Closing the loop -- Intel, Precor and EXOS partner to deliver athlete benefits

Data is useless without actionable insights and feedback loops. EXOS hopes to deliver just that.

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I consider myself something of an athlete. I'm not particularly good, or particularly successful, but I run a lot (at least for a weekend warrior, around 2,000 miles per annum) and I race events from 5km up to 100km. Like many other middle-aged athletes, I'm time poor and need to fit training into a busy life. Add to that the fact that, as we get older the body tends to get less flexible and recovers from injury slower, and you end up with an entire generation who is looking for tools that help them train better and more effectively.

Indeed, a huge number of vendors leverage this fact to offer people like me products and services -- everything from hardware tools (GPS devices, heart rate monitors, cadence sensors and a host of others) to various software platforms for tracking, monitoring and motivating people to train (Strava, RunKeeper, MapMyRun etc).

But despite the world of information that exists for athletes, there seems to be a big disconnect between capturing information and actually delivering suggestions and programs tailored to an individual's performance. This coaching side of the sports industry is pretty much divided into two camps.

On the one hand, you have generally highly-generic training programs that a host of different vendors sell. These solutions tend to not really allow for individual preferences and abilities and lump everyone into a single bucket. At the other end of the spectrum are highly personalized programs or coaches offering a bespoke service to athletes. These are effective but tend to be expensive.

This is where EXOS comes in. EXOS sells itself as a supplier of individualized athletic "prescriptions" that help individuals gain higher levels of success. The company is of the mind that wearable devices and the so-called internet of exercise things is less than half the story. These devices give users the ability to gather some data, but don't close the look and tell them what to do with that data. EXOS wants to provide a prescription for individuals that takes into account the data from all devices and workouts -- a prescription that covers the four pillars that EXOS believes are important: mindset, nutrition, movement and recovery.

EXOS has seen success with higher level athletes such as the German national team and military customers, but wants to democratize that down to everyday athletes. Which is where these partnerships come in. The Intel announcement is a fairly standard collaboration with both parties agreeing to share expertise in order to make future Intel-based fitness products more useful for truly closed-loop athletic training.

“Wearable devices have transformed performance, but the data is only useful if it leads to meaningful insights, individualized programs, and positive outcomes,” said Craig Friedman, vice president of performance innovation at EXOS. “By working with Intel, we aim to provide this missing link, showing users how to take data and apply it in a personalized way.”

The Precor relationship, however, is more interesting. Precor is, of course, the global exercise equipment manufacturer. Anyone who has worked out in a hotel gym will likely have used their equipment. Under this partnership, EXOS' technology is going to be delivered to Precor equipment via Preva, a cloud-based fitness data offering. Preva already has more than 200 million recorded workouts from cardio equipment in more than 100 countries.

Using the integration, EXOS evaluates a user’s state of fitness in order to build personalized interval programming to improve the body’s ability to generate and use energy. The technology includes time-efficient cardio workouts and data tracking -- all from a touch-screen interface available on Preva-enabled Precor treadmills, ellipticals, and indoor cycles. The offering can be enabled on any of the new Precor P82 consoles, as well as the entire network of more than 45,000 networked consoles installed since the 2010 launch of the original P80 console.

“EXOS’ prescriptive workouts have the most sophisticated evaluation and monitoring mechanisms of any on the market,” said Jeff Bartee, principal product manager for networked fitness at Precor. “Adding ESD to Precor equipment will give operators and exercisers a powerful tool to help reach their fitness and business goals. Making ESD available to our worldwide install base of networked P80 consoles is another way Precor delivers ongoing value to operators."

My experience would suggest that this partnership has legs, no pun intended. I spent some time talking with Kevin Elsey, VP of the EXOS performance innovation team about these partnerships in particular and the space in general. Elsey spoke of EXOS' ambition to prescribe a training regime based on every piece of data in order to more broadly personalize at scale. I quizzed him about the continuum between personal trainers working with individual athletes and completely generic solutions and he, understandably, believes that EXOS plus Precor delivers the benefits of the former with the economics of the latter:

"To do a deep assessment is a heavy and time-intensive project that is difficult to scale. The challenge is to scale within a facility, with a small number of staff and a large number of users. We believe that to enable scale requires getting the right amount of information to personalize and evolving protocols and algorithms to create specific zones, programing and methodology."

To demonstrate the scaling that EXOS' approach can bring, Elsey explained that when they launched, in 2008, they went through a full assortment of VO2, functional movement and other tests. That was a two-hour process that has now been refined down to eight minutes. That eight minutes still delivers key information and the ability to generate personalized zone information and a prescription.

Clearly much will occur over the next few years in the exercise technology space. EXOS is but one example of a new way of doing things.

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