To say Under Armour was busy at CES 2016 in Las Vegas last week would be putting it mildly.

At the show, which drew 170,000 attendees from around the world, Under Armour Inc. relaunched its Record fitness app, debuted Bluetooth-connected running shoes, announced a partnership with IBM’s machine learning Watson technology and took preorders for HealthBox, a kit of three Bluetooth-connected devices.

Between its four fitness apps—Under Armour’s fitness recording app Record, personal training app Endomondo, weight loss coaching app MyFitnessPal and exercise tracking app MapMyFitness—UnderArmour has 160 million registered users, Bill Besselman, Under Armour’s  vice president of connected fitness strategy and integration said at CES.

The Record fitness app, which originally launched a year ago in January 2015, was meant to track steps and workouts, but did not provide an overall view of a person’s health, Besselman said. After surveying and soliciting feedback from its 160 million users, Under Armour identified five main areas that users associated with their health: activity, nutrition, fitness, sleep and how they are feeling mentally.

At CES Under Armour unveiled a new version of  its free Record app that now displays these five areas of health, instead of only tracking exercise. The main view in the app shows consumers how many calories they have consumed (if consumers input what they ate), the number of steps they have taken, the amount of time they have worked out and how many calories they burned, plus the number of hours they slept. Consumers can also rank on a scale of 1 to 10 how they feel mentally. Consumers can track as many of these elements as they choose.

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Just a few days after the relaunch, app downloads have significantly increased for the Record app, Chris Glode, vice president of digital at Under Armour, told Mobile Strategies 360 at CES. Glode would not reveal download specifics but said that the app has moved up in rank from in the top 100 most-downloaded apps in the health and fitness category in Apple’s App Store in the U.S. to the top 10. Today, the app is ranked as the No. 3 most downloaded app in the U.S. in the health and fitness category for the iPhone, according to mobile app analytics firm App Annie.

The app also incorporates IBM’s much-touted Watson technology. Watson can aggregate data across all apps that uses its machine learning technology and provide comparison points and insights to the consumer. Machine learning is when computers learn over time without being explicitly programmed. For example, in the app a 32-year-old man will see that there are 4.5 million other males between the ages of 31 and 35 years old in the Watson database. The athlete then can compare his average weight, resting heart rate and average steps taken per day to those of other men his age.

Since consumers are inputting data into the app, Under Armour wants to give consumers something in return, such as recommendations on how to achieve health and fitness goals, Besselman said. With that in mind, Under Armour uses the Watson machine learning technology to send athletes recommendations once they input a goal into the app. The recommendations are based on Under Armour app data, academic research and IBM Watson analytics.

For example, if a consumer’s goal is to “Run a 5K,” Record will send the athlete in-app messages about what his workout and diet should be for the day depending on his age and how far he is from race day, Glode said. If the app suggests a tough workout and the consumer does it, the next day the app may suggest an easier exercise and foods to help him recover. The app can even send two people with the same goal a different suggestion, then analyze who performed better because of that suggestion, and then send the recommendation with the better outcome to everyone next time, Glode said.

Aside from the beefed up Record app, Under Armour also debuted Bluetooth connected running shoes, which will hit stores Feb. 29, the retailer said. The technology will be embedded into Under Armour’s UA SpeedForm Gemini 2 shoe.

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“We believe every shirt and every shoe is going to be smart,” said Besselman, referring to connecting apparel items to the Internet.

Consumers will connect via Bluetooth their running shoes to the Record app when they first buy them. Then, consumers can go for a run in the shoes without having to run with their smartphone or having to open or start another app. When a consumer is moving faster than an 11-minute-mile pace, the shoes will automatically start recording data, such as distance, pace and splits. Once the shoes are near the smartphone again, data from the run will flow into the Record app.

Such mobile health technology isn’t always easy, Besselman told Mobile Strategies 360 during an interview at CES.  Much has to do with syncing various apps, wearables and other mobile devices.

For example, within the past year, Under Armour found that connecting non-Under Armour devices to its app is not as simple as it sounds, Besselman said. Some connected devices require consumers to sync the device once a day, or some tracking devices don’t automatically share data with apps that aren’t designed for that specific product, Glode said. Under Armour made that point when it challenged 30 of its own executives last year to connect a fitness wearable device, such as a Fitbit or Jawbone, an Internet-connected scale and Under Armour’s heart rate monitor to the Record app. None of the executives could do it without technical assistance, Besselman said.

In an attempt to alleviate such headaches and provide a single source for many health metrics,  Under Armour created HealthBox, a $400 kit that contains three Under Armour-branded, Bluetooth-connected, fitness-tracking devices: a scale, a heart rate monitor and a tracking band. Since all of these products are from the Under Armour brand, the company can control the Bluetooth-connecting process in its own app.

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The app walks consumers through pairing each device to her smartphone,. It on average takes one minute and 42 seconds to pair all the devices, and consumer only has to complete the process once, Besselman said.

Under Armour took preorders for Health Box at CES and will start shipping the products in mid-February. Preorders for HealthBox can also be made online.

 

 

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