On April 28, 2011, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals various aspects of a newly advanced Fitness Center App that they've been working on for some time now. While Apple's app is uniquely their own, they appear to be consulting with or at least including Nike into their program as one illustration lists "The Nike Training Club Class." Apple's Fitness Center App is well designed to cover all aspects of a workout including stats gathered from next generation smart equipment right down to the inclusion of a unique social networking component that will work within a particular fitness center or within your city limits to help you find a workout buddy and/or to stir on competition to get you motivated. Apple's new fitness center app is designed to work with your iPhone or iPod touch to provide you with realtime stats to keep you informed and on track.
The Problem with Traditional Fitness Centers
The benefits of exercise and healthy living are well-known in present day society. To this end, it is not uncommon for people to aspire to regularly workout or go to a fitness center. However, despite a person's good intentions or his desire to workout, a person may not achieve their goal amount of exercise. For example, busy schedules, not knowing how to properly use gym equipment, or other factors can cause a person to lack the motivation to go to a fitness center and workout.
To help become motivated to regularly visit a fitness center, people often resort to techniques such as finding a workout buddy, scheduling sessions with a fitness trainer, attending workout classes, and the like. However, although these approaches for becoming motivated can be serviceable, they remain disjointed, lack a central hub, and may still result in the person losing motivation (e.g., the person may nonetheless cancel a training session, or tell a workout buddy they are not going to the fitness center today).
Moreover, these approaches require a fitness center to accommodate all of the possible forms of interaction with the member of the fitness center (e.g., a member may need to call the fitness center to schedule a training session, go to the fitness center in person to get a spot in a class, and the like). From a member's perspective, the lack of centralization of interactions with the fitness center can require more effort from the member than he is willing to expend, and perhaps even dissuade the member from going to the fitness center. Not only may this adversely affect the member (e.g., the member may lose motivation and may not meet their workout goals), but this may also adversely affect the fitness provider as an un-motivated member may be more likely to cancel their membership (e.g., thus causing the fitness center to lose income).
Apple's Systematic Solution
Apple's patent describes the possibility that the iPhone will one day include a single, seamless application that will introduce new customers to a fitness center and motivate these new customers to keep returning to the fitness center as active members.
To interface with a fitness center, the integrated application could, for example, securely connect with distinct servers associated with scheduling training sessions, accessing gym equipment guides, mapping directions to the fitness center, paying membership fees, communicate with exercise equipment at the fitness center, or any other suitable servers.
In some embodiments, the integrated application could provide functions to introduce potential new customers to a fitness center. For example, the integrated application could showcase available classes and services of the fitness provider, provide fitness center locators, provide free passes to the fitness center, provide other promotions, provide affiliate offers, and any combination of the above.
Functions to Help Motivate You
In some embodiments, the integrated application could provide functions to motivate a customer to join the fitness center (e.g., after the customer has been introduced to the fitness center) and actively attend the fitness center. For example, the integrated application could provide the user with news and updates associated with the fitness center, provide daily promotions, provide a scheduler (e.g., to allow a user to schedule session with a fitness trainer, to schedule classes, and the like), provide social networking features (e.g., to help a user find a workout buddy, and any combination of the above).
In some embodiments, the integrated application could provide in-gym motivation. For example, the integrated application could allow a user to access equipment guides, allow a user to access workout videos, track a user's workout routine in real-time (e.g., display on a screen of a portable electronic device the treadmill's speed, the amount of weight being used on a piece of exercise equipment, and the like), promote competition among members of the fitness center (e.g., thus motivating fitness center members to "beat one another's scores" and workout harder), and any combination of the above.
Post Workout Motivation
In some embodiments, the integrated application could provide post-workout motivation. For example, the integrated application could provide a user with coupons that may help a user re-energize (e.g., power drink coupons, spa coupons, and the like), provide reminders prompting a user to return to the fitness center, provide up-sell opportunities (e.g., by selling a music playlist from a class the user took) or provide analytical tools for analyzing a user's past workout information, and any combination of the above.
The Proposed Fitness Center Application
The focus of Apple's patent is to provide the iPhone (or other wireless networked devices) with a single seamless fitness center oriented application that will connect to fitness center servers to access various services.
