Polar has launched a website aimed at selling their sports/fitness/physiological algorithms to other companies. With this new venture, they aim to make it possible for other sport/fitness/etc. companies to leverage Polar’s algorithms. This could be used in areas such as sleep, activity tracking, training load, recovery, and more. In other words, if you wanted to make your own watch, called the Banana Watch, you could do so and utilize Polar’s health/sports algorithms to power it (note, don’t make a sports tracker called the ‘Pear’, that already exists).
This licensing road is well traveled for other Finnish companies, with Firstbeat previously doing this for many watch and wearable manufacturers over the years. Of course, Garmin acquired Firstbeat about 2.5 years ago, and the current Firstbeat site doesn’t exactly give the impression they want business anymore (there’s not even a contact option, though on their privacy/legal/accessibility pages, they do have e-mails there, so I suppose you could use that). Still, in checking with Firstbeat/Garmin, they did confirm they do still indeed license Firstbeat algorithms, including new business opportunities.
In any case, all of this semi-recent change clearly opens the door for a company like Polar to step in and fill that void with their own (and similar) slate of algorithms.
As a quick bit of background and explainer on the segment, historically, we’ve seen many companies license Firstbeat algorithms in the wearables space. For example, Suunto, Amazfit, Huawei, Mont Blanc, Casio, and many others have used such algorithms for years (at CES in the past they even had a massive display full of them, along with a huge website listing every device and which algorithms). These can be for simple components like VO2Max estimation, or calorie expenditure. Or, they can get more complex like Training Status, Race Predictors, and so on. Typically you’ll see companies that don’t specialize heavily in sports tech devices pick up the basic and mid-range algorithms, whereas the more sports-tech-focused companies aim for the more complex algorithms.
Generally speaking, companies license these algorithms on a per-unit volume basis, usually with discounts for bundled sets of algorithms (e.g. a suite of things designed to work together). They report these sales volumes in a catch-up method down the road as they sell devices. Certainly, that can lead to scenarios where competitor companies are afraid to report unit sales volumes (such as the case once Garmin bought Firstbeat, or now with Polar’s algorithms). Though practically speaking, most companies roughly know how many units their competitors are selling.
Finally, there aren’t many players in this space. There are some players like Valencell and LifeQ, but they also focus heavily on bundled sensor+algorithm offerings. For example, buying an optical HR sensor package and then getting various algorithms with it. Still, they have standalone offerings too. For example, Suunto has shifted to LifeQ for its optical HR sensors in recent years (from Valencell). But all of these companies tend to flirt with a host of business-to-business offerings, sometimes kinda appearing as spaghetti thrown at the wall. Not in a bad way, but usually they see business opportunities in adjacent health/fitness/sports/medical …….