IoT Applications in Health & Fitness

“When you look at the Internet of Things, the things themselves are not interesting,” said Dave Sobel, director of Community at MAXfocus and a self-professed IoT enthusiast. “We’re all focused on the ‘things,’ but that’s not where the opportunity is.”

That’s a quote from an article on The VAR Guy, and I could not agree more.  The article is interesting on its own (I’ll share some thoughts later on cloud services, IoT, and the channel) and if you are trying to get your hands around IoT and what it means to business, it’s worth a read.  For today I wanted to share a few thoughts that this quote generated in my head.

1. Running shoes – what happens when they are instrumented?  When the data from the shoes (pressure maps, gait data) get integrated with other info (running mileage, terrain)?  Suddenly your running shoe retailer (or your gym, or your coach, or whoever you allow) has tremendous insight into when you need to replace your shoes, what type of shoe will work best for you, muscular imbalances you might need to work on, etc.

2. Gym equipment – Combine a beacon on the equipment with a wearable and instrumentation on the machine to automatically log the user’s reps and upload them to a service for tracking exercise.  Integrate the coach or trainer in the gym into this loop for a rich and very sticky engagement with the customer.   Imagine all the marketing  value of knowing which members are using which equipment, and overlaying that on their class attendance and demographics.

3. Sleep data – Mash up your sleep data from a wearable from the temperature data on your Nest (lots of data point to the connection between temperature and sleep quality).  It sounds great but what’s important is how the thing (thermometer) enables a better life (better sleep = better life, no two ways about it).   Let the athletic coach or health care expert see these data so they can understand how they might impact response to medication or training load.

Selling things is getting less and less interesting as a business.  If you are in retail, and you really view your role as just having a thing on the shelf for someone to walk in and buy, you are competing directly with Amazon, Walmart, and every other e-commerce site that exchanges things for money.   Being close to the customer and building a comprehensive relationship with them means being able to leverage the data from the things more effectively than a far-away website and truly move from selling a product to providing a service.

I’d love to hear your favorite ideas for how to merge user data and device data to deliver better solutions to customers.

 

 

 

Inventory data and customer expectations

A few news bits in the last couple of weeks have caught my eye.  Springboard announced a solution which takes inventory management to the cloud and integrates online & brick and mortar sales.  This has always been a pain point and in reality there have been solutions for it for years – I had the two sales channels integrated when I was a store owner 6 years ago using MINDBODY Online.  But the solutions have not been as clean or as advanced as you might like, so it’s good to see this getting addressed by more and more vendors.

Increasingly, inventory management matters not just for the traditional reasons (cash management, keeping hot sellers in stock, etc.) but also because accurate inventory data is a prerequisite for meeting customer expectations in the omni-channel world.   This is brought home in this summary from Mozu which highlights steps retailers can take to meet customer expectations (you need to submit your email to download the free report).  In some way they all depend on accurate, real-time inventory data.

Same day delivery is one area that I am really focused on, and you can’t do it successfully without accurate inventory data.  It’s where customer engagement meets operational business data.  I’m really interested in rideshare/crowd-sourced delivery  options and I’m working with one client on this now.  I’ll write more on this later, as there’s a lot going on the space as Uber/Lyft/Sidecar et al try to differentiate themselves and carve out their niches.

 

Fitness Industry Tech Usage Survey

I came across this presentation from the Fitness Industry Technology Council on LinkedIn and found it pretty interesting.  I could talk about a lot of the results at length but one that jumped out at me was the fact that only 30% of fitness facilities are using technology to track member workouts.  The data are a little bit old but I bet it hasn’t budged a whole lot in the last year.   There’s enormous opportunity here to improve member results, reduce customer churn, and get your members to do your marketing for you.  We all know people like to brag on social media, and when they brag you should make it easy for them to let everyone know they are bragging about a workout they did at your gym.   That’s just one small example.  We use FitLinxx at the Y where I teach a few classes and even though we are fairly advanced I think we still leave a lot on the table.

Calling all fitmob instructors / gym managers

Fitmob has gotten a lot of buzz lately and rightly so – they are seeking to really disrupt and change the model of gym membership and fitness class participation.  If you haven’t heard of them, you can think of them as an “Uber of fitness classes”.  You can find a lot of consumer reviews of the service on Yelp but I’m really interested in fitmob from the trainer or gym manager’s perspective. If you’ve used fitmob in your business and are willing to spend 5-10 minutes sharing your thoughts on it, please shoot me an email – karl@fitbusinesstech.com.   Thanks!

March’s Recommended Reading

I like to share ideas and content that have been powerful or useful in my career and life in general.  Today I’ll share one of my favorites – it’s a blog by a former private equity guy turned elite triathlete turned coach and blogger, Gordo Byrn.   Check out his blog here.

To get you started, here are two of my favorite recent posts.

Behavior not Protocol – I’ve always told athletes “the workout you’ll do is always better than the one you won’t do”.  Too many folks obsess on the details of this plan or that plan, but they won’t execute either plan consistently, so it really doesn’t matter.  Byrn elaborates on this more eloquently than I can.

The Freedom of Not Knowing – Selective ignorance is a valuable thing.  There are a lot of things I choose not to be informed on, because they just don’t impact my top priorities in life.   At best they are time sinks, at worst they are a cause for anxiety and unnecessary emotional arousal (this was a big factor in my decision to delete my Facebook account earlier this year).

Byrn also writes a lot about financial planning for families, and his own experiences as a father.  If you are looking for a blog to add to your regular reading list, you should consider his.

