UPDATE 08 / 06 / 2020
Running a fitness business is tough
Fierce competition, changing customer loyalty, uncertain regulations, rapid technological development, rising wages..
All in all, tough love.
And now you also need to consider contagion.
Thank you, Covid-19 (sarcasm may occur).
We know it’s going to be harder to keep your fitness business open.
We fitness enthusiasts feel with you. We experience it with you.
We miss the gym. Our gym.
We want it to be open. We want to use the facilities, equipment, and your expertise.
We know it’s going to be harder to keep your fitness business open.
The question everyone is asking is
“How can it ever get back to normal? Will there be a ‘normal’ again?”
You can use the time right now to reflect.
Learn how to design your surroundings according to the new requirements.
Think about how you can develop your business despite the uncertainty.
Innovate on how you can keep your customers, to keep your business afloat.
The key message
The time is now to embrace technology as a means to safeguard and develop your members and your business.
Take the retail industry.
Companies like Decathlon are investing heavily in digital solutions like the Internet of Things (IoT) and crowd analytics to increase their productivity and reduce operating costs.
With an estimated global market size of USD 94.44 billion by 2025, growing by 21,5% annually, in the retail sector alone (Grandview Research), IoT is nothing to joke about.
Everything from optimizing shelf space, pushing promotional content to customers, dynamically pricing goods based on how much customers return to certain areas, are just a couple of examples of how the retail sector is using IoT.
To provide high-quality services to their customers.
What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?
IoT is “a system of interconnected computing devices, mechanical and digital machines that comes with unique identifiers (UIDs) and the ability to transmit data over a network without requiring human-human interaction and computer interaction.”
That’s the technical explanation. Hope you’re still awake.
What you need to know is that IoT is
a unified network of smart, electronic devices that sense and calculate various conditions around it, to provide real-time information to the right people at the right time.
If you want a more in-depth explanation about what IoT is and what it isn’t, then you can check out this article from Wikipedia.
Think of IoT as an unification of technology and business processes that help you provide a consistent and automated business based on masses of big data collected from sensors.
A lot of sensors.
Use cases in your fitness business could be
- Use of equipment for predictive maintenance
- Member movement for cleaning prediction
- Guest density for better ad hoc assistance
- ROI analysis for service efficiency, and
- Many other applications (the sky is the limit)
In this article we’ll explore how you can apply IoT solutions in your gyms, to optimize your business.
To better maintain and continue your business in times of social distancing and hyper-sanitation.
IoT in gyms and fitness businesses
Do you own a smartwatch?
Apple Watch. Samsung Gear. Garmin.
On your wrist, it keeps track of all kinds of biometric data around your body.
Steps, heart rate, heart rate, sleep tracking, etc.
Smartphones can do some of the same things.
What do they have in common?
Sure, they can be used for calls, true. They can play games, and such.
Apart from a massive selection of apps and content, they are ‘connected’.
To each other, to a headset, headphones, and many other devices.
Apple AirPods, Jabra Elite 65+, BEO Play, Fitbit, Ring, Jawbone, among many others.
Soon, most of us will wear clothes with intelligent sensors to monitor ourselves and our surroundings.
Several manufacturers of sportswear work on garments that can collect data, such as heart rate, sweat, pH value, bacteria, etc.
All connected to each other, on the Internet. In the cloud.
These “smart things” constantly send data to and from either Apple, Google, Samsung or some app developers.
Smartphones and wearables are in effect IoT devices.
An internet with connected things that communicate huge amounts of data.
Data you can potentially use to lift your knowledge about your customers. Your members.
Smart devices everywhere, on everyone
Intelligent people use smart devices and things.
In fact, forecasts show that the number of people who own one or more mobile devices continue to grow.
The global wearables market is expected to reach 615 million units by 2025 (Mordor Intelligence)
The same goes for the use of fitness apps and devices to track their health, fitness, and progress in general.
See the graph below over how many people use and have used fitness tracking apps and devices.
A median of 31%.
In short, people will use smart devices more often over the next 5-10 years.
Population that used a mobile app or fitness tracking device to track their health. Source: Statista
Devices with antennas communicate each other and the Internet
So how do IoT devices and sensors communicate?
Smart devices and things communicate with small antennas, such as Bluetooth, WiFi, GSM/LTE/4G, among others.