In Apple's patent FIG. 2 shown below we see a schematic view of illustrative questions and needs of a user that the integrated application could address. For example, the integrated application could aid a user in locating a fitness center, aid a user in finding information on and scheduling personal trainer sessions; provide information related to fitness center classes; provide workout analysis information such as how many calories were burned in a particular workout; provide social networking features to help a user find workout buddies; help a user identify if and how they are improving; provide equipment guides; and provide competitive and score-keeping functions such as a leaderboard.
To interface with the fitness center, the integrated application could securely connect to one or more servers associated with the fitness center such as connecting to a calendar server to schedule a session with a fitness trainer or to reserve a spot in a fitness center class or perform other scheduling functions.
As another example, the integrated application could connect to a mapping application to provide directions to the fitness center; allow the user to enter payment information (e.g., credit card information) to pay membership fees or pay for sessions with a fitness trainer; purchase food and drinks (e.g., a power bar, water, or other consumables offered for sale in a store of the fitness center); purchase workout attire for sale in a store of the fitness center – or pay for any other suitable items.
Oh, and about the mapping app and directions aspect of the program: That will require you to use the iPhone's location services. If you're totally paranoid about this, then simply turn off the location services feature on your iPhone just as Scott Forstall illustrated a year ago!
Apple's patent FIG. 3 shows us a diagram (300) of several situations during which a user could make use of a single integrated application. The integrated application could be used in a new customer scenario to help them locate a fitness center along with a map, become educated about the fitness center and generally generate user interest. Additional scenarios include an in-gym scenario to enrich a user's fitness center experience and a post-workout scenario to help re-charge you after a hard work and help motivate you to return to the fitness center again.
Exploded Renderings of the Key iPhone Fitness Application Features
As is indicated by Patent FIG. 6 above, the integrated application could provide social networking features to assist a user in finding a workout buddy (e.g., where a workout buddy and user may encourage each other to visit the fitness center on a regular basis). For example, in some embodiments, a user could send a request for a workout buddy or other requests to members of a social network. In some embodiments, the integrated application could match the user with potential workout buddies through user preferences. User preferences could determine any suitable attributes of the user such as, for example, age, gender, athletic abilities, preferred exercises, preferred workout times, fitness center at which the user is a member, preferred workout locations, any other suitable attributes, or any combination of the above.
The user's preferences may then be compared to preferences of members of the social network to determine which members may be a suitable match for the user. The integrated application may then provide a notice of the matching members to the user, or otherwise introduce the user to the matching members.
In some embodiments, social networking functions, competitions, leaderboards, and the like could be provided through the integrated application to promote competition among the members of the fitness center. This competition may, for example, motivate users to workout harder, visit the fitness center more often, or otherwise actively visit the fitness center to improve their abilities and beat one another's workout accomplishments. For example, in some embodiments, accomplishments of a user could be transmitted to members of the social network.
In this manner, through the social networking and competition-building features of the integrated application, the members of the fitness center can be provided with a real-time, connected experience. For example, upon a user completing a certain achievement, the members of the fitness center can be immediately informed of the user's achievement (e.g., the members can receive a notification reading "Bob just bench pressed 300 pounds!" immediately after this achievement is accomplished). Moreover, this can allow the members of the fitness center to boast of their accomplishments and challenge one another to beat their achievements. This may build competition among the members of the gym, and actively encourage the members to visit the fitness center and workout.
In some embodiments, the exercise equipment could be physically or wirelessly coupled to a user's electronic device. For example, the exercise equipment could include a port or other connector operative to physically couple a user's electronic device to the exercise equipment. As another example, a Bluetooth connection, WiFi connection, or other suitable wireless connection could be used to wirelessly couple the exercise equipment to a user's electronic device. This coupling may allow the integrated application of the electronic device to communicate with the exercise equipment to, for example, instruct the exercise equipment to automatically adjust the amount of weight, adjust the seating and height settings of the exercise equipment, or adjust any other suitable setting of the exercise equipment.
