re splitting hairs that 99% of people don’t even know exist, let alone understand. Remember this is marketing-speak, not a technical white-paper. Suffice to say it communicates using something 802.11-ish and is proprietary. Maybe if you write to them you can get them to admit they were wrong or used the wrong words, but I’m not sure I see the point.

    As a runner, I think this is a neat idea, especially for the price. But I’ve heard that Nike’s implementation in other running electronics has left a bunch to be desired, so it’ll be interesting to see how this setup fares in the long run. (pun intended)

    Personally I’ll stick with my Polar pace/distance/heart-rate solution since it works with any running shoes and is a lot easier to see (wrist mounted). The Nike/Apple thing claims to have voiceovers but that seems like it’d get annoying.

  7. Why do you lay the proprietary on Apple? If you think Fairplay is proprietary, well, then MS’ WMP Protected is just as proprietary. And AAC is actually less proprietary than the WMP.

    But isn’t this thing a Nike product? It seems to me that Nike wants to control the higher layer protocols between the shoe sensor and the iPod attachment.

  8. Proprietary from a security perspective, I bet. There is no way they are going to afford are integrate the necessary processor power to handle WPA2 encryption, as well as all the other requirements of gull 802.11 compliance. So they probably are using a subset of the standard and where necessary developed their own low-power software to fill in the gaps.

  9. I could really see high schools and colleges possibly using this technology for their runners to help track results during pratices etc. I mean, it’s a possibility, a cool possibility…

  10. OK, just got the answer and didn’t like it. So you pay $29 for a thing that cannot be recharged?!

    From Apple site: “1. The sensor’s battery is not replaceable. Battery life will vary considerably based on use and other factors.”

  11. Donald, how do you know you can use it with the iPod with video? Everywhere I read (NIKE+ and Apple) both say iPod nano only.

    If it was available for the iPod with video too, I would definently buy it. But I can see why it would be iPod nano only, what with the means of storage being a lot safer for running.

  12. Vladimir, Apple states that the battery in the sensor should easily outlast the life of the shoe.

    Considering the hostile environment the sensor is designed to operate in (sweat, water, pressure, shocks), I think it more than makes sense that you can’t replace the battery.

    The fact that the whole kit (transmitter and receiver etc) is only $29 makes this a pretty reasonable outcome IMHO.

    -Mart

  13. Maybe they are using 802.11 because future versions of the iPod will have this built-in (making the litle transmitter that you stick into the port unnecessary). And with 802.11 built-in, the iPod could wirelessly communicate with your computer, AirPort Express, speakers, etc. Bluetooth could do this too, but 802.11 has more speed for higher bandwidth items like video streaming from the iPod to your TV.

  14. Actually, the cubby hole comment seems to be dead on. the Nike+ shoe seems to have a slot in the sole of the left foot for the transmitter. I have less issue w/ the “proprietary” nature of the transmition, than the proprietary nature of the shoe. It seems you require a pair of Nike running shoes to use this particular solution, and I’m not a particular fan of Nike for running. Oh well.

  15. gg, running a non-IP or proprietary layer 3 on top of 802.11 doesn’t make it “proprietary 802.11.” They’re completely different things, that why there are layers.

  16. I think the nano is considered for this since it is lighter and efficient for this type of activities (running).

  17. This technology was first developed by Fitsense (a bunch of MIT folk in Cambridge). I owned an FS-1 for several years. Fitsense licensed the technology to others (including Nike) some time ago and recently stopped selling their own version. Unless they made some significant improvements, the accelerometer technology in these foot pods has some drawbacks. It needs to be calibrated to your pace, stride and position on the shoe. It also has trouble when your running pattern changes, such as when moving from pavement to a trail or grass, from jogging to hard running, or from flat terrain to hilly. Once calibrated, the same course will come out within a percent or two in total distance for each run. However, a new course can be way off. I’d run a 10K with the FS-1 and come out to 6.5 miles instead of 6.2. Also, the battery (CR32) would last 3-4 months with only turning on the pod for running. I now use a Garmin Forerunner 201 and am much happier (no pods, run in any shoes, much more accurate, etc.). Now if Apple and Garmin get together….

  18. Do you really need the nike shoes. do they have something in them that activates this device. OR could you just get a foot pouch or modify your current shoes to work with this. I really dont like nike shoes I am a saucony fan.

  19. I saw about 15 different types of Nike shoes that were Nike+ ready.. This is awsome! simply awsome. The most attractive part is th online data and tracking ability.. i can challenge my dad in chicago to a 50 mile run, and I’m in NY!.. killer sutff!!

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