Technology for the sake of it, is no progress at all

Paula Tate
17-Sep-2019 18:21:27

Is my gym busy now?

There seems to be a preponderance of operators going online or using apps or even social media to answer their customers question“Is my gym busy now?” Google has a feature that shows how busy your place of business is likely to be right now, and you can even ask Alexa or Siri.  

But I’ve got a question for you - not in your role as an operator, but just as an everyday normal consumer/ end user of your local gym- the question is: is your gym busy right now? I’d bet we would all be able to guess, particularly the regular gym goers amongst us, whether the gym was busy or not.  

It is good to use technology as a tool to engage with end users and amazing to use it for marketing and revenue purposes, but when you are simply replacing technology with common sense, then I’d say: think again.  

A quick google shows you that most popular gym times in the UK are 0630-0900, and 1730-2000, with a smaller spike at lunchtimes and another spike on Saturday mid mornings. Are you surprised? Not remotely? 

*I must add here that gyms in academic environments i.e. colleges and universities have a different routine, I totally acknowledge that, but also would be surprised if your own regulars didn’t know exactly when the gym was going to be busy.  

It is part of a trend to allow technology to take control of our lives in areas where, in the past we may have just trusted our own judgement- how many times have you looked up the weather whilst you are standing at a window, or checked what time your favourite TV show was on tonight? We have all done it; using our digital crutch to avoid bothering our own brain cells.  

Tracking usage from an operator’s point of view 

When it comes to – is MY gym busy? There is an interesting prospect on the horizon which could use IoT to help operators have an informative and different view of your gym. Using IoT to monitor real time usage, it is increasingly possible to work out what equipment is being used more in a gym, this could help you to rotate equipment in order to lengthen lifetimes of pricey treadmills and other kit.  

However, this once again begs the question: if you asked the gym manager what was the most popular treadmill in your gym vs the least, would they know? They ought to really, don’t you think? Least popular: the one by the changing room door, Most: the one by the water fountain…And so, perhaps you could still do the clever rotation of kit to get the longest life out of each piece, but once again, you’d just be using common sense and the power of observation as opposed to some complex technology.  

Can vs Should 

In summary, it seems that perhaps we are focusing more on what tech can do as opposed to its actual value to us. Maybe we just need to take a step back and allow our own brains to do some of the heavy lifting in order to work out how tech can actually add value to the leisure industry.  

One role that tech could play is during the school holidays, the weather outside can have a huge impact on the number of people taking their children swimming, and it can be tricky to predict whether the pool will be busy or not.

3D Happy group of students jumping - isolated over a white backgorund

Knowing the waiting time to get into the pool could increase customer satisfaction and additionally decrease the number of families sitting around the reception area waiting for space in the pool.  

It could be that when IoT grows into its skin a bit, then each and every individual could map their pathway around the gym as they arrive: knowing that the specific equipment they want will be free for them in their chosen slot, with machines being able to designate themselves “booked” for a particular person.

The dynamics of this could really change the way people use the gym; if on entering, I knew I wanted to do 30 minutes on the treadmill, 20 minutes on the cross trainer and then a further 10 minutes on the multi-gym, then the equipment could effectively reserve for me on the fly knowing whether it was free with reference to other gym users wants and needs, so changing the order to make my experience smooth and making the most of the available equipment. The prospect of this is exciting, you’d get to maximise usage, increase customer satisfaction and really make the most of those busy times.

Until such a time though, I say lets get back to a bit of independent thought: is my gym busy right now? Well, based on my own experience, I’d say yes, but I’m still going to go- because I go every Wednesday after work…don’t we all?  

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