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features

Talking point: Artificial intelligence

When you hear the words ‘artificial intelligence’, do you think of talking computers and helpful androids? Think again. We find out how AI can be used in fitness

Published in Health Club Management 2019 issue 11

The AI revolution is ramping up across many industries, although not quite in the way futurists predicted.

Rather than machines that emulate the human mind, the majority of today’s AI technologies consist of sophisticated algorithms that analyse data rapidly to carry out specific tasks. Through machine learning, they can adapt to new situations as they take in more data, making them far more flexible than the more rigid, static programmes of the past.

Our experts explain how AI can be used across the fitness industry, why we should embrace it and the benefits it can bring.

David Minton, Director, LeisureDB
David Minton

Ground-breaking technology such as AI and Machine Learning is way ahead of fitness industry practices, desires and dreams. The main reason being that many fitness sites currently lack the granular data and infrastructure necessary to obtain real AI.

This means our industry is looking through the rear-view mirror at where it’s been, not where it’s going. This is of no use to the consumer and limited use to the operator.

Data remains the industry’s most underutilised asset, yet it’s the foundational element that makes AI so powerful. Unstructured data is difficult to use, which is probably why so few techies develop for fitness compared to other industries.

A lack of granular data has held back Reserve with Google, for example, where the ‘leisure’ market – hotels, restaurants, cinema, beauty and even hair salons – have developed the most integrations so far.

"In 2005 I wrote, ‘if we worked in the pornographic industry, we’d know what a member is, but because we work in the fitness industry, there’s no hard rule, so to speak’ "

My grandchildren love talking to Alexa and Siri, the always-ready, connected, virtual assistants. Yet these ten-year-old twins soon discovered the virtual assistants know nothing about the sports clubs, leisure centres and swimming pools they use.

Back in 2005 I wrote, “if we worked in the pornographic industry, we would all know what a member is, but because we work in the fitness industry there’s no hard rule to follow, so to speak”. For AI to work, there needs to be API access to structured, live granular data. The question of data integrity must be addressed by the industry and it must be totally consumer-focused if we are to take advantage of what AI has to offer.

Bryan O’Rourke
President, The Fitness Industry Technology Council
Bryan O’Rourke

In fitness, AI continues to have the potential to enhance efficiency and improve revenues. Chatbots are increasingly being deployed to engage and simulate personalised human interactions. Fitness apps deploy personalised solutions relying on AI tech as well.

However, the adoption of these tools is not robust at this point and it will be some years before the industry benefits from both machine learning and AI. The reason for this is that most club operators do not have a single source of reliable data, most have not made great strides in executing a digital transformation, and, finally, most do not have a true AI strategy.

To take advantage of AI’s enormous potential, organisations have a long way to go in developing the core practices that enable them to realise that potential value at scale. Most fitness chain operators have not mapped out where, across the organisation, all potential AI opportunities lie, as they have no strategy. Many have not made significant progress on their digital transformation, and do not have single sources of data to enable the adoption of AI at this point.

Until these issues are dealt with, the adoption of AI capabilities will be limited.

Shai Neiger, CEO, CoachAi
Shai Neiger

There’s a lot of buzz about AI – computer programmes designed to mimic or simulate human intelligence.

The concept has been around since the 1950s, but it’s only in the last decade that technology has advanced enough for AI to become a viable tool for use in business.

AI adapts its own design in response to insights derived from real-world data. It also helps us make sense of large quantities of data, to detect patterns, and make decisions based on insight.

It’s one of the tools we use at CoachAi to understand and solve the challenge of behavioural change; which factors influence whether someone will create a lifelong exercise habit or fizzle out after three weeks? When and how should we intervene along the course of their journey? Should we change our approach based on where they live? Whether they’re male or female? Aged 19 or 56?

"AI has the capacity to act autonomously and to adapt over time to reach new heights of performance"

AI is in the spotlight because it represents a new era of efficiency. Unlike the previous generation of technology, which requires constant dashboard monitoring and intervention on the part of operators, AI has the capacity to act autonomously and to adapt over time to reach new heights of performance. As more and more health club operators implement AI solutions, they’ll enjoy reduced staffing and operational costs, while offering smart, personalised member experiences.

In the future, this will become the health and fitness industry standard, even for large-scale operators.

Ian Mullane
Founder and CEO of KeepMe
Ian Mullane

Some organisations within the UK are more hesitant to adopt new technology than our friends across the pond or in Asia, and AI is no exception.

