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Karan Samat

for
NetMagic IT Services Pvt. Ltd.

[INTERNET OF THINGS &


FITNESS]
This paper describes how the Internet of Things (IoT) and fitness are converging to enhance our
day to day workout experience and increase our level of convenience.
Contents
1. The Internet of Things…………………………2
2. Technology and Fitness………………………..4
3. Pros and Cons of the Tech……………………..6
4. Next steps for the Fitness Industry…………….8

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The Internet of Things
Today, the Internet is the cornerstone of innovation in the technological sector. Many believe that
we are in fact witnessing a fourth industrial revolution, and the Internet of Things is postulated to be
a key part of it. Any device embedded with technology that enables it to collect and transmit data is
part of this technological collective known as the Internet of Things. If seen collectively, the
Internet of Things is a giant network of machine or even machine components, all connected to one
another leading to greater efficiency, reduced human involvement and economic benefits.

The major technology trends associated with IoT include data collection, storage and the
convergence of the internet and various industries. Let‟s start off with some facts:

- The data output of the United States alone is around 2.6 million gigabytes per minute
- Every minute, we send 103 million spam emails, 15 million texts, 456 thousand tweets, and
upload 47 thousand photos to Instagram.
- More than 90% of the global data was actually
collected in the past two years.

Now of course you must be wondering where this data is


stored and what is done with it? This question leads to
two of the major trends, deeply connected with the
Internet of Things; Big Data Analytics and Cloud
Computing.

As the amount of data generated keeps increasing, it has


become impossible for the data to be immediately be analyzed. The 3 pillars of this IT Age

This means that the data has to be stored somewhere so that it can soon be processed and utilized,
posing several Information Technology related obstacles. Cloud computing aims to provide cost
effective solutions while letting the users focus on their work. The major means to cut cost is reduce
the required infrastructure, and is achieved by the sharing of resources among consumers. This
„multi-tenant‟ nature of the cloud permits users to share software and services, while retaining the
privacy of their data which remains invisible to other „tenants‟. Hence the cloud provides you with a
platform to store your information and allows you to access it from any location or download it onto
any device of your choice. The stored data can then be edited or analysed at the users‟ convenience.

Storing the data is really useless unless it is used for something. For businesses to succeed in taking
advantage of the Internet of Things, they must monitor and use the data being created and collected.
As we noticed earlier, there is an overwhelming mass of data generated every second. Hence, to get
value from this data it is imperative that companies analyse it. Big Data Analytics makes all this
possible, analysing the data fast and giving real-time results. It aims at examining the data to find
hidden patterns, correlations, consumer preferences and other trends that may be used by companies
or organisations to improve their product or their consumer experience and make better business
decisions. Working on software ecosystems such as Hadoop, Big Data Analytics is pivotal in this
Internet Age.

In summary, the Internet of Things consists of smart devices which exchange and create data. The
data that is generated can be categorised into the 3 Vs, Variety (the type of data generated),
Velocity (the speed at which the data is generated) and Volume (the amount of data generated).
This means that Big Data needs a large, elastic storage space that can work according to the

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demands of the data. The cloud helps solve this problem by providing a scalable platform that can
dynamically expand or shrink to accommodate for the needs of the data.

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Technology and Fitness

Technology is now part of almost every aspect of our daily lives, one of those being fitness. From
the treadmill that you use every time you go to the gym, to the FitBit that never leaves your hand,
these smart devices are all part of the Internet of Things. An easy way to identify if they are part of
this extensive network is to ask yourself a simple question; does it calculate, store and/or display
data? If the answer is yes, then the device is most likely connected to the Internet of Things, taking
part in the exchange of data itself. Described below are the 3 major forms of technology that we see
in the fitness industry today - wearable technology, fitness related applications and smart
equipment.

Wearable Technology

The origin of fitness trackers can be dated back to the 1970s, where companies such as Polar Sports
and individuals such as Dr. Yoshiro Hatano developed technology that was wearable and could
keep track of your heart rate and/or steps taken.

Nike Fuel Band, the Apple Watch, the FitBit, these are all examples of modern day fitness trackers
that have undergone years of innovation and now pack a multitude of features in the smallest
possible size, generally that of a wrist watch. Their functioning and ability to provide us with this
data boils down to the sensors contained within these devices.

The most basic sensor that a tracker will have is the accelerometer. Created to measure orientation
and acceleration, these sensors help determine whether the device is at rest or in motion. The
advanced accelerometers present in fitness trackers help measure the steps taken by an individual.
The addition of GPS receivers lets individuals map their exercise as well. Optical heart rate
monitors measure your heart rate using light, through a process known as photoplethysmography.
Thermometers, UV Sensors, Ambient Light sensors, Galvanic Skin Response sensors, Bioimpednce
sensors and so many more, the list just keeps increasing as the market for these products does too.
No one sensor can provide you with accurate information, but all of them, working together,
provides you with the most accurate readings.

