Nike import changes

Posted

There’s been some changes behind the scenes with Nike’s platform this month, changes that unfortunately severely compromised the accuracy of the analysis we’re able to provide. But before I get into the specifics, I’m going to take a somewhat long and meandering digression.

Nike Running has always been a closed platform. You go out and buy a Nike Sportwatch, or an Apple Watch with Nike software, or you just download their app. You record your data on a relatively simple to use, relatively slick interface and the data is synchronized to Nike’s servers. Once your data gets there, it proceeds to live out its life quietly waiting to die in obscurity. There’s a rich ecosystem of powerful (and sometimes even fun) websites that you can use to track your running data provided, of course, that you didn’t record it with a Nike device.

It’s important to understand that when we talk about closed and open, it’s not really black and white. It’s really a spectrum of shades of grey. If, for example, “closed” indicates the blackest black, the kind of black you might find in the threads of a tie worn by Richard Roundtree at a funeral, held at the bottom of Krubera Cavern, at midnight, then, well, the Nike ecosystem is perhaps a shade of slate. Because, in truth, there is no such thing as a completely open platform or closed platform. There’s always some inertia to the free, unrestricted movement of your data. Since no company wants to be called out for locking up your data like some snarky dragon hoarding gold under a mountain, the techniques to restrict the movement of your data are often subtle rather than overt.

Here’s a few common ones:

  • Provide an API, but restrict access to just a few “strategic partners” (Suunto)
  • Craft a terms of service where the company is the owner of the data, rather than the user, and strictly limit what can be done with it. For example, prohibit holding it on a server for longer than 24 hours, or exported in any form to a company with a commercial product. (Strava, Runkeeper)
  • Charge thousands of dollars to access the data in bulk (Garmin)
  • Allow users to export the data, but only if they pay a subscription fee.
  • Allow users to export data, but resample that data first, removing most of the recording so that only the rough shape of the route can be discerned (Runtastic)
  • Export the data via an open API, allow users to download it one by one, or in bulk, but don’t seamlessly push it to other companies (Smashrun)
  • Don’t have an open API, but also, don’t work to prevent sites (like Tapiriik) that benefit your users from helping users to get access to their own data (Garmin)
  • Allow the export of data, but don’t invest any time into fixing the bugs in that export

In Nike’s case, they have an API, but they haven’t granted anyone access to use it in years. In fact they used to has have a function where any user could use the API to export a copy of their own data, but they deactivated it around the time the Nike Apple Watch launched.

So, there’s a kind of range from actively working against the export of your data, to failing to invest a ton of resources to facilitate it. Since the beginning, we’ve helped users to get access to their own data on Nike’s site. It hasn’t been easy, but they also haven’t made it impossible for us either. The Nike Sportwatch is an easy to use device. It’s a good entry level watch that was built for Nike by TomTom. The GPS is quite good, and it records 1 GPS point per second which is great, because it allows nice accurate analysis of structured training. You don’t need to read a manual to use it. You can start, stop, and pause and that’s pretty much it, but it’s also all that most people need.

From Nike we can get the GPS coordinates, but there are no timestamps. So we can tell where you ran, but not when you were there, which makes calculating splits a challenge. Luckily, if you record 1 GPS point per second you can figure out the timestamps just by counting the points. Pauses throw a wrench in that, but it turns out there’s a certain signature typical of pauses that can be used to identify them, and up until recently we used that to good effect.

This month, all of that changed. Nike went from providing 1 second recordings to 10 second recordings. Ten seconds is a long time. Try counting to ten now and imagine how far you could run. Ten seconds is a lifetime. It also makes it impossible to identify pauses, and it means that if you run for 59 seconds, for example, there will only be 5 points returned. The splits become a kind of wild guess. We released a patch yesterday, to try and improve the results, but it’s like trying to squeeze water from a stone, a particularly dense and dry stone, that makes your run look kind of squarish, think granite.

So a few ideas…

The Tom Tom Spark 3 is a great watch for the price. The Garmin 230 is an even better watch for a bit more money. If you have an iPhone, iSmoothRun seamlessly exports your data to nearly every running site on the planet and it’s a solid app for a one time $5 cost. If you have an Android phone, then Sportractive, Ghostracer, Caledos(beta) are all free and worth trying.

