The Consumer: Unwitting Guinea Pigs

Apple Inc files a patent for a method of calculating wind resistance for a cyclist, one factor that could be used to calculate a rider’s power output without a dedicated meter

This patent by Apple will most likely get buried and never come to fruition. It is interesting that the concept (based on Newton’s Third Law) has already been developed into a product ( since about 2006.

Today, most popular commercial power meters are based on some sort of measurement of direct force applied utilizing various hardware, and software algorithms. The actual cost of developing a direct force power meter (DFPM), including research and development (R&D), is actually minuscule compared to the retail selling prices. Don’t take my word for it, just ask DC Rainmaker, considered an expert in the field.

As consumers, we are paying through the nose for a direct force power meter from companies such as SRM, Stages, Quarq, Pioneer, 4iiii, Rotor, PowerTap, and so forth. The strain gauges used in DFPM’s were originally developed for the nuclear industry several decades ago, and are relatively inexpensive. The claim that R&D is expensive has some merit, but every company out there is piggybacking off each other and using the abundance of data that is already out there in the public or commercial domains. The personal power data that cyclists eagerly post to sites like Strava, Training Peaks, Today’s Plan, etc., is most likely being repackaged and sold to other commercial interests who develop powermeters and other cycling specific products. Big data is big business.

So, what is my point?

Consumers are the guinea pigs upon which technology is developed and beta tested on.

Much of the hardware and software that is purchased by the consumer, especially niche products like power meters, is underdeveloped (i.e. released as final product, yet still in the alpha or beta stages of development) and buggy until several reincarnations down the road. By then, companies have already moved on to the latest and greatest, and the consumer starts the process all over again.

The hardware failure rates of DFPM’s is very significant (again, go ask DC Rainmaker), and something the consumer is generally not aware of. Likewise, we are all aware of the software issues that plague us almost daily in the “new is always better” mentality of hardware and software development in the cycling world.

Stop this madness!

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