In the fitness world, some things never change.
For those looking to improve their health and fitness, train for an event, or just get a bit more active, home fitness equipment has been a staple for decades.
And while the concept of treadmills, exercise bikes, or ellipticals may not be new, there are some great technologies out there that have helped bring the entire fitness experience to an entirely new level.
As a product manager at Matrix Fitness for our console technology, I know how important it is to keep the experience fresh and exciting for our customers. I'm proud of our team's efforts on our consoles to create the best workout experience by incorporating the FTMS protocol helps supercharge that experience.
Bluetooth is something we're all familiar with by now, from connecting our phones to our cars and connecting our headphones to our mobile devices, to pairing our bike trainers or heart rate straps for fitness.
What makes Bluetooth so useful in our daily lives is it universality. Phones made by any number of different manufacturers can pair with any car make, model, and manufacturer, and you can always expect a similar experience.
Why? Because there is a common language, or protocol, that all these groups have agreed upon to facilitate the automobile to phone connection.
What is Bluetooth FTMS?
For the fitness equipment industry, that common language is called FTMS. FTMS stands for Fitness Machine Service and it's quickly becoming the gold standard for fitness apps.
Depending on what you want to get out of fitness and what your preferences are for how you work out, there will be an opportunity for FTMS technology to help elevate your workout if you own equipment with Bluetooth FTMS technology.
With FTMS, you're able to make your workouts more social, more engaging and if you choose, more competitive. There are many great fitness apps out there such as Zwift, Kinomap, Studio and RGT Cycling by Wahoo that take advantage of this technology to help deliver a fun and more motivating workout experience.
If you enjoy exercising socially and struggle to work out in your own home, connecting your equipment with one of these apps lets you engage with others in real time, sharing in your struggles and successes along the way, all from your own home. For the competitors, being able to get onto your machine and fire up a race against friends and strangers around the globe can be a huge motivator.
One of the additional benefits of these apps and Bluetooth technology driving it, is that there are constant improvements and updates to help keep your workouts engaging and exciting.
For LED consoles such as the Matrix XR console, our options to update the console experience in the future will be limited, but by connecting to one of the many apps out there, you can create a touchscreen (by using your own tablet or phone), fully connected workout on what would otherwise be a low-tech console experience.
For more advanced consoles such as our XER, XIR, or XUR touchscreens, we have many fun and engaging built-in workout apps and options, but the FTMS apps can add a new level of social and competitive fun to the overall workout when connected to the consoles.
Why Bluetooth FTMS?
Prior to Bluetooth FTMS protocol, there were a handful of different fitness protocols in use that each addressed a different part of the fitness experience. For example, you could have an app that would share heart rate, but not provide any data about your speed. Or on a bike trainer, you could track your speed and cadence, but not information about heart rate or incline.
Some companies even made their own proprietary Bluetooth protocols on their equipment. This approach worked for years as users committed to just one exercise type, such as only biking. However, it creates a lot of frustration for the cyclist who wants to start triathlon training and quickly learns that the apps and hardware they use for bike training don't work on their treadmill.
It goes back to the automobile industry example. If you had to check before you bought a new car whether your current device would still work, it would be more of a headache than a benefit.
To help solve this problem, the FTMS protocol was developed. Unlike some other options out there, FTMS will support your fitness experience regardless of what type of equipment it is. It will support treadmills, exercise bikes, ellipticals, and climbers, which makes it the best solution as we step into the future with connected experiences on fitness equipment.
What about the older apps?
There are many fitness apps that have been around for years and have used other protocols to create a fantastic experience for exercisers. What we've seen in the last few years is that many fitness apps are updating their own apps to be compatible with FTMS.
There are still a few holdouts in the industry that are using older Bluetooth protocols, but most fitness apps are already using FTMS, and the last few are likely headed in that direction as well.
What does this mean for my own fitness equipment?
If you already have fitness equipment with Bluetooth, great! Hopefully it already supports FTMS to allow you the greatest freedom when finding a fun and entertaining fitness app to pair with.
If you're in the market for new fitness equipment, be sure to check to make sure that it is Bluetooth FTMS compatible. It will give you much more flexibility in your fitness experience over the life of your product.
It's important to make sure that the Bluetooth is FTMS, because there are some products that will advertise Bluetooth and support headphones or heart rate monitors, but not app connectivity. And while it's possible those products may add that support down the road, it's a risk if you get a product without it.
What FTMS features are supported by Matrix home equipment?
On Matrix equipment, many types of machine data are sent from the equipment to your mobile app. The chart below outlines all the data that Matrix equipment can send to your app for a great fitness experience.
Why am I not able to use all the functions?
For FTMS to work completely, both the equipment and the app need to be using the same data. You'll find that while Matrix may pass a large breadth of information to the app, it's possible that the app does not use it all. Sometimes this is because certain information isn't needed to create the desired experience for the app, but in other cases, it may be that the app is not fully FTMS compliant or lacking certain functions.
How do I connect my Matrix equipment to an app via Bluetooth FTMS?
Connecting your Matrix equipment to a training app via Bluetooth FTMS is easy. Remember that Bluetooth FTMS is only available on second-generation consoles. Our tutorial videos demonstrate home to connect Matrix consoles to Zwift.
Watch: How to Pair XR-02 Console
What's next with FTMS?
Now that many apps and fitness products in the industry have adopted FTMS as the standard Bluetooth for fitness, it's going to be exciting to see how they use the protocol to its fullest compatibility.
One of the great features that is gaining traction is the FTMS control feature. This helps take the app experience to the next level by letting your mobile device and the workout app take control of the fitness equipment.
If you're on a race course in your app, you may feel the resistance on your bike or elliptical increase or decrease to match the course, or feel your treadmill incline go up or down, the belt move faster or slower, in the time with the workout that is being led by your fitness app.
On Matrix equipment, we look forward to adding the control capability in the near future as more apps start to take advantage of it.
Letting your phone or tablet become part of your workout experience is a great enhancement since it will keep your workout fresh with constant updates. