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iChirp: Garmin Looks Set To Release ANT+ Device For iPhone

Spotted over at Wireless Goodness was this little gem about Garmin’s plans for an ANT+ device for Apple’s iPhone, now on file at America’s Federal Communications Commission.

According to FCC documents, Garmin’s ANT+ iPhone adapter will work with the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 (no word on the iPhone 4S), and will attach to the bottom of the device, illustrated below.  We’re assuming that Garmin will also soon release an app for iOS devices which will allow the Garmin ANT+ adapter to receive data from various ANT+ sensors.

It would seem this hardware adaptor will allow Garmin to tap further into the fitness market with its heart-rate monitors etc. And I think this is a smart move on the company’s part.

The application has been made by Taiwanese and Californian certification companies SportOn International and Siemic on Garmin’s behalf and, according to a confidentiality request sent to the FCC, the manufacturer will not be ready to market this iPhone dongle until mid-January 2012.

But more interesting is that this new device will give iPhones the ability to communicate with Garmin’s wireless chirp beacons. I would expect to see the OpenCaching.com iOS app updated to use this function once the ANT+ adaptor is released.

There is already a way to do this by using the GeoBeacon app with a device such as Wahoo Fitness’s Wahoo Key. So all Garmin’s ANT+ device will really mean is that its maker will likely introduce these abilities into its own apps.

Of course, one might also hope that other geocaching apps would follow suit so the use of chirps would become more widespread. If chirps were accessible to more people, I think this beacon would actually add some value to our hobby and no longer be about Garmin trying to corner the GPS and geocaching markets.

When the company originally released its new chirps, I was suitably critical of the move.  But this shift to making their use accessible to all is clearly changing my mind. I’ll be more than happy to embrace the chirp if everyone, and every listing service, gets to have a go.

Chirp utopia may be some way off  (I doubt we’ll see ANT+ technology in a Magellan anytime soon) but this is certainly a step in the right direction.

7 comments

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  1. Alan

    I see that Garmin are selling these in their store now, but it looks like, so far, the only app that can take advantage of it, is their own Garmin Fit app. Does anyone know if there are plans in the works for any geocaching application?

    1. kjwx

      Would it work with Pi-Soft’s GeoBeacon iPhone app perhaps?
      http://itunes.apple.com/nz/app/geobeacon/id449451508?mt=8

  2. kjwx

    UPDATE: Shawn Stanley from Pi-Soft – the company also responsible for the iPhone Wherigo app – has promised to investigate whether Garmin’s US$49.95 ANT+ adaptor is compatible with its GeoBeacon app.
    He seemed exciting by the prospect, adding: “That would be great if it did, especially because it’s cheaper [than the Wahoo fitness sensor currently recommended for using this Garmin chirp locator].”

    1. wasurf

      Any news if this works? I have ordered the Garmin adapter to try it out. I will let you know.

      1. kjwx

        That would be great, thanks wasurf. Both It’s Not About The Numbers and Pi-Soft have repeatedly contacted Garmin with this query but never got a reply. I suspect the company doesn’t actually know. If the adapter does work, I’ll be buying one for sure.

        1. wasurf

          I tested the GeoBeacon software with Garmin’s ANT+ dongle. It does not work with GeoBeacon.

          1. kjwx

            That’s a real shame; thanks for letting us know wasurf. I’m glad I waited before buying one myself. I hope Garmin comes to the party soon as I’m sure there would be a huge market among iPhone-using geocachers.

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