Tag Archives: ecosystem

Feedback Loops and Fit-Tech Framework

With so many product launches and so much investment activity in the digital health & fitness arena it helps to have a framework for understanding the meaning of it all.  This post is the first in a series in which I’ll share the frameworks I use, with a few notes on some of the companies I see doing really interesting work across the entire ecosystem.

I always start by considering any new product or technology with a behavioral emphasis.  At the end of the day, it’s consumer/patient/athlete behavior that really matters when we talk about improving health, reducing costs, or improving performance.  I have another framework to look at things from a technology stack perspective which I’ll share in the next installment.

I’ve run this simple diagram by countless people, inside and outside the fitness-tech arena, and everyone seems to get it right away, so it’s been useful for me.  It’s simple, and maybe obvious, but I always find it worth stating.


This picture is informed more by my background as a coach, athlete, and lifestyle design enthusiast than by any market study or tech trends.    The Action step is where the rubber meets the road, but it’s hard, complicated, and can take a long time to move the needle.  It’s also influenced by many factors beyond the fitness or health care arena.

A lot has been written about wearables, so I won’t say much about the data collection step.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it’s really not the things that are interesting but the data they provide and the services they enable.

When I consider Expertise + Analytics box I’m including machines & people.   Some users are curious and enthusiastic enough to dig into physiology and learn how to interpret their own data, but that’s a fraction of the fraction of people who actually keep using their wearables (the percentage may be high, or maybe not), so the emphasis here needs to be on professional service providers of one sort or another.   IBM’s Watson and health focused providers like Vivametrica, and even more niche companies analyzing specific data sets like power data from bicycles are all contributors to the more algorithmic, machine based contribution the to this arena.

Finally, motivation is critical and many social, financial, mental health and other factors play into this.  It’s surely the hardest nut to crack and it’s also where a lot of the personalization of health care comes into play.   Some of the most interesting apps focus in this area so I’ll devote a whole post to this soon.  The opportunity for fitness clubs and other activity-related social groups to contribute here and leverage the technologies already on the market is substantial, and I believe still vastly underutilized.

As always, I welcome your comments and feedback via email or the comments section.  Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn to make sure you get all the updates to the blog and subsequent articles in the series.



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.