One London Techie Goes Swimmingly

A London start-up company has conquered the world with its swimming app, SwimIO. The app has recorded almost 3m swims covering a distance of 4 billion meters, that’s around the world 100 times.

Now live in 155 countries, SwimIO is the first swimming app to go global. The app encourages more participation by providing a local search and live timetables so users can find where their nearest favourite swimming activity is taking place. The top five countries, by page views, is UK, USA, China, Spain and Poland.

Users access search and live timetables over 3m times every month which equates to 4m swimmers, 9m sessions and 27m total page views (68% from mobiles). So, finding out where the nearest lane swimming is available or where a mums and toddler’s session is taking place, is now at the touch of a button.

Live timetables are currently being used by over 500 swimming pool sites in the UK and Ireland and through some new technology and APIs these timetables can be viewed on the pool website, on the app, on screens in reception and via voice phone service. At home, users can even create their own weekly timetable and print it. Expansion of the API service is being rolled out to all English speaking countries and the number of page views are expected to double in 2017.

SwimIO is provided by Active in Time (AiT) originally based at Google Campus, near London’s silicon roundabout and the founder, Dan Morgan created it out of frustration of not being able to find pool space for his water polo club. Dan took on the task of bringing swimming pool marketing from the 1990’s to the present day, linking new technology and water together for the first time. Dan says, ‘it’s cool that around one third of public pools in the UK have been early adopters of the technology which provides a seamless digital gateway of choice to the consumer.’

AiT plans to integrate its live timetable APIs to new services to be launched in the UK soon including, Reserve with Google, Facebook Calendar, Amazon Alexa and Yell who are all looking to add local search, linked to live timetable APIs, plus transaction. These granular, on-demand searches, essential for today’s consumer, are due to explode in 2017 and AiT are ready to integrate all local pool providers with these new services.

Editors Notes

‘Swimmer Dan Morgan’ the founder, created the app in his bedroom in 2011 and now swimmers have recorded over 3m swims, clocking up over 4 billion meters, that’s the equivalent of 100 times around the world. In June 2015 Dan put the first swimming app on the Apple Watch and before that the Pebble Watch. Dan’s aim has always been to put swimmers on equal terms with runners and cyclists in the world of wearables and software and SwimIO is the first app to integrate with popular running and cycling apps along with Apple’s HealthKit so workouts can be logged.

Active in Time (AiT) is the sister company of LeisureDB


Founder, Dan Morgan 07894 998333

Operator Software, Jamie Buck 07887 768312

Tech Will Shape Our Industry

Gerald Ratner, in 1991, achieved notoriety in the UK after making a speech in which he jokingly denigrated two of the jewellery products sold by his company. The so called ‘Ratner Effect’ caused the company’s near collapse. In the USA the hashtag #DeleteUber started trending in January and so far, 2017 for Travis Kalanick, Uber’s CEO, it’s been annus horribilis. Although Kalanick has stepped down from Trump’s advisory council, prompting another mea culpa, the embattled ride hailing company is still surrounded by controversy.  Uber’s troubles have resulted in market share gains for Lyft, it’s main competitor, according to TXN Solutions which tracks debit and credit spending. Uber spend across the US has declined since January by 2% while Lyft has jumped 30% on average. In Uber’s home city, San Francisco, spend was down 8% while Lyft jumped 24%.

For IHRSA attendees in Los Angeles the ride hailing service Lyft became the de facto service and for those with ApplePay, a Lyft (get it?) was just a finger touch away…how simple and intuitive. Lyft’s use of the latest technology provides a seamless digital gateway of choice and many lessons for the fitness industry.  Consumers are in control and brands need to stop interrupting with bad technology and trying to sell unwanted products or services and instead start having smart conversations and start listening. Lyft has that conversation and is listening after every ride and if it wasn’t perfect, how could it have been better. When did you receive a request to rate your instructor, the class, the PT, the club even. For me? Never. Those fitness brands who offer transparency of pricing are growing faster than ever and the same brands are open about the good, and maybe not so good, conversations they are having with their customers but they listen and respond. Peer reviews of the workout, instructors and the all-important experience keeps everyone on their toes. 

