In the first two Wearable Workouts posts (part one and part two), we talked about my belief that smart fitness apparel will prevail as the most effective fitness tracking solution. We also discussed that the initial target market will be working professionals in their twenties and thirties who play a variety of sports, are tech savvy, and are earning enough to be willing to pay for a fitness device. Current wearable products already meet the needs of a certain demographic when it comes to walking, running, biking and strength training. In terms of conventional fitness routines, I think the current wristband trackers effectively meet the needs of these demographics, especially at their increasingly affordable price points. There is still, however, an open need for a full athletics tracking device for non-professional athletes and people who obtain fitness through sports and unique training. Tracking heartbeat and calories burned will have some positive effect, but tracking the quality of each sports motion will allow wearable’s to complete the fitness tracking solution. What would this solution look like, and how do we get there?
Let’s use myself as an example. I like to run, and I like to swim. On a rainy day, I will pop in a P90X or Insanity DVD to get my sixty-minute cardio death march on. I also like to play basketball, golf with my friends and hit the waves for a surfing session. Not only do I want to track the amount of calories I burn in these activities, but I also want to make sure that I am using the right muscles and that my technique is correct so I can reach my fitness and sports performance goals. In order to truly track my activity, both with my fitness level and the quality of my sports techniques to overall improve performance, several devices will need to interact with each other. This may sound far-fetched or futuristic, but the parts are all available to make this happen….today. With innovative technology and strategic partnerships, the sky is the limit.
In order to track all my favorite activities, the core product I will need is my smart fitness shirt and shorts. This technology can effectively track my runs and potentially my swims. For when I play basketball, I can pair up my suit with a 94Fifty smart basketball and net. Using 94fifty’s smart basketball technology, I can monitor the number of shots I make, miss, the arc of my shot, spin on the ball, dribbling efficiency and other shooting and dribbling metrics. Using my smart apparel along with a pair of Sensoria smart socks, I will be able to track calories burned, court footwork, balance, and hops. Boom! I wish I had that when I was playing basketball in the park every day growing up! I also spend a couple of evenings a week doing my Insanity workout. I could suit up in my smart apparel and socks to track my entire workout in order to monitor reps and time to ensure I make improvements each time I press play. Then comes the weekend and a round of golf with my friends. Gamegolf’s golf tracker can measure the distance of my shot, quality of my shot, and overall score. My smart apparel can chip in by tracking how my outing has increased my fitness, strengthened my muscles, and can assess the balance and body form on my swing. The next day I grab my surfboard to hit the waves. Ok you got me, this technology doesn’t exist yet, but add same functionality for your smart apparel to track paddling strokes and monitor the knee bend on your stance, and I have myself one heck of an analyzed active life!
One recent breakthrough partnership in the wearable world is the Fitbit and Strava alliance. Though this is a different sort of partnership than I describe above, it has had a great impact in the world of runners and cyclers. This software partnership allows runners to not only track their own steps and heartbeat using their Fitbit but allows them to use the wide array of features Strava offers runners to track run and cycle trips using GPS, compare against past efforts, and compare against the results of competitors. Though this may seem like a minuscule software enhancement, this partnership proved to be a huge breakthrough for runners and cyclists, and for both companies. Now instead of just having your own data to see how many calories you have burned or steps you have taken, you can actually use these newfound data metrics to track running and cycling competitively, instead of just a step and calorie tracker. Anyone who has competed in any sort of sport or competition knows the drive to better yourself each time and to compete to win against others is a drive that leads to performance results. Before the partnership, Fitbit provided “nice to have” data results. Now runners have results they can use to really push themselves to get better. What I am proposing is, that smart wearables take the same path to allow competitors from all different sports verticals to use one primary tool to measure their sports performance in a variety of sports and be able to compare the results of their performance both against competitors in the same sport and against their own performance in other sports. If the target demographic is the tech-savvy professional who participates in a multitude of activities, then this is the one stop solution. Like anything else in the world of things, it can only be achieved via partnerships.
I know, I know, I just made that sound a lot easier then it will be. Tracking each motion so accurately, keeping costs low and producing 100% effective results will all be steep challenges; but a little bit of a challenge never stopped the brilliant minds in the tech community before, has it? The parts are all becoming available individually, and once we put it all together, active consumers and athletes from all different walks of life will be able to purchase one product that can accommodate all their athletic needs. I would not want to buy a different device for each of my activities, but if I can buy one core device with several add-ons for my specific needs to create a personalized sports and activity solution, I would pony up. So how do we get here? Firstly, we need to work on enhancing the m2m technology to allow sensors to track and analyze these activities. Check, this is being done and already available for several sports. Next, we need to find ways to reduce the cost of sensors to allow consumers to afford this product. Check, innovators everywhere are looking for better ways to reduce the cost of sensors to allow mainstream solutions. Lastly, we need our business people to put their heads and products together to create a one-stop shop product that fits every athlete or wannabe athlete’s training dream. That box is yet to be checked. There are so many brilliant IoT products popping up in the sports and fitness industry, it is truly quite amazing. We need these companies to start talking with each other actively to see how the pieces of the puzzle can come together to bring a real industry-impacting product. This is not being done at the moment. Everyone is building a product that they feel will bring the fitness solution, but even if the product is useful, it is likely only part of the fitness solution. Each company that steps up as a leader in their respective area will see their business thrive. They may not own the whole solution, but will own a part of what is the standard. Hey Startup, it’s time to partner up and start looking at all the strategic partnership possibilities to complete the wonderful world of wearable workouts.