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What does your smart fitness equipment know about you?

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In a time when remote work is the new norm, home workouts are becoming a bigger part of everyday life for many people. Whether you were gifted a smart exercise bike for the holidays (à la the 2019 Peloton commercial) or just need incentive to follow through with New Year’s resolutions, homeowners can use smart fitness equipment to meet their #fitnessgoals. 

Work out smarter, not harder, and let even the most basic smart equipment track your exercise metrics – or use more high-tech devices to download and stream workout content daily. Investing in these smart features is costly, so make sure your personal property is protected by checking your homeowners insurance

Smart features also have trade-offs when it comes to your privacy. We discuss the data your equipment collects and the risks and benefits that come along with this. Feel free to jump to the infographic below for everything you need to know! 

What data does your smart fitness equipment collect?

With built-in functions that track your workouts, smart fitness equipment stores data about you to make personalized exercise recommendations. The data your devices collect can include health metrics, personal details, location, equipment usage and other information. See the five major categories below for a breakdown of what your equipment knows about you.

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Personal information

You typically share personal information about yourself to gain access to smart fitness equipment. For example, you sign up for an account with your name, contact information, age, location, credit card information and perhaps even a picture of yourself. 

Providing some personal details allows the equipment or service to associate other data with your personal profile. You can control what personal details you offer, except for certain instances when information like your name and email address are typically required.

 

Health metrics

Health metrics are a standard type of data that is collected by smart fitness equipment, and you might want to provide this information to your device so it can help you set and reach your exercise goals. Most devices collect metrics like calories burned, steps taken, heart rate, distance traveled, height and weight. 

It's important to note that health information stored on smart fitness equipment is not protected by federal legislation like HIPAA, because most companies don’t count as a covered entity or related business associate.

 

Biometrics

Did you know that some equipment also collects biometric data from you? Biometric data is any type of biological identifier, like voice or facial features, that can be used to identify an individual or grant access to data or systems. 

Through camera and microphone features that you enable, smart fitness equipment can capture and identify your voice, facial features and general likeness. If that is something you don’t want your equipment to know, make sure you choose not to engage those features. 

 

Usage information

Your devices also track how much you use the equipment. This includes how long you use the equipment, frequented locations, the content you search for, the classes you attend, when you log on and which devices are associated with your account. Your purchase and product browsing history are also recorded as well.

 

Communications

Whenever you communicate with the company through your account, they are probably tracking any and all communications between you and their employees. This is usually for general record keeping/administrative purposes and to monitor things like customer support or sales. 


Other data

Smart fitness equipment can also passively collect information about your cyberlife. Information from internet systems like your IP address, cookies, browser type, language and operating systems are all up for grabs. This can leave you and your home vulnerable to cybersecurity risks. Be wary of connecting your device to social media or other applications, as this allows the device to access and share data with the other platform.

Benefits of smart fitness equipment

Depending on your lifestyle and location, investing in smart fitness equipment can have worthwhile benefits like convenience, cost-effectiveness and tailored content. 

  • Convenient home workouts: The ease of accessing an effective workout both on your schedule and in your home makes smart fitness equipment attractive. The smart user interface and instant presence of an online community are also major pluses.
  • Cost-effective compared to most memberships: Some equipment ends up being more cost-effective than a long-term membership to a high-end studio or boutique gym. Under pandemic circumstances, when a gym or studio membership may only be able to offer online content, smart fitness equipment offers added value by providing both equipment and workout content. 
  • Content tailored to your preferences and goals: If you are a fan of a specific type of workout, you can choose your equipment based on that preference. Avid spinners can enjoy scenic rides through the Peloton screen, and dance lovers can use Mirror to enjoy a class without being judged for dancing off beat.  Choose to tailor your classes and content based on your preferences, abilities, body and fitness goals.

 

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Risks of smart fitness equipment

Smart fitness equipment also comes with some risks regarding privacy, cybersecurity and the worthiness of investment.