Fitness Related Applications

Hardware is nothing without software. Enter fitness applications like UnderArmours


„MyFitnessPal‟ or the „Nike+ Run Club‟. While some applications, such as those by FitBit or
Jawbone, depend greatly on data from their respective trackers, use complex algorithms and provide
you with valuable information, quite a few of the other applications collect their own data with the
help of your phone or other device. Ranging from diet and nutrition to exercise, these applications
offer a variety of services. Lets take the example of „Nike+ Run Club'. Using your phones inbuilt
accelerometer, compass and GPS, this app monitors your run, the distance covered, the average
speed, and even suggests a playlist to listen to while on your daily jog. Its large database also
provides you with custom made workouts to improve your endurance, speed or fitness level.

Another useful set of applications are those which help you measure your caloric intake.
„MyFitnessPal‟ takes in your weight, height and your intended goal (to lose weight, to bulk up or to
maintain your weight). It then suggests a daily caloric intake which you should follow and can even
offer meal plans to stick to that. Through the day, the individuals then logs in each meal he or she
eats, and the application picks out the nutrition facts of that food item from its database, counting
the calories and keeping track of the nutrients. This specific application also provides the user with
recipes for healthy foods, hence making the fitness experience more convenient.
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The next category of applications is those which act as virtual coaches. They provide you with
exercise regiments, show you the correct form through tutorial videos, and even remind you when
you haven‟t been active in a while. From „Yoga Studio‟ with customisable classes for strength,
relaxation, flexibility and balance, to the „Complete Gym Exercise Guide‟ which helps you build
muscle in various parts of your body, acting as an effective substitute to professional instructors.

Smart Equipment

As the software in this industry progresses, so does the hardware. One of the major reasons that
people prefer going to the gym is because of the greater variety of equipment that they have at their
disposal there. However, LiftUp, a startup has developed a smart resistance band, which breaks this
barrier and makes it easier to carry out exercises at home as well. By tracking the number of reps,
calories burnt and weight lifted, it brings the whole gym experience without the requirement of a
whole rack of weights, etc. The Tangram Factory Jump rope is another piece of equipment that is
connected to the Internet of Things and calculates the number of skips, compete with friends, and
even set a fitness plan.

Companies such as MoovLab and Runteq incorporate sensors into the users gear. MoovLab has
sensors embedded into the kickboxing equipment such as gloves, measuring impact and velocity,
while letting them compare their stamina and agility with friends through the connection over the
Internet of Things. Runteq has a band of sensors that is attached to the users gear. Their software
acts as a personal running coach and can collect data from these sensors as well as the users smart
shoes, watches and phone to help them improve their posture and form, reducing injury rates.

In conclusion, we notice that the addition of a single chip to any everyday fitness equipment helps
open it up to a world of possibilities, all aimed at making the fitness endeavour easier, more
understandable and more convenient.

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Pros and Cons of the Tech

There are numerous pros and cons of technology in the fitness sector. However, the following
section will narrow the field down to the advantages and disadvantages that the Internet of Things
brings to the table in the field of fitness.

Advantages

1. The biggest problem that individuals face is motivation. To get up and push themselves to
improve their health instead of just sitting on the couch, munching on chips and watching the
latest television shows. A one of a kind study conducted by Bonnie Spring, PhD, professor in
Preventive Medicine, and Luis Amaral, PhD, professor in Medicine, at the Northwestern
University that higher levels of online connection and social support promoted weight loss. The
exchange of data through the Internet of Things makes the integration of a social component
into fitness possible. Several applications now offer the option of inviting friends, competing
with them and setting goals for each other. This way, even something as mundane as a daily jog
is made more fun by competing with friends. Take the example of „Strava‟, a fitness application
that primarily tracks an athletes workout. The application has a community of users, all of
whom share the highlights of their activity, the statistics, pictures and much more. The other
users then go ahead and comment and „Kudos‟, providing motivation and encouragement. They
often say “you might join Strava for the app's tracking ability, but you will stay for their
motivating and competitive community”.

2. The world of fitness and nutrition is immense and you can never know everything. If you don‟t
have the correct form for an exercise, or you do not take in the correct nutrients required by
your body for its daily activities, you could cause serious harm to yourself. Stretching is also an
integral part pf any workout, which people often tend to forget, leading to muscle pulls,
ligament tears and other serious injuries. The Internet of Things helps make fitness easier by
providing you with custom made workouts and stretches, tutorials, diet plans, coaching and
much more. Companies keep expanding their database of such information by drawing on the
knowledge of experts in these fields. This information is then stored on servers and often on
clouds, from which the user can then access this data to improve his or her exercise or diet
experience. Examples include applications like „Sworkit‟ and‟ J&J 7 Minute Official Workout‟.

