How IoT Is Shaping the Future of Fitness

IoT unlocks numerous opportunities for the fitness industry. But developers and manufacturers need to make the troves of device data actionable for fitness devices to become truly smart.

ANT Wireless
graphic of a man squatting with weights

IoT-enabled exercise equipment, mobile fitness applications and connected wearables are no longer novelty items. Smart bike trainers, for instance, have emerged as a standalone product category, with apps like Zwift gamifying the indoor training experience and companies like TrainerRoad reinventing the individual gym and workout experience. Others like Peleton are tuning that experience with a guided journey and a group class connection. Fitness and spin boutiques are advancing group workouts with IoT-tech supported programs and classes, and wearable fitness trackers and watches have also inundated the market. In fact, recent research from IDC has forecasted that the worldwide wearables market will ship nearly 125 million units by the end of the year.

One of the primary reasons IoT technology has had such an impact on the fitness industry is the visibility it provides. No matter a person’s individual exercise goals, their objective is to improve in some way and measure that growth. By continually collecting and delivering data that can be used to track personal growth, IoT technology has fundamentally changed how people exercise by providing unprecedented visibility. Furthermore, the data it produces can be used to objectively answer the age-old question of, “Is it really worth going to the gym?”

As IoT technology continues to advance, expect it to alter the fitness industry and the act of exercising even further. In fact, in just the past few years, several innovative, IoT-driven trends have begun going mainstream.

1: Tech-Enabled Group Fitness

IoT technology has emerged as a critical enabler for group fitness. For example, gyms, clubs or classes that are group-focused are increasingly leveraging battery-powered wireless sensors and gateways so participants can see what everyone is doing and instructors can better cater to the unique needs of each class and participant.

2: Immersive Workout Experiences

Gone are the days of having to settle for bare bones bike trainers or treadmills with TV access. Today, people are seeking more immersive, embedded and engaging workout experiences. They want to use a bike trainer in a virtual world, for example, see their heart rate alongside other participants in their group class, or run a popular marathon virtually with the actual event in real time.

3: Shareable Tracking Data

Whether it’s for competition, motivation or accountability, people desperately want to share their exercise data with others. App builders have caught on, offering everything from apps that connect people to friends and family (e.g. Strava), apps that connect to existing social media accounts and apps that connect to a community of strangers.

4: Leaderboard Systems

Contributing to the trend of more immersive exercise experiences, gyms are beginning to incorporate connected leaderboard systems. For instance, Orange Theory Fitness studios display every member’s heart rate performance and visually tracks that data over time using wireless Heart Rate sensors. Spin studios also use leaderboards from companies like Performance IQ to show heart rate, or to display a participant’s cadence or power output in an effort to incentivize them to work harder or catch up to the rest of the class.

5: Connected Guest Experiences

Sharing data and incorporating leaderboards is great, however people want to improve individually, too. Gyms, classes and apps are tapping into this desire, using IoT technology to improve their guest experiences so they’re seamless and focused on the individual. Peleton is a stellar example of a company that’s bridging the gap between offering highly personalized guest experiences but also providing a group setting.

6: Smarter Sensors

Just four years ago, a heart rate monitor was a single-purpose device that a person strapped to their body when they wanted heart rate tracking. Today, heart rate sensors ubiquitous. They’re embedded into smart wearables, instantly and continuously transmitting data from a person’s wrist to the cloud (at their option, of course!) Sensors will only continue to advance in the years to come, requiring less power, hardware and infrastructure, all while providing more data and new insights.

Consumable, Actionable Data is Key

The future of IoT-driven fitness is undeniably bright, especially considering the fact that cloud technology has made collecting, storing and delivering large amounts of data relatively affordable. Standards bodies have made it easier than ever to plug new data into the collective, and wearable development platforms have given developers the opportunity to create branded experiences in wearable product ecosystems.

Fitness and wellness-related mobile apps also continue to enjoy some of the highest retention rates among mobile categories, however there’s one looming problem that needs to be acknowledged: When does all of the fitness data become too much data? That is, with smarter sensors and new data types appearing constantly, how does an individual sort through it all?

The average person can only productively consume so much information, and when fitness trackers correlate disparate data streams to create new metrics (such as heart rate vs. distance traveled vs. speed) things can get even more overwhelming. To ensure the IoT continues to productively shape the future of fitness, manufacturers and app builders need to take responsibility for data they’re producing and make it immediately consumable and actionable. Better yet, by providing clear, digestible insights from the troves of available activity data, there’s an opportunity for the fitness industry as a whole to evolve past the initial touch points of IoT apps, sensors and devices, and actually enrich people’s day-to-day lives.

By Mike Rounding, ANT Wireless Product Manager at Garmin Canada Inc.

ANT Wireless
ANT Wireless
ANT is a proven protocol and silicon solution for ultra-low power (ULP) practical wireless networking applications. ANT+ facilitates interoperability between ANT+ Alliance member devices and the collection, automatic transfer, and tracking of sens...
ANT is a proven protocol and silicon solution for ultra-low power (ULP) practical wireless networking applications. ANT+ facilitates interoperability between ANT+ Alliance member devices and the collection, automatic transfer, and tracking of sens...