Apple bakes fitness deeper into its iPod nano device with Nike+

Health and fitness applications, especially where sensors can monitor a person’s health, have been widely adopted by consumers. Yesterday, Apple announced a deeper integration with Nike+, which will turn your music device into a health monitoring one.
Written by Boonsri Dickinson, Contributing Editor

Ten years after its debut, Apple is integrating fitness more deeply into its line of iPods. On Tuesday, Apple announced that its seventh generation iPod nano will allow people to track their activity with Nike+. This move shows that Apple is interested in not just delivering music during workouts, but also wants to help you track each step.

The newest iPod nano has a square screen that can double as a watch. The difference is that it can hook up with the Nike+ via an embedded receiver that's been baked into the device. The built-in accelerometer gives users real-time feedback of their workout and data is uploaded to the Nike+ website. The company has sold more than 300 million iPods.

Internet-connected devices are taking off, thanks in part to more affordable sensors that can be attached to appliances, toys and other gadgets. Health and fitness applications, especially where sensors can monitor a person’s health, have been widely adopted. For instance, Withings, a French developer of Wi-Fi enabled scales and blood glucose monitors keeps track of users' bodies and Fitbit, a maker of sleep and fitness monitor provides online analytics.

There are other products chasing the same demand for gadgets that monitoring health and fitness. For example, a startup called Basis just came out with a hip new watch measures your pulse, calories you burn, and how much you've been sweating. Other startups like Fitbit have fancy pedometers that to help people walk 10,000 steps a day. Fitbit also can track more activities like climbing stairs, making it useful throughout the day to track overall fitness activity.

With each company focusing  on a specific consumer segment they should be able to coexist or even thrive alongside Apple. The awareness that Apple will bring to market will likely just increase demand for fitness-related gadget and apps. Already, the iOS health and fitness app space is expected to expand from 9,000 to 13,000 healthcare-related apps by next year, according to MobiHealthNews.

"This is a good thing for these companies and indicates a maturing of the consumer healthcare market and validation of its importance," said Sumon Sadhu, the intelligence director at Quid.

"Self service health technology will become more and more common as the cost of sensors decrease and ubiquity of smartphone software increases, meaning that there will be more startups leveraging low cost computation on smart phones, sound, position and phone attachments for self-service outcomes. One can imagine a scenario where health insurance companies actually start to offer lower premiums just for consumers to use these technologies to monitor their health outcome," Sadhu said.

Baking fitness apps into iOS devices will allow those already using the tech to start tracking their fitness. Maybe mobile technology will stop us from becoming couch potatoes and encourage us to get up from our desks once in a while. After all, studies show that sitting down all day is killing us. Each step counts.

Photo: Screenshot by Boonsri Dickinson

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