Getting Your Old iMac to Speak ANT+ and BLE

Tired of running your bike training and virtual cycling system on your smartphone, tablet with tiny screens?

Constrained by the limited connectivity options and/or processing power of those smart devices?

If yes,  how about using your good old desktop platform or notebook to drive the bike trainer and connect to virtual cycling systems like Zwift or Golden Cheetah?

Tired of running your bike training and virtual cycling system on your smartphone, tablet with tiny screens?

Constrained by the limited connectivity options and/or processing power of those smart devices?

If yes,  how about using your good old desktop platform or notebook to drive the bike trainer and connect to virtual cycling systems like Zwift or Golden Cheetah?

Before proceeding with the required setup works, check the platform and connectivity pre-requisites of your bike training / virtual cycling software packages to ensure your current desktop / notebooks environment are supported.

 

Desktop Platforms:

  • Microsoft Windows 10
  • Apple Mac OS X

Connectivity Options:

  • ANT+
  • Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) available in Bluetooth 4.0 or later

This requires embedded and/or separate ANT+ and BLE hardware adapters.

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If you are equipped with new desktops and/or notebooks, probably all those pre-requisites are met. You can skip the rest of this post and start your virtual riding right away.

For those of you who are running old Apple iMac like me, getting your iMac and/or Macbook notebook to speak ANT+ and/or BLE are the major issues to be addressed.

Despite I have the latest CycleOps smart trainer that supports both ANT+ FE-C and BLE, I observed that ANT+ is still the most prevailing protocol to be used while BLE support may vary across different training/riding packages.

From a techie point of view, I will enable both the ANT+ and BLE support for testing purpose.

Follow my post below to see how I added the required connectivity support.

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1.  Check Your Current BLE Support

ANT+ driver support is already included in Mac OS X and NO additional work is required.

For BLE support, the situation varies across devices:

  • Mac mini, MacBook Air – available in 2011
  • MacBook Pro, iMac – available in 2012
  • Mac Pro – available in December 2013

 

Use the procedure below to check your Mac’s active Bluetooth version:

  1. Select About This Mac from the  menu
  2. Click on the System Report… button under the Overview Tab
  3. Select Bluetooth underneath “Hardware
  4. Look for LMP Version under “Hardware, Features, and Settings:
  5. Any value below “4.0 (0x6)" indicates that BLE is not yet supported

 

Supported Bluetooth Version in my mid-2011 iMac

Supported Bluetooth Version in my mid-2011 iMac

My desktop is a mid-2011 iMac. As expected, it lacks the required BLE support.

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2.  Order the ANT+/BLE Hardware Interfaces

ANT+ hardware interface is not included in your Mac device and purchase of separate ANT+ USB dongle is required.

You may buy either the CycleOps ANT+ USB dongle or the Garmin ANT+ USB dongle from around USD 39 to 50. To save cost, I ordered a compatible ANT+ USB dongle from Amazon at USD 15.99.

USB ANT+ Dongle from Amazon

USB ANT+ Dongle from Amazon

 

For the BLE USB dongle, I ordered mine with the Broadcom chipset from Amazon at USD 12.99.

BLE Dongle running Broadcom chip

BLE Dongle running Broadcom chip

Quite a significant saving to me.

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3.  Add ANT+/BLE Driver Support

First of all, check the version of Mac OS X.

Mine is running the latest macOS High Sierra (10.13.5) and the steps described below may vary slightly with what you have.

 

i.  Verify status of the ANT+ USB Dongle

ANT+ USB Dongle Support

ANT+ USB Dongle Support

ANT+ USB dongle detected and activated.

 

ii.  Activate the BLE USB Dongle

To enable the BLE USB dongle, I have to switch the active Bluetooth host controller to the newly installed BLE dongle. The Bluetooth Explorer tool available from the Apple Developers site is required for the Bluetooth Controller switching.

Download BlueTooth Explorer from Xcode developer tool

Download BlueTooth Explorer from Xcode developer tool

 

As I am running Xcode 9.4, I downloaded the latest “Additional Tools for Xcode 9.3" in order to get the Bluetooth Explorer.

