Embracing Data Standards a ‘Win-Win’ for Fitness Industry

The creation of a new data consortium comes from an old axiom: Regulate yourself before someone else regulates you.

Clubs owners, operators, and industry suppliers: beware. Huge technology and insurance companies—firms that are at the forefront of the data revolution—may well regard your business as a promising profit center.


The valuable data you have at your fingertips is tempting.

According to IHRSA figures, the U.S. fitness industry served some 70.2 million people in 2017. These customers provide clubs with a wealth of personal data—e.g., contact information, credit card and Social Security numbers, and workout results—while clubs generate a torrent of financial data.

One of the points of risk posed by outsiders’ interest in club data is that the fitness industry currently lacks uniform data standards.

Technology Writing Rules Stock Photo Column

“The immediate challenge is for operators and vendors to come together to establish a set of standards before outside influences dictate them to our industry,” says Al Noshirvani, the chairman of Motionsoft, Inc., the Rockville, MD-based software provider that is hosting a technology summit next month. The 2018 Motionsoft Technology Summit will take place October 3-5, at the LINE DC Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Apple, Google, or Samsung, for example, could impose standards via such products as the Apple Gym Kit, which allows the Apple Watch to “talk” to exercise equipment. Recently, large tech entities have evidenced a strong interest in the fitness, wellness, and healthcare sectors.

To prevent non-industry sources from dictating club data norms, Noshirvani has been instrumental in establishing the Active Lifestyle Industry Data (ALID) consortium, whose defining goal is to formulate such standards. The group will consist of club executives, technology suppliers, and equipment manufacturers, and will be assisted by IHRSA’s Innovation and Technology Advisory Council.

ALID is organized in the form of six sub-groups: the Road Map, Business Development, Rules and Governance, Manufacturers, Club Operators, and Data Standards working groups.

The Club Operators group, for example, will gather information from operators on standards for member data, equipment usage, exercise activity, and related services. This group is headed by Ray O’Connor, the CEO of the Wisconsin Athletic Club, in Milwaukee, WI, and a member of IHRSA’s board of directors.

Why is the ALID initiative important?

It all comes down to an old axiom: Regulate yourself before someone else regulates you. Doing so maximizes the likelihood that the resulting standards will be clear, uniform, broadly applicable, dependable, and efficient; will safeguard all data; will provide club members with new services and enhance their experience; and will improve operators’ organizational efficiency, saving them time and money, not to mention headaches.

“Outside influences are eager to control how we operate,” warns Rick Caro, the founder and president of Management Vision, Inc., a New York consultancy. “That control often translates into technology solutions that are more expensive for clubs and more burdensome to members. Operators and vendors need to come together to stop big corporations from dictating business terms our industry can’t afford.”

“Standards will give operators the ability to connect solutions from different sources more easily.”

Mike Leveque, COO

Myzone - United Kingdom

Standards will provide other distinct benefits for clubs, members, equipment and software providers, and, even, IHRSA’s public policy efforts.

“Standards will give operators the ability to connect solutions from different sources more easily,” points out Mike Leveque, the COO of Myzone, a U.K.-based firm that manufactures a popular exercise tracking system. “They’ll also allow operators to access data from any app, device, or piece of equipment, regardless of the manufacturer, and permit members to move their data across all participating platforms.” Leveque is the leader of the Manufacturers group.

“Standards will allow members to seamlessly switch between applications or equipment without having to log into or maintain multiple user accounts,” adds Samir Desai, the chief technology officer for Equinox Fitness, the club chain based in New York City. “They won’t have to register for every new app or equipment console they use.”

Similarly, suppliers will be able to implement their systems across any club ecosystem, increasing convenience and reducing expense.

And because legislators and regulators frequently regard standards as defending consumer rights and business interests, club data standards will assist IHRSA in its mission “to grow, protect, and promote” the industry.

“It’s a win/win for our industry,” says O’Connor.

Noshirvani hopes to enroll 250 new members in ALID by 2019. For more information, contact Noshirvani.

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This article was a team effort by several IHRSA experts.