Digital fitness: Impact of IoT on wellbeing

By Shankar Narayanan, country head, UK and Ireland, Tata Consultancy Services
Over the past couple of years the Internet of Things (IoT) has become one of the most heavily used buzzwords across various industries. However, there’s little doubt that IoT is starting to justify all of the excitement; Gartner has forecast that by 2020 there will be as many as 25 billion connected ‘things’ worldwide.
This is particularly true within the fitness industry. In March of this year, YouGov reported that the number of British adults owning a wearable device increased by 750,000 in the first three months of 2016 alone. This widespread use of fitness applications and wearable technology is boosting the health and activity levels of the British public and giving a variety of businesses access to customers they did not have previously.
A Tata Consultancy Services survey launched around this year’s London Marathon looked at the use of digital fitness technologies among 2,000 recreational athletes in the UK and found that not only are these connected devices becoming increasingly common, they are also having a real impact on how we keep fit.
Personalisation of fitness
One of the major advantages that IoT technologies can deliver, to both individuals and businesses, is accurate, real time data. This is certainly the case for fitness technology; the most common use for fitness technology was found to be tracking distance covered (71%), followed by tracking calories (57%).
Meanwhile, 53% of people track their steps and 52% track their speed. All of this data is important for users to track in order to adhere to a routine and achieve a sense of satisfaction from the exercise they are doing.
This is reflected in the fact that 40% of those surveyed said they would like fitness technology to be able to give them personalised health data, such as bespoke nutritional advice based on performance allowing them to continually improve and ensure they are living a balanced lifestyle.
Ubiquity is the unique selling point of IoT. Being able to access a vast bank of data anytime, anywhere, is very appealing to an audience that is now always on the move and living through their mobile devices.
In fitness, the survey revealed that this is most certainly the case with athletes using data to improve their everyday lives. The vast majority of those surveyed (93%) said that using fitness technology has led to a change in their health and fitness behaviour, with a quarter (26%) exercising at least once more per week.
Also, four in ten (43%) people say that since using fitness technology to track activity, they will take the stairs instead of using a lift or escalator and 41% say they will walk when they can, rather than driving or taking public transport. This anytime, anywhere mentality is promoting a healthier lifestyle during a time when health issues such as obesity are at the forefront of not just the healthcare news agenda, but national agendas too.
Big business opportunity
In today’s increasingly connected world, IoT also allows companies to extend the benefits of the digital world across the physical world. This plays a hugely important role in meeting ever higher customer expectations with customers wanting products and services that are personalised to their specific needs, typified by the fitness industry.
The Digital Fitness Survey demonstrated that IoT within the fitness sector is already big business. The average recreational athlete in the UK has spent £83 on fitness technology in total. And they plan to keep spending; the average expected spend on digital fitness apps and devices in the coming year being was expected to be £56 per person, with nearly one in five (17%) spending over £100.
What’s next?
Whether it’s trackers in our trainers or wearable sweat monitors, the IoT is set to become increasingly central to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and delivering the personalised insights that athletes need to guide their training.
However, fitness is just one area where IoT will transform our lives. It is a great example of how digital technology can drive change but we’re likely to see many more radical examples in the years ahead; from driverless cars through to automated household appliances.
Tata Consultancy Services’ IT services, consulting and business solutions deliver real results to global businesses to help them experience certainty.

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