【DE】Innovation at FitnessConnected: A look at how e-textiles are making fitness equipment smarter

In many industries, electronic components such as sensors, electrodes, LEDs or antennas are already integrated into textiles as standard to make machines and devices smarter and more user-friendly. However, there is still a lot of room for improvement here, especially in the fitness industry. “I am therefore very pleased that, together with our partners ZSK Stickmaschinen and gym80, we will be able to present an innovative prototype at our live trade show in Munich that shows there is great potential for e-textiles in the health and fitness sector as well,” says Ralph Scholz, CEO of FitnessConnected.


The prototype is a back stretching machine for the lower back muscles in which three sensors – not perceptible to the user – are integrated into the padding. An occupancy sensor detects whether a person is sitting on the machine and activates the other two sensors if this is the case: A pressure sensor in the back area checks whether this person’s lower back and buttocks are close enough to the padding, and another pressure sensor then keeps an eye on the correct execution of the movement. If the person is not sitting in the correct starting position or overstretches during the movement, he or she receives feedback from the smart machine via vibration and knows: I am doing something wrong.


Smart machine could relieve staff and increase training safety

“We see many advantages in this development, both for the person training and for the gym operator. Especially laypeople who are still unsure about using equipment can easily get help on how to perform an exercise correctly. Of course, the technique does not replace the guidance of a professional trainer and that is not its purpose. However, it does provide support if, for example, no trainer is available at the moment or if a person exercising is reluctant to ask. For gym operators, it means above all a reduction in the workload of the staff and additional control over the safety and health of the exercisers,” says Tobias Lochthowe, the product manager responsible at gym80.


Many fitness operators are not yet aware of the potential of e-textiles

The electronic components are integrated into the padding using an embroidery process. “The great advantage of embroidery over other processes is that the electronic components can be automatically connected by the machine with conductive threads and thus integrated into a textile. Subsequent processes such as soldering are therefore no longer necessary,” explains Melanie Hörr, Manager of Technical Embroidery Applications, Smart & E-Textiles at ZSK Stickmaschinen. The expert, who is already successfully using the process for ZSK in other fields of application, adds: “We assume that the fitness market also has a lot of potential for this. So far, many equipment manufacturers know too little about the possibilities of e-textiles. I’m all the more pleased that we can work together with gym80 at FitnessConnected to change this.”


Many more areas of application feasible for e-textiles

gym80 is eagerly awaiting feedback from visitors who will be able to experience the innovative device at Messe München from 18 to 20 November 2021. “We can imagine using and testing E-Textiles in other devices in the future,” says Tobias Lochthowe. Looking to the future, Melanie Hörr adds, “In addition to e-textiles that are far from the body, such as those used in the gym80 prototype, there are also e-textiles that are close to the body, in which textile electrodes and sensors are integrated directly into clothing and measure vital signs such as ECG. I could imagine, especially for the fitness industry, that in the future remote and near-body sensors will be able to communicate with each other, making training even smarter and more effective. The journey is by no means over, there are still many possibilities.”


For more detailed information, visit www.fitness-connected.com

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