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Bluetooth low energy finds market in fitness monitors

Posted: 13 Apr 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Bluetooth? fitness monitor? software? handset? Bluetooth low energy?

Using a performance monitor can be very beneficial to achieve personal goals. Whether the target is to lose weight, to train for an event or to improve personal performance, all of these and more can be tracked using a monitor. In addition, monitors are supported with software that allows the user to upload their results and analyze the data systematically and logically. Using a monitor lets people see measurable results, as opposed to exhausting themselves without achieving the desired outcome.

After several months of consulting with fitness industry experts during research for the recently published report, Wireless in Sports and Fitness Equipment; IMS Research analyst Filomena Berardi found that many industry experts anticipate Bluetooth low energy can help the industry 'to the next level'. By this they mean changing consumers' behavioral attitudes towards using a sports performance monitor and make it a crucial part of their fitness routine.

Soon, Bluetooth low energy-enabled sports monitors will have a ready-made platform to connect tothe consumer's mobile handset. When new handsets become dual-mode (with both Bluetooth and Bluetooth low energy, with little additional cost to the maker) overnight sensors will be able to connect to millions of devices that consumers already have. IMS Research estimated that over 650 million Bluetooth-enabled handsets were shipped in 2009. Nokia, shortly followed by other major phone suppliers, is leading the drive to incorporate the technology into millions of phones as soon as possible. Furthermore, using Bluetooth low energy would negate the use of a dongle to connect sports monitor to a host device.

Interestingly, during the research, many of the gym equipment suppliers were particularly anxious to see if Bluetooth low energy will live up its promise. 5kHz wireless technology currently dominates this environment and allows users to connect heart-rate monitors to gym equipment. However, interviewees criticized 5kHz for not being robust enough, and indicated that "cross-talk" had been an issue. Although gym equipment suppliers are spoilt for choice when it comes to wireless connectivity (as many proprietary technologies are available), many liked the idea of integrating a standardized, interoperable technology. The idea of consumers not being constrained by device brands is part of the appeal of Bluetooth low energy. In turn, suppliers of gym equipment are hopeful that Bluetooth low energy will increase the connect rate and get more gym users using monitors to improve their work-out experience.

Penetrating the market
There is a clear business model and real market potential for Bluetooth low energy to penetrate the fitness industry. However, judging from past experience, we should not be complacent. Simply putting products on the retail shelves isn't enough; changing consumer attitudes towards fitness activities is the key to getting people buying and using such products as part of their regime. Perhaps this is where the promoters of Bluetooth low energy and manufacturers themselves need to concentrate their efforts.

Bluetooth low energy has the advantage that both consumers and product suppliers recognize the brand. However, brand recognition doesn't necessarily lend itself to be a permanent advantage because competitors (such as ANT+) are also working hard to distinguish their brands.

Bluetooth SIG members need to continue to create greater awareness of the technology for use in performance monitors. This could be achieved by high-profile collaborations between leading brands of sports goods and host device manufacturers. There could be media exposure of the potential use of Bluetooth low energy-enabled devices during highly publicized events such as city marathons, or mass charity runs. There is also the possibility of bundling Bluetooth low energy devices with host devices. Finally, highlighting intangible elements such as value adding services will further distinguish the Bluetooth brand over rival technologies.

Users are fundamental to the success of Bluetooth low energy in the fitness industry. Only by listening to the end-user, and by developing compelling new use-cases that really enhance the users' experiences, will this technology succeed.

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