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Thursday, February 02, 2012, 07:40 am PT (10:40 am ET)

Apple developing iOS tech for real-time, head-to-head workout competitions

Future versions of Apple's iOS software may introduce new fitness technology that will encourage a more competitive spirit by allowing users to compete and share real-time performance data with other users working out at the same time, even if those users reside in different parts of the world.

The technology, which was outlined in a company patent filing dated just three months ago, looks to take much of the functionality already available through the Nike+ iPod ecosystem and enhance it with real-time sharing capabilities.

Whereas existing Nike+ iPod technology first requires users to complete their workout before uploading and sharing their performance data with other users on the Nike+ website, Apple's solution would allow users to share live data with other iOS users concurrently working out on similar equipment.

For instance, Apple provides one example where two runners are each working out on treadmills that feed real-time stats to their connected iOS devices. The two runners are able wirelessly sync their iOS devices together during the run an view each other's current pace, distance, calories burned, heart rate, blood pressure, and even blood oxygen levels.

"These treadmills may be located in the same building, or they may be located in different buildings, in different cities, or even in different continents," Apple says in the filing. "In this example, media on one media player can be shared between the two treadmills. Also, data from both treadmills can be displayed on each treadmill, thus showing the users their respective standings in the competition."

User data, prompts, and other information may be generated and displayed on the iOS devices themselves or the treadmills' larger display screens. However, Apple notes that the concept isn't limited to just treadmills and can also apply to an elliptical stepper, stationary bicycle, weight machine, or even a traditional bicycle.

Additionally, Apple added that such fitness equipment may also have other means of receiving input data, such as an embedded track pad, and that the head-to-head competitions can be pit between more than just two participants.



Depending on the proximity of the users to each other, the iOS devices may communicate over short distances using, for example, Bluetooth, one or more of the IEEE 802.11 standards, or other wireless, optical, or wired connections. The media players may also communicate with each other over long distances, for example using the Internet, cellular, or other connection, Apple said.

Nowhere in the filing, which is partially credited to Apple's Made for iPod chief Donald Ginsburg, does Apple refer to the existing Nike+ technology, possibly suggesting that the company will further distance itself from the shoemaker as part of its future fitness initiatives, instead relying on its own technology and its more than half-dozen professional fitness equipment partners who have already begun marketing iOS-compatible machines.