In June, I attended a technology innovation conference in Denver featuring Chris Glode of Under Armour (NYSE:UAA) as the keynote speaker. Glode is the vice president of digital efforts within Under Armour Connected Fitness, which "provides the technology needed to help [athletes] train, perform, and improve."
In 2013, Under Armour purchased fitness tracking app MapMyFitness (based in Denver), where Glode was an early executive. During the acquisition, Glode joined UA's team and now drives product and activity for UA Record as well as the UA Developer Platform.
The topic of Glode's presentation, "Connected Fitness: How Wearables, Apps, and the Cloud Will Transform Human Health Through Getting People Active," gave some insight into what Under Armour sees as the future of Connected Fitness. Here are a few highlights from the presentation.
Touching customers 24/7
Glode talked about the UA platform's "24/7 concept," which focuses on four pillars: activity, sleep, workouts, and nutrition. This is more than just constant monitoring throughout the day and night, though; it's also about being ready to give customers what they need, at exactly the right time.
One interesting fact Glode threw out was that consumers are 83% more receptive to messages geared toward fitness directly after a workout than they are during normal resting activity because they are hyped by endorphins and inspired to keep getting healthier. Part of UA's Connected Fitness plan is to become a real-time communications tool that would know a consumer's activity level and provide them with inspiring, insightful, and behavior-changing content and messages at just the right time.
This is more than just advertising; it also focuses on connecting the community even more. Imagine driving home from work -- it's been a slow day at the desk, and you get an alert from your UA app to let you know that there is a pick-up soccer game happening at the park near your house, which might be a good way to reach your 15,000 daily steps goal.
Even smarter apparel
Glode talked about how athletic and fitness clothing could become a fully integrated system, providing much more information than just steps or heart rate. One example Glode gave was that a golfer may have sensors in his shoes, clothes, and gloves that all communicate together to give coaching specific to what's going right or wrong with the athlete's golf swing.
However, it could go much further even than that. Google released some of the interesting new ways it is trying to make "smart" fabric at Google I/O in February. Their "Project Jaquard" puts electricity-conducting fabric into regular garments, essentially making touchscreen clothing.
The applicability of the kind of technology Google, Under Armour, and others are working on is broad, including immediate feedback and training help as well as long-term metrics and monitoring that's much more in-depth than just a fitness-tracking wristband.
Under Armour's open developer platform
Under Armour's platform of apps, including its own developed app called Record, as well as purchased apps MapMyFitness, Endomondo, and MyFitnessPal already have over 140 million users. Another way Under Armour is driving even more users to its platform is through its open developer platform, which allows other brands to use the UA technology with their own interfaces.
Essentially developers from another company or third-party brand can use the UA technology to create their own application to "track, inspire, and engage" their user base. That's just what Subaru did to create a MapMyDogWalk app as a play on the other MapMy apps, and to build a fun fitness experience for Subaru owners and their favorite four-legged friends.
The future of connected fitness
The most exciting part of the talk came at the end, when Glode tied everything together saying that data is only one focus of the company, and Under Armour's platform and products are only going to get better from here with more connectedness and more focus on using that data for more important health goals. He mentioned that getting large amounts of data is the easy part. The next step will be getting people in place to really mine that data, which is what Under Armour is doing now by strengthening its Connected Fitness employee base and creating its new Connected Fitness HQ in Texas.
Last but not least, Glode said there will be some big announcements from Under Armour's Connected Fitness segment later this year, but he couldn't elaborate further. With the interesting things we've seen from UA recently, I can't wait to see what's next.