  1. Maximilian

    So happy I already imported all my Nike Runs to Smashrun already. Wanted to leave Nike since they changed their web interface last summer and luckily found Smashrun =) Thanks for your good work and please keep it up :)

    Reply
    • Jon

      Exactly the same for me, I also left Nike last summer and do not regret it for a second.

      Reply
  2. Nate

    I submitted feedback to Apple reporting that this crap will prevent me from buying an apple watch. Might be helpful if more do the same. (Probably not.)

    +1 for the FR230, I got one around Christmas last year on sale and it’s a dandy little watch.

    Thanks as always to the Smashrun devs. Y’all are the heroes these runners need.

    Reply
    • brent kassing

      re: Apple; that’s why I don’t have their watch and use a Garmin. Love hearing the nerdy technical details of the operation.

      Reply
    • Stephen Boyd

      Why do you say this? I use an apple watch to go running. It’s brilliant. Obviously I don’t use the Nike app, I use iSmoothRun, it is probably THE best running app on any platform. Combine it with smashrun and I’m in data recording heaven.

      Reply
      • Johan Felius

        When you use iSmoothrun, can you use your iWatch standalone ? Or do you have to take your iPhone with you (which then makes no sense to use aniWatch).

        Reply
      • Håvard Pedersen

        You are not logging your run with iSmoothRun on the watch. You are logging your run with iSmoothRun on your phone and using the watch as a display. There’s a difference.

        Reply
  3. Rich

    I’ve been disappointed with Nike’s closed platform. They hoard my personal running data like it’s their own. Never again. I’m waiting for the right watch and company to replace it.

    Tom Tom left a bad taste in my mouth when they released their car GPS powered by Linux but never released an API or Linux software to connect to it. So I promised myself to never buy from them again. Unless their corporate culture has changed, they’re out.

    Which leaves Garmin. The 230 looks like a great watch but a bit pricey. I don’t mind paying a bit more if the company provides an API and gives me full freedom to my data and I don’t mean an API to their servers, I mean API to their watch or at least a FOSS library that I can use!

    Thanks for bringing awareness to this issue, it helps us choose products not only by their features but by the companies behind them.

    Reply
  4. Jim

    Not a Nike user, but thanks for the in depth post on some of the struggles you face on a daily basis with APIs and trying to provide quality data and analysis for us. Yet another reason why Smashrun continues to be tops on my list.

    Reply
  5. Runner8

    Thanks for clearing-up. In the last few years I synched my Garmin runs with the Nike+ platform only for nostalgic reasons (via Android’s SyncMyTracks) because one of my first running watches has been the TomTom Nike+ Sportwatch. This won’t happen anymore. I am done with Nike!

    Reply
  6. Oliver

    Not again Nike! Ruined the app with the switch from Nike running to Nike run club – caused a ridiculous number of bugs and crashes, removed the best features and now do this?!

    Reply
  7. Jason

    I found Smashrun after being so frustrated with NRC. I loved Nike’s old style run app, but the new one is an abomination. I’ve continued to unhappily use the NRC to log runs and then import to Smashrun, but it looks like I’m finally going to move to another app.

    Thanks again Smashrun for such fantastic service.

    Reply
  8. Adam

    Nike has been steadily working at closing their platform off more and more. From what was once originally a platform that was terribly difficult to get your data out of (probably be ignorance on part of the company, moreso than by design) has steadily become more and more impossible, I’ve seen this first hand.

    Their hardware (and software) will continue to die off as more and more users migrate away. All we can do as a community is encourage anybody and everybody we know who has a Nike watch, or is considering purchasing a Nike watch, to run away as fast as they can.

    If Nike’s management comes to their senses (hard to tell if they will), then they’ll eventually realize their hardware will do immensely better if their platform is open, but unless they show strides in the direction of an open platform, I’ll be boycotting all Nikes products and will be shouting from the rooftops so everyone that can hear me should do the same.