Each unit is unique. It has a unique address that is unique to each device.
You may have heard of IP and MAC addresses?
Your phone has one. Your smartwatch has a. Your headset has one.
All devices with a Bluetooth and/or WiFi antenna have one.
A unique IP/MAC address.
The antennas communicate all the time. They ‘call’ each other.
They send signals telling other devices with antennas that they are present.
Like “Hej, Bob here. I’m in the room. Who else is here?”
When you activate your Bluetooth headset, it says “Hey, do you want to connect?”, to your smartphone or watch.
This wireless network of interconnection ensures that we are always on. Online.
It’s ubiquitous. It’s common. For some, even addictive.
How to find your unique WiFi and Bluetooth addresses in iOS.
Connections can be counted
When you walk into your house, your WiFi router will say ‘Hello’ to your phone and the other way around.
When you walk into your local coffee shop, same thing.
When guests walk into your gym…
Do you see the pattern?
At different times, minutes and seconds during the day, people’s devices will ‘call’ your WiFi-routers, ‘Hotspots’, and ask for connection.
There are certain types of Hotspots that don’t help people connect to the Internet, but simply ‘count’ connections.
The number of devices and antennas in the hotspot-zone(s).
Let’s say you have several of these hotspots located around your gym(s).
You can use them to count how many units are always in that zone during the day/week/month/year.
You can use them to observe which devices are moving from one hot spot to the next, and the next, and the next.
You can use them to see the bigger picture of how your guests use your facilities, where they spend the most time interacting, staying, and more.
You can even use it to predict where it is possible desired and unwanted scenarios may occur.
You can measure scenarios such as,
- ‘Dead zones’ with low-to-no activity.
- Bottlenecks due to the location of your equipment and machines and other members
- Likeliness of churn based on members’ use patterns
Based on that information, for example, you can use the planning of your gyms to help your employees help your customers.
Whether its fitness advice, safety, sanitation, or something third.
In much the same way about app developers, online analytics uses tools to constantly track aggregate user behavior to experiment and improve the overall experience of their apps.
Their digital experiences.
In real time. All the time.
Imagine the gym as an App
You probably already have an app for your members.
An online, virtual experience. An extended arm of your gyms.
Now imagine your physical, analog gyms as an app.
It is built around a collection of places, areas, and zones where your users interact with the experience.
These ‘zones’ are cardio, free weights, racks, group workouts, lockers, access area, etc.
If you operate multiple gyms, these zones are likely to be set uniformly across the gyms.
We know this from Danish chains, such as The Danish Chains. Fitness World, SATS, Loop and REPEAT.
What if you could see, observe, and analyze these areas across your gyms, all the time?
You probably already guessed the answer.
The present: access area
We will use these labels to identify what you can use metrics to optimize your fitness business.
Like how app developers measure different parts of their apps.
Today, most gyms use card scanners to enter the gyms.
It identifies the guest and gives them access on arrival.
In most cases, the cards also act as a debit card for payment service for all the different purchase options in the gyms.
The most important part of the access area is your staff. Taking care of members and other guests.
For an app, the access area or landing site (read: ‘landing page’) is an important indicator of whether they succeed with new and existing users. Or lack thereof.
If people stick around, they will probably continue to do so.
If not, they probably bounce off. Leave the service. Cancel the subscription.
It can be because aesthetic features, design, or the design of the app.
They may not be properly welcomed. They probably don’t get the right help to get started with the service, to solve their problem.
The job they ‘hired’ the service for. The reason they downloaded the app and logged on to the service in the first place.
Like apps, your gym also has an opportunity to get people started and stay on the service.
Getting fit, building muscle, losing weight, etc.
The future: access area
Maybe you’ve noticed that apps have all sorts of measures in place to help you get started with their service?
Onboarding flows, live chat, email reminders, just to name a few.
Combined with advanced analytics tools like Facebook and Google Analytics, app developers can observe, analyze, and even predict where and when members leave the service, as well as why they do.
It helps them plan and act accordingly.
All these different “touch points” help app developers to experiment, predict, and plan ways to reduce unwanted customer behavior.
Your employees are essential to delivering ‘that extra’ somthing to your visitors.