  • Limitations based on equipment type: If you invest in a smart rower, you are limited to that one exercise. The same goes for a smart boxing system or bike. Smart personal trainers or weight systems are more versatile options that offer more diverse content.
  • Less privacy and security: Like other smart home devices, there are risks regarding privacy and security. Our personal information, health habits and even biometrics may be stored and shared by your equipment. Your security can be breached if your smart fitness equipment software is hacked, putting your identity and information at risk.
  • Large price tags: Large pieces of smart fitness equipment can come with even larger price tags. Equipment can cost upward of $4,000, with additional payments for monthly content subscriptions. It could take years of consistent use for the equipment to pay for itself when compared to regular home fitness equipment.

Types of smart fitness equipment

Whether you like to row, bike, lift, run, box, stretch or dance, there is a smart fitness option out there for you. Most equipment collects the same categories of data, but we checked out the privacy policies of popular equipment to give you the lowdown on just how smart they really are.

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Fitness trackers and watches

Fitness watches and trackers are an accessible way to get into smart fitness equipment. These track your workout progress and help nudge you toward your goals. Both come in more affordable price ranges, can be used easily indoors and outdoors, and don’t require much space besides a spot on your wrist to use. 

  • Options: Fitbit, Apple Watch*
  • Collects: Personal information, health metrics, usage information, communications, other 
    *Collects biometric data (voice recognition) when Siri is enabled

 

Smart cardio machines

Picture your regular cardio machines like treadmills, rowers and stationary bikes, but then add a smart screen that can stream content. The capacity to hop on a live class also gives you access to an online workout community where you can compare your progress to others, challenge friends and watch yourself on a leaderboard.

  • Options: Peloton*, Nordic Track, Hydrow
  • Collects: Personal information, health metrics, usage information, communications, other
    *Collects biometrics when camera and microphone are enabled 

 

Smart strength training machines

Smart strength training machines are a compact weight system for your home. Some come with an actual set of weights, while others use magnets and electricity to alter the resistance. Wall-mounted screens offer classes with instructors and track progress by counting reps and providing feedback.

  • Options: Tempo, Tonal
  • Collects: Personal information, health metrics, usage information, communications, other

 

Smart personal trainers

Who thought the newest trend in personal training would be mirrors? Smart mirrors feature digital screens that stream a variety of classes including boxing, yoga, bootcamp and barre. The mirror is mounted on your wall so you can watch instructors and check your form at the same time. When you’re not using it, it works like a normal mirror, too!

  • Options: Mirror, Echelon Reflect
  • Collects: Personal information, health metrics, usage information, communications, other

How to protect your data

Not every smart fitness device collects and uses your data in the same ways. Check out our chart to see what popular smart fitness equipment brands are doing with your data, and then protect your privacy with our list of tips that work across most devices.

 

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Tips for protecting your privacy

  • Set your user profile to private (most default settings are public profiles).
  • Opt out of allowing your device to process personal data at any point.
  • Do not enable camera or microphone features.
  • Keep software updated (usually automatic when connected to Wi-Fi, must be done manually if your machine is on Bluetooth).
  • Encrypt your internet connection.
  • Limit any personal details you share (e.g., photos, unrequired contact information).
  • Under California Consumer Privacy Act (CA residents only) contact support to:
    • Make a request to know what personal information is collected
    • Make a request to delete personal information consistent with the law
    • Opt out of sale of information

Smart fitness equipment is on the rise. Knowledge of the types of data that can be stored, shared and sold by your equipment is important to be aware of if you currently use or plan to use smart fitness equipment. Any smart device with connection to the internet can pose cybersecurity risks, so it’s necessary to take steps to protect your identity and information. 

Similar to protecting your cybersecurity, you should also ensure your equipment is covered with a personal property endorsement. Remember that if theft or damage does occur to your smart fitness equipment, your endorsement may cover some or all of your losses.

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