Students across the nation might be playing kickball with Adidas wristbands on soon — the company has teamed up with Interactive Health Technologies to bring analytics all the way down to the youngest of competitors. The Adidas Zone is a very simple fitness tracker, but the software and marketing behind it could have some significant effects on PE class down the road.
The Zone tracks and stores the user’s heart rate — not much, but given the goal is to mass produce these for schools (and that kids will probably break more than a few), they have to come pretty cheaply. That doesn’t mean the design process wasn’t without inspiration or insight — the companies wisely decided on NFC connectivity for the Zone. It’d be a nightmare (and likely a practical impossibility) for PE teachers to pair each band using Bluetooth in order to sync data. With NFC connectivity, PE teachers could simply assign bands to kids, then tap to sync as the students hand them back in at the end of class.
IHT brings the software to the table. They developed the IHT Spirit System, a program that enables PE teachers to record and track information about the health of individual students. The Adidas Zone band will now be able to sync its data with IHT’s software, giving teachers that much more information to work with.
Like all early initiatives, this is a test (which also explains the simplicity). Adidas and IHT want to promote a more personalized PE class in which teachers are given tools to evaluate each student’s health to figure out how best to help them stay healthy. But, that would be quite a change from the one-size-fits-all approach we have now, and it’s probably best not to dump all the data we can possibly collect on PE teachers just yet. For now, the companies are just trying to get the idea of school-issued wearables for PE class to catch on. If it does, it’s a good bet they’ll be looking into more advanced fitness trackers to provide teachers with even more data once they’ve become accustomed to the new system.
The partnership started in early 2015, with Adidas and IHT laying out early plans at CES. Since then, IHT has been running trial programs at several middle schools and high schools in the United States using their software, with as many as 600,000 students connected over the last year. With the Adidas name now more visibly attached to the project, the hope is that they can expand that number significantly by the end of the year.