But do they have time to count, measure, analyze and predict unwanted member behavior while simultaneously performing other tasks, such as cleaning?
We have observed providers like REPEAT Fitness that use mobile apps to scan auto-generated QR codes, both for access and purchase.
It’s a golden, digital opportunity, as it asks members to bring their smartphones or smartwatches.
We’ll come back to that later.
To this end, we expect that in the future it will be necessary to clean and completely remove contact surfaces, such as fingerprint scanners, and introduce zero contact.
Just like many supermarkets ask customers to pay with contactless payment methods, like credit cards with embedded NFC chips, mobile payment systems such as Apple- and Google Pay, etc.
Social distancing and hyper-sanitation will be a prerequisite for keeping your business open.
To give members and authorities the security and confidence around using your premises to perform their scheduled routines.
To meet these requirements, it may be necessary to recruit more staff.
We do not believe it to be a viable solution in the long term.
Nor an attractive job description. Think salaries, benefits, trade unions, ethics, etc.
You probably wouldn’t spend valuable time counting visitors, around your different areas, around the clock, 27/7.
You probably also don’t want staff to act like bouncers at a bar.
Neither for your employees nor for customers.
The present: workout area(s) and zones
When guests access your facilities, they enter, so to speak, into the core of your experience.
Cardio, workouts, equipment, racks, bar and dumbbells, mats, etc.
How people use, engage, and interact with your facilities tells you how well you designed the experience.
How likely it is that members “linger” and continue their subscription.
Typical workout sessions last on average somewhere between 45-75 minutes.
Or does it?
How do you know?
How do you measure it?
When do they enter and when do they you leave? Do they you just ‘exit’ the premises?
From your perspective, what indications do you have? What data and statistics can you get to improve your business?
The future of workout areas
We expect that there may be limits to the maximum capacity of the gyms, for a long time to come.
To maintain a safe, social distance.
Group activities may be limited for some time, and we know how important these are to retain customers.
Movement within more enclosed spaces is likely to be different from before covid-19.
Using the sensor technologies, as mentioned above, you can observe and analyze your gyms in real-time, thereby keeping track of what is happening. Always.
It will allow managers to know how often the equipment.
It can be used to better plan and optimize the gyms based on historical usage patterns.
In short, you can get a better overview of
- Traffic (flow of guests all day?)
- Dwell times (where do they work out or interact and for how long?)
- Density (where bottlenecks occur and why so?)
- ‘Dead zones’ (which areas see almost no activity?)
- Sanitation (which areas need more attention?)
These indicators can help you determine which parts of the gyms need more attention than other.
It can help you experiment with and improve the design of your experience.
As mentioned, we expect capacity constraints for your gyms as well as group activities.
This can affect opening hours and planning for group training, such as if the capacity of the gyms is close to a given threshold.
Therefore, it may be necessary to set up reservation systems that allow capacity management, as well as rescheduling in accordance with more dynamic capacity, over time.
By analyzing member movements during hours of higher activity, on-the-spot, you can get more accurate forecasts to help your automatically updated schedules.
This information can be further integrated into your mobile app so members can see the activity in the gym over time and get warnings about alternate times, based on their preferences and activity.
It will help your members better plan their workouts from the comfort of their couch, which can ultimately help you better manage your gyms.
Today, your scheduling is likely done manually, with staffing and opening hours planned months in advance.
What happens when circumstances suddenly change, disrupt all your planning?
These tools give you the advantage of being able to anticipate and organize what the workday will bring, in advance.
It will give you a better sense of which areas and times require more attention, based on what the expected influx of guests.
It will also help your employees to be at the right place at the right time.
With IoT systems you can get valuable time back through constant measurements, observations, and machine learning. This will help you see, learn, predict patterns, and adapt your business accordingly. Automatically. Across all your gyms.
Now that we’ve spent all this time digging into what’s possible, the question remains:
Here we offer some suggestions on sensor technology that can help you get the data needed to calculate audience behavior on a scale.
Thermal cameras use temperature to determine ‘living’ or ‘dead’ objects.
Living objects usually have dynamic temperatures, while dead objects often are static.
A person is usually about 37 degrees Celsius. A table is about 16 degrees.
Through advanced algorithms, thermal cameras can detect an object within short range and determine whether it’s one thing or another.
