Posted by Ashley Osgood
Happy Marathon Monday! As a Boston-based company, Skyhook Wireless joins in the city’s excitement every year on Patriot’s Day - where the Red Sox always play at 11:00am, and The Annual Boston Marathon race commences at 9:00am.
For the 2014 race, we thought we would comment on the large focus around wearable technology and how fitness trackers could better fuel the Boston Marathon runners. Fitness wearables like Nike Fuel and Adidas are perfect accessories for race participants to monitor their heart rate, speed, and how far they have gone. Wearables are also a great alternative for runners who don’t want to carry their phone but who still want to stay connected to their families throughout the race - and we think there are some exciting opportunities for wearable technology to take this a step further.
The growth in wearable technology for fitness has increased motivation in many runners and has even helped them train more effectively. Freescale, a company that builds semiconductor components that are found in many wearables, conducted a survey of 500 runners to determine their relationship with wearables. They found that 74% of marathon runners use wearables to train and that 88% of marathon runners rely on wearable technology for motivation.
Better motivation and training with wearables has resulted in a drastic increase in the number of marathon runners over the last few years. According to Running USA, over 15 million marathon runners crossed the finish line in 2012, compared to just under 10 million runners in 2005.
Many fitness bands today rely solely on GPS tracking to monitor route and distance. However, a device that only provides GPS location can not provide accurate location all the time, especially near the “Urban Canyon” finish line in Boston’s Copley Square.
During the Boston Marathon, runners want to be able to track their route and distance they need to go. But with multi-path distortion from the tall skyscraper buildings of Boston, runners may not receive accurate location with GPS alone. And for loved ones who want to see their runner finish - accurate positioning is key to helping determine when they should make their way to the finish line.
With device level hybrid location embedded in the wearable device, runners can receive accurate and reliable location from the combination of Wi-Fi positioning, GPS, cell tower, IP, and device sensor data to intelligently choose the best way to provide precise location data and return the fastest time-to-fix location with the lowest power consumption.
Location data at the device level provides an extremely valuable context layer that elevates the user experience of fitness devices and enables Boston Marathon runners to color in their experience with a contextual story. A truly intelligent device will know the difference between taking 6,000 steps on a treadmill and running 3 miles in a park, on a beach, or in a hilly neighborhood. This type of journaling promotes engagement as well as provides richer notifications, social interconnectedness, motivational encouragement and lifestyle awareness.
Device-level location means fitness bands and clothing know where they are when an activity is recorded, without relying on a mobile phone passing lat/ long coordinates over Bluetooth. Recon CPO Shane Luke says, “When you know where you were when something happened, you can usually infer or remember a tremendous amount of related things about that experience, which makes the data secondary, and the experience primary.”
Wearable technology is evolving to create a new experience for runners to stay connected and track their fitness in real time. Imagine a marathon world where all runners were accessible to their fans and their fans to them - all through a memento device that a runner receives when registering for the race. We are not far from this reality where runners can receive texts and images of encouragement while they run up Heartbreak Hill. The strongest fitness devices will be the ones that fit into their users’ lifestyle, and doing so requires a knowledge of user context, and device-level location is the key to unlocking it.