Data from wearable devices will underpin Virgin Active's future use of technology, as gym members show growing expectations for services that harness fitness information.
Andy Caddy (pictured), chief information officer at Virgin Active, told V3 that gym members are no longer content with basic fitness information gleaned from physical activity.
"We're already seeing customer fatigue with very limited products," he said.
"Two years ago you might have spent £100 on a step tracker. This year or certainly next year it is very unlikely you'd do the same thing. You'd expect a lot more out of these things."
Caddy explained how wearable technology has become cheaper and more commoditised, leading to less hardware and more software to make use of the data collected by wearables.
Virgin Active has a system that allows members to use fitness bands and apps with a gym's equipment to combine workout data with information gleaned from external exercise to get a more detailed picture of overall fitness.
"But that's only got a limited interest. If I know that I ran two miles yesterday outdoors and I did so many thousands of steps indoors, so what?" he said.
"What we're looking at now is how we can start to think about getting insight from all this information."
Virgin Active wants to explore how it can offer better services and insight into its members' fitness through the use of data collected from wearables to keep them as members and ensure that they get value from their membership.
Caddy said that adding value on top of fitness data is becoming an expectation for customers, as technology provides increasing amounts of personal data.
"People are accumulating this enormous range of information about themselves and it will certainly increase from next year onwards," said Caddy.
"They will have with them what I call the ‘database of you', this thing that defines you, and it will be up to [companies like Virgin Active], health insurance providers and hospitals to think about how they are going to interface and use that data.
"People will arrive at the door of a business towing this information, and they'll be expecting companies to be able to work with it. If [companies] can't they will go somewhere else."
However, Caddy explained that this is no easy task, and Virgin Active has work to do to make the best use of its members' data to create and deliver valued services.
He explained that simply harvesting data from devices such as GPS locators, step and heart rate monitors results in 31 million data points per year.
Expanded across Virgin Active's 1.4 million members, the amount of data that needs to be handled and analysed becomes enormous. Caddy said he and his IT team have not yet found a way to deal with this huge task.
"This is analytics on a big scale and no one has solved that problem. I've been round and talked to a lot of companies and no one has solved it yet."
The growth of wearable technology is set to influence more than just the world of fitness. The latest research from analyst house IDC revealed that the Apple Watch will boost wearables shipments to 46 million units in 2016.
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