Thermal cameras are generally very accurate at counting objects, making them an ideal choice for counting visitors in and out of your gyms.
At gyms with 24/7er opening hours, thermal cameras are usually part of the access point that scans people and their goods for unwanted objects.
What they make up for in precision, they lack within reach.
A fitness center often measures in the vicinity of 1500m2. For measurement with thermal cameras, you will effectively need to place a thermal camera for every 3-5 m2.
It will require about 300-500 sensors, depending on the scale you would like to measure.
With installation fees, hardware costs, installation costs, service fees, software licenses on top of that, it quickly becomes an expensive pleasure.
“Pictures say more than 1000 words”.
We humans can extract tons of information from a single image. From a moving image, even more.
Therefore, the obvious choice is CCTV-cameras- as it is the closest thing to human vision.
The technology is the most ubiquitous of IoT sensors for counting people.
Computers have learned to extract massive amounts of data points that allow them to provide information to us people about objects, facial recognition and many other information.
The applications are almost endless. So is the possibility of scale. Which also makes them scary in other aspects.
Look at what has enabled London police and security forces.
And hohw the Chinese use them for profiling all Chinese citizens’ behavior around China, rewarding, and punishing them for different types of behavior.
The possibilities are almost endless. But it is a slippery slope.
In the EU, we have GDPR to protect our fundamental privacy rights.
If you choose CCTV as the solution you should choose with great care. Otherwise you should worry about having Magrethe Vestager and the Data Protection Authorities come knocking on your door.
Then there are the costs.
Pictures take up a lot of space. Like all solutions, storage is not free. It gets cheaper day by day, but it’s not free.
The greater the amount of data to be analyzed with machine learning, the greater the cost.
A project we have been involved in used cameras from an unnamed supplier.
They offered their solution for 2500 DKK (about €670) per camera. After installation and all costs were accounted for, the final price increased 100-fold. Per camera.
The number of cameras needed depends on factors such as the size of your gyms, blind spots, and others that also apply to us humans.
Our advice is that you think carefully about with CCTV.
Antenna Scanners (Beacons)
We started by talking about smartphones, smartwatches, and other wearables.
Devices with embedded antennas.
Bluetooth, WiFi, GSM/LTE.
This leads us to the use of these antennas as possible data points to count your visitors and get audience analysis.
We have observed several gyms’ access points where mobile devices themselves operate as access passes.
Take REPEAT fitness in Denmark and Sweden. They use QR codes generated on their app, on the member’s phones and smartwatches, which they scan in the entrance.
As with plastic cards, it allows you to count the number of times they visit the gyms.
If people carry a phone or other smart device, they will not only be counted upon access, but also around the entire stay of their workout. Throughout the gym.
These scanners don’t ‘see’ what’s going on, like cameras. Instead, they indicate how people (i.e. devices) move.
They can help you effectively count the number of people in different areas while observing their movement patterns and behavior.
In real time. Over time. Always.
Range may vary. But as a starting point, range will start from 10 to 100 meters, in diameter.
The performance of people counting depends to a large extent on the underlying software that calculates the data and turns it into useful information.
The amount of data and associated cost depends on the number of sensors you have installed.
In general, the data packages are quite small compared to, for example, the cameras.
For an area of about 1500m2, you would need bruge about 10-25 sensors.
How can Jayflux help
Installing antenna scanners is not easy. You will often need some knowledgeable people, employees, or advisors to do it properly.
Connecting them and getting them to feed the data in one central system is one thing.
Another is to have them feed data properly, safely, and anonymously.
That’s where Jayflux comes in.
Jayflux is built on a principle of built-in privacy.
All unique identifiers (IP and MAC addresses) are securely “masked” from all data transmissions, leaving only non-identifiable information.
With the remaining information, Jayflux can help you place a ‘marker’, a flag, on visitors in your gyms.
Based on different variables, Jayflux can determine a given visitor that can help you indicate its use of the center and gyms.
When the visitor leaves the gym, all personally identifiable data is deleted. If the member agrees to the use of data, for example to improve their unique experience, data remains securely stored and can be withdrawn at any time if the member so wishes.
This way, Jayflux gives you analyses, like Facebook and Google, about what’s happening on your premises at any time, all the time.
