Cabel Sasser’s post about the Nike-iPod doodad turning the solitary activity of jogging into a multiplayer compeition got me thinking in general about the way technology has made exercising, if not easier, at least more interesting. And this, as with so many things, has to do with data — specifically what you can do with the data.
Fitness gadgets record all kinds of data: heart rate BPM, distance, speed, even elevation and lat/long if you have a GPS watch. (The new Garmin Forerunner 305 for example is a frankenstein of a cardio computer logging everything you can think of including compensating for GPS reception gaps using a pedometer.) Bike computers produce a whole lot more.
So there’s plenty of raw material and that’s where it gets fun. Sites like We Endure and Nike+ let you log workout data, view charts, and compare against others. The Forerunner (even earlier versions) let’s you race yourself using previous run data in a unintentionally hilarious visual of stickmen chasing each other.
Certain companies, such as IBM, offer physical activity rebates for consistent exercise. This too requires workout data. And that’s the thing. None of the fitness sites are interoperable and none of the data formats are standardized. It is a nightmare of multiple entry. Here’s an example. When I return from a run I pop my iPod into its cradle. Up goes the workout data to Nike+. OK, so I get a nice animation and some basic stats for my run in a totally opaque Flash interface. That data is stuck in Nike for all practical purposes. To track all workouts over time I have to enter data manually at We Endure. Then over to the IBM Wellness for Life vendor site. More manual entry. And then there’s Activtrax for gym workouts — a smorgasboard of manual data entry that talks to nothing else.
You’d think there’d be some effort towards standardization what with the ascendancy of microformats and the relatively high percentage of web geeks who are also cyclists, runners, etc. Maybe I’m missing some real work here. It seems so obviously needed. The place to start might be the geo data that is generated from a workout since there’s more standardization here (GIS, etc.) than elsewhere. Also you have to think that there are medical standards for biometric info (heartrate, etc).
Anybody really into microformats out there? How about hFit?
See also Veen’s entertaining rant Polar Heart Rate Monitors: Gimme my data!