This could be due to a lack of understanding, or a belief that it’s complicated, but the potential benefits for health and fitness operators are huge when it comes to member retention.

AI is not a solution to the challenge of low retention rates, but it can provide operators with a useful level of insight to show where to take action and equip them with the tools to do so at scale.

Right now, many operators don’t have accurate insights into which members are likely to leave and need this, along with a time window to change the outcome. AI can do this at the member level and in doing so, open up a new world of understanding on what drives attrition. Is there a higher risk with a particular membership type, gender or age? Do members that attend a specific group exercise class present less risk than those that don’t, for example?

All of these and more pieces of knowledge are available via AI to help define what actions should be taken.

"AI is not a solution to the challenge of low retention rates, but it can provide operators with a useful level of insight to show where to take action and then equip them with the tools to do so at scale"

Introducing an AI tool enhances the human resources you have, allowing them to target their member interactions to where it will have the most impact.

You know the value that personal interaction plays in retention, but having a worthwhile engagement with every member is not possible. With AI, you’re equipped to understand which interactions are likely to have the most impact, ensuring that however many engagements you have, they will have been with the most appropriate people.

You’re sitting on gold in the form of data, and AI could unlock its secrets. Many European and US operators have already realised this and are reaping the rewards of deployment with impressive increases in retention and operational efficiency.

I hope UK health and fitness operators will quickly see the potential, so we can start to see the necessary improvement in member retention so often desire.

More features

Sight & sound

The audio visual aspect of your club is one of the biggest factors in keeping members motivated and engaged with your offering. So how can you optimise this? We asked four of the top audio visual suppliers in the industry for their tips

Artificial intelligence

When you hear the words ‘artificial intelligence’, do you think of talking computers and helpful androids? Think again. We find out how AI can be used in fitness
people

Jean-Michel Fournier

CEO, Les Mills Media
In the long term, the fitness industry will utilise technological advances in augmented reality and holographic telepresence
people

José Teixeira

SC Fitness, Portugal: head of customer experience
People often assume that those who pay more stay longer, but we don’t see this. What we see is that if you have PT you stay longer because you use more, not because you pay more
interview

Paul Juris

Director of sports science, Brooklyn Boulders
people are together on the climbing walls, cheering each other on, coaching each other, interacting, laughing and enjoying each other’s company. It’s a completely different environment from anything I’ve ever seen
people

Rachael Blumberg

Platefit: creator and founder
People know yoga, Pilates, HIIT and Barry’s Bootcamp, but many don’t know vibration training and it’s my intention, passion and purpose to make it available and bring it to the world
people

Andrew Grill

Practical Futurist
Your marketing department will have to start writing ad copy for robots, not for humans. These digital agents will be gatekeepers, a bit like a PA. It’s already happening, so get ahead and start using it

Body image

Will the body image debate define the future of fit-tech? Becca Douglas looks at the evidence

The middle man

Many industries have aggregators so it makes sense for the health and fitness industry to have them too. Are they a force for the good, or could it become a case of the tail wagging the dog? Kath Hudson reports

Activelab 2019

Following the ActiveLab Live! finale at the recent Active Uprising conference, we take a look at startups that are using technology to help people become healthier and more active
people

Ben Keenan

SUF Cycling: commercial director
This isn’t a spin around the park: SUF Cycling requires participants to dig deep, which can push some people not used to HIIT out of their comfort zone
celebs

Chris Hemsworth

I believe we all have untapped potential. And we all need support to achieve our goals. Centr puts the world’s best in the palm of your hand, to help you develop a healthier body, stronger mind, and a happier life - CHRIS HEMSWORTH

Bio Hacking

Silicon Valley hacker Dave Asprey used his tech skills to gather the latest fitness kit to create a bio hacking boutique. Kath Hudson investigates

Tech upgrade

New technology is transforming the way the health and fitness industry functions and interacts with customers. Liz Terry catches up with operators around the industry for an update

Get upgraded

HCM asks the industry’s leading software suppliers about the new tech and software features you can look forward to getting your hands on in 2019

Body Insights

Want to know your biological age or your bone density, or maybe get a 3D model printed showing your hard-won new biceps? The latest tech enables this and much more. HCM does a roundup of the new kit on the market for fitness testing and body scanning

In-club Tech

What’s happening in the world of health club management software? We get the inside view from some of the best-known tech companies in the sector

How can clubs get the most out of virtual?

