Racing toward smart, new era

Updated 2017-11-14 10:03:03 China Daily
A boy tries an automated treadmill at a sports exhibition in Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

A boy tries an automated treadmill at a sports exhibition in Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

High-tech applications such as big data and IoT will change sports market

Every industry has had a smart makeover. Now, it is the turn of health and fitness to be fast-tracked through technology.

Smart sports are the latest buzz words echoing around this multibillion-dollar sector.

Backed by government policies, high-tech equipment and products are being rolled out to help people stay healthy.

Custom-made fitness programs are also in vogue.

"With the rapid development of new technologies, including big data and the internet of things, smart sports will enable a more personalized and smarter exercising experience," said Chen Gang, director of the Jiangsu provincial sport bureau.

Already this is starting to happen with heart-rate monitor wristbands and fitness apps flooding the sports equipment marketplace.

But Chen is convinced this is just the start of a digital transformation after mapping out his vision of the future at an intelligent sports summit during the World Internet of Things Exposition in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, last month.

"The future scenes of smart sports often take shape in my mind," Chen said. "Trackers and fitness apps will be the new personal coaches to record workout conditions and offer routines, allowing users to connect with neighborhood groups to exercise together.

"People will be able to use apps to book venues, and arrange coaches and partners. And in the event of bad weather, people will be able to use smart tools to work out at home with the help of virtual reality," he added.

During the past few years, China has witnessed stunning growth in the sports industry linked to digital and online merchandise.

A report released earlier this year by iResearch showed Chinese active users of online sports and fitness products had exceeded 350 million by November, 2016.

The market research company also predicted that monthly active users of sports and fitness apps will surpass 100 million this year.

Statistics from the China Internet Network Information Center back up this internet boom.

Figures from the CNNIC revealed that among the 751 million Chinese netizens, 96.3 percent were mobile phone users, which provides a larger base for the evolving online sports and fitness industry.

Government policy is also fueling the smart sports sector. Last year, Chinese authorities announced a national fitness plan, aimed to cope with an aging population.

The blueprint showed that spending on sports and fitness in China is expected to expand to 1.5 trillion yuan (7 billion) in 2020.

This in turn will generate unique business opportunities for companies involved in the industry, Wang Weidong, director of the economic department of the General Administration of Sport of China, stressed.

"With an increase in average income, Chinese people are now sufficiently affluent to seek a better quality of life," he said.

"Meanwhile, the government's supportive policies and blossoming technologies, such as the IoT (internet of things), will (increase) the trend in smart sports (and fitness)," Wang added.

Chen, of Jiangsu provincial sport bureau, underlined the role that integrated high-tech will play in the transformation of the industry.

Inter-connected apps and devices will spur growth in the sector as domestic companies gear up to wheel out new sports and fitness products for consumers.

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