What is ANT+ and why should runners know what it does?
ANT+ (ANT Plus) is the wireless technology that allows your monitoring devices to talk to each other. So for runners this typically means your sports watch or fitness tracker receiving data wirelessly from a heart rate monitor or a foot pod. Treadmills and other gym equipment can support it too. For cyclists the scope of monitoring devices widens to include power meters and GPS devices. ANT+ is interoperable which means that devices from different manufacturers can still send and receive data. And it’s similar to, but not compatible with Bluetooth. Like Bluetooth, it’s a low-energy technology meaning devices can by powered practically for everyday use with small batteries.
What about computers and mobile phones?
Some, though certainly not all, Android phones and tablets have support for ANT+ built-in (native support). Apple iPhones don’t offer native support, nor do PCs and laptops. However, there are a range of dongles and USB sticks that enable ANT+ connectivity. Many Garmin watch wearers (myself included) will be familiar with the USB sticks (pictured above) that connects their watch with Garmin Express to upload activity history.
Do all ANT+ gadgets talk to each other?
While ANT+ is claimed to be truly interoperable, I know from personal experience that there are exceptions. And I’ve read that for instance the Nike+ foot pod works on a variant of ANT, but is not ANT+ compatible.
In my own case I had a Garmin 305 watch and an Adidas miCoach foot pod. Both support ANT+ but I couldn’t get them to talk to one another. Despite multiple attempts, numerous searches on forums, installing new batteries, factory resets etc I couldn’t get these two devices to connect. I ended up upgrading the watch to a Garmin 310XT as that is a newer model that also supports ANT+. It connected to the Adidas foot pod first time without a hitch.
You’ll find this directory of certified devices useful as a starting point if you’re wondering what works and what doesn’t.
And if you’re interested, here’s my article about running with a foot pod (coming soon).