What if people carry multiple devices?
If you use antenna scanners without software to help sort all the different information, you can’t get any value from counting.
Jayflux intelligently sorts the information and ensures that multiple units are counted as one person.
This ensures that you get the right count, repeatedly.
In addition, over time, the system learns the different combinations of devices and provides valuable demographic information so that you can better understand your guests without violating their basic privacy.
Measurements and KPIs
We have investigated what tools can be used for people counting and crowd analytics, what they are capable of, and what they can do for you and your business.
Now is the time to put it into practice.
Just like you measure your online marketing and advertising activities, audience analysis will allow you to measure you’re physical activities.
To make it less dense, we have structured the information into chunks, connected to the metrics you can get from, for example, Google and Facebook.
|Total users (guests)||Total number of unique devices per event||How many unique devices visit the gym(s) at a given day||Total Active users|
|Returned users (guests)||Number of unique, returning devices per day||Indicates guests who return to the gym(s). Can help identify workout patterns, among other||Returning Users|
|Device Type (per vendor)||Number of unique devices per vendor and model||E.g. iPhone, iWatch, iPad, Samsung Galaxy, etc. Demographics indicator, such as income level and personality type.||Mobile / devices|
|Flow / Trafic||Number of unique guests who entered, passed through and exited different zones throughout the day(s)||Indicates the popularity of different workout zones. Trafic levels can help in the design and placement of equipment and advertisement||Click-Through-Rate / Acquisition|
|Wait time||Number of unique devices not moving for X time in Y zone||Can indicate whether you have sufficient equipment at the gym(s) or positioning is sub-optimal. Can help identify bounce rates and churn||Page load time / bounce rate|
|Peak load / Density||Number of unique devices (guests) in X location(s) compared to Y location(s), per Z inch2 / meter2||Indicates at what hours various zones within and across gyms during the day (s), are more crowded than others, to help in e.g. cleaning||Heat map / Geo-location|
|Engaged users||Number of unique devices visiting one or more zones||Visitors spending equal to or less than X time at a given gym, workout zone, training session, etc.||Total Sessions|
|Disengaged users||Number of unique devices not visiting one or more zones||Visitors spending less than X time at a given gym, workout zone, training session, etc.||Bounce rate|
|Dwell sessions (total, average)||Number of unique devices staying at/in Y zone(s)||The total and average places a visitor visits throughout the gym(s), providing clear estimations about the overall interest of a certain type of workout or area||Sessions per user|
|Dwell time (total, average)||Number of unique devices staying at/in Y zone(s) for X time||The total and average time a visitor spends at all or any given places / zone(s), providing depth to the interest estimation (sessions) and customer conversion rates.||Session duration|
|Bonus stat: Distance||Number of unique devices staying X time at Y < feet/meters from the booth.||Visitors who have watched the gym from afar without interacting with representatives. This could be a potential lost opportunity, as some people are more introverted than other.||Not Available|
Bonus stat: Referral
|What other booths have N number of X unique device type visited before and after Y place(s), at Z time(s).||Visitor journey throughout the event. This can provide insights into general preferences, based on device type(s), time of day(s), type of session(s), and type of event(s).||Referral channels|
|Controlled Anomaly||What happens in X zone(s) when Y controlled instance is triggered||Indicates behavioral patterns based on an anormal event, such as a promotional event, fire drill, and other.||Behavior / Experiments|
|Uncontrolled Anomaly||What happens in X zone(s) when Y uncontrolled instance occurs. OR, given X forecast what is the probability of Y occurrence?||Some machine learning / artificial magic. In plain English, this helps you in learning from unforeseen situations, such as a fire or outbreak||Behavior / Experiment|
The list is by no means exhaustive, but possible information you would get from solutions like Jayflux.
In uncertain times, people often respond with creativity and innovation.
This is not the time to fear. This is the time to act, innovate and do things better than before.
For your sake, we’ll give you a few ideas as to how you can optimize and improve your business with audience analysis.
Short-term opportunity: Sanitation and cleaning
In the short term, this will be a prerequisite for running any kind of fitness center.
However, we humans are creatures of habit.
Our brains are designed to be lazy. Designed to use as little mental energy for anything other than logic as possible.
