The ease and flexibility of adding device sensors like accelerometers, gyroscopes, and compasses to wearables has driven an explosion of fitness wearables and apps. The wearable technology market is packed with competition. By 2017, the global market for health and fitness wearables alone will reach 170 million devices, according to ABI research.
Unlike smartwatches and smartglasses which typically establish persistent Bluetooth connections with mobile devices, fitness devices usually collect data and periodically sync with a smartphone. Users view their activity levels once their device connects to their mobile app, which pairs that activity with primitive location data from the mobile device. However, location data at the device level provides an extremely valuable context layer that elevates the user experience of fitness devices.
The real opportunity for the next generation of fitness bands and smart clothing lies in coloring in the user experience with the contextual story around fitness activity. Mark Gorelick, Director of Product Science & Innovation at MIO Global says, “Location-based data has a real opportunity to enhance healthy lifestyle wearables by categorizing daily activity into a relevant 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. “I believe that this type of journaling of daily life promotes engagement as well as providing richer notifications, social interconnectedness, motivational encouragement and lifestyle awareness,” says Gorelick.
Social networks like Nike+ and the FitBit community bring unprecedented social competition to fitness with leaderboards and weekly challenges. But social workout features shouldn’t be quarantined to the digital world. They can exist in the real world too: recommended workout spots from the local community, social gym buddy programs and running route time competitions.
None of that is possible without device-level location: fitness bands and clothing that 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.”
The market is flooded with wearable fitness bands, smart clothing and accompanying mobile apps. Only the strongest device manufacturers will survive--which are the ones that best fit into their users’ lifestyles. Doing so requires a knowledge of user context, and device-level location is the key to unlocking it.