Pedometers, sports watches and fitness apps on the phone are much more than a private pleasure. Behind this is a huge growth market, as this number alone shows: The major sporting goods manufacturers Under Armor, Adidas and Asics have invested more than a billion US dollars in fitness apps. This is the result of research by the Statista Digital Market Outlook (DMO).
The downside of the boom: billions of data buzzing wildly through the world. The North Rhine-Westphalia consumer advice center is now pointing out precisely this aspect of this growth market. The trend around wearables and fitness apps promises more control over one’s own body. But consumers often no longer have control over their own data.
“The sporting goods manufacturers demonstrate that they have recognized the potential of digitization,” say the Statista market observers. The purchase of apps such as MyFitnessPal or Runtastic (more than 70 million registered users) strengthens the company’s mobile presence and enables access to an audience of millions with a sports affinity.
What is interesting for the companies is that the group of possible customers is getting bigger and bigger, because the digital fitness market is booming. By 2020, the number of users of paid fitness apps in Germany is even expected to rise to around ten million. In the USA it could even be 35 million users.
But consumers who make intensive use of all these new options should be aware that the majority of devices send a large amount of information about the fitness behavior of users to providers. What then happens to the data is not further explained or remains unclear. This is confirmed by the new study by the market watchdog team at the consumer advice center in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Consumer advocates took a close look at twelve wearables and 24 fitness apps. The problem with small computers on the body is: sports armbands, smartwatches and fitness apps no longer just count the steps of their users: the inconspicuous everyday companions also constantly collect data such as the pulse and calorie consumption of their wearers. Or show how long and how well you sleep.
Not everything goes as smoothly as expected with this data. The consumer advocates found violations of applicable data protection laws and therefore warned nine large providers. However, that does not mean the problem is over.