Under Armour shows no signs of slowing down in its quest to become a major health and fitness tech player, and it looks like it has plans to introduce new devices that we've yet to see from the company. That's according to Mike Lee, chief digital officer at Under Armour who hinted to Wareable UA's hardware plans for next year.
When we asked whether we can expect different devices from the ones already launched by Under Armour, Lee told us, "We (Under Armour) plan to make more announcements on this front in early 2017."
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Under Armour unveiled its UA HealthBox family of connected devices back in January this year introducing the UA Band fitness tracker, heart rate monitoring chest strap and smart scales. It also later added heart rate monitoring headphones built in partnership with audio company Harman as well as its Speedform Gemini 2 RE smart running shoes.
With the HealthBox landing at CES 2016, there's a pretty good chance that Under Armour plans could be to introduce new devices at the same show in 2017, which will also be held in early January.
While we weren't blown away by HealthBox when we spent some time with it, Lee told us that the team were happy with what it delivered and revealed that it is already getting some interesting insights into how users are making use of the tracking hardware. "Our team is pleasantly surprised to see the amount of people that are engaging with sleep," Lee told us. 'Through the automatic sleep tracking of UA Band, we have found that our consumers are not only logging sleep but interacting with the data through UA Record as well. Our community is beginning to understand the importance of sleep and how it plays into the overall ecosystem of sleep, fitness, activity and nutrition."
While Lee didn't indicate what features we could see from these new devices, it's unlikely that we'll see it take the same mindfulness approach that we've seen from Fitbit and Apple this year with both adding features focused around breathing and helping you relax.
"We are interested in anything that can help people reach their maximum potential to become better athletes and lead healthier lives," Lee explained. "We have no current plans to incorporate these type of measurements into our consumer experiences, but the door is always open for innovation and new features."
One of the many challenges faced by fitness tracking on the whole is the concept of food tracking. Lee co-founded MyFitnessPal, which is now integrated into the Under Armour Record companion app. He is fully aware of the challenges faced with making it easier to log what you eat on a daily basis. "The challenge is the friction that exists with simply logging everything you eat," he said.
"The simple act of writing down what you put in your body is tedious but effective. We have found that users who log their entire days' worth of food are more likely to stick to the plan. Also, the ability to see your projected food intake helps re-adjust, if needed. For example, if you observe that lunch is high in calories, they can scale back on dinner plans. We are doing everything we can to make our core functionality of logging nutrition simple and hassle free."
Essential reading: The science behind Apple and Fitbit's mindfulness push
Lee believes things can get smarter and we are only scratching the surface of what can be achieved on this important aspect of tracking. "There are a lot of things we are thinking about to make it easier to track what you eat and bring insights to help you make healthier choices," he told us. "Along with tracking nutritional information, you will start to see us focus on coaching and how to present this information to our users in ways they can act upon and change their behaviours."
That coaching could be provided by the integration of IBM Watson a system that combines artificial intelligence with analytical software to provide meaningful insights into fitness tracking data. Lee told us that Under Armour plans to share some new developments on this front early next year.
It sounds like the company is going to be very busy in the coming months and it's clear that it really wants to own this space. We look forward to seeing how UA 2.0 compares to the first round of hardware, because there was definitely room for improvement.
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