A newly granted Apple patent (number 10,814,167) for a “wearable computer with fitness machine connectivity for improved activity monitoring” shows that future Apple Watches could interact directly with fitness machines.
Some smartwatches and fitness bands include a fitness app that uses a digital pedometer to track a user’s daily movements and provide customized notifications related to progress and workout results, such as distance traveled and calories burned. Of course, the Apple Watch does this.
Some fitness applications also monitor the user’s heart rate, which can be used to calculate calories burned. A typical digital pedometer relies on accelerometer data from an accelerometer to determine when a step is taken.
However, if the wearable computer is worn on the wrist, accelerations due to arm swing may cause inaccurate step counts, resulting in inaccurate distance traveled measurements. The heart rate measurement, however, is often accurate due to the device being worn on the user’s wrist where the user’s heartbeat can be accurately measured.
When a user works out in a gym, he or she may use a fitness machine that includes a processor that monitors the workout and generates fitness metrics summarizing the workout. For example, a treadmill may display to the user the total distance traveled, elapsed time and total calories burned during the workout. The total distance traveled is typically accurate because it is based on rotation of the treadmill motor shaft rather than accelerometer data, but the total calories burned is often an estimate based on a model that does not include the actual heart rate of the user.
Apple wants the Apple Watch to be more accurate it its fitness reporting when working with various fitness machines.
Here’s the summary of the patent: “In an embodiment, a method comprises: establishing, by a processor of a wireless device, a wireless communication connection with a fitness machine; obtaining, by the processor, machine data from the fitness machine; determining, by the processor, a workout session according to the machine data; initiating the workout session on the wireless device; during the workout session: obtaining, from a sensor of the computing device, physiological data of a user of the fitness machine; determining, by the processor, fitness data for the user based on the physiological data, the machine data and at least one user characteristic; and sending, by the processor, the fitness data to the fitness machine.”