For example, the integrated application could have access to user attributes defining the user such as height, weight, athletic abilities, prior workout history, or any other suitable attributes. Based on these user attributes, the integrated can instruct the exercise equipment to adjust its settings accordingly (e.g., the integrated application can instruct the exercise equipment to adjust its seat settings based on the height of the user, can instruct the exercise equipment to adjust the amount of weight used based on the user's prior workout history, and the like).
A user's workout experience could also be enriched by providing workout tracking to actively inform a user of their workout performance. For example, the integrated application could communicate with exercise equipment to determine information such as current speed (e.g., treadmill speed, elliptical speed, or other equipment speed), current weight on the exercise equipment, current number of repetitions, or other suitable information, and then may provide this information to the user. Apple has been working on this aspect of their fitness center app since 2008 (when it was originally filed) and was covered in our report titled "Apple Patent Rocks the Gym."
The application could also include workout tips in respect to showing a user how to use certain types of equipment safely and suggest workout routines based on your level of fitness (e.g. beginner, pro etc).
Post Workout Motivation
Apples patent FIG. 7 shown below illustrates functions related to providing post-workout motivation through the integrated application.
After a workout has been completed, a user could be provided with coupons, promotions, and affiliate offers that may re-energize or otherwise motivate the user to return to the fitness center. For example, promotions such as coupons for a sports drink, coupons for a spa appointment, coupons for a power bar, or any other suitable promotions could be provided through the integrated application.
Up-Sell Opportunities – Custom Workout Music for Sale
Through the integrated application, up-sell opportunities associated with a post-workout scenario could be provided to the user. For example, during a workout, a user may attend a class (e.g., a spinning class, a cardio class, or any other suitable fitness center class) that played a music playlist during the class. This music playlist may then be offered for sale to the user through the integrated application. This could be a great opportunity for the fitness club to make some extra income. I know that when I go to certain workout classes, the music is pounding – but more importantly it usually plays a lot of tunes I thought were really motivating during the workout. Being able to easily purchase those songs via an easy to use upload would be great.
The Bigger Picture
There's a lot more to this new app that Apple is working on and we'll just have to wait and see what Apple's final App actually delivers. However, in the big picture, we showed you that Apple has been working on integrating the iPhone (and iPod touch) into next generation gym equipment like treadmills and they've also been working on a "Quick-Start" template system for workouts as well as a workout reminder app. More than likely Apple will roll a few of the ideas that they've been working on for some time now into one great app. The good news is that Apple has been working diligently on this new app for several years now. That's a great sign that they're working with a number of the larger gyms around the country and consulting with their fitness partners like Nike to get it right. While one can't predict when a patent will come to life, what we can extrapolate from this application is that this fitness center app project is close to wrapping up.
It's been a while since Apple has delivered any quality development on the fitness front – and those of us who like to work out would really like to see this finally come to market. C'mon guys – get it done already!
Apple credits Stanley Ng and Michael Hailey as the inventors of patent application 20110098156. This recent application was only filed for in Q3 2010. To view more of Apple's sports related patents see our Archives.
Another Patent Applications Published Today
Apple's only other patent application (20110099519) published today simply reviews what has become the new Apple TV system. For interest sake, this marks another patent fulfilled before it ever saw the light of day.
Apple's Magic Mouse Design
The last note of the day goes to Apple's Magic Mouse Design. It's just completed the review process over at the USPTO before being registered. Apple's touch-centric mouse design is very cool and so it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that it inspired the West Coast Copycat to design one of their very own touch-centric mice.
While I personally enjoy working with Apple's Magic Mouse, and yes it's a great design, I must admit that its bottom slider mechanism could use some refinement if not rethinking.
Notice: Patently Apple presents only a brief summary of patents with associated graphic(s) for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application should be read in its entirety for further details. Patents shouldn't be digested as rumors or fast-tracked according to rumor time tables. Apple patents represent true research that could lead to future products and should be understood in that light. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.
Side Note: for those interested in the Apple-Samsung patent wars, Samsung has brought their case to US courts after filing their case overseas last week. For an overview of the new case, see Florian Mueller's report titled " Samsung now countersuing Apple in four countries on three continents."
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