Bluetooth Technology: Enabling the Connected Fitness Machine

Imagine going to your club, exercising on a treadmill, bike or elliptical, and then having your workout data synced to your favorite fitness app, without any typing or manual data entry. The great news is that unlike a couple of years ago, this is possible today. What changed? Bluetooth.

Bluetooth 4.0 was launched in 2010 as an update to the Bluetooth standard with two key enhancements that make this simple data exchange possible.

First, data in Bluetooth 4.0 devices is structured in a table known as GATT. In the case of fitness machines, measurements such as pace, distance, incline and duration would be stored in GATT.

Second, Bluetooth 4.0 devices use specially-designed applications on smartphones to connect, read and process the GATT data. This application-centric connectivity approach means device manufacturers are able to rapidly innovate integrated “appcessories” that work seamlessly with today’s generation of smartphones.

In the fitness industry, the first devices using Bluetooth 4.0 were heart rate monitors and weight scales. Other accessories such as cycling speed and cadence sensors, power meters, cycling computers, fitness trackers and smart watches were soon to follow.

So, what’s next for Bluetooth in the industry? Fitness machines.

Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity in fitness machines creates a simple, easy way for club goers to capture their workouts using their favorite smartphone app, just like they do today with their fitness trackers, heart rate monitors or cycling sensors.

Fitness machines integrated with Bluetooth 4.0 have just started hitting the market and this trend is expected to accelerate in 2015 and 2016. There are a few challenges the industry will need to address to ensure a great experience for the fitness machine user.

First, the fitness machine user will need an application on their smartphone to collect their workout data from the fitness machine. Awareness building has many stakeholders, including fitness equipment manufacturers, club operators and application providers. It is critical all stakeholders educate users on how Bluetooth 4.0 fitness machines operate.

Equally important is interoperability across machine types, manufacturers and applications. This is where standard bodies, such as the Bluetooth SIG, and industry collaboration is important to ensure machines and applications work synchronously. The Bluetooth SIG has established the Sports and Fitness working group, which has stakeholders from across the industry collaborating to ensure sports and fitness devices will be interoperable.

2015 is on its way to becoming a very exciting year for sports and fitness technology innovation. Bluetooth fitness machines are expected to be a real game changer for club goers and club operators alike.

 

Tim Eskew is the director of Wahoo Fitness Gym/Club Solutions. For more information visit wahoofitness.com, call 877.978.1112 or email tim.eskew@wahoofitness.com.

 

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