Fitness Tech’s evolution

I had an enjoyable read over from Pando Daily’s Nathaniel Mott’s article purporting that, “Fitness Tech Needs to Pick Up The Pace” as I love anything to do with the “Quantified Self” movement. While I agree on his stance there needs to be some jolt or a revitalization of sorts with respect to “the same old tech with a different spin” when he’s referring to the Jawbone Up, Nike FuelBand and FitBit – what he doesn’t address is that the tech to do what he wants to do won’t see the light of day for at least 2 years in terms of commercialization. It’s too fragmented at the present moment to mend in such a short period of time. Who ever pulls all the pieces of the puzzle together will own the lion’s share of the fitness market.

The State of the Fitness Tech Evolution

We’re only hitting the tip of the iceberg in terms of the capabilities of these products. I’m sure none of the folks at FitBit, JawBone and Nike are resting on their laurels waiting for the market buy up their product when people don’t even know why they need to buy their products in the first place.

In his article, Mr. Mott says:

It all comes down to the Internet of Things, a concept where items would communicate with one another via the Internet. A connected wristband would be able to receive information from other fitness equipment, gathering necessary data so the user wouldn’t have to.

For example, once the wristband was close enough to a weight, the two should communicate just how much the user lifts as the wristband measures sets and repetitions. Later the band could communicate with the user’s sneakers and cell phone, keeping track of his movements and figuring out if he’s running, playing a sport, or riding a bike.

What I think he’s referring to is almost like a Bluetooth/Wifi enabledTwine-meets-Green Goose-meets-Fitbit-meets-RunKeeper-meets-Fitocracy device that are all connected.  Just thinking of pulling something off of that magnitude, however, will take a lot of friggin’ money as we’re talking about hardware and software being integrated with fitness equipment – and not only that, personalized with badass algorithms to optimize the users fitness levels.  We’re talking about extending further down the supply chain beyond what these companies original mandate and mission, which may or may not be a bad thing.

The potential players that will take the crown

Off to the top of my head, that leaves only Nike, Adidas, Fitbit or maybe even BeachBody with their reach, clout, relationships and audience to be able to pull off something of that magnitude.

The way I see it, in order to gain any sort of widepspread adoption, what these companies need are partnerships with equipment makers, gyms across the board and a totally re-imagined business model rather than straight up selling product. I’m talking giving away the product at a steep discount (or hell even free) as a loss leader , if they can hook users into a subscription model combined giving a cut to gym’s who are pushing their product in order to be vertically integrated with their proprietary technology and fitness system.

“Frictionless” UX + Manual Entry Together Is the Key To the Throne

During a #QSChat a few weeks ago, we talked about active and passive data entry. While I’d tend to agree that manual data entry like what’s required to use Fitocracy is a bit of a pain, there should always be an element of manual intervention as not all devices are 100% accurate. It’s impossible. However, combining the two together to make it “frictionless”, where it just “works” in the background much like RunKeeper or Fitbit with the ability to add onto the information or correct any errors would be the ideal solution.

In the meantime, I’m not too concerned about what the tech can’t do as it’s just complementary to my fitness and not a necessity. I’ll just continue getting my ass kicked at my Crossfit gym, and be happy that I’m able to measure my progress and results in a reliable and consistent manner through any of the aforementioned devices.

  • Andrew

    This is a really great response to that PandoDaily article.  I think you’re definitely right, if you’re going to win in this space, you need to be well integrated with the current market: gyms, hardware devices, communities.  

    And that business model you presented about selling for a loss but getting users hooked into a subscription service is exactly what Nestle’s Nespresso did to completely dominate the home espresso market.  It makes a lot of sense in this market as well.

    For now I’m just a student at Stanford trying to level up my CS and design skills, but when I graduate, I’m planning on attacking this problem in the market head on.  There is clearly a lot of innovation to be done in the personal fitness/nutrition market.  Stay tuned :)

    • Will

      Hey Andrew,

      Thanks for the reply!  Yeah, there are definitely parallels with Nestle’s Nespresso business model.. get em hooked, make it a habit in their daily lives, and you’ll be cash flow positive for life!

      Makes sense to me anyway, as gym memberships work that way.. why not software, hardware AND equipment as well?

      Please, solve any problem in the fitness market as we WANT you to do so.  Haha. Are you doing CS there?