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Why Apps for Bikes and Micro-mobility Are Shaping the Future of Fitness & Transportation

By Nick Epson on January 21, 2021

We’re living in an age where our health is one of the most widely discussed topics around the world – while COVID-19 is still topping the charts, businesses and individuals are still regularly sounding off on diet and fitness everywhere you look. Fads come and go in these areas with many falling out of favor while others evolve into staples when they prove effective like those for biking and micro-mobility. Now, we’re seeing how the intersection of technology with health will play a pivotal role in shaping future trends.

Fitbit and other early fitness apps ignited a widespread revelation that we can use tech to track and analyze movements to better understand our health. Such apps have evolved substantially to provide everything from better insights, systems that reward progress through gamification, content-driven curriculum, and more.

Through the application of better sensor equipment, AI-driven analytics, and fitness science, we’re expecting to see a new wave of advanced fitness equipment. Devices like bikes, skateboards, scooters, and so on will benefit from augmenting today’s progressive tech to do more than ever before. Let’s first take a look at today’s fitness apps then discuss how health is merging with transportation and finish up by examining what the future could look like for fitness tech.

A look at today’s most successful fitness apps

While hitting the gym is ideal for some individuals, it’s not feasible for everyone for several reasons. Here, the perception and reality of “not having the time” is one of the most reported reasons for not working this into a daily routine. Everything from maintaining a work schedule to raising a family and just having time to do things you enjoy makes the whole process too cumbersome to comfortably fit into many people’s schedules. 

Home fitness has evolved quite a bit from the days of Richard Simmons on VHS and primitive workout machines to include modern, sophisticated equipment that we see with Peloton, JAXJOX that Blue Labels developed, and others. The software in these smart systems tracks, analyzes, and provides feedback on user fitness journeys which has made comprehensive fitness more DIY  than ever in addition to making the process of working out more accessible. Between one Forbes contributor calling JAXJOX the “future of fitness” and Peloton making moves by buying fitness equipment provider, Precor, for $420 million to keep up with demand, it’s clear that the market desires more of this tech.

These modern marvels of tech truly solve multiple problems. By using performance metrics in conjunction with gamification, user motivation is positively affected. On-demand and recorded curriculum adds variety, teaches proper technique to maximize output and prevent injury, and also contributes to improved motivation. Plus, having such equipment in your home makes it convenient.

Today, great fitness apps and their respective equipment provide an experience like having an on-demand personal trainer. For those who don’t like the gym and won’t (or physically can’t) throw on a pair of shoes and go for a run, these systems are the ideal solution. Having a great app turns what would be just another piece of home fitness into an engaging tool for self-improvement.

A look at the impact of micro-mobility on health and transportation

The intersection of health and transportation through micro-mobility is shaping a unique model for the future. We’re in the midst of a so-called cycling boom as people are buying and using bikes more than they have in quite some time. Between enterprises in micro-mobility and increased sales for cycling equipment during the height of the pandemic, there’s an immense opportunity for business in this area.

By looking at Lime’s year-end report from 2018, it’s clear that their micro-mobility solutions were a big hit in the major markets they entered. The biggest focus is on the sustainability Lime solutions provide through their bikes and scooters but there’s something to be said about the health benefits that trickled down as a result. Though exercise was an afterthought for most Lime riders, this likely contributed to a kind of unintentional marketing for biking as a whole, thus leading to the widespread adoption of bikes that we’re currently seeing.

Lime might have started as a kind of novelty for convenient transportation with a strong sustainability component but it has laid the groundwork for something bigger. Merging an on-demand ride service like Lime with fitness tracking solutions could lead to better health awareness for users which would likely inspire some to seek out other fitness solutions. If you think about how the sight of LimeBikes affected the increased adoption of cycling for fitness and transportation, this suggests there is room for cross-promotional partnerships between micro-mobility and fitness solution providers as well as closely related verticals like nutrition.

