Today Specialized continued their slow invasion into sports tech gadgetry with the introduction of the Specialized ANGi standalone pod and fully pod-equipped helmet lineup. These connected helmet pods alert your friends and family when you crash, but also give those folks a tracking link for your entire ride (and even alert when you don’t come home on time).  Oh, and Specialized quietly acquired ICEdot (the company) a year ago and managed to keep it under wraps.

Another oh – the company (Specialized) is building out a ride meeting/organizing app that should probably give companies like Strava pause for thought. But more on that in a moment.

First up is the helmets and sensors, which I’ve gotten a couple of rides in already – but will wait a few months before doing a complete review on it (so I can find out if I get false positives or worse, real positives). However, in the meantime, here’s this first look at things. The video below is notable as I show how the crash detection bits work in real-time:

Though, if you want all the textual details, then read on! Note that in case you’re just reading this intro bit while deciding whether to read everything else: The standalone pod is available for a mere $49. Quite reasonable actually from Specialized. Do they sell anything that inexpensive? I kid…mostly. Let’s get into the tech details.

The ANGi lineup is essentially two parts. Or three depending on how you slice it. You can buy basically one of three things:

A) Standalone ANGi pod you can attach to any helmet on earth B) ANGi capable helmet from Specialized, sans-pod, for later pod addition C) ANGi equipped helmet from Specialized, with the pod already attached.

About now you’re probably wondering what the heck ANGi stands for. No, it’s not ‘Ahhh….Noooooo….Ground…In my face’, but rather “Angular and G-Force indicator”. Personally, I think my acronym is much better. But maybe that’s why I don’t work in marketing.

As mentioned earlier, Specialized acquired ICEdot about a year ago, but this isn’t simply a re-branded ICEdot product. In fact, in talking to Specialized it sounds like there’s more new than old. The sensor is completely redone. Previously it was a rechargeable system, now it’s coin cell. Previously it was just an accelerometer, now it’s got a gyro in it as well. Previously they could only detect accelerometer impact type incidents, versus whiplash with the gyro.  Not to mention the entire app and online platform behind it is different.

The pod itself uses a CR2032 coin cell battery, so the same as most heart rate straps and many power meters. Specialized claims it’ll get up to 6 months of battery life per battery. All of which connects via Bluetooth Smart to your iOS or Android app. But even the connection is highly optimized. For example, it goes to sleep for five-minute intervals before checking back in to the app. The app on your phone does the GPS transmission and related work. But fear not, if you crash, the pod instantly alerts the app – it doesn’t continue to sleep like Garfield for five minutes.

As noted earlier, the pod has two basic variants. The standalone one that you can attach to any helmet uses a sticky mount, just like a typical GoPro sticker would. The pod itself is IPX7 waterproof (so you can go swimming at 1-meter deep for up to 30 minutes).

Whereas the ANGi equipped helmets come with a small mounting plate on the back of them that the pod attaches to.

Specialized noted that while the pod is compatible with any helmet, their validating testing in terms of detecting crashes and not triggering false positives has only been done on their helmets using that mount system. They’re pretty confident it’ll carry over to all helmets, but their validating focus has been on their own helmets.

Speaking of which, the new ANGi capable helmets are all MIPS equipped. And in fact, that’s actually MIPS SL. It’s exclusive to Specialized at this point and essentially integrates the MIPS lining into the helmet padding itself.

Here’s a list of all the helmets that are ANGi equipped or capable as of today (the helmets are available as of today as well).  The ones where I’ve noted ‘WITH ANGi’ are those that include the pod. Everything else is just ANGi capable (has the mounting plate):

Mountain Bike: Tactic 3 MIPS: $95 Ambush Comp MIPS [WITH ANGi]: $150 Ambush MIPS [WITH ANGi]: $200 Dissident MIPS [WITH ANGi]: $385 [Holy balls, there’s $385 helmets?!?]

Road: Propero 3 MIPS [WITH ANGi]: $130 S-Works Prevail II MIPS [WITH ANGi]: $250 S-Works Evade II MIPS [WITH ANGi]: $275

From a helmet standpoint, it’s just a helmet to me. It fits my noggin and is lightweight (obviously, that’ll vary depending on which helmet you have). So let’s talk tech. The first thing you’d do is get the pod activated in the service/platform. Normally it comes with an activation card inside that gives you a code for the first year of subscription service, but in my case the cards weren’t printed yet. You’ll also need to provide a credit card for service, even on day 1. That won’t be charged until day 365, when it’ll cost $29/year for the service.  All of this is done via the app.

