At Connected Health and Fitness conversations turned to data and what’s in store for forward-thinking fitness firms as a new era of collaboration takes hold. SweatWorks CEO Mohammed Iqbal provides the download.
I’ve noticed a rising consciousness over the last year, that when we look at a lot of technology, it’s so often built as one-size-fits-all. Yet there is an increasing expectation from customers that technology will be specific to their needs and some demographics are being persistently underserved by the oversight.
Our bodies, particularly from a biological sex angle, are completely different. Physical structure, hormones and how our bodies respond to stressors – the male and female bodies work very differently. Currently, in most technology, the data being taken is interpreted in the same way regardless of the biological sex, leading to inaccurate, irrelevant and potentially unsafe advice being given to the user. In order to service customers better and adapt to their needs faster, it’s necessary to open up to collaboration.
An unforeseen accelerator
Historically, hardware and software have been created in closed-loop ecosystems, with firms fiercely protective of their data. But more recently we’ve seen technologists’ hands forced into collaborations that have proven their potential. The pandemic was an unforeseen accelerator, providing the impetus for Google and Apple to allow for their vulnerability and enter into collaboration as part of the US emergency response. Together they created the exposure notification system that uses Bluetooth technology to alert individuals if they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. This system was integrated into the contact tracing apps developed by many states and local jurisdictions.
In the fitness world, we can look to collaborations such as that between data tracking hardware Oura and women’s fitness app Wild AI. Previously, Oura sat within a closed-loop system that prevented any other innovations from building on top of it. Its data didn’t take biological sex into account. And so, at certain times of the month, women might be told to seek medical advice – that they were unwell – when in reality they were about to start their period.
Wild AI seek to optimize performance for women. They have created custom software that takes into account women’s hormonal cycles, birth control and life stage, such as peri and post-menopause. They wanted to leverage Oura’s tracking technology, but they needed Oura to open up its data in order to recalibrate results for female customers. The partnership has meant that Wild AI can utilize Oura’s tracking excellence, putting their own layer of analysis on top to deliver specific and relevant advice for their target market. In addition, they gain all of the PR benefits of an optimized experience and a collaboration that drives business to both brands.
Interoperability will be a huge focus going forward
At Connected Health and Fitness in LA in February, there was an acknowledgment that technologists need to share more data across platforms, and that the industry is starting to invest in it. From conversations I’m having, the interoperability between hardware and software will be a huge focus going forward.
Near Field Communication offers up the opportunity to make this interoperability at gym level as seamless as tapping your device onto a piece of hardware to share and collect data. This is already in play, but many manufacturers are still working in silos, building closed-loop systems, and legacy hardware doesn’t have the capability. Here at SweatWorks we’re building this functionality into the products that we are working on. But with the cost of replacing equipment in physical gyms, the reality is that it might take a decade or more for this functionality to become commonplace.
Undoubtedly though, the firms that take the steps to open up data, will open up countless opportunities in doing so. To see the scale of the opportunity, we can look to the smart home market. It considers the homeowner as the user. Using their biometrics, their data, the user simply needs to walk up to their front door for it to unlock with facial recognition, to use their fingerprint to authorize the purchase of food from their fridge door, to use their voice activation to call their Mum from their smart speaker. All of the devices that allow the homeowner to do this are created by different manufacturers but work in unison to provide an optimal user experience with data that is held externally, by the user to use from one device to the next seamlessly.
This kind of experience isn’t possible in an industry focused on being ‘better than’ the next firm and working in silos. What’s becoming clear, is that the new ‘better than’ will result from collaborations between innovative firms, working together to solve problems and improve customer experiences. It’s time to play nice.