Posted 06.22.09 by Mark McClusky View the live version at wired.com The Nike+ team — (from left) Trevor Edwards, Michael Tchao, and Stefan Olander — at the company’s headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. Image: Kate Gibb On June 6, 2008 – Veronica Noone attached a small sensor to her running shoes and headed out the door. She [...]
Posted 06.22.09 by Mark McClusky
View the live version at wired.com
The Nike+ team — (from left) Trevor Edwards, Michael Tchao, and Stefan Olander — at the company’s headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. Image: Kate Gibb
On June 6, 2008 – Veronica Noone attached a small sensor to her running shoes and headed out the door. She pressed start on her iPod and began keeping track of every step she took. It wasn’t a long run—just 1.67 miles in 18 minutes and 36 seconds, but it was the start of something very big for her.
Since that day, she’s run 95 more times, logging 283.8 miles in about 48 hours on the road. She’s burned 28,672 calories. And her weight, which topped 225 pounds when she was pregnant, has settled in at about 145.
Noone knows all of that thanks to the sensor system, called Nike+. After each run, she can sync her iPod to the Nike+ Web site and get a visual representation of the workout—a single green line. Its length shows how far she’s gone, and the peaks and valleys reflect her speed.
For a self-described “stat whore,” there’s something powerfully motivating about all the data that Nike+ collects. “It just made running so much more entertaining for me,” says Noone, who blogs at ronisweigh.com. “There’s something about seeing what you’ve done, how your pace changes as you go up and down hills, that made me more motivated.”
Noone is now running four times a week and just did her first 10-mile race. She’s training for a half marathon and hoping to do a full marathon by the end of the year. And she attributes much of her newfound fitness to the power of data. “I can log in to Nike+ and see what I’ve done over the past year,” she says. “That’s really powerful for me. When I started, I was running shorter and slower. But I can see that progression. I don’t have to question what I’ve done. The data is right there in white and green.”
Noone has joined the legion of people, from Olympic-level athletes to ordinary folks just hoping to lower their blood pressure, who are plugging into a data-driven revolution. And it goes way beyond Nike+. Using a flood of new tools and technologies, each of us now has the ability to easily collect granular information about our lives—what we eat, how much we sleep, when our mood changes.
And not only can we collect that data, we can analyze it as well, looking for patterns, information that might help us change both the quality and the length of our lives. We can live longer and better by applying, on a personal scale, the same quantitative mindset that powers Google and medical research. Call it Living by Numbers—the ability to gather and analyze data about yourself, setting up a feedback loop that we can use to upgrade our lives, from better health to better habits to better performance.
Few things illustrate the power and promise of Living by Numbers quite as clearly as the Nike+ system. By combining a dead-simple way to amass data with tools to use and share it, Nike has attracted the largest community of runners ever assembled—more than 1.2 million runners who have collectively tracked more than 130 million miles and burned more than 13 billion calories.
There is a vast universe of personal metrics to capture. Start with these:
With such a huge group, Nike is learning things we’ve never known before. In the winter, people in the US run more often than those in Europe and Africa, but for shorter distances. The average duration of a run worldwide is 35 minutes, and the most popular Nike+ Powersong, which runners can set to give them extra motivation, is “Pump It” by the Black Eyed Peas.
The company couldn’t have gathered all that information, and gained all those insights, if it hadn’t reconfigured how runners approach their sport. Nike has done more than create a successful product; it has fundamentally changed the way more than a million people think about exercise.
A brown plastic box, emblazoned with Nike’s iconic Swoosh logo, sits on the conference room table at the company’s headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. It’s a clunky thing, the size of a thick paperback book, with a waist strap and two ports on the front that look like miniature speakers, lending it the air of a shrunken mid-’80s boom box.
It was called the Nike Monitor, and it was the company’s first attempt to sell runners a product that would tell them how far and fast they had run. The ports on the front weren’t speakers—they were sonar detectors that would calculate a runner’s speed, which would then be announced over a pair of headphones. The Monitor had to be strapped to the runner’s waist facing forward. It may have been a good idea, but it was utterly impractical. Less than two years after its 1987 launch, the Monitor was dropped from Nike’s product lineup.