Adidas Zone – wrist worn heart rate monitor for PE classes

April 7, 2016

As a PE teacher, I always felt a lack of continuity between what’s taught in school and what’s happening in the outside world. While companies like Fitbit has made multiple versions of their activity trackers, it seems reaching out specifically to schools in a big way with a comprehensive data management system is still not on their cards.

One of the few companies I know that have actively reached out to schools is Heart Zones, Inc which is chaired by an ex-PE educator. Their product is a variation of the Scosche Rhythm+ that also contacts an inbuilt accelerometer accompanied by lights that blink in accordance with the various heart rate zones. Coupled with their in house mobile apps, I’d think they’ve gotten their formula right save for a display on the tracker.

Two days back, I heard Adidas is getting into the game in a heavy way with their Adidas Zone, a wrist worn heart rate monitor designed specifically for PE classes.

The new Adidas Zone tracker is a partnership between Adidas and IHT (Interactive Health Technologies). IHT prides itself on their Spirit System, a cloud-based curriculum and assessment management tool which looks pretty awesome to based on what I’ve seen on their website.

Essentially, the Adidas Zone fitness tracker collects the data and uploads it to IHT’s cloud which will then be accessible to the PE teachers and students. The Zone tracker is built with the user in mind and I had a long read through their conceptualisation to design process. Interesting.Adidas-zone-3-viewWhile the Zone tracker boasts of optical heart rate monitoring, it makes no mention of any in built accelerometer, unlike Heart Zone, Inc’ Scosche Blink heart rate monitor. Also even though the students can see their own HR on their wrist in real time, it seems data is synced only at the end of the session. I would assume that means the data for the class cannot be broadcast in real time. I’d have to check that. Lastly, it remains to be seen if the hardware is open sourced for connection to 3rd party apps. That would be a winner in my opinion.

The Adidas Zone tracker does come in a nice “briefcase” that also doubles up as the charging and syncing receptacle; the device syncs via NFC. Optical heart rate sensors have had their fair share of critics and it would be interesting to know if Adidas is peddling their in house optical heart rate sensor or continuing their partnership with Mio Global based on their previous collaboration on the Adidas Fit Smart.

The good thing is, the Adidas Zone trackers are designed to be reused class after class with IHT’s spirit system which would mean the tracker itself would have been synced to multiple students who turn up for PE lessons at different times of the day. Priced at $3995 for 28 units of Adidas Zone trackers, a charging case, 1 Spirit reader and software, with accompanying documentation and training, it’s not cheap.

Prior to this the school I taught in also had experience with Selfloops group solutions system and Polar Gofit for PE classes, both of which required continuous subscription. From my own experience and trial and error, the school I taught in eventually settled on using a mix of the Garmin Vivofit and Schosche Rhythm+ for the classes. We got down to creating our own infographics the students and staff appreciated.

I hear about schools who have no qualms investing in the latest tech only to face tremendous issues with interpretation of data, disconnect between technology and curriculum and most importantly, uncomfortable chest straps. I’ve reviewed a number of fitness trackers and always wondered if there are companies out there who are seriously keen to get kids started on wearable tech at a decent price.

So I’m genuinely grateful to see companies like Adidas, IHT and Heart Zones, Inc taking big strides in improving the quality of PE on the whole with their hardware and software. The key point is really a sound curriculum planned around the student’s development; numbers alone is not the salve to the wound of inactivity.

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