[Side note: I’ve seen a ton of questions in the comments on why can’t Specialized simply send text messages straight from the phone. This is blocked, in particular on iOS. Apple doesn’t permit *any* 3rd party apps to utilize the text messaging interface. Thus, an app can’t send a text on your behalf. Therefor, all 3rd party apps have to use 3rd party cloud services in order to make this happen. Plenty of discussion in the comments section if you want more details.]

To pair up a new helmet to the platform you’ll simply wake-up the helmet by giving it a light shake, and then you’ll see it in the app to pair. It takes like 6 seconds total.

Once that’s done you’ll want to add some emergency contacts. These are the peeps that will get notified both for ride starts as well as when you do something embarrassing.

When you add a contact, it’ll text them and ask them to confirm. After all, you don’t want someone to not know they’re getting something about you. Note at the bottom how the alerts are divided into two categories:

The emergency alerts are when you crash, and they go out via text message. Whereas the ride alerts occur when you start and end a ride, and they go out via e-mail. Note that in the case of both myself (Office 365) and The Girl (GMail), our ride alerts got moved into our Junk E-Mail folders. So go white-list them and encourage your friends/family to double-check it at some point.

To start a ride it’s super simple, on the app you’ll tap that ‘Record’ tab at the bottom, which then takes you to a single button to press to start the ride. Just press it, and then it changes to indicate it’s active.:

At this point, your contacts will receive an e-mail with your current ride location. They can tap on that e-mail and then get a map with your location and then a map of where you’ve been with track dots:

As of launch day, the complete GPS track with higher quality isn’t yet available. Specialized says that’s coming in a few weeks (they even joked that I’m sure I hear ‘a few weeks’ quite often, and then it’s months – they promise they’re a legit ‘real meal deal few weeks’, so we’ll see).  Once that happens you’ll see the full track, which is also what uploads to apps like Strava and others if you want.

So what happens if you crash? Well, first, if you want to just play around with the sensor you can actually do that. They have a test mode to see the impact of various forces. Kinda cool:

But, let’s say you crash for real. In that case it triggers the alert, which on your phone starts a really damn loud alarm (you can hear it in the video towards the end). But there’s a countdown there. you’ve got that many seconds to turn off the alarm before it notifies someone. The default is 15 seconds, but you can change that up to 90 seconds.

Once your time has expired then the app and backend platform notify your emergency contacts via text message. This all happens within 15-20 seconds of the timer expiring. The text message allows them to click on a link to show your exact location.

This of course does depend on your phone’s cellular service, so if you’re out of range, this solution won’t really work. Though, the original tracking link will show where you were up until the point you disappeared. Once done with the ride you’ll just tap the button to end it.

All of this works pretty well, and in the handful of rides I’ve done over the last few days I haven’t had any false positives. Specialized says they’ve had 200 riders on a beta platform and haven’t had a single false positive since. They didn’t note if they had any non-triggers though for real events.  They did note that they tuned the helmet sensor to specifically focus on incidents that were likely to cause situations where the forces are considered enough to have you either be unconscious or otherwise memory challenged. Meaning, if you just make a stumble off your bike (as is common mountain biking), but don’t actually hit your head on the ground, the sensor is unlikely to trigger.

They didn’t want a scenario where it wasn’t useful to mountain bikers because it was constantly triggering due to bumps, jumps, etc… More on my longer testing plans in a moment.

In some ways, what comes next is actually more interesting to me. Right now the platform sends your current dotted location to friends/family. But Specialized is working to onboard a bunch of routing providers so that you can load your planned route straight into the app. They want to connect to apps like Strava, RideWithGPS and – I quote “As many as possible” other platforms. This will allow them to overlay your planned route with your actual route.

That’s super valuable if you go out of cellular range and friends/family have to start trying to figure out why you haven’t responded – they’ve got a place to start their search.

In addition, Specialized will soon be enabling a ride expiration alert. This allows you to put an estimated ride time in the app, and then alert friends/family when you’re not back in time. Obviously you’ll want to add a small buffer for cookie stops, but the idea is that if you’ve budgeted a 2hr ride and it’s been 3.5 hours out in the woods – maybe someone should know about that.