    Reply
    • Rodrigo

      Actually… I believe Nike is moving away from the electronics/hardware business.
      If you browse their page, the only watch they’re advertising is the Apple Watch. And while I don’t predict the Apple Watch die off anytime soon, I don’t think runners will find it attractive. Or maybe they’ll be pushed away in the same way we’re being pushed away from Nike.

      So, yeah. People like me, who already own a perfectly working Nike Sportwatch, are the ones that have it more complicated. I mean, it’s working, it’s a very decent piece of hardware, it’s easy to use. It was very affordable when I bought it.
      I’d hate to throw it away while it’s still working.

      Rest assured, my next watch will definitely be one that has openness in mind by design. In the meantime, I’m thankful that Smashrun keeps trying.

      Reply
  9. Phil Jones

    Thanks for the post on this Chris. I thought I was losing it when two of my runs were imported with no speed changes over the route. As you say it’s probably best to move away from Nike. My Nike watch will shortly be heading for ebay and I’ll pick something more open. And again thanks for a great tool and website!

    Reply
  10. Mira Barta

    Luckily I just got the brand new TOMTOM Runner III Cardio watch and my old NIKE+ watch became a backup device. No problem to synchronize the Tomtom data anywhere I want or download the training data in any file type I need. So far I’m very satisfied with the TomTom watch – good device for a good price.

    Reply
  11. Roberto

    The only thing that I miss from old nike+ website was the possibility to zoom out on the map and see where all my runs have been. I plan to run in every country that I visit and smashrun already tell me if it’s my firstrun in a specific country, but it would be fantastic to see it on a map. Feature pls? 😀

    Reply
    • Jesse

      Ditto to what Roberto said… I really, really miss the map that would show you the counts of where all your runs had been.

      Reply
    • Chris

      A bunch of people have asked about this. So we started working on an “Everyrun map.” The idea is to show stats by country/state/city, and also show the route of every run you’ve ever done. We had to shelve it temporarily, but hope to get back to work on it later this year.

      Reply
      • Jason Meador

        Yea! I really miss the Nike Map and would love to see the feature added to SmashRun!

        Reply
    • Linda

      Does the Strava heat map, or Garmin heat map do the same thing, or similar?

      Reply
  12. Linda

    because I live in the land of Garmin, I’m a bit of a Garmin-a-holic (Ok, full on addiction) – but I used to use the Nike app occasionally if I didn’t have one of my Garmin’s with me, or I had neglected to charge it… but I hated not being able to download and use my own data – so I quickly abandoned it. So many other apps available in a pinch. I LOVE LOVE LOVE my Smashrun data – please don’t ever take that away. (Geek pouting would ensue).

    Reply
  13. Mike

    I noticed Garmin has a new website layout today. Strangely my Garmin run didn’t automatically upload to Nike or SmashRun like they normally do. Do you know if they’ve changed the API? Is the auto-upload broken between Garmin and SmashRun now? I’m hoping it’s just a fluke for today.

    Reply
    • Chris

      We had a brief outage today while we did some work to upgrade our database server. It could be that your run was sent from Garmin during that period. In those case Garmin should resend the run a few hours later, and it should import just fine. But I’m guessing you probably want to look at it right away, so the easiest thing to do is to export the FIT file from Garmin and upload it. It won’t dupe later. We try to keep these outages to an absolute minimum, but sometimes they’re unavoidable.

      Reply
  14. Simon

    Thanks for this blog, I am definitely switching away from the Nike app soon – I flip between that and Strava and previously FitBit. Every single one has been a total dick about sharing data in some way – the whole ecosystem is messed up.

    Well done SmashRun for fighting the good fight.

    What I’ll miss about NRC is the training plan feature – it’s what first got me started using it as I was preparing for a half marathon. I’ll miss that but will be moving on to try some of your recommended tracking apps in the very near future.

    Reply
  15. Håvard Pedersen

    For Apple Watch users, the real solution comes with iOS 11. In it, healthkit allows apps to store and read full workout data including GPS waypoints. Which means that you can log with Apples own app and let other apps like Strava, Runkeeper etc read the data from healthkit. :)

    Reply

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