Originally published on Mashable
Back in 2015, IHT announced it was working on an initiative to keep students active, but the company is finally showing off the core of its vision: a heart-rate monitoring fitness tracker called Zone.
While you may remember the Presidential Fitness Challenge from grade school, IHT wants to change the way fitness is measured. Rather than a one-size-fits all model, it’s all about bringing self-management and personalization to P.E. class — i.e. instead of asking kids to run a 9-minute mile, the goal will be to keep their heart-rate in a zone that’s best suited for their health abilities.
The Zone tracker, which only monitors heart rate, allows teachers to track a student’s performance and set up workout goals based on the individual’s personal fitness levels. In addition to giving real-time heart-rate feedback on the display, it sends all collected data via the cloud to a teacher’s software portal for assessment. Over time, an educator can see how a student is progressing weekly, monthly or even a year-to-year, and can elect to email the student (and their parents) fitness updates.
By monitoring a student’s heart-rate, at resting and active levels, it will paint a bigger picture of a child’s health and how the heart handles exercise. However, the company didn’t elaborate on security and privacy will play a role in keeping data secure, or what sort of role parents will have in allowing this type of information to be collected.
The device was developed in partnership with tech fitness startup Interactive Health Technologies and will work with IHT’s existing Spirit program, activity-tracking software that also works with chest straps. In exchange for staying active in P.E. class through Spirit, kids earn reward points that can be cashed in for apparel, sports equipment and scholarships. IHT said it’s working on a similar program to encourage students to stay active.
IHT’s Zone fitness tracker will give students a personalized approach to PE class.
While the Zone fitness tracker itself is new, IHT’s software has already undergone testing with more than 600,000 students in 2015. According to its data, kids who wore a chest strap and participated in the Spirit Challenge rewards program saw a 140% increase in student engagement in gym class.
The program is projected to reach one million students nationwide by the end of the year.
But reaching students on this level with a wristband tracker is unchartered territory. Although some fitness tracker brands, such as Fitbit, have offered programs for teachers to use its devices in schools, this platform allows data to be managed on a large-scale group level, so they can keep track of different classes and hundreds of students.
Pre-orders for the Zone tracker are available now, but it’s hardly cheap: one device costs $139, while a class package (which includes 28 trackers, software, cases and a NFC reader) costs $3,995.
Considering IHT’s full-featured Fit Smart fitness tracker costs around the same price ($150) and comes with features like step, calorie and pace tracking, as well as accelerometer, you’d think the Zone would come in a bit less.
The news comes as the arts, music, recess and gym class remain on the chopping block when school districts need to pull back on funding. In fact, about 44% of school administrators have cut down on physical education and recess to focus more time on reading and math. Meanwhile, according to the 2013 CDC Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance, about 52% of high school students don’t attend a P.E. class, down from 55.7% 10 years earlier.
While in many cases there is a shift away from physical education, the willingness for institutions to shell out thousands of dollars for the program may be a challenge to get it underway.
However, IHT has set up a tool to help schools fundraise for the chance to adopt the platform.