I have written about fitness wearables and the benefit of Big Data analytics to help provide personalized coaching and advice. This is an important step and evolution for these devices – delivering digital services and
personalized recommendations. Today, most of these insights are delivered through their connected apps and reviewed by the user post work-out or after a sporting or training event. This is valuable, but a key opportunity for the devices is to deliver information and alerts real-time providing corrective behavior immediately. This has huge potential for fitness seekers or those seeking to enhance sport performance.
Personal Training & Coaching
Personal coaching and personal trainers are big businesses today. People spend hundreds of $s per month to get the competitive edge for a particular sport or to provide that extra motivation to push you to reach your fitness goals. However, not everyone call afford this and a coach or trainer can’t be there all the time. Sports & fitness wearable devices can be a value tool that aid or substitute to these. To become trainers and coaches though these
devices need to evolve to deliver real-time feedback. Imagine words of encouragement delivered over your headset to push you to finish that last set. Imagine a coach’s voice telling you to slow down your pace if you’re out of your desired heart rate range and at risk of burning yourself out too early in a race. Another possibility is to provide guidance on correct form for exercise. Don’t fully bottom out on a squat or round your back too much and an alert can be provided to help you correct it immediately.
Adidas has already started down this path with their miCoach app and miCoach running smartwatch. These solutions provide personalized coaching feedback in the middle of a run or work-out all through your headset. With the new UP24, Jawbone added Bluetooth Low Energy to support synching. This by itself was a yawner given nearly all another trackers already had this, but the key was how they are using this for predictive real-time feedback like getting an alert when you’re close to reaching a goal or have been sedentary for too long. Jawbone calls this shift activity modification vs. activity monitoring.
Recommendations & Opportunities
The are a number of areas where real-time feedback and coaching can impact fitness seekers or sport performance enhancers. Here are a few areas that can benefit from real-time feedback:
- Proper Form – A common mistake people tend to make when doing an exercise is performing it with incorrect form & technique. This can lead to lack of achieving the desired result or injury. Real-time alerts can be provided to help an athlete immediately identify when this happens and self-correct. Flashing a band green to show good form or red for bad could be simple method.
- Motivation – Getting results requires pushing yourself beyond what you believe are your limits. The extra push by a trainer or partner can help give you that extra push. Smart wearables can provide similar motivation keys. Suppose you have 1 last burpee to do in a set and your wearable notices you have dropped your intensity over the past 2 reps. A coach’s voice can come over your headset to give you that extra encouragement to push through the last rep.
- Reaching Goals – Setting goals and achieving and breaking is a key method for achieving results. Waiting to know if you reached the goals until after a work-out is too late. Smart wearables can provide immediate insights to insure you hit your goals.
- Real-time Coaching – Providing real-time coaching can help you optimize performance in the midst of an event. Imagine running a marathon and you’re below your desired pace for part of the race or you’re on a hill and should pull back on your pace as your heart rate is above its desired range. Smart coaching can help provide real-time feedback to adjust behavior. If you’re playing a round of golf, real-time feedback can notify you when your swing plane is off and help you correct for next swing.
To be effective at delivering real-time feedback and coaching, the delivery and user experience will be key. Devices need to provide easy to consume visible queues or audible messages. After all, the athlete is focused on the sporting event at hand or in the midst of an exercise with inaccessible hands. The ability to receive these inputs without impacting performance is extremely important. Here are a few considerations companies need to factor when deploying real-time feedback with wearables:
- Visual color queues – Using color queues is a simple way to provide a visual alert. Red for bad form or green for good form are easy to understand. Queues also need to be easy to see and read. A wearable band can light up as an example. As sensors get embedded further into clothing and shoes, more visual alerts can be provided at a specific location that helps identify issue.
- Short data messages – Watches or bands can provide simple data to help provide a queue. These need to have large enough font to be easy to read and easily interact with in the midst of an activity. Another simple method is use of easy to recognize icons.
- Audio – Use of audio through a headset is great medium for delivering feedback. For people in gym and certain sports like running, most already use a headset with music so it’s easy to leverage.
- Visual messages – Smart glass technology that provides overlay information is great application for certain sports like cycling or running when athlete may already be wearing sunglasses. These solutions can augment your view without hindering performance or focus.
- Keep it simple – Most important is keeping all of this simple and easy to learn and use. No one will want to learn a complicated set of alerts or messages.
Tracking performance or activity is great start for fitness wearables, but true value will be delivered by being able to change an athlete’s performance. By providing real-time coaching and training feedback, fitness wearable devices can become activity modifiers vs. just trackers. With personalized recommendations and feedback based on the huge amount of data they collect, wearable companies can become trusted advisers to their customers. To maximize behavior change though, feedback has to be provided real-time in simple easy to digest queues.
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