Other micro-mobility products like scooters may not offer any health benefits besides getting riders fresh air, but it’s important to understand the growth of this technology. Even though the COVID-19 delivered a staggering blow to companies like Lime, the Swedish startup, Voi, and Berlin-based TIER, demand is rising and costs are declining. In fact, Lime had its “best quarter ever” in Q3 of 2020.

Across the board, business slowed down for micro-mobility providers due to the pandemic but the market has proved resilient and has since snapped back to reflect the same growth level from before COVID-19. As such, the private and public markets are expected to continue to grow by 9 and 12 percent, respectively. In preparation, cities around the globe are expanding bike lands and creating new cycling trails to accommodate this boom that’s being lead by companies like Lime, Bird, Dott, Tier, Voi, and Skip.

Aside from advances in manufacturing for these products, it’s important to note that the apps for each respective product are the glue that holds them together. Between features that can locate equipment through GPS and the ability to unlock and easily pay, the whole process is convenient for the user. It also streamlines accounting for the business. It goes to show that if your app gives access to a valuable, on-demand service or enhances the user experience, you’re in a great position to be successful.

A glimpse into the future of fitness and transportation apps

Huffy is a great example of a company that made its equipment more appealing by introducing an app designed to increase engagement through gamification. In the same way that the Huffy app promotes competition between friends with “riding challenges,” fitness apps could incorporate a gamification aspect for travel by bike, skateboard, scooter, roller skate, or whatever, beyond just ride tracking. 

If you gamified the act of using such equipment for transportation, this would create another level of appeal – an ideal starting point would be to relay metrics on cost savings related to fuel and vehicle maintenance. On a bigger scale, providers who track such data could join forces to show a collective impact on emission reductions and wear-and-tear on roadways, just to name a couple. This same idea could also be applied to battery-powered micro-mobility solutions as well.

Another big opportunity is tracking the care and maintenance of equipment, whether it’s a bicycle or a home gym. An app known as ProBikeGarage that integrates with the popular fitness tracking app, Strava, provides a system that alerts users when it’s time to replace or service components based on actual usage. Providers that offer apps for their home fitness equipment would be wise to incorporate a feature that tracks usage and alerts users to take action.

With a little science and the help of IoT sensors, this could be huge for skateboarders. By analyzing the structural integrity of all the different decks on the market, knowing the physical parameters of a rider (i.e. their weight and height), and introducing inexpensive accelerometers to measure impact, a skateboarder could be alerted when their ride is approaching breaking point. Not only would this save bones from being broken more often, but it might also lead to better designs in the future.

For the market as a whole, interconnectivity needs to expand to tie all of this technology together. Building on the idea of integrating fitness tracking for micro-mobility, being able to share this information via a secure API with other platforms would both automate the process and ensure that no data goes to waste. The same is true for other fitness apps – being able to share among platforms will shape the market by putting a squeeze on the best solutions, allowing the best to shoot to the top. This is ideal for solutions like the product we built for JAXJOX, which includes tracking for their various weight systems, as it would allow this data to be incorporated into other fitness apps like Google Fit or Apple Health, wellness apps, shared with healthcare providers, and beyond.

One of the most ambitious prospects for the next wave of fitness technology is bridging deep learning with advanced kinesiology to enhance training. For example, learning how to pull off dazzling tricks on a BMX or skateboard are, by and large, skills that people pick up without any kind of formal instruction. A system that took into account every physical parameter of an individual in conjunction with IoT sensors (and possibly, computer vision) could provide precise feedback on execution that would allow people to cultivate technique more methodically. In a simpler example, a combination of sensors and computer vision could be used to provide feedback when lifting weights or engaging in some kind of aerobic exercise that would allow individuals to improve their technique, leading to more efficient workouts and fewer injuries.

We are eager to bring innovation to the fitness market

An appetite for the unconventional leads down the roads less traveled – as navigators of digital realms, we find new spaces and etch out an existence for the products we build. We can work with any branch of science to create code and design analytics for software that has the power to disrupt marketplaces through innovation. If you’re thinking about putting a new spin on fitness technology or have an idea that can compete with the best on the market, then get in touch to learn more about how we bring your idea to life.

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