Fitness & Data: the new frontier?


With the increasing commoditisation of the smartphone, the battle between tech giants has moved from products to services.

Apple has already demonstrated its commitment to this with Apple TV, on top of music and video streaming service Apple Music. Alongside these offerings, Apple has perhaps most importantly demonstrated unrivalled leadership in the smartwatch space.


Conversely, although Google has a vast array of functional services - including YouTube, Gmail, Drive, Maps and Translate to name a few - it has been slow to monetise them. Android equally hasn't produced a good fitness wearable or smartwatch.

Martin Jordan

About the author

Martin is Innovation & Insight Director at Equator, he has served at the helm of multiple growing functions within Equator, building out a diverse and talented Marketing team and, more recently building and developing a cutting-edge Innovation function as well as a hard-nosed and smart Insight team.

The wearable tech industry was worth almost $23 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow to $53 billion by 2023, according to data and analytics company GlobalData. The news that Google is acquiring Fitbit for $2.1 billion should come as no surprise.

Fitbit then and now

Fitbit has been a wearable fitness leader since its inception back in 2007, having been among the first to bring a gaming element to fitness and personal wellbeing.
Early on, when it acted as a step counter, complete with achievement levels, Fitbit inspired and encouraged wearers to improve their health by reaching milestones. While it's fair to say that the brand has earned a reputation as the "Xerox of fitness wearables", bolstered by tech-conscious younger generations that have become increasingly committed to personal wellbeing, its offering has suffered setbacks as a result of rival smartwatches.
Fast forward to 2019: Fitbit's offering simply does not come close to Apple's. This is mainly due to the lack of deep integration between its technology and that in users' smartphones - something Apple is naturally very good at, given its production of both hardware and software.

Enter Google

Google is no stranger to the wearables market. In 2018, it entered into a partnership with Fitbit that enabled the latter to use the former's Cloud Healthcare API to connect data from Fitbit devices with e-medical records. Acquiring Fitbit is a statement of clear intention to operate in this space.


The acquisition plugs Google into an established loyal audience - all 28 million of them - that has turned its nose up at the expensive Apple Watch. More importantly, it enables Google to tap into over a decade's worth of collected health and wellbeing data from millions of devices worldwide.


Employing Google parent company Alphabet's comprehensive data, AI and cloud capabilities will undoubtedly boost Fitbit's offering to something that can outstrip Apple's. Should google create greater integration between Fitbit and Android devices, there will finally be a comparable competitor to the Apple Watch.



Implications for data

The public's main worry is the possibility of Google using this newfound pool of data in dubious ways, such as the promotion of products and services based on fitness levels or activities.
This is a possible outcome, much like it is for Apple - and there's no company better placed to do this than Google. But as Google has learned hard lessons on the improper use of customer data, it is unlikely it will be undertaking any such activities without first receiving express permission from users, or without the existence of tangible benefits to them.
Google will inherit a vast amount of data thanks to the acquisition, and it will accumulate even more. It’s likely that Google will bring health and wellbeing products and services to the market. There is a real opportunity to deliver life-changing health and wellbeing advice and support through a connected, machine learning-driven service. What this means is developing decision-driven capabilities that inform our eating, sleeping, exercising and working patterns; going far beyond the ’You need to do more steps’ or ’You need to get off your seat’ motivations of the current technology.
Google’s DeepMind division could bring genuine life-saving capabilities to fruition by tying in Fitbit, Voice and visual information. With Google’s Pixel 4 smartphone now using facial recognition and users increasingly engaging with Google Assistant, tech can now predict strokes, mania, depression and other physical and psychological issues. Tying this capability together with users’ fitness levels, blood pressure and heart can bring an offering to market that could change lives.


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