Evolution of the Health Club Digital Ecosystem

Cloud-based software drives increasingly immersive user experiences across the spectrum.

In July 2021, we wrote about the ways in which connected consoles help propel the member experience. At the time, we focused on how the console—and the technology behind it—played a central role in allowing members and operators to track usage on machines; enabling a variety of interactive fitness and entertainment options; program and software updates; and much more.

While connected consoles give users and operators access to an array of preferences, there exists a bigger-picture tool that powers them: the digital ecosystem. Complete digital ecosystems connect every aspect of a club’s operations, tying all the data gathered from member interactions and usage, and other applications to optimize engagement, operations, and user experiences.

During the past few years, in particular, digital ecosystems have increasingly been making inroads into the club industry. Several suppliers have even introduced “proprietary clouds,” software-based digital ecosystems designed primarily to enhance the member experience while simplifying facility management.

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Life Fitness introduced its connected fitness cloud-based platform in 2012. It was highly focused on delivering software updates, configuring equipment, and providing analytics on equipment utilization. Since then, the solution has significantly evolved with several recent major releases that extend beyond equipment maintenance and analytics.

Matt Brennand, Vice President of Cardio & Connected Fitness solutions, notes that “the Life Fitness HALO platform connects facilities, partner ecosystems and exercisers with the ultimate goal of providing highly personalized exercise experiences and new ways for our customers to extend their brand to drive attraction and retention. Developing tools for our customers to help engage their exercisers is at the core of our digital ecosystem. In late 2019, we launched Life Fitness On Demand streaming, instructor-led classes enabled on our equipment through the HALO platform. And since then, we have continued to produce classes and advance the software wrapped around this experience.”

Facilitating Enhanced Immersive Experiences

Recent events have pushed the envelope on delivering improved, more immersive member and operator experiences and the Life Fitness digital ecosystem has moved with the market.

On the member side, for example, Life Fitness recently conducted research with an independent research firm and learned that all participants shared the common pain point of arriving at their fitness facility only to find their go-to cardio equipment type in use. As a result, Life Fitness launched the Trip Planner, which allows members to see the Life Fitness and Cybex cardio equipment currently available in their facility and even which of those cardio machines includes our Life Fitness On Demand studio-style, instructor-led classes. Operators can embed the Trip Planner into their own app or website for easy member use.

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In order to give exercisers access to greater variety in their fitness routines, Life Fitness re-launched the Life Fitness Connect app in September 2021, enabling exercisers to access compelling and personalized classes and seamless connectivity that allows them to take their workouts anywhere.

“Life Fitness Connect brings the workout to the user—whether in the gym or at home—with easy-to-use tracking features that sync with equipment and wearables, and a large library of on-demand and audio coaching classes to keep workouts accessible and fresh,” adds Dan Wille, global vice president of product development, strategy, and marketing at Life Fitness.

For operators, the Halo Fitness Cloud offers a breadth of benefits, such as seamless software updates, facility-wide equipment settings, and service notifications. The Request a Technician feature, for instance, allows clubs to select the equipment that needs to be serviced, explain the issue, and then schedule a time for the technician to visit your facility.

Partner integration is another advantage the platform offers. One such recent addition is the equipment management system, Ecofit Networks. The platform collects data points from connected cardio and strength equipment across all brands to create a 360-degree view of equipment usage. Through Ecofit, operators can run meaningful reports and view alerts that allow them to repair and maintain equipment more efficiently, determine the best mix of equipment on the floor, and make informed purchasing decisions.

“Overall, the Halo Fitness Cloud is a constantly evolving, comprehensive digital ecosystem geared to consistently improving the experiences of both operators and members, changing and growing as their needs shift,” notes Wille.

ICG Connect: A Digital Ecosystem Microcosm

Not all digital ecosystems are large and sprawling. Life Fitness recently introduced ICG Connect, a group cycling platform. As a standalone system, it can be considered somewhat of a mini-digital ecosystem.

“ICG Connect is based on an all-in-one kiosk that houses a powerful computer, sits next to the instructor’s bike, and integrates several software applications in a single platform,” says Mike Michels, senior project manager of Indoor Cycling Group (ICG), a Life Fitness company.

ICG Connect includes three modes: Connect Ride, an interactive, digital gaming experience meant to elevate the motivational response of class participants; Tour Coach, which allows instructors to build forward motion road playlists from a library of over 500 panoramic scenic roads; and World Tour, with pre-choreographed rides featuring terrain-focused footage that delivers engaging, interactive workouts.

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Here’s where the self-contained mini-digital ecosystem concept comes into play.

ICG bike consoles deliver a customized ride experience based on ICG’s Coach by Color program, a proprietary method for instructors to coach intensity and for participants to utilize as an intensity guide. The ICG app is then paired with the consoles to track users’ ride performance data. At the same time, the Connect kiosk, equipped with an instructor display screen, receives ride data from the bike consoles and displays data on the projection screen in numerous ways, featuring the same colors and graphics on the bike consoles for enhanced rider interaction.

The platform offers a range of experiences driven by real-time user data. In “Group” mode, for example, the class works together for common collective goals; “Personal” mode allows all riders to see their individual ride data on screen as a point of reference; and “Scenic” mode allows riders to follow forward motion road footage from various roads around the world. Each mode includes a leader board for individual rider competition, team battles for friendly team competition, and individual and team races specified by a distance the instructor selects.

ICG Connect is also automated, so all an instructor needs to do is touch on the mode or feature they want on the Connect kiosk display screen and it becomes immediately available on the viewing screen to complement the response, motivation, and experience they are creating for their riders,” says Michels. “Instructors know their class profile, can create great music playlists, and have determined when during their class they’ll use the leaderboard for a team race or allow riders to climb a segment in the French Alps. Now all they have to do is make a selection on their display screen and enjoy the response coming from their riders.

“In short, ICG Connect generates and analyzes data, executes based on that data, unifies software and applications, works across multiple inputs and machines, is automated, and serves the experiences of all its end-users—all componentry of a self-contained digital ecosystem,” he adds.

To learn more, visit Life Fitness, Halo Fitness Cloud, and ICG Connect.

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Jon Feld

Jon Feld is a contributor to HealthandFitness.org.