A new year; always a good time to look back at the innovations of the past twelve months and at the same time look ahead to what our industry can expect. As in previous years, fitness technology is expected to play an ever greater and more visible role in 2019 as wearables, smartphones and exercise equipment are increasingly connected. Let’s look at some of the key trends that will play a central role in this year’s technology revolution in the fitness industry.
Wearables still at the top in technology
ACSM publishes an annual industry report with predictions about trends in the fitness industry. Wearables were already number 1 in 2016, just like in 2017. In 2018, however, we saw wearables fall to third place. Logical, given that 2017 was a difficult year for fitness trackers: a report by research agency CSS Insights indicated at the time that sales of fitness trackers had dropped by 17% in 2017. In that year you also noticed that the market was increasingly dominated by major brands. The same report showed that 2 companies (Fitbit and Chinese Huami) together have conquered a market share of 80%.
Instead of trackers that you wear on your wrist or chest, sensors of the future are increasingly integrated into your clothing. Smart clothing is expected to become a billion dollar industry, thanks to strong improvements in conductive fabrics and other innovations from companies such as Sensoria, Lumo and Under Armour. A new report by Juniper Research predicts that by 2022, around 30 million smart clothing will be sold, surpassing sales of devices such as smartwatches and classic fitness trackers.
A first example is the Nadi X yoga pants, designed by the New York startup Wearable X. Thanks to built-in sensors, the pants can measure your posture, and then correct you with vibrations. Another example is the Athos smart-cladding range. Micro EMG sensors monitor up to 22 muscle groups; this data is displayed directly in an app, so you can see the load per muscle group. This way you can measure strain and prevent injuries.
Of course, these wearables are relevant to the fitness industry: smart clothing makes it clear to trainers how the customer puts a strain on his muscles during training. This is possible during a PT-session, but it is also possible at a distance, where the personal trainer has continuous insight into the training data of such a customer.
Big data: big deal!
Big data and machine learning are two of the most important technological developments for companies worldwide. With these, large datasets can easily be converted into useful insights, in order to increase business efficiency, effectiveness, and turnover. According to the International Data Company, the market for machine learning software will grow to over 40 billion dollars in the next two years. The fitness industry should certainly go along with this because machine learning can mean a lot for fitness entrepreneurs and their customers. Thanks to advanced behavioral algorithms, clubs can accurately predict the training habits and purchasing behavior of their members, for example. This makes it possible not only to offer a more personalized service delivery but also to improve conversions, repeat purchases, and customer loyalty.
A More Human AI
Google Home, Alexa, Cortana – interaction with artificial intelligence is becoming increasingly human. Chatbots are also getting better and better and can often respond naturally to questions from website visitors. In no time, this technology can collect, process and reflect information back to the user. When this kind of AI is used more, it will have a big impact on the behavior of consumers. An obvious example is that customers can book personal training appointments via a chatbot or voice assistant. But your marketing campaigns will also change if your target group searches for their local gym via voice!
On-Demand Digital Coaching
On-demand is becoming increasingly popular. From watching movies to ordering taxis, customers are used to on-demand service thanks to Netflix and Uber. And now you start to see this in the fitness industry. A first example is the indoor cycling brand Peloton. Through their own line of bicycle equipment and running tracks, Peloton members can participate in live training sessions at home thanks to built-in streaming technology. But Peloton will also expand their digital platform with a mobile app so that it will be possible to participate in lessons without having to buy a Peloton bicycle or treadmill. As a result, Peloton can reach millions of people with limited overhead.
Similar on-demand solutions are also emerging in the gym market. For example, last year Xercise4Less launched streaming group lessons in England via their mobile app so that members can not only train in the club but also do group lessons at home. And the US company Equinox offers a computer-controlled coach, driven by AI, via their app. And with their incubator, “Project”, they are constantly experimenting with new training methods and equipment. Instructors are given the opportunity to try out new concepts with volunteers, after which the successful concepts are rolled out.
These were just a few examples of innovations in the fitness industry; new developments such as virtual reality and augmented reality will eventually also have an impact on the way people play sports. We live in exciting times. 2019 promises to be another year in which technological innovations will take the industry to the next level by simplifying business processes, increasing turnover and improving the member experience.