3. Another major advantage of the Internet of Things is the interconnectivity it provides. For a
machine to work efficiently, it‟s necessary that all of its parts work in harmony. Similarly, for
any fitness or health related endeavour, the best way to track progress is if everything you use
to measure that progress is connected. Let‟s take the example of your activity tracker (such as
the FitBit) and the application you use to measure your caloric intake. If the application can get
information from the tracker, regarding your daily activity, calories burnt and other such data,
the nutritional advice that the application can provide you will be much more precise and
helpful. MyFitnessPal is one such application which offers the feature of connecting with your
activity tracker, improving the precision of data collected and giving better advice.

4. People often prefer to keep track of their data and what they do each day. The Internet of
Things does this and more for you. All the data is automatically collected and backed up onto a
cloud everyday. This means that the user can access the information from anywhere, even a
month later. The addition of data analytics to this cycle adds the feature of valuable insights.,
The data exchanged from the fitness tracker to the cloud can then be analysed by algorithms set
in place by experts, resulting in actionable advice to provide the user with a convenient

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experience.

Disadvantages

1. Often the data you get can do more harm than good. It‟s often said that no one likes a know it
all, and similarly, users too can be affected negatively from the data their trackers collect. Let‟s
take the example of caloric counters. The user has a „cheat day‟ such as donuts and other calorie
dense food items through the day. They continuously log the information and at the end of the
day, they go through the calories consumed. Looking at the large number, they immediately feel
disheartened, stressed and anxious to make up for this excess. Hence they start skipping meals
or eating lesser the following day, and this in turn ends up doing more harm than good.

2. The addition of the features the internet of things brings with it is also bad as it could end up
distracting you from your main focus. Take the example of entertainment modules that are now
attached on most of your treadmills, cycles and other such machines in the gym. Often you will
notice that people are actually just watching television and relaxing, rather than pushing
themselves and burning calories while improving their health. Rather than focusing on
completing an exercise regimen, people focus on achieving that calorie goal set on their
wearable device. This could end up being detrimental as the user would not have exercised that
muscle completely. Regiments are formed attempting to keep balance and ensure the correct
amount of strain and cool down for each muscle, stopping midway causes an imbalance.

3. Lack of knowledge of the user is another major flaw. To illustrate the lack of knowledge, let‟s
take the example of the 10,000 steps benchmark that is characteristic of almost all wearable
trackers. People believe that all the steps they take in the day count towards that goal. However
they fail to realize that there is a difference between that and actually being physically active.
Like Venu Adhiya Hirani, a nutritionist and fitness coach explains, “A certain number of those
steps must come from continuous cardiovascular activity like, for instance, cycling” That‟s
something not many people are aware of.

4. At the same time, we notice that often the data or knowledge possessed by fitness applications
is not accurate as it does not have enough information, which tends to be situation specific. The
above statement is confusing, so let‟s take a couple of examples. Let‟s say you‟re eating toast
for breakfast, the calorie counter will take the nutritional information for a slice of whole wheat
bread stored in its database. However, if you had eaten a slice of bread of smaller size or
different nutritional information, it would not be able to account for the calories consumed
correctly. Another example is when you exercise. The coaching application is not aware of your
health problems or aches and pains like a fitness instructor may be. Hence it will provide you
with the normal set of exercises that could cause more strain and harm your body. While these
problems are slowly being solved as the technology progresses, they still exist

5. The addition of the information has caused people to start tracking their progress using less
correct parameters. Often people attempt to burn a certain number of calories and set the
calories burnt as a parameter, showing how effective their workout was. However, they forget
to take into account several different factors, such as their post oxygen consumption in weight
training, or the fact that they have to do weight training and other forms of exercise that help
burn more calories and keep you healthier in the long run compared to cardiovascular exercises
which may burn a lot of calories during the workout, but aren‟t as effective in the long run.
Moreover, using the data providing by fitness trackers is also detrimental due to the lack of
accuracy of the data. Quite often one will notice that three fitness trackers would give different
results for the same activity.
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Next Steps for the Fitness Industry

As we speak, innovations are taking place all around us. Development has no ceiling when it comes
to technology. You imagine it and someday it can become a reality. And the same applies to the
fitness industry‟s convergence with the Internet of Things. Although there are numerous projects in
the R&D phase in this field, the most notable of them is the smart gyms. These gyms aim at
connecting all the hardware (the gym equipment) to software, which helps store, analyze and
process the workout data of each individual. The data will then be used to show graphs related to
growth, muscle development, progress in terms of goals the individuals originally wished to achieve
and actionable advice such as diet plans, workout regiments and stretches. Leading companies in
this field include Intel and LumoBodyTech.