Apple & Nike Team Up with iPod Running System

Apple announced yesterday that they have teamed up with Nike to produce an integrated iPod/Nike shoe running system. The system consists of a tiny accelerometer that fits into a pocket in the sole of certain Nike shoes and a receiver that clips onto the bottom of the iPod Nano. The iPod then shows you the time, speed & distance of your run. All the data can be downloaded into the forthcoming version of iTunes (6.0.5), and uploaded to Nike’s NikePlus.com website. Best of all, it only costs $29.95!

Although I personally don’t run with a music player, I see quite a few runners sporting the telltale white headphones when I’m out training, so there’s certainly the market for it. A lot of runners I know don’t know how far they actually run with any accuracy – most either measure the route using their car, or use something like Gmap-Pedometer. In addition, Estimating pace is especially difficult, so this can only help.

An obvious omission is a heart rate monitor function, although I think this is more down to practicalities of displaying HR info on something strapped to your arm, rather than any technical problem.

The price point makes me question why Polar’s footpod for the RS200sd & S625x costs so much, since it’s also an accelerometer. In the UK, they’re about £80.00 (about $150), 5 times the cost of the Nike/Apple system. The Nike design does look similar to the proposed Adidas/Polar tie-up with the RS800 and it’s integrated shoe accelerometer, although details of the system are a bit hard to find.

It’ll be interesting to see how accurate the Nike system is and if it needs (or has the facility for) calibration. My S625x was about 90 – 93% accurate out-of-the-box, and about 98-99% once calibrated. Cross-talk with other runners may be an issue as well, as it is with the Polar devices, as the footpod transmission isn’t encoded to prevent cross-talk, unlike their HR straps. I suspect that we may see more devices for Nike that use the accelerometer, perhaps a heart rate monitor to replace their existing Triax speed and distance model – one of the few HRMs on the market that comes with Mac compatible software.

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