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Will the smartphone eat the fitness tracker market? RunKeeper’s CEO says yes.

It is hard out there for platform. That’s the takeaway from this week’s Gigaom Internet of Things podcast. There are the myriad challenges of having to integrate with an ever-increasing number of APIs from new services and devices, but there is also a challenge in figuring out a business model and payment mechanism that can track all the various APIs and terms of service a platform might have to abide by.

This week’s guest Jason Jacobs, the CEO of RunKeeper, is on ahead of his Structure Data appearance to discuss his view of the wearables market, the future of fitness trackers and how to build a business using data. We’ll get into that last bit even more onstage at the Structure Data show in New York on March 19 and 20th. With almost 30 million members and an increasing focus on turning RunKeeper into the primary app for folks trying to live an active lifestyle, Jacobs makes a compelling case for openness. Can he make money? Listen up, it’s a good one.

Host: Stacey Higginbotham
Guests: Kevin Tofel and RunKeeper Founder and CEO Jason Jacobs

  • A business model for IFTTT and what I learned building a batphone
  • Introducing Shortcut, a voice control app for your stuff
  • If everything is a platform why is so much time spent integrating with everyone else?
  • The smartphone will eat the fitness tracker market according to Runkeeper’s CEO
  • How to build a business model in a open world using data.

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9 Responses to “Will the smartphone eat the fitness tracker market? RunKeeper’s CEO says yes.”

  1. Joe Millward

    Hi Stacey, great podcast… it is my first time listening, but going through the back catalogue now. You mentioned the shortcut app and I can’t find anything more about it ( I know you mentioned it was is beta, but a link would be great!

    Also would love to let you know about our wearable which has absolutely nothing to do with fitness or apps :)

  2. Will the smartphone eat the fitness tracker market?

    Nope – until two problems are solved:

    1) Battery. My fitbit lasts several weeks without a charge, monitoring me 24×7.

    2) Portability. There will always be places I don’t want to drag my phone along.

    Which is basically the same as saying never.

    Look, activity trackers and phones are a transition technology. We’re probably less than five years away from integrated sensors in our apparel. And then? The phone is just a pipe to send your sensor data up to the tracking website.

    @Richard is spot on. We see a progression in our customers as people become more serious about sport from activity trackers -> phone GPS -> dedicated watches. As people transition from wellness to performance, these micro trackers simply don’t cut it or collect the needed data. And neither do the websites which provide a very simplified high level view of your data.

    For those that want to get serious about performance, they absolutely must step up to a better tracking, planning and analysis platform such as SportTracks (or others)

  3. Don Wilmer

    Fitness Trackers are doomed. Although Nike Fuel is an awesome product it will become redundant once Smart Watches catch up. iWatch will destroy Fuel’s market.

  4. Smartphones work fine as basic fitness monitors, but they lack the features that actual fitness devices have. For example, my favorite thing to look at while I’m cycling cadence (pedaling speed) over the incline of the hill I’m currently climbing. For starters, the phone needs to support the low-power ANT protocol that Garmin had to invent because Bluetooth is a battery killer with connection problems. Bluetooth 4 doesn’t solve the problem.

    Runkeeper is a nice transition system for a dedicated couch potato, but people who are committed to exercise outgrow it pretty fast.

      • I’d be happy to use a smartwatch if I could find one that had a fraction of the functionality of my Garmin Forerunner 910XT, Don, but there isn’t one. The Garmin connects to ANT speed and cadence sensors and power meters for cycling, it reports grade, speed, location, duration, average speed, lap speed, and a bunch of other things and also provides navigation. For swimming it has an accelerometer and code that figures out when I’ve made a turn so it can count laps, identify and count my strokes, and analyze stroke efficiency and its GPS works fine for route tracking when I swim. cycle, or run outdoors. It reports to the Garmin web site and to a number of analysis services in the cloud. I have a record of every workout I’ve done over the last two years that I can use to track progress over all the routes and workout types that I take and it’s totally portable.

        The smart watch people have a long, long way to go before they can do this stuff, and the industry leaders outside the pure athletic performance space such as Fitbit, Withings, and Sports Tracker are just barely scratching the surface. The first things the watch and phone people need to do before they can say they have a serious fitness product is support ANT+ and also the underwater HRM connections used by Polar. Mention these things to Pebble and they’ll go “huh, what’s that?”