ANT has been targeted at the sports sector, particularly fitness and cycling performance monitoring. The transceivers are embedded in equipment such as heart rate belts, watches, cycle power and cadence meters, and distance and speed monitors to form wireless Personal Area Networks (PANs) monitoring a user's performance.
Manufacturers such as Garmin, Nike, and Suunto have used ANT technology in their performance monitoring products. Recently, ANT (the company) has attempted to diversify, claiming ANT wireless sensor networking technology's low overhead, low power, interference free characteristics and operation in the 2.4 GHz ISM band suit applications the health, home automation and industrial sectors.
Commercial wireless sensor networks must be reliable, feature low power consumption (to extend battery life and minimize maintenance), and be low cost to purchase, install and maintain. In addition, transceivers in close proximity need to co-exist in harmony by being able to transmit and receive without interference from their neighbors and other wireless devices operating in the 2.4 GHz band.
ANT-powered nodes are claimed to be capable of acting as slaves or masters within a wireless sensor network. This means the nodes can act as transmitters, receivers or transceivers to route traffic to other nodes. In addition, every node is capable of determining when to transmit based on the activity of its neighbors.
ANT accommodates three types of messaging: broadcast, acknowledged and burst. Broadcast is a one-way communication from one node to another. The receiving node transmits no acknowledgment. This technique is suited to sensor applications and is the most economical method of operation.
Acknowledged messaging confirms receipt of data packets. The transmitter is informed of success or failure, although there are no retransmissions. This technique is suited to control applications. ANT can also be used for burst messaging; this is a multi-message transmission technique using the full data bandwidth and running to completion. The receiving node acknowledges receipt and informs of corrupted packets that the transmitter then resends. The packets are sequence numbered for traceability. This technique is suited to data block transfer where the integrity of the data is paramount.
ANT transceivers using coin cell-type batteries can operate up to three years in low use applications.
ANT uses an adaptive isochronous network technology to ensure co-existence. This scheme provides the ability for each transmission to occur in an interference free time slot within the defined frequency band. The radio transmits for less than 150µs per message, allowing a single channel to be divided into hundreds of timeslots. The ANT messaging period (the time between each node transmitting its data) determines how many time slots are available.
ANT's adaptive isochronous scheme doesn't require a master clock. Transmitters start broadcasting at regular intervals but then modify the transmission timing if interference from a neighbor is detected on a particular timeslot. This flexibility allows ANT to adapt to hostile conditions but ensures there is no overhead when interference is not present. If the radio environment is very crowded, ANT can use frequency agility to allow an application microcontroller-controlled "hop" to an alternative 1 MHz channel in the 2.4 GHz band which can then be subdivided into timeslots.