At the Networking Roundtable chaired by Bryan O’Rourke, operators degraded the heritage CRM systems that the industry is suffering under. So, will traditional CRM systems be dead in 5 years time? Probably. Some heavy competition is being tested in California. Reserve with Google, gives deeper booking integration so local search, which relies on live timetable APIs, becomes more transactional. Previously booking buttons would link away to a third party provider but now its deeply integrated. Mindbody, Full Slate, Front Desk, Appointy are all currently live on Reserve with Google and ZingFit, MyTime and Genbook are coming soon. Only Mindbody were demonstrating this integration at IHRSA but hopefully all will be there next year in San Diego. More competition is coming from Facebook who have recently added local reservations and integrated bookings. Its Events calendar has been turned into a standalone app, allowing groups of friends to book and buy activities together. Airbnb are linking the consumer to a world of fitness experiences which taps Airbnb’s community to offer highly curated opportunities. Even Yelp is accelerating adoption of local listings to include payments and bookings. It won’t be long before Amazon make an announcement in this area, linked to Alexa searches.  All these companies, plus Apple, have fitness teams analysing the industry and how they can disrupt it, search and bookings is an obvious one.

Reserve with Google was live in LA so IHRSA delegates could logon to experience the granular search, from APIs of live timetables, linked to seamless integrated booking. Reserve puts the consumer at the centre of the search and through Artificial Intelligence (AI), constantly learning what type of class or activity you like, will deliver your personalised push notifications that addresses the question of which class, where and what time before you’ve thought of it. Those poised to take advantage of this new era are the boutiques, fitness without boundaries, community activities and meet-ups. In the UK public sector sites and trusts have been early adopters of live timetables and APIs, concretely demonstrating the value of digital. For those of you who are still using Pdf’s, and heaven forbid, a Pdf on an app, then help is at hand.  AiT (Active in Time) a UK start-up company provide the free software and for a small monthly charge APIs for those who want to be part of the digital revolution. Over 500 sites in the UK and Ireland are now live and pushing digital innovation.  AiT offers to integrate your live timetables into these new search and booking services as they become available in the UK.

IHRSA is known for its roundtables, as mentioned above, and keynotes. Soraya Darabi, a Young Global Leader of World Economic Forum said we can’t create emotional attachment if we stand for nothing. So Lyft drivers stand for great service, good value and working for a company they admire. From Soraya’s experience at her local gym in Brooklyn she wonders if the fitness industry, which has the potential, will ever develop the same emotional attachment. Martin Lindstrom, a brand futurist, suggested ‘living with the client’ or listening to the consumer because how many fitness sites have anything more than a feedback form? Lindstrom used the supermarket Lowes to show how it was ‘small data’ that helped turn around a failing brand, not big data. Lowes relaunch has some fun elements but Jonny Earle, alias Jonny Cupcakes was off the wall. He created a brand and inspired customer loyalty from shops that don’t sell cupcakes but t-shirts. My favourite was the breakfast t-shirt which you could only buy between 7-11am.

The 21st annual IHRSA financial panel moderated by Rick Caro emphasized that detailed knowledge of the industry is limited even when big investments are being made. l hope Rick will come to London in October for IHRSA Europe and put a panel of UK investors together who have access to the most detailed data on the industry thanks to LeisureDB. LeisureDB will be presenting in October its data analysis platform and the historical trends from its annual State of the UK Fitness Industry Report and live monitoring of the industry from its Social Media Fitness Index.

Historically prospectors in the Californian gold rush needed a shovel and a sieve, now influencers do the spade work for you. ‘Cycologists’ create 45 minute experiences you want to pay $30 for and who ignite avid followers. I’m following Shannon at Aura on Third,  and Nick at Cycle House on Melrose, are you following?

- David Minton, Director of LeisureDB - IHRSA 2017

David Minton's interview with Community Sport Network

Original article can be found here.  

CSN catches up with David Minton, Director of The Leisure Database Company.

You have been active in the leisure industry for many years. Where have the biggest changes been? 

