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The Unlimited Potential of Cloud Computing for Gyms

Imagine a health club where the following is possible: 

  • Members can sign up for classes, download their instructor’s playlists, and purchase the apparel that their favorite instructor is wearing
  • They can enjoy new virtual classes on a timely basis to keep their interest level high
  • By checking the screen in front of them while they work out, members can ascertain whether they’re training in the correct heart-rate zone
  • The bikes, treadmills, ellipticals, and weight machines in the club send performance data directly to the user’s mobile fitness app
  • The cardio equipment notifies the club operator when maintenance or servicing is required 

Well, those are but a few of the proliferating perks made possible by cloud computing.

The Unlimited Potential of Cloud Computing

You’ve undoubtedly heard the phrases “cloud technology” or “in the cloud,” but may not know exactly what they mean or how they relate to your club. According to IBM, cloud computing is “the delivery of on-demand computing resources—everything from applications to data centers—over the Internet on a pay-for-use basis.”

And what does it have to do with your club? A lot, today. And more, tomorrow. Because the cloud is virtual rather than tangible, it may seem elusive, phantasmal, but, in all probability, you’re already making good use of it—either personally or professionally.

If you use an Android phone, you may well be storing your photos, music, or personal files in the Google cloud; or, if you have an iPhone, in the Apple cloud. You may also use your smartphone to access Dropbox for similar reasons.

And companies are utilizing the cloud to help them perform a wide range of business tasks. The cloud allows them to both do new things and do old things more easily, efficiently, and economically. Basically, they’re outsourcing a ton of data-related functions. That means clubs no longer need expensive, high-end computer hard- ware and software or highly paid technicians on site. Nor do they have to worry about software glitches, equipment breakdowns, or safely securing vital information.

The cloud provider does all of the heavy lifting. The club simply needs a tablet, smartphone, or desktop computer to go online.

Probing The Possibilities

Consultant Bryan O’Rourke, the president of the Fitness Industry Technology Council (FITC), based in Covington, LA, points to SoulCycle, the group-cycling brand owned by Equinox Fitness, as an industry example of the cloud in action. Using the SoulCycle mobile app, members—many of whom are millennials—can reserve specific bikes, purchase the sweats and capris their instructors are wearing, and download the playlists they hear in class.

Chances are, most of them are unaware that cloud technology is involved. They simply recognize, and appreciate the fact, that SoulCycle is maximizing their workout experience. The millennials, who’ve grown up with interactive technology, have come to expect this kind of personal attention and service. Anything less seems unacceptably “old school.”

For a non-industry example, O’Rourke references Amazon’s Dash buttons, which utilize the cloud to allow consumers to order household goods simply by pressing a button, making shopping easier, and more personal and convenient.

“When you employ technology to improve the user experience, people buy more stuff from you,” he says. “We need to think of ways to make it easier and more satisfying for people to use clubs.”

Fantasizing about future possibilities— which is hard not to do when you’re considering the cloud—O’Rourke envisions a facility where members don’t have to check in. Instead, their presence would be “sensed” when their mobile device is on the premises. This could, conceivably, alert an instructor about who’ll be coming to their class, or allow the snack bar attendant to have a member’s favorite smoothie waiting post-workout.

“The most important
 thing about the cloud is
 not actually the technology—it’s the customer,” O’Rourke reminds. “It’s about how clubs are going to leverage it to enhance service. The better we can do that, the more customers we’ll get.”

Continue reading about cloud computing for gyms in the December issue of CBI.

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