Lastly, in conjunction with all of that (and specifically in the next “couple weeks”), they’ll enable the GPS ride recording to upload to platforms like Strava.  The idea being that the app becomes a one-stop shop.

Which in some ways is my only challenge with it. While great for recreational riders, many more experienced riders are going to ride with dedicated bike computers (Garmin/Wahoo/Lezyne/etc…). For that, many of us don’t want yet another app to remember to start and then causing GPS drain on our phones.  This seems like precisely the type of thing they could have partnered with Garmin and Wahoo on and captured 99% of the market. For example, Garmin’s Connect IQ platform could have allowed a connection to the sensor, and then leveraged the Garmin itself for GPS. Thus no battery drain on your phone. It’d also have meant that the second you start your ride, the sensor starts working. No extra apps. On the flip side, Garmin’s device to phone app tracking system isn’t exactly known for being the most stable either.

Finally, the bigger picture here is the Specialized Ride app. The app name itself isn’t “Specialized Ride”, but just ‘Ride’, and in fact – the sensor isn’t predominately displayed anywhere in it. Specialized’s goal here is a more general app that anyone can use to plan rides. This way you can add new rides, starting locations, show riders, etc… All of this exists today on the app in the app store [iOS and Android].

Then ultimately this all ties into the tracking so people can see where riders are mid-ride using the app, such as when you miss the group or if you fall off the back.  Why on earth Strava doesn’t do this is probably the big question. Specialized says the goal is to replace the usually Facebook-driven ride planning that tends to be wonky at best.

Still, the concept has been tried before by smaller players, and usually without success due to lack of adoption. But my gut tells me that if Specialized spends enough time marketing this – this could actually take-off. We’ll see.

Speaking of time – I’m going to use the helmet for the winter as my day to day helmet and see how things go as a long term review. I want to see if I get any false positives, or (hopefully not) any positives. I’ll report back sometime this spring, which should hopefully give Specialized way more time than needed to finish up the app pieces.

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Hi Shai, believe us, we know that people are wary of yet another subscription service. But for us to make this entire ANGi ecosystem sustainable and scalable to many riders (cost of servers, SMS messaging globally, etc…), there just wasn’t a way to do it otherwise. When you buy an ANGi equipped helmet or the standalone sensor, it comes with a year of the service free. Hopefully that year of using it will convince you and other riders that there’s enough value there to justify the cost.

Hi Chris, I don’t doubt the value. But at the end of the day the number of services that are trying to get into the recurring subscription revenue model is just growing, and there is a limit at how much money you are willing to spend to all of these. It adds up. The one year for free is also a well known tactic in this realm to get the user in and hope they stay. There are providers out there way bigger than specialized that have servers, send SMS messages and do it for free. There are ways. Having said all that – I understand. You are trying to make money and subscription model is definitely the way to go as a business.

I’ve become super wary of the subscription model. Since most CC providers try really hard to send bills electronically (which really means – go to my website, remember your login and password and navigate to this month’s bill – download it – and THEN see where your $ is going), AND auto-pay is convenient – I often forget/neglect to look at my bills. A few months pass and then you look and discover $7.95/mo from that plumbing company for their ‘club’ and some recurring Microsoft charge your kids signed you up for from the Xbox and are reminded about Sufferfest and … and … and. It’s too much work to keep track and too expensive to ignore. So you know what I do? Just say no to as many recurring charges as I can. This one is a no-go for me.

Between the annual fee and having to start a separate app on every ride it is a hard pass. Integrated with garmin and wahoo… well I’m still not paying for it on an annual or monthly basis.

Just from a pure curiosity standpoint: At what price point would you buy the now $49 unit and expect the subscription fee to go away (ignoring any other feature set type things, and assuming you were happy to buy the device but didn’t want the annual fee)?