I’ve been in the leisure industry for longer than I care to remember and on the way there have been some amazing changes including computing power, my iPhone 6 is more powerful than the first computer we started compiling the database on thirty years ago. GPS was another giant step forward where we could map the facilities for the first time, now we take 3d maps for granted. Over this period the interest in and expansion of personal improvement and fitness has expanded beyond what anyone could have predicted. We are now living through the biggest period of change that’s driven by technology and community sport so far has failed to adapt and take advantage of the opportunities.

The new Sport England Sporting Future strategy indicates a change in investment strategy and approach. How do you see this rolling out? 

It’s too early to comment on the new Sporting Future strategy (or Brexit, or the new England football Manager) but it’s important to see where any new strategy fits in with the aggregators who are using new technology to connect direct with the sports consumer.  There’s over twenty new tech aggregators mostly British but some from the USA, India, Israel and Australia working on ideas to link up community sport and the consumer. A lot will happen in 2016 as some have been successful at crowd funding or private money behind them.

How critical is it for the adoption of new technologies to tackle the high levels of inactivity that we still see? 

Crucial! As far as I’m aware there is not one public sports API (an abbreviation for application program interface) of useful data for the above aggregators to use. A few years ago Transport for London decided to make their ‘live’ tube, bus, rail, road, bike and river data available to tech companies via APIs, now over 100 apps have been developed to help people travel around London easier than ever before. Imagine the frustration among young techies who are passionate about sport but have no data to work with.

How can the application of technology persuade behavioural change at an individual level? 

Technology together with social media and advertising can help with behavioural change and there’s lots of examples where this has worked including; female boxing, Nicola Adams as role model plus lots of fitness sites programming ‘boxercise’ style classes and Kobox is the first UK boutique boxing studio. Boomers are embracing life and examples of ‘Rad Dads returning to skateboarding, skate sessions grew 100% in four years, or kite surfing where 10% of surfers are over 35, or, Ironman where the average triathlete is aged 41. There are now 225 registered walking football clubs in the UK which offers risk free exercise to an older demographic. Driven by players uploading content and building communities Ultimate Frisbee is played in more than 80 countries by 7 million people. We’re in the tenth year of Persil’s ‘Dirt is Good’ advert which has now moved into campaigning and promoting kids activities around the country after it was discovered the average child spends less time outside than a prison inmate. Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign set out to challenge stereotypes and has had encouraging uplift among women. Health and fitness is at the heart of self-actualisation and big brands are creating ambient wellness innovations for those with good intentions but little action. Reebok, for example, created pop-up outdoor gyms at bus shelters as part of The Gym is everywhere campaign. Virgin Active’s new fun advert, We’ve Got a Workout For That, focuses on different scenarios that the gym can help you prepare for.  A yogurt drink brand put 6,000 health monitoring straps on 200 buses in Beijing which measured heart rate, BMI and balance when held on the daily commute. Results were uploaded through NFC to the smartphone app and over 350,000 people used the straps and the topic was shared 3m times. Whatever sport you are ‘selling’ make sure it adds to the self-actualisation data already being collected by the new super connected.    

What are the main barriers to success that the Sporting Future strategy will need to overcome? 

It needs to be more consumer focused so the following areas need to be considered, customer focused personalised push notifications are becoming common across other areas of life, why not sport? More opportunities to experiment without immediate commitment, building online communities to support and encourage, creating accessibility through more diverse activities, deregulated sport is growing so encourage it and a focus on strength based fitness over workout for weight loss while addressing a more inclusive attitude to being active.

What are you working on right now that can help be part of the future ‘fix’?

Refinements and upgrades to LeisureDB’s fitness supply demand modelling work continue and our estimates of ‘latent demand’ on any given site is around 90% accurate now. Four years ago we started working with the start-up company, AiT (Active in Time). AiT develops sports and fitness apps including the swimming app Speedo Fit. This app is now live in 120 countries and has over 3 million page views a month. AiT provides pool owners and managers with free software so pool information can be in real time live on the app, the website, in-house screens, social media and via a print API, on posters and in print. Around half of all public swimming pools have adopted this free software and consumers obviously find it useful as the majority of page accesses are for timetable data. The same software is now available for studio classes and sports halls and hopefully this small step to make live information more searchable will encourage more participation.