Looks like Polar is finally getting tired of Garmin, Timex and other device manufacturers capturing market share in heart rate monitor technology. Polar has taken the steps to "modularize" their technology and license it out to third party equipment manufacturers. The Company will now sell both their contact and wireless heart rate monitor technology systems as separate, modular units.
Does this mean we may finally get an iPhone application that incorporates Polar heart rate monitor technology? Not likely anytime soon. Polar is giving device manufacturers two options for adopting their heart rate monitor technology- either design the Polar wireless receiver module into the device or use the Polar Bluetooth WearLink transmitter to connect to the device through a standard Bluetooth wireless interface.
The first option is probably a non-starter for Apple, or any other cellular handset manufacturer, as size and cost of adding anything to a phone are a big issue. The receiver module would instead most likely be an option for say fitness or medical device manufacturers who want to incorporate Polar's heart rate monitor technology into their products.
The Bluetooth option is a much easier integration task for cellular handset and other portable device manufacturers. Nokia has actually taken the Polar Bluetooth WearLink transmitter and bundled it with their N79 phone and SportsTracker software. The big problem here is that the Bluetooth WearLink transmitter can not be sold directly to consumers, instead only through Nokia as part of the N79 bundle. The Bluetooth WearLink transmitter will also not work with any other phone apart from the N79.
So if you are an iPhone or Blackberry application developer and wanted to incorporate Polar's heart rate monitor technology, you would have to buy and sell the Polar Bluetooth WearLink transmitter along with your application. It also means that if you are already a Polar consumer as I am, you will have to wear a separate chest strap in order to use the application on your phone and that phone application will not integrate with your Polar training software or other Polar devices.
Polar's decision up until now to build a big wall around their technology boggles my mind. Polar owns the most crucial patents in heart rate monitor technology so it makes sense for them to license out their technology to other device manufacturers such as Garmin. Since Polar was not open to licensing until now, Garmin basically had to design around these patents and you can arguably say does not provide as good of an experience.
Polar's decision to use a proprietary wireless communication technology between the receiver (watch) and chest strap transmitter is the one that really makes me scratch my head. By taking the proprietary route, Polar has basically closed themselves off to the mass market creative potential. The Bluetooth WearLink transmitter is a step in the right direction but why not sell directly to consumers? And why not make the rest of their "receiver" products, such as watches and cycling computers, based on Bluetooth technology as well?