by: Weldon Johnson, LetsRun.com
December 18, 2013
Earlier this month I went to The Running Event (TRE) in Austin, Texas which is the conference and trade show for running specialty retailers (think your local running store, not Foot Locker). The place is full of LRCers who own running shoe stores.
Pretty much every shoe retailer and manufacturer you can think of is there with a booth, some bigger than others, trying to impress the retailers to carry/promote their product.
We’ll have a lot more on TRE in the next couple of weeks as we’re going to publish our TRE stories during the lull in racing action that occurs every year with the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. LetsRun.com is going to be making a bigger product push in 2014 and we had a lot of brands give us their “One Minute, One Product/Brand” push.
I don’t want to wait anymore to tell you about one product. Just like last year, where I was really impressed with one product, the R8 Roll Recovery, this year I also had one favorite that really impressed me based on its potential. This was the one product I felt was truly innovative and different.
Believe it or not, it’s a product primarily designed for women, is not yet actually available yet (although you can pre-order it), and the maker of the product didn’t even have a booth at TRE. Their PR agent just introduced me to the founder of the company, Cheryl Kellond, a triathlete, and former VP at Yahoo.
The product is the BIA Multi Sport GPS Watch.
BIA: “The only GPS watch out there with a built-in cellular modem”
What is BIA? At it’s essence, it’s a slimmer GPS watch with a cellular modem inside of it.
The cellular modem inside the watch (actually in a small pod you attach to your pants) distinguishes BIA from every other GPS watch out there in three ways:
1) It has an SOS alert. Fall and break your leg? Get hit by a car? Even worse – get abducted? (Thing thing is targeted to women). Hold down the one button on the watch and the unit will send a text to everyone one on your contact list with your location. They will be able to live track you until you turn off the SOS alert. Pretty cool.
2) You never have to upload workouts. The phone’s cellular modem uploads them automatically. No syncing is ever needed (unless you are in area without cell coverage).
3) The possibility for live tracking of workouts/races. Want your loved ones to know where you are running? Now they can watch you in real-time.
None of the things above can be done without a phone and the fact is most athletes don’t want to carry a phone when they workout as it’s a total pain. The BIA watch solves that problem for you.
The watch’s primary target market is women. Founder Cheryl Kellond, a triathlete, University of Chicago and MIT Sloan School grad, and former VP at Yahoo, initially set out to design a slimmer GPS watch that fit her wrist better. The watch does have a slimmer design (more on that below), but the truly innovative part is the cellular modem (gsm chip) inside of the GPS. It changes what a GPS watch can do.
I really think the modem can make this a must-have purchase for both men and women where there is a safety concern. In high school in the Texas summer, my summer training suffered because my mom hated me running at 11 pm at night because she said it was unsafe. Just last week when I got back from TRE, the roads, the grass, everything, in Ft. Worth were covered in a sheet of ice, and my wife joked she’d have no idea where I was when I broke my leg after I insisted on running.
In researching Bia, I discovered that last summer when DCRainmaker (if you don’t know who he is, he’s the #1 GPS reviewer in the world, known for his incredible reviews) first heard of Bia he said, “No other company to my knowledge has announced their intentions to add cell-based connectivity, but I firmly believe that any watches coming out beyond next spring (2013) that don’t have this functionality will be behind the curve.”
Well we’re at the end of 2013 and the Bia watch is the only GPS I know of with cellular based connectivity.
The Bia’s Features
A full disclosure on the Bia. I have no idea how well it works or how accurate the watch is. You can pre-order it now, but it hasn’t even been released yet. I put one on my wrist, liked how it felt, and talked to Cheryl about it, that was it.
Disclosure: I am not getting paid anything to write his and won’t get a referral if you do buy it. I just really was amazed by the potential of this device. When it comes out, we’ll try to review it formally to see if it lives up to its promise.
If you are more concerned about the most bad-ass GPS on the market for performance athletes that can do just about everything check out the Garmin GPS 620. It can track you on a treadmill, it can track how many strides you take, it can track your bounce and more. It got recommended on Cyber Monday and has received great reviews. It’s $399. If you want to spend less and still get a performance watch, there is the Garmin 220.
Bia is not trying to beat Garmin at its game, it’s trying to do something different.
Slimmer On The Wrist
Besides the GSM modem, Bia’s intention is to be slimmer on the wrist and to be simpler than most GPS watches. It has three modes (bike, swim, or run) and one button. You push it to start and stop and then you can tap or slap the screen for lap times. That’s it. It also will be able to interact with a heart rate strap.
In terms of accuracy, Cheryl is a triathlete and her gold standard is trying to be as accurate as a Garmin. Since it has cellular connectivity, the Bia watch can triangulate position with the cell towers and I think can download updates to know where the GPS satellites are at all times. That leads to great accuracy and Cheryl gave the impression it would be as accurate as a Garmin.
However, you’ll have to take Cheryl’s word for it, as the Bia is not out yet, so we can’t test it.
Who should buy the Bia now?
With the Bia (btw Bia is the greek god of force and power and Nike’s younger sister), if you order it now for $249.00 now (2,574 people have already ordered at the time of writing), you’re a person who wants to have the newest, coolest thing when it comes out, you like a little risk, and you are funding Bia. They charge your card immediately, and you can’t get a refund if you don’t like the product. You can only get a replacement product. Bia isn’t some fly by night operation however, as they raised over $1.9 million according to this chart, including $400,000 on Kickstarter.
When announced on Kickstarter, Bia was supposed to ship last spring. Like a lot of other Kickstarter projects, it did not make that deadline. Then the plan was to launch this fall, but that didn’t happen. The Bia website now says to expect your watch in 6-8 weeks. The Bia team does give incredibly detailed updates on what is going on with the watch here, so followers know that many of the recent problems have been getting the watch water proof to 50m.
A few more things I learned.
The SOS feature and automatic wireless uploading of your workouts will be free. There will be some sort of monthly fee if you want live tracking apart from the SOS feature. Cheryl didn’t say what that fee would be and there isn’t any info on the Bia site.
One other thing worth mentioning is the Bia is actually two parts. There is the watch and there is a small pod called a Go-Stick that you can clip on your shorts that contains the actual GPS unit and I believe the GSM chip as well. The Go-Stick weighs 50g, which is the weight of 10 nickels, so much less weight and presumably better accuracy than a cell phone app. Two parts also means the battery lasts longer for each without having to be recharge.
No other GPS watch in the market currently does what Bia says it will do. If you’re cutting edge and value safety you can order yours today as an early backer for $249. Remember, no returns, but the website says, “Down the road there will be freebie’s, upgrades, and other special perks because we’ll never forget the opportunity your early support of our company provided us.”
Or you can wait and see how the Bia performs. It sounds like the regular price will be higher as they refer to the $249 price as the “early-bird price”.
For runners or loved ones of runners with a safety concern, Bia looks like your GPS watch.
We’ve got a 2 minute video we did with Cheryl below on the Bia and also some more photos.
*More info on the Bia at Bia-Sport.com *Also the Bia Kickstarter page has the most recent product updates