Apple and Fit Tech Makers Need a New 1984 Moment

I recently wrote about my take on the new Apple Watch Series 3 announced on September 12 at Apple’s impressive new Silicon Valley headquarters, and its place in the fitness technology and wearables space.

It occurred to me after that the fitness technology industry as a whole, of which Apple is a key player by virtue of its fitness-featured smartwatch, appears to be stuck in a technology paradigm that is holding back the realization of the true promise of fitness technology as a means to help more people get healthier.

It is strikingly similar to the technology paradigm that Apple confronted in its early days; the one it lashed out against with its award winning “1984” TV ad aired during the 1984 Super Bowl. That ad helped changed the game for Apple, advertising and technology. An amazing feat by any standard.

Back then, the prevailing paradigm viewed technology as a tool whose primary purpose was to generate increasing amounts of data and squeeze out higher levels of productivity from a world of mindless worker drones. Apple and director Ridley Scott literally and figuratively smashed that paradigm to pieces. Apple championed a new technology paradigm that freed the world to see technology as something that empowers, celebrates and engages the individual.

This new approach viewed technology as an experience in its own right that improved the quality of people’s lives; revolutionary thinking that helped pave the way, and indeed fueled, the expansive application of technology as a means to engage people in whole new ways and on whole new terms. In no small measure, Apple helped open new possibilities for technology that we accept as commonplace today in areas like gaming, music, entertainment, social media and much, much more.

By comparison, fitness technology today seems stuck still in a perpetual “1983” world. The drive is for more devices collecting more data from a pool of exercise drones addicted to that data. But, to what end?

Alternatively, we have seen at Koko over the course of 20 million individually prescribed and delivered workout sessions that creating technology that directly engages people — of all ages, backgrounds and fitness levels — is amazingly effective in creating new behaviors and sustainable health habits over the long term. Engagement creates consistency and healthy habits. At the end of the day, that is the only way to create positive, measurable, life-changing health outcomes for the people who need it most.

In this light, passive technologies, like TVs streaming Hulu to treadmills or data-driven activity trackers that garner lots of attention inside the industry, are not advancing technology’s potential in the fitness space. They do not change or create a new fitness experience to actively engage individuals long term in the activity of exercise. They merely use technology to capture data or distract the mindless exercise drone from the reality that what they are doing is tedious, unenjoyable and boring. It’s 1983 thinking, and it will never get the 80% of adults who don’t belong to a gym or exercise consistently to ever truly engage in fitness and stick with it long term.

When Apple aired its 1984 commercial more than 3 decades ago, no one could have seen just how relevant it would still be today. The fitness industry may be behind the curve at getting the message, but what gives me hope for our industry is the success we have seen at Koko, and the exploding need for ways to improve health outcomes for millions of individuals, the companies that insure them, and those that provide their healthcare.

Technology has impacted so many other parts of our daily lives in transformative ways. As our many thousands of Koko members can attest, it can in fitness too.

Mike Lannon
CEO & Co-Founder
Koko FitClub

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