How would you enforce sanitation on guests, especially while Covid-19 is still raging while they focus on building muscle mass or shedding superfluous kilos?
To put it mildly, it is an almost impossible task.
It may go in the short term, but over time, people will return to old habits.
Do you want your employees to do that??
Necessary, yes. But expensive.
You probably outsource your cleaning to an external provider.
If you know what’s going on with you, where people are staying the most, and which areas are more used than others, you have an option.
Collecting this information allows you to negotiate more dynamic prices with your cleaning provider.
We expect cleaning providers to do the same to you. Dynamic, premium pricing due to increasing demand.
So why not be ahead of them, with contra tactics of your own?
Another possible solution is to help people help themselves.
With clear indications about sanitation levels of certain areas.
With the data that Jayflux provides you, you can install lighting and displays that allow your guests to act on the entries.
As mentioned earlier, you can even implement the information in your mobile app and help members plan ift. the activity in the gyms.
Jayflux also allows you to share your data securely with the authorities if bliver necessary.
Less work for you, ultimately.
Long-term option: Gamification
The information collected can further help you in your marketing activities.
Both to attract and retain members.
One possible solution is to motivate members through ‘gamification’,i.e. game elements.
By encouraging and rewarding members for comply with your guidelines, it can help you maintain a safe business.
Members will be able to compete with other members from different gyms- as well as share their findings about their activity in gyms and related physical activities on social networks.
An excellent opportunity to give people a chance to tell their own story, with low effort required.
This can increase member loyalty while generating effective digital marketing at a low cost.
Thanks to gamification, members will see their workouts as a game, making a task that can be difficult or monotonous fun.
Privacy by design
Respect for privacy is paramount, respect also translates into respect for the privacy and security of member data.
To commit to privacy is to commit to complying with rules such as GDPR and CCPA (California)
The GENERAL Data Protection Policy refers to two principles for the effective implementation of proactive responsibility:
design protection and data protection by default.
The principle of built-in data protection aims to meet the requirements defined in the General Data Protection Act and thus the rights of data subjects and aims to ensure that data protection is present in the early stages of project design.
These requirements will be translated into technical and organisational measures with a view to the effective application of data protection principles and the integration of the necessary safeguards in the processing.
In uncertain times it is important to see the forest behind the trees.
Certainly, technology can help us, give us a direction and a vision of a future we are already living.
Always think about users and how we can make their experience more comfortable, while offering a smart and data-driven way to make decisions that have a positive impact on both business and society.
How Jayflux tackles privacy
Jayflux helps you monitor and track members (i.e. their devices) from when they access where they move during training sessions to when they leave.
The software ensures that their personally identifiable information (PII), such as MAC address, is securely encrypted, transmitted, and stored securely in Jayflux.
It gives you a complete overview without having to worry about when the Data Protection Authority will come knocking on the door.
It even allows you to deploy and manage IoT sensors in all price ranges, helping you get a head start on securing and maintaining your devices and information gathering.
If you want to dig deeper into this and hear how Jayflux works with privacy and security, feel free to book a meeting with us via the button below.
Covid-19 has made your fitness business difficult for you to run your fitness business.
We all need to make sure in more than one sense to meet the demands of the authorities.
About social distancing, cleaning, and sanitation.
It gives us all an opportunity to think in new ways. Look at how we can take advantage of technological opportunities to raise our level.
For safety, security, service, and business.
In the short and longer term.
Hopefully, the article has given you some great ideas on how you can make use of IoT and audience analysis to elevate your business.
If you have any questions, please contact us as soon as you finish your training. Even if you’re not.
If you want to hear more about how Jayflux can help your business, book a session with us today. We are ready to get you started.
I hope you find the article worthwhile your time and has inspired you to explore further. If so, please share the content however and to whomever you like. As long as it’s in good faith 😊
If you want to learn how we do and see it for yourself, click the button below and get a demo with us.
“You can’t improve what you don’t measure. So start measuring today”
Stay safe and sound out there. But don’t be afraid to explore and experiment.
I manage all things related to daily growth operations at Jayflux.
I have a passion for IoT, IT security and privacy. Living in Argentina I see how governments in South America take advantage of its citizens online and offline. Every day. My personal purpose is to give the rights back to the comon folks.
Any questions, please shoot me a mail by clicking my image.