Author(s): Peter Bryer
Before there were wearables, there was Nokia Sports Tracker — one of the first smartphone apps to use location technologies to monitor fitness activities. Sports Tracker was originally based on an internal Nokia project from 2004, allowing runners, bikers and hikers to record and maintain a history of their activity. The Symbian-based app was revolutionary at the time, and a provided a good example of how on-device sensors like GPS could be employed by apps and tied to online services. Sports Tracker's in-house development was discontinued in 2010, but several Nokia employees founded a separate company based on the app.
Last week, Sports Tracker was acquired by Amer Sports, a Finland-based sporting goods conglomerate that owns brands such as Atomic, Precor, Salomon, Suunto and Wilson. Suunto itself was an early maker of wearables, and Amer will fold Sports Tracker into its existing family of digital services across company units.
There's a clear requirement for sports equipment manufacturers to tie quality software and services to their hardware. Amer makes sports watches, sportswear and fitness equipment including tennis rackets, skis and biking apparel, and sensors are spreading to these products. Everything's connected, or will be.
Sports clothing brand Under Armour has been energetically acquiring digital app makers in recent years. The company bought MapMyFitness for $150 million in 2013. In 2015, it purchased nutrition app developer MyFitnessPal for $475 million and the Endomondo sports tracking app for $85 million.
Under Armour says that its apps and services are used by more than 120 million people, providing the company with a lasting customer relationships. This massive community is larger than some social networking sites.
There's a smooth continuum developing between clothing, sports equipment, smartphone apps and online services. Adidas, Asics, Nike and most major sports brands are active in apps and connectivity — free software and services have become an essential part of the consumer experience.
Sports Tracker has had a relatively long journey, and found a home in its Finnish neighbourhood. The timing is right for such a move, as consumer data increases in value. We expect more acquisitions of smaller software and hardware companies involved in fitness and wellbeing. It's a healthy environment for independent app and device makers.