ANT is an ultra-low power wireless networking protocol. Being a protocol it defines how networks can be formed and how data is sent. It does not define what high level information may be contained within the data. ANT+ is a managed ANT network that uses ‘device profiles’ to define how to convert between the data and information in a consistent way. As a result ANT+ devices are interoperable .
Each ANT+ device profile contains the network rules relevant to a specific use case e.g. Speed & Distance monitors. These include settings for the channel parameters, the format of the data transmitted, and other specific communication mechanisms for the interaction between two devices.
As an analogy, using the ANT protocol could be likened to writing using the Roman alphabet, whereas using ANT+ would be like writing in English. An ANT+ device (English speaker) would have no trouble communicating with another ANT+ device (another English speaker). It could also exchange data with an ANT device on a different network (a non-English speaker), but might not know how to interpret the data received back.
For example an ANT+ heart rate monitor produced by Adidas can be used with an ANT+ watch made by Garmin and / or an ANT+ smart phone from Sony. The heart rate monitor can be interchanged for any other ANT+ heart rate monitor (from any manufacturer), and every device in this system would still know which part of the data stream represented heart rate.
On the other hand, if the heart rate monitor was swapped for a different heart rate monitor that communicated using the ANT protocol, but did not conform to the ANT+ rules, then:
• the new device would have to communicate on a different network (due to not having the ANT+ Network key)
• the other devices in the network would need a way to know how to interpret the data sent (e.g. they would need to have been designed to work with this specific heart rate monitor).
For further information, please refer to ANT Message Protocol and Usage, section 5.