HCM’s Steph Eaves gets tips from our panel of experts

Body composition analysers

Body composition analysers are an excellent way to differentiate your club, as well as help your members get results. Kath Hudson reports

Cycle revolution

A new age of indoor cycling is upon us, characterised by a more diverse range of bikes and consumers. Steph Eaves breaks down the options in this two-part series
interview

Matthew Allison, Space Cycle

I want to build a social lifestyle brand that combines music and wellness to create something that inspires people. I want to change the way people think of working out, so it’s like going to a club or a concert

ActiveLab 2018: Meet the startups in fit-tech

Following the ActiveLab Live! finale at the recent Active Uprising conference, we take a look at startups seeking to solve some of society’s biggest challenges through technology designed to get people active

Smart and flexible member payments

Providing customers with the best member experience, while maximising revenue, is vital. We look at the latest in customer centric payment solutions

Health club management software

We asked some of the biggest names in health club management software to share their predictions for the future
Video Gallery
How to use the MZ-Bodyscan
MyZone
The Best Product for the Best Clubs Read more
Company profiles
Company profile: Wattbike
Wattbike is the creator of the world’s most advanced and innovative indoor bikes, developed in ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Book4Time Inc.
Founded in 2004 by Roger Sholanki, Book4Time is a global provider of a cloud-based management ...
Directory
Spa software
ResortSuite: Spa software
Fitness equipment
FunXtion International BV: Fitness equipment
Software
Book4Time Inc: Software
Direct debit solutions
Harlands Group: Direct debit solutions
Locking solutions
Monster Padlocks: Locking solutions
Diary dates
03-05 Aug 2020
Raffles City Convention Centre, Singapore
30 Sep 2020
Exhibition Centre Cologne, Cologne, Germany
01-04 Oct 2020
Exhibition Centre, Cologne, Germany
07 Oct 2020
Palais Brongniart, Paris, France
features

Talking point: Artificial intelligence

When you hear the words ‘artificial intelligence’, do you think of talking computers and helpful androids? Think again. We find out how AI can be used in fitness

Published in Health Club Management 2019 issue 11

The AI revolution is ramping up across many industries, although not quite in the way futurists predicted.

Rather than machines that emulate the human mind, the majority of today’s AI technologies consist of sophisticated algorithms that analyse data rapidly to carry out specific tasks. Through machine learning, they can adapt to new situations as they take in more data, making them far more flexible than the more rigid, static programmes of the past.

Our experts explain how AI can be used across the fitness industry, why we should embrace it and the benefits it can bring.

David Minton, Director, LeisureDB
David Minton

Ground-breaking technology such as AI and Machine Learning is way ahead of fitness industry practices, desires and dreams. The main reason being that many fitness sites currently lack the granular data and infrastructure necessary to obtain real AI.

This means our industry is looking through the rear-view mirror at where it’s been, not where it’s going. This is of no use to the consumer and limited use to the operator.

Data remains the industry’s most underutilised asset, yet it’s the foundational element that makes AI so powerful. Unstructured data is difficult to use, which is probably why so few techies develop for fitness compared to other industries.

A lack of granular data has held back Reserve with Google, for example, where the ‘leisure’ market – hotels, restaurants, cinema, beauty and even hair salons – have developed the most integrations so far.

"In 2005 I wrote, ‘if we worked in the pornographic industry, we’d know what a member is, but because we work in the fitness industry, there’s no hard rule, so to speak’ "

My grandchildren love talking to Alexa and Siri, the always-ready, connected, virtual assistants. Yet these ten-year-old twins soon discovered the virtual assistants know nothing about the sports clubs, leisure centres and swimming pools they use.

Back in 2005 I wrote, “if we worked in the pornographic industry, we would all know what a member is, but because we work in the fitness industry there’s no hard rule to follow, so to speak”. For AI to work, there needs to be API access to structured, live granular data. The question of data integrity must be addressed by the industry and it must be totally consumer-focused if we are to take advantage of what AI has to offer.

Bryan O’Rourke
President, The Fitness Industry Technology Council
Bryan O’Rourke

In fitness, AI continues to have the potential to enhance efficiency and improve revenues. Chatbots are increasingly being deployed to engage and simulate personalised human interactions. Fitness apps deploy personalised solutions relying on AI tech as well.

