January 8, 2014
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Precor, an exercise machine maker that popularized the elliptical fitness crosstrainer, is at CES this year showing off the integration between the networked, touch screen consoles on its Preva trainers and the Microsoft HealthVault personal health record system.
The Microsoft partnership that Precor announced at CES is a spinoff of its work with Arizona State University, which has installed the Preva machines at multiple campuses as part of a program to encourage student and faculty fitness. Software tracks activity as recorded on any of the exercise machines or on the Preva mobile app. ASU encourages users to also synchronize those records with a HealthVault account that can help them build a broader digital picture of their health. With nearly 300 pieces of networked equipment, ASU's is the largest networked fitness installation in the world, according to Precor.
"ASU is the first and biggest installation for us," said Brent Brooks, VP of networked fitness at Precor. "As society is getting more into the 'quantified self' movement, ASU is thinking well in front of the average [fitness club] operator about how to integrate various elements of the program so people can track and get feedback on diet, stress, and so on." The Mayo Clinic is also studying ASU's experience with the devices to see whether this type of feedback can be effective at controlling obesity and other health problems.
[Want more health gadget news? Read CES: Showcasing The Future Of Healthcare.]
Precor wants to use cloud services connected to the touch pad consoles on its devices as a way of distinguishing them from the competition, Brooks said. "It's getting harder to distinguish treadmill from treadmill or elliptical from elliptical, based on the hardware alone," he said, so maybe software can do more.
Networked equipment also gives health clubs a way to distinguish and brand themselves, Brooks noted. From an administrator's account, it's possible for health clubs to customize the welcome screen on their devices with the club's logo and a message to members. By getting members to set and track goals through the online system, health clubs have a chance of improving engagement -- something that's much needed in an industry where 30% of members drop out within a year after joining a club, according to Brooks.
"We realized that once we had this cloud-based infrastructure, we could do a lot of other creative things," he said. Microsoft has been integrating HealthVault with personal health tracking devices such as the Fitbit and wireless scales, but this is its first integration with this sort of exercise machine, he added.
"The goal of HealthVault is to help every individual create a full picture of their overall health and well-being, and then use that information with tools and services that improve their lives," Sean Nolan, distinguished engineer for Microsoft HealthVault, said in a statement. "Preva is a fantastic example of both of these -- they make it super-simple to track workouts in the gym or via their mobile app, and they provide motivation to exercisers through a unique rewards system that reminds them that their hard work is paying off."
CES attendees can take a test drive of Preva during exhibit hours at South Hall 2 Booth #26923.
David F. Carr is the editor of InformationWeek Healthcare and a contributor on social business, as well as the author of Social Collaboration For Dummies. Follow him on Twitter @davidfcarr or Google+.
Healthcare providers must look beyond Meaningful Use regulations and start asking: Is my site as useful as Amazon? Also in the Patient Engagement issue of InformationWeek Healthcare: IT executives need to stay well informed about the strengths and limitations of comparative effectiveness research. (Free registration required.)
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