Select Additional Tools for Xcode 9.3

Select Additional Tools for Xcode 9.3

 

Run the Bluetooth Explorer from the downloaded package and click on “HCI Controller Selector" under the Tools menu.

Change the BLE HCI Controller via Bluetooth Explorer

Change the BLE HCI Controller via Bluetooth Explorer

 

Select the “Broadcom Corp" Host Controller and clock on Activate to switch to the BLE dongle.

Select Broadcom Corp Bluetooth Host Controller

Select Broadcom Corp Bluetooth Host Controller

 

Repair all those affected Bluetooth devices (eg. Keyboard, Mouse, Trackpad, etc) as necessary.

Check for the final active Bluetooth version supported.

Active Bluetooth version after switching to BTLE dongle

Active Bluetooth version after switching to BTLE dongle

At this stage, the two USB dongles are ready for the next connectivity testing.

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4.  Smart Trainer and Cycling Software Connectivity Test

Let’s complete the connectivity testing using the most popular virtual cycling software Zwift.

I will be using the CycleOps Magnus Smart Trainer and the Wahoo TICKR Heart Rate Monitor for the exercise.

ZWIFT - Device discovery

ZWIFT – Device discovery

Here I have chosen the ANT+ protocol for the Magus Smart Trainer (Saris PWR 31626, Saris FE-C 31626). For TICKR, Bluetooth Low Energy protocol is used (TICKR 214).

 

  1. […] For details on how to equip your Apple iMac or Macbook with Ant+ support, you may refer to my previous post here. […]

    回應

  2. Excellent and detailed article – solved my problem when all else was failing…. thank you

    回應

  3. Grazie per il tuo post. Io ho lo stesso problema con Bkool. Anch’io ho un Mac metà 2010 con il sistema operativo Hight Sierra. Anch’io ho acquistato due chiavette USB ANT+: Bluetooht 4.0 USB Dongle, Asus Mod. USB BT-400 e ANT+V Dynastream R 203-JN6016. Tuttavia, Apple non rilascia più il programma XCode per Hight Sierra e non posso scaricare Bluetooth Explorer e installare correttamente le due chiavette. Cosa devo fare? Grazie!

    Thanks for your post. I have the same problem with Bkool. I also have a Mac mid-2010 with the operating system Hight Sierra. I also bought two ANT+ USB sticks: Bluetooht 4.0 USB Dongle, Asus USB Mod. BT-400 and ANT+V Dynastream R 203-JN6016. However, Apple no longer releases the XCode program for Hight Sierra and I can not download Bluetooth Explorer and install the two keys correctly. What should I do? Thank you!

    Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator

    回應

    1. Currently I am running Xcode 10.1 with High Sierra (10.13.6), the mentioned Bluetooth Explorer should still be available for download as part of the “Additional Tools for Xcode 10.1″.

      回應

  4. Thanx, so Zwift should be running on an iMac 21,5 2011 with 512mb graphics?

    回應

    1. Yes. I ran smoothly even under full HD game graphics mode.

      回應

  5. Do you have to have both ANT+ and Bluetooth? If your smart trainer is equipped with Bluetooth, can you just stick with that and that only?

    回應

    1. Just one is enough. However, depending on which virtual cycling system you are using, there may be some features not fully supported, especially with Bluetooth.

      回應

  6. […] For details on how to setup ANT+ support with Apple iMac or Macbook, you may refer to my previous post here. […]

    回應

  7. Hi. This SHOULD be easy, as you have explained it so well! But I cannot get the Xcode 10.1 onto my High Sierra ( Mid 2010 ) Mac, to even be able to begin the process!

    Liked by 1 person

    回應

    1. I think you are attempting to get Xcode 10.1 from App Store which is not available now.

      Instead you should download it directly (assuming you have the Apple Developer account already) from here –> https://developer.apple.com/download/more/

      The corresponding ‘Additional Tools for Xcode 10.1’ is also available here.

      Liked by 1 person

      回應

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