However, the adoption of these tools is not robust at this point and it will be some years before the industry benefits from both machine learning and AI. The reason for this is that most club operators do not have a single source of reliable data, most have not made great strides in executing a digital transformation, and, finally, most do not have a true AI strategy.

To take advantage of AI’s enormous potential, organisations have a long way to go in developing the core practices that enable them to realise that potential value at scale. Most fitness chain operators have not mapped out where, across the organisation, all potential AI opportunities lie, as they have no strategy. Many have not made significant progress on their digital transformation, and do not have single sources of data to enable the adoption of AI at this point.

Until these issues are dealt with, the adoption of AI capabilities will be limited.

Shai Neiger, CEO, CoachAi
Shai Neiger

There’s a lot of buzz about AI – computer programmes designed to mimic or simulate human intelligence.

The concept has been around since the 1950s, but it’s only in the last decade that technology has advanced enough for AI to become a viable tool for use in business.

AI adapts its own design in response to insights derived from real-world data. It also helps us make sense of large quantities of data, to detect patterns, and make decisions based on insight.

It’s one of the tools we use at CoachAi to understand and solve the challenge of behavioural change; which factors influence whether someone will create a lifelong exercise habit or fizzle out after three weeks? When and how should we intervene along the course of their journey? Should we change our approach based on where they live? Whether they’re male or female? Aged 19 or 56?

"AI has the capacity to act autonomously and to adapt over time to reach new heights of performance"

AI is in the spotlight because it represents a new era of efficiency. Unlike the previous generation of technology, which requires constant dashboard monitoring and intervention on the part of operators, AI has the capacity to act autonomously and to adapt over time to reach new heights of performance. As more and more health club operators implement AI solutions, they’ll enjoy reduced staffing and operational costs, while offering smart, personalised member experiences.

In the future, this will become the health and fitness industry standard, even for large-scale operators.

Ian Mullane
Founder and CEO of KeepMe
Ian Mullane

Some organisations within the UK are more hesitant to adopt new technology than our friends across the pond or in Asia, and AI is no exception.

This could be due to a lack of understanding, or a belief that it’s complicated, but the potential benefits for health and fitness operators are huge when it comes to member retention.

AI is not a solution to the challenge of low retention rates, but it can provide operators with a useful level of insight to show where to take action and equip them with the tools to do so at scale.

Right now, many operators don’t have accurate insights into which members are likely to leave and need this, along with a time window to change the outcome. AI can do this at the member level and in doing so, open up a new world of understanding on what drives attrition. Is there a higher risk with a particular membership type, gender or age? Do members that attend a specific group exercise class present less risk than those that don’t, for example?

All of these and more pieces of knowledge are available via AI to help define what actions should be taken.

"AI is not a solution to the challenge of low retention rates, but it can provide operators with a useful level of insight to show where to take action and then equip them with the tools to do so at scale"

Introducing an AI tool enhances the human resources you have, allowing them to target their member interactions to where it will have the most impact.

You know the value that personal interaction plays in retention, but having a worthwhile engagement with every member is not possible. With AI, you’re equipped to understand which interactions are likely to have the most impact, ensuring that however many engagements you have, they will have been with the most appropriate people.

You’re sitting on gold in the form of data, and AI could unlock its secrets. Many European and US operators have already realised this and are reaping the rewards of deployment with impressive increases in retention and operational efficiency.

I hope UK health and fitness operators will quickly see the potential, so we can start to see the necessary improvement in member retention so often desire.

More features

Sight & sound

The audio visual aspect of your club is one of the biggest factors in keeping members motivated and engaged with your offering. So how can you optimise this? We asked four of the top audio visual suppliers in the industry for their tips

Artificial intelligence

When you hear the words ‘artificial intelligence’, do you think of talking computers and helpful androids? Think again. We find out how AI can be used in fitness
people

Jean-Michel Fournier

CEO, Les Mills Media
In the long term, the fitness industry will utilise technological advances in augmented reality and holographic telepresence
people

José Teixeira

SC Fitness, Portugal: head of customer experience
People often assume that those who pay more stay longer, but we don’t see this. What we see is that if you have PT you stay longer because you use more, not because you pay more
interview

Paul Juris

Director of sports science, Brooklyn Boulders
We’re trying to help people understand exactly how much effort they need to apply in order to get the best outcome, so they can do it over a long period of time and not burn out. The overall training effect is then much better
people

