Two years ago Apple's GymKit solution was announced as a means of connecting gym members with cardio fitness equipment seamlessly in health clubs via the Apple Watch. Life Time Athletic at Sky in New York was the first health club in the United States to have Apple's solution installed with 13 GymKit enabled cardio machines rolled out in December of 2017.
In the beginning the GymKit concept seemed like a good idea. However, rolling the technology out requires both gym brands and manufacturers to invest in the technology and offer Apple GymKit enabled equipment. The question was, as Dave Wright of MYZONEand I wondered during a conversation at the IHRSA EU Congress in 2017 with an Apple executive, how long would it really take for GymKit to reach some relevant penetration rate if it ever would given a variety of factors. When considering the real benefits of Apple's Watch versus other tracking technologies as well, one needs to keep in mind that the main benefit of the GymKit interface truly relates to measuring distances run or walked on treadmills and ellipticals. More on that later.
Over the course of nearly two years there are now an estimated 50,000 pieces of GymKitenabled equipment in 1,500 locations across 100 countries worldwide. This means that on average just 15 gym locations and 500 GymKit enabled machines exist per country with some regions enjoying higher concentrations. To put this in perspective in 2018, health club membership topped 183 million users around the globe and the global club count exceeded 210,000 facilities. Apple's solution is installed in only .7% of all health clubs. This while Apple's lead in the wearable marketplace is starting to dwindle noticeably. So how has the Apple Watch and GymKit impacted the health club industry ? To date not very much at all and I wonder if it ever could or will.
Apple Watch As The Catalyst For GymKit
Unfortunately, Apple doesn't disclose Apple Watch sales figures separately, they are bundled into its "Other Products" category. However, analysts estimated that Apple Watch had an active user base of approximately 46 million as of Q1 of 2018 and further data showing shipments of 12.8 million units in Q1 of 2019 suggests that as of Q2 of 2019 the number of active Apple Watch users may have reached over 60 million. That is a huge success for Apple.
In 2019, the research firm IDC expects smartwatches to account for 45.6 percent of the wearables market and continue growing to hit 47.1 percent by 2023. Apple Watch will “undoubtedly lead the way,” the analysis firm says, despite increasing competition from Android and other manufacturers and the resulting shrinking market share. IDC also anticipates strong earwear growth, but relatively low wristband growth. All in all, IDC predicts that smartwatch shipments will hit 90.6 million in 2019.
What Is GymKit And Why Does It Matter
GymKit is a platform that enables bidirectional syncing between Apple Watch and compatible cardio machines. The tool is an acknowledgement of the limitations of indoor workout tracking related mainly to running or walking. The Apple Watch does not track pace and distance indoors very well, since what it normally uses is a combination of GPS and wrist motion. Cardio machines are good at that but bad at monitoring heart rate, because they depend on hand rail sensors that people usually avoid touching.
GymKit eliminates these problems by combining both sources of data. Before starting a workout, Apple Watch owners pair wirelessly with a cardio machine like they were using Apple Pay. Once a session is ended data is kept on the Watch, but wiped from gym equipment. You truly do not need an Apple Watch to measure exercise data like heart rate and more. There are a lot of solutions that perform those functions without having to sync with a treadmill or elliptical. So I wonder, other than this feature and Apple's current dominance in wearables is there any other compelling reason for its relevance ? Was this just another hype cycle phenomenon that fitness equipment manufacturers jumped on?
Larger brands and gym chains are adopting the Apple interface technology but slowly: Virgin Active who were the first to launch in the UK, Anytime Fitness, Fitness First, Lifetime Fitness, Planet Fitness, and Equinox have all deployed GymKit-enabled cardio equipment in some of their locations.
Many equipment manufacturers have adopted GymKit with Core Health and Fitness and its Stairmaster StarTrac Schwinn and Nautilus commercial equipment brands joining a list that include Technogym, Life Fitness and Matrix. But that rollout is taking time and I wonder will it really stick in the long-run ?
What do you think about the GymKit platform and the Apple Watch and their impact on the health club industry ? I do not think it's been much to get excited about and remain skeptical of its ultimate wide spread adoption.