Apple eyes greater role in fitness equipment technology

A recent patent filing by Apple suggests the company is working on technology to better transfer and share fitness equipment data to media devices and others in real time.

Apple is eyeing a greater role in fitness equipment technology according to one of its latest patent filings.

The filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, uncovered by AppleInsider, suggests future iPhone, iPod and iPad operating systems will include allow users to instantly access and share their real-time fitness data as they workout in the gym or at home.

That’s likely no surprise to those in the industry, where tablets (iPads in particular) were prevalent at the 2011 IHRSA and Health + Fitness Business trade shows, with companies touting future compatibility between the equipment and users’ media devices.

In some cases, companies like Taiwanese fitness equipment brand Proteus, distributed in North America by HealthCare International, are moving toward manufacturing bikes, ellipticals and treadmills without integrated consoles — rather they include just a stand for a tablet, which, through an app and connection, controls the equipment.

“With the (tablet app) platform, upgrades will be unlimited,” HealthCare International Director of Sales and Marketing Heidi Safadago told SNEWS at last year’s Health and Fitness Business show. “Clubs and others will be able to develop their own apps,” (Click here to see SNEWS TV coverage of Proteus at the show.)

That seems similar to the path Apple might take with this recent patent filing, which is called “Interfacing Portable Media Devices and Sports Equipment.”

The filing not only describes getting the data from the fitness equipment to media players, but also simultaneously uploading the information to a third-party website, and sharing it with other users in real time. That could be “particularly useful for providing a competitive environment,” the filing states. “This data can then be graphically displayed in various ways to provide encouragement.”

Apple imagines people competing side-by-side in a gym, or half a world away through an Internet connection.

Such ideas aren’t foreign to the fitness industry — with several companies telling SNEWS of similar plans as technology plays a larger role in equipment — but Apple seems likely to try and set a standard, or least develop a conducive technology platform from which different fitness apps can operate.

Apple has proven successful with its Nike+ iPod technology for runners, and already partners with likes of Precor, Life Fitness, Matrix, Star Trac, Cybex, Technogym and FreeMotion for the technology to be compatible with the companies’ cardio equipment.

Expect Apple’s latest foray into fitness to build off those relationships and extend the technology to better share workout data in an growing social media world.

--David Clucas


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