Learning From the Exercise Industry

at home workout

After all the guessing, prognostication and assumptions, it actually happened. InfoComm 2021 took place in Orlando the last week in October. What surprised me most during the event was the social media banter that went back and forth between the “should” and “should not” crowds. That is those who thought that AVIXA “should have” InfoComm and those who thought that AVIXA “should not have” InfoComm. Bear with me here — I am not rehashing this fight — in fact, I don’t understand the fight at all. The fact is, no health or government officials said the show should not happen. Attendees made the choice to go or not to go. People took their own risk profiles and made a choice. I don’t see what there is to argue about.

Rather, what I see from these choices is a business opportunity. As we begin to realize that COVID-19 will become endemic, perhaps becoming less dangerous, but never fully going away, we also should realize that these types of choices will continue to need to be made. In October I wrote about how InfoComm, and other trade shows, should embrace those people who make the choice not to attend. This month I have been thinking about other business opportunities that the AV industry could find in this ongoing environment.

One of these opportunities that struck me is in the exercise and fitness industries. Many of us (yup, I would raise my hand on this one) have put on some weight throughout the last several months. In the Northeast, it is very difficult to exercise outside in the winter, and in the South, it is very difficult to exercise outside during the summer. However, for many, going to gyms is a risk they are not willing to take. Rather than judging that, fighting with each other and name-calling, look at it as an opportunity. That is what companies like Peloton and Tempo.fit are doing. Each uses technology to change the in-house exercise environment. Peloton started with the “live” class sessions, where you could join a live group of people in spin classes, with a live instructor from the comfort of your home. Tempo.fit does things a bit differently. This equipment uses a series of cameras and sensors to learn about your body and make recommendations for exercise. It also watches you as you work out and gives you recommendations on form, to make sure you are getting the most out of your workout, and are not hurting yourself. The next step is starting to put these two technologies together. Then you have people to work out with, and therefore hold you accountable, along with a trainer, either virtual or real to help you get the most out of the workout. Both pieces of equipment are expensive, no doubt, but less expensive than you might guess.

The point here is not to shill exercise equipment, but rather to point out how innovation, right now, can develop a powerful and high-value product. Spend some time thinking about the technologies you work with every day: cameras, sensors, microphones, touch panels and displays. Then consider the technologies so many of us already have in our houses and lives: televisions, smartwatches, smartphones, web cameras and microphones. How can we, as creative, forward-thinking technologists use these technologies to create products and services? So many people are working at home right now. Can’t we use the sensors in phones and watches, along with the cameras in laptops or webcams on monitors to do in-home ergonomic assessments? Clearly, we know that there are dozens of devices that monitor various health data points. Can we create opportunities between doctors, therapists, dentists, etc. to give quality healthcare without an in-person visit? We know that holograms are still in developmental phases, and have yet to break into real installs, but they hold some potential promise for virtual personal visits, doctor visits and more.

Thinking in this way is a change in what we do, because it continues to move away from the physical things we are used to selling, and using those physical things as vehicles to deliver the software or experiences we are trying to sell. It provides a parallel option to move away from the in-person experiences we have been creating for years, and provide an equally strong virtual experience. It is time to stop spending energy arguing over these things, and invest that time and energy into creating new, amazing experiences.