Rachael Blumberg

Platefit: creator and founder
People know yoga, Pilates, HIIT and Barry’s Bootcamp, but many don’t know vibration training and it’s my intention, passion and purpose to make it available and bring it to the world
people

Andrew Grill

Practical Futurist
Your marketing department will have to start writing ad copy for robots, not for humans. These digital agents will be gatekeepers, a bit like a PA. It’s already happening, so get ahead and start using it

Body image

Will the body image debate define the future of fit-tech? Becca Douglas looks at the evidence

The middle man

Many industries have aggregators so it makes sense for the health and fitness industry to have them too. Are they a force for the good, or could it become a case of the tail wagging the dog? Kath Hudson reports

Activelab 2019

Following the ActiveLab Live! finale at the recent Active Uprising conference, we take a look at startups that are using technology to help people become healthier and more active
people

Ben Keenan

SUF Cycling: commercial director
This isn’t a spin around the park: SUF Cycling requires participants to dig deep, which can push some people not used to HIIT out of their comfort zone
celebs

Chris Hemsworth

I believe we all have untapped potential. And we all need support to achieve our goals. Centr puts the world’s best in the palm of your hand, to help you develop a healthier body, stronger mind, and a happier life - CHRIS HEMSWORTH

Bio Hacking

Silicon Valley hacker Dave Asprey used his tech skills to gather the latest fitness kit to create a bio hacking boutique. Kath Hudson investigates

Tech upgrade

New technology is transforming the way the health and fitness industry functions and interacts with customers. Liz Terry catches up with operators around the industry for an update

Get upgraded

HCM asks the industry’s leading software suppliers about the new tech and software features you can look forward to getting your hands on in 2019

Body Insights

Want to know your biological age or your bone density, or maybe get a 3D model printed showing your hard-won new biceps? The latest tech enables this and much more. HCM does a roundup of the new kit on the market for fitness testing and body scanning

In-club Tech

What’s happening in the world of health club management software? We get the inside view from some of the best-known tech companies in the sector

How can clubs get the most out of virtual?

HCM’s Steph Eaves gets tips from our panel of experts

Body composition analysers

Body composition analysers are an excellent way to differentiate your club, as well as help your members get results. Kath Hudson reports

Cycle revolution

A new age of indoor cycling is upon us, characterised by a more diverse range of bikes and consumers. Steph Eaves breaks down the options in this two-part series
interview

Matthew Allison, Space Cycle

I want to build a social lifestyle brand that combines music and wellness to create something that inspires people. I want to change the way people think of working out, so it’s like going to a club or a concert

ActiveLab 2018: Meet the startups in fit-tech

Following the ActiveLab Live! finale at the recent Active Uprising conference, we take a look at startups seeking to solve some of society’s biggest challenges through technology designed to get people active

Smart and flexible member payments

Providing customers with the best member experience, while maximising revenue, is vital. We look at the latest in customer centric payment solutions

Health club management software

We asked some of the biggest names in health club management software to share their predictions for the future

latest news

Hollywood star Chris Hemsworth is making his online fitness programme Centrfit available for free for the next six weeks. The ...
iFit, an interactive fitness streaming platform from Freemotion Fitness, has received significant capital investment, worth US$200m (£164m, €181m), from Pamplona ...
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More news
Company profiles
Company profile: Wattbike
Wattbike is the creator of the world’s most advanced and innovative indoor bikes, developed in ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Book4Time Inc.
Founded in 2004 by Roger Sholanki, Book4Time is a global provider of a cloud-based management ...
Video Gallery
How to use the MZ-Bodyscan
MyZone
The Best Product for the Best Clubs Read more
Get Fit Tech
Sign up for the free digital edition of Fit Tech magazine and the free weekly Fit Tech ezine
Sign up
Directory
Spa software
ResortSuite: Spa software
Fitness equipment
FunXtion International BV: Fitness equipment
Software
Book4Time Inc: Software
Direct debit solutions
Harlands Group: Direct debit solutions
Locking solutions
Monster Padlocks: Locking solutions
Diary dates
03-05 Aug 2020
Raffles City Convention Centre, Singapore
30 Sep 2020
Exhibition Centre Cologne, Cologne, Germany
01-04 Oct 2020
Exhibition Centre, Cologne, Germany
07 Oct 2020
Palais Brongniart, Paris, France
MINDBODY, Inc.
MINDBODY, Inc.