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Adidas wants to put these Zone fitness trackers on every kid in PE class

TechCrunch TechCrunch 5/04/2016 Devin Coldewey

Everybody likes a good fitness tracker, but nobody is thinking about the children. The poor dears are being left out of the wearable revolution — looks like it’s up to Adidas to put a gadget on every wrist and a smile on every PE teacher’s face. The athletic good company aims to equip whole classrooms with standardized heart rate trackers with the Zone system (no relation to Adams and Archer).

The Zone wristbands track heart rate and nothing else, which is a bit limited for a fitness wearable — but it’s also perhaps the one thing that matters to a PE teacher: activity. Get those kids moving! Doesn’t matter if they’re running, jumping rope, playing hoops, or cage fighting. The band will show the kid’s heart rate and a color will indicate the level of activity being registered (low, moderate, or “vigorous”).

How is each student identified? The kids aren’t chipped (what district can afford it?) so NFC it is — the PE teacher’s laptop will know that when wristband number 22 taps in during fourth period, it’s Nisha and not Neil.

They cost $139 each, or $3,995 for a big case of 28 (a bit optimistic when it comes to class sizes) that doubles as a charge station, though presumably someone will have to hose them down regularly. Teachers can also request up to a dozen device to test for a month.

Naturally, with all this data about children’s health flying around in the ether, there are security concerns. Adidas is working with Interactive Health Technologies, which claims to reach 600,000 kids at hundreds of schools. Heart rate graphs will be integrated with IHT’s other data, like mile run time, maximum push-ups, and any other metric the teacher cares to track.

Whether the software and data management systems are any good is hard to say: as is so often the case at the frontier of tech and education, the capabilities are desirable but the execution is sometimes lacking. (“One software. All data,” proclaims the IHT website proudly, which is not heartening.)

But while skepticism is always warranted where the next generation is concerned (children that is, not the next generation of wearables), it’s laudable in a general way to try to match the capabilities of technology with the needs (well, “needs”) of educators, and specifically PE, an hour of the school day often overlooked.

Can we quantify our children? We can sure try. Is it worth it? Companies like Adidas, Nike, and Under Armour sure think so, but the ones who are in a position to know are the teachers.

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