Specialized is turning around fine though, the new s works is good and looks good. And this is a smart move. Integrate lights, radar, xert and a few other things and they can compete with Garmin and strava

PS i know the garmin crash detection in the 1030.. But i take my 1030 of the bike during a stop, fumble it and the girl gets a message I crashed.. Not the best way to keep spousal support for cycling

Sorry, but this is all “migrants at the gates” fear mongering to sell “another” subscription service supporting hardware sold below cost. Everyone is trying to be the athlete’s Facebook. Starting with that horrid Garmin Connect app and its LiveTracking that DOES NOT WORK. Finally, what exactly is the problem we’re trying to solve here other than anxiety? In Canada last year, 42 cyclists died. Almost all of them in urban centres. Trust me, if I crash at the corner of St. Catherine street and McGill College in Montreal, someone will notice. I’m not saying a crash can’t happen on a 100 km solo ride in the countryside, but that’s not where the big risk lies. And If I consider the number of times I called my wife after a mechanical I could not fix roadside and she did not answer or did not “hear the phone”, I’m struggling to see the point of all this. To your question Ray, yeah….I would pay up to $99 CAD for a single cost hardware/service of this type, but I would not support an ongoing cost…..why do I need a yearly subscription for a bike app when I can only ride outdoors six months of the year?

I’m all for subscription models (as opposed to the alternative model of forcing repeat buys by abandoning support and/or planned obsolescence), but not when they are forced on top of a piece of hardware that could just as well make sense without.

What does this mean? Specialized is not selling a helmet sensor, they are selling a complete “worry platform” improving on the precedent of Strava Beacon by trying to seriously tackle the offline case. This requires cloud infrastructure, messaging services and so on. Subscription makes sense there (except when you want to create a community tool, then you either have to pay up or give up, because network effect some happen without a serious free option).

Where does the ANGI sensor fit into all this? The sensor can only contribute when the phone happens to have network coverage after the crash. In that case, it could do it’s job perfectly fine coupled to an app that sends out those emergency messages without any involvement of specialized servers at all. The app runs on a phone, phones tend to come with communications features built right in. The only reason that the sensor is tied to the “worry platform” that supports the no network case is because people like buying gadgets much more than starting subscriptions. The sensor device is intentionally crippled to lure more people into the subscription. They naturally complement each other, but they only depend on each other because it’s a useful marketing trick.

If its already paired with your phone then why does it need to send SMS through a subscription service, why can’t it just send the messages through your phone?

“[Side note: I’ve seen a ton of questions in the comments on why can’t Specialized simply send text messages straight from the phone. This is blocked, in particular on iOS. Apple doesn’t permit *any* 3rd party apps to utilize the text messaging interface. Thus, an app can’t send a text on your behalf. Therefor, all 3rd party apps have to use 3rd party cloud services in order to make this happen. Plenty of discussion in the comments section if you want more details.]”

OK, so let those who can afford Apple phones pay a subscription and those of us that have other phones don’t have to. Sell the device with phone based alerts as is and then add a “premium” subscription for those who want it. But don’t force everyone because of an Apple specific limit.

Still, the cost for passing on the notification sent when the device detects an actual crash is insignificant and totally dwarfed by the average revenue per crash from replacement helmets. Except when the device causes numerous false positives, but then it’s a failure anyways. What’s expensive is the orders of magnitude greater amount of traffic for the “worry platform” because that one isn’t passive at all while no-one gets hurt.

Garmin can do it for free, so why can’t specialized! Ok it’s not really the same but it’s also a crash-support-service. And there is also Strava Live-tracking, ok it isn’t free but u get ALOT more than with this unit!

Garmin does it for free! Anyways if it does cost u money to implement it, give an option to buy it at higher cost but with an unlimitted time use. If u can give it free for a year it probably don’t cost that much for you company! It’s just silly that u buy something to protect u but only when u pay monthly for it! Say that I don’t have enough money this month to use it, or u forget to pay, u can’t be protected anymore?! Doesn’t sound like Specialized is really concerned about my health!

I believe the cheapest Garmin devices out there that supports live tracking is roughly $130-$150, or roughly three times more expensive than the $49 ANGi.

And of course, the average Garmin device costs for most users is roughly in the $400 range (Fenix is higher, some Edge units lower, most running watches in that ballpark).

I think there are many valid arguments to be made about cost, but I wouldn’t be comparing it to Garmin’s cost structure.

“Say that I don’t have enough money this month to use it, or u forget to pay, u can’t be protected anymore?!”