 

 

Nike+, TomTom, Customer Ownership

One theme you’ll hear me harp on if you hang around long enough is the somewhat grating concept of “owning the customer”.  This phrase comes up all the time in marketing and biz dev discussions, and while it’s not necessarily intended in a disrespectful way, I think the underlying premise can be dangerous and create real blindspots in guiding companies and product lines.

Once upon a time, humans struggled with scarcity.  Scarcity of food, shelter, day to day stuff.  Any cursory look around will tell you we have the opposite problem today – as the means of producing and marketing things became more and more efficient, cheap, and accessible, the availability of stuff has exploded.  Combine this with Marc Andreesen’s famous observation that software is eating the world, it’s no wonder that for so many problems, the number of viable software solutions (especially cloud based solutions) is large.

Obviously this does not apply to every industry or go-to-market approach.  Enterprise sales take a long time, car factories are still expensive and hard to build.  But in the world of fitness devices and cloud-based solutions, I’d argue the barriers to entry are low and getting lower.  So the market is likely to be fractured.  In the consumer space, your odds of owning the customer are slim.  You don’t own them, you serve them.  So you must focus maniacally on doing this the best you can, and not worry about locking in the customer.

I was inspired to write on this topic by the news of Nike re-energizing their partnership with TomTom, and announcing Nike+ compatibility with Garmin devices.   Of all the companies that might want to take a “walled garden” approach in fitness tracking, Nike and Garmin are two that you might guess have a decent shot at locking customers in to their complete solution.   But even Nike got chased out of the wearables market in favor of partnering with other hardware companies.  All these vendors are smart enough to see that while they can each offer end-to-end solutions, they can do better by making their products and services cross compatible.

I still see a lot of companies in the fitness space who are under-promoting, or altogether avoiding, cross compatibility.  I think every company in this space ought to have the technical resources, like APIs, that open the right level of services and data access to third party developers, and  I’m working on a database of apps and their third party ecosystem support.  Shoot me an email (karl@fitbusinesstech.com) if you want to learn more.

Look here for official press announcements from: Nike, TomTom.

 

 

 

Power measurement for runners

I still remember when a little German company called SRM came out with this ghetto looking crankset that measured power on a bicycle.   It was so novel even some expert physiologists wondered what you’d do with the data.  Back then heart rate, cadence and speed were considered the benchmarks of training data and even the measurement of those was not widely adopted, never mind the training methods and protocols to get the most out of them.  Fast forward a couple of decades, and no serious cyclist would consider training without power.  Even the spin bikes at my local YMCA feature a power meter (calibration questions aside), and we are working on programs to utilize these data more comprehensively so that even casual riders can maximize their workout value and track their progress.  Mainstream companies like Garmin and Polar have joined and been driving forces in the the ecosystem around cycling power measurement.

Of course bicycles lend themselves to the instrumentation that provide power, but other sports not so much.  Enter Stryd.  They have a campaign on Kickstarter to fund a power meter for runners.  This could be huge – the ability to quantify not the runner’s speed or exertion, but the actual rate of work output – accounting for gradient, wind, etc.  Given that I spend more time running than cycling these days, I just might have to get in on the campaign and be an early adopter.

More broadly I think this points to the ongoing desire to quantify health & fitness activities, and just like with cycling it will spawn a new generation of data applications and experts to make sense of it all.  The forward thinking fitness businesses will be ready to capitalize on this when it goes mainstream.

You can learn more at their official website.

Internet of Things and the SMB

If you pay any attention at all to the tech world you’ve surely stumbled across the term “internet of things” (IoT) many times, and perhaps wondered what the heck it means.  I define it this way: it’s the vision of all physical objects as devices that have some kind of network presence, whether as input devices (say a temperature monitor on a refrigerator, or a security video camera accessible on your iPhone), or as input/output devices (Nest is a great example – it sends you data over the internet, and you can control it remotely).   Those of us who have been into “wearables” since before they were called wearables (you know, that Polar HRM we were using back in the mid-90’s) have been particularly interested in how these locally monitored sensors can eventually be web enabled, and how those data deliver value via web services to various ecosystem partners.  For example – your HRM is valuable to you as you regulate your workout, but it can also be of value to your coach, thousands of miles away, who can use the data to guide your training.  I believe this whole arena presents great opportunities for savvy SMB owners in the health and fitness arena and will be exploring this theme over time.   In the meantime, this article from Laurie McCabe covers a few angles on IoT for the SMB.  Laurie covers a lot of technology themes around the SMB, her content is worth spending some time on.

Useful Blog for Fitness SMB’s – Fit Business Insider

Just a short post from the road, this week I’m in southern California for a little R&R and also a client meeting in my old grad-school stomping grounds, Orange County.  I wanted to quickly share a link to a site I found the other day, and it’s a good resource – Fit Business Insider.  You can find them here.  They seem to focus mostly on the sales & marketing side of running a fitness focused SMB but they have a nice variety of resources, including what looks like some good content on training and exercise (e.g., Eric Cressey was one guest contributor I saw on the blog).   So many trainers and health/fitness experts sell themselves short and fail to capitalize on their skills – these guys & gals are helping to fix that.  Give their site a look next time your surfing around.

Engaging clients through the web with VR glasses on steroids

I can imagine a whole collection of ways that Microsoft’s HoloLens could impact the fitness business.  I’ve long been intrigued by ways for the cloud to help experts scale their audience and earnings, but bridging the digital-physical world divide is a real challenge in some niches.  When doing robotics research in grad school I got to experiment with virtual reality glasses to facilitate 3D mechanism design,  and when Facebook bought Oculus Rift the product category got a boost in buzz, but it looks like Microsoft’s version takes things to a whole different level with the ability to interact through the web.

Focused on the intersection of my three favorite topics.