If you’ve heard of ANT+ at all, you almost certainly know it as a way for your fitness equipment to communicate — probably your chest strap to your treadmill or high-end fitness watch. But Garmin-owned ANT+ wants to be, oh, so much more: it wants to be how devices in your home are controlled and communicate.
That’s a field with no lack of standards, of course. WTI sat down with James Fujimoto, a director of ANT Wireless, at Mobile World Congress. He makes the case that Bluetooth, the usual way mobile devices connect with other local stuff, is a singularly bad choice.
Among the problems with Bluetooth, Fujimoto said, is that it is a star network with a controlling device — usually a smartphone — at the hub, and is limited to a range of roughly 30 meters. Furthermore, he said, the number of devices a single Bluetooth controller can manage is limited by the resources on the phone or wearable controller.
ANT+, he said, is a an extensible mesh network that self-organizes, and each node can relay commands to other devices on a network; size of the network can top out at about 65,000 devices. Keep in mind, though that there would be considerable delay in controlling a network of that size, as commands would have to find their way to the right target.
Fujimoto said ANT+ is actually already in many phones; it’s part of MediaTek’s standard radio chip, along with Bluetooth and NFC. (Most component makers are prohibited from saying which phones their products are in, or what those products’ full features are.) Phone manufacturers, he said, have just failed to turn it on. Doing so would be a matter of a firmware update.
It’s not like ANT+ would supplant Bluetooth entirely. Its data rates are far too low to manage audio, so you’ll never see an ANT+ headphone (although we failed to ask about input devices like keyboards). But its low power demands and simplicity of connection and control make it a particularly interesting play for wearables. All that Fujimoto is asking is to give ANT+ a chance.