I love the idea of this. It seems like a simple, and useful thing. I guess I don’t understand why I should need a subscription cloud service to use it. Why can’t it just send the alert to my phone via the app, and have the alert go out via SMS? I really don’t need another ride mapping tool, and I’m not willing to pay $30 a year for a redundant service.

iOS doesn’t permit 3rd party apps to access the messaging service, so they can’t send texts. It has to go via 3rd party platform which sends the texts out.

Hey Jim, Ray nailed it with his reply. One additional piece: being connected to the cloud means that we can offer the Ride Time Alert feature since our servers can send a message to your contacts even if you’re out of cell service (and assuming you haven’t finished your ride in the time you’ve designated).

Fact is, monetizing business models works so much better with subscription models (recurring revenues vs. one off). But there are so many services out there trying to maximize their share in our wallets.

SMS isn’t the only expense, though. There’s also the cost of getting the system up and running, maintaining it, patching it, etc., etc.

Even in “the cloud”, servers to run this sort of system don’t come free, and all things considered, Specialized would want redundancy in there, rather than having an unexpected outage and somebody lying on the road for three hours with no notification going out.

“iOS doesn’t permit 3rd party apps to access the messaging service, so they can’t send texts. It has to go via 3rd party platform which sends the texts out”

That’s a shame, since you already have your iPhone, subscription with data bundle, iCloud mail, iMessage, “Find Friend” functionality in place. Would be brilliant if this thing could hook up into this ecosystem one way or another.

Anyway, still nice. I have a 15 year old son who is an epileptic. When he cycles home from school he calls us so that we know he starts his trip home. Should he not arrive home in time we can see where he is with the “Find Friends” app on his iPhone. He had an accident twice this year, one time he drove into a parked car, the other time a cyclist on a limited edition “red hook crit” Specialized bike crashed into him. He was able to call us so we could help him out. A crashing sensor on his helmet could certainly be useful. Not sure about the sticky mount though. Where are you going to stick it? I would rather have the bracket so that it could be attached in the same way and same place as on the Specialized helmets. And do I understand it correctly that you have to start the app for every ride, or is this thing always on?

Hi Andre, that’s really cool that your son rides to/from school. It sounds like that’s actually a pretty great application for ANGi. He would need to hit “start” on the Ride app each time, but that has the additional benefit of sending you (or anyone else you designate) an email that says he’s started a ride, along with a breadcrumb tracking link. When he ends the ride, you also get an email saying that he’s done.

Yes indeed it could be really useful for us. Price is very reasonable too. What puts me off is the sticker mount. You see, we are in the Netherlands, where people do not normally wear helmets. Now he does wear a helmet on his bike but it is a cool POL Crane helmet, which does not look like a bike helmet but more like a skating helmet. Anything else will be embarrassing for a boy his age. But I can’t see me sticking a sensor to the outside of that helmet. It should be nearly invisible, like in Ray’s pictures above. All helmets have this black plastic size adjuster straps in the back. Where you could easily mount the sensor with a clip, silicone strap or whatever.

Now off course Specialized wants to sell their helmets, but I can’t see any of the ANGI equipped helmets be worn here if you are not on a road or mountain bike and dressed in a cycling kit. But I’ll think about it. Maybe I can find a way to attach it in the back.

not sure about the ride portion. I downloaded the app andit appears that those rides become public. At least here in the US there’s a fear about liability towards the ride organizer. It would be much better if they allowed to “invite” people or to allow the creation of private groups.

Hey Daniel – good feedback and private rides and invitations are definitely on our near term features list for the Ride app. Thanks for checking it out!

FYI, the screenshot showing the emergency contact confirmation shows the phone number. The other screenshots censor the number.

The number ending in 0674? That’s the source for the automated emergency alerts from Specialised, not a human being. I’m not seeing any potential privacy concern here. (Though I’m more than happy to be corrected by Ray if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure I’m not.)

Correct, that’s just the cloud platform that Specializes uses. I presume from either Amazon or Microsoft.

The main concern I have over this is privacy. I know that one of the members of my club was tracked down by some random who used his Strava rides/runs to find his home (fortunately, it was just curiosity, nothing more), and I also worry about the general background in Australia of hostility (unwarranted, but anyway) towards cyclists. After the fact publication of a ride is one thing, but to be able to know where a group of cyclists is in real time… the risk is very small, yes, but I worry about the potential implications here. (It’s not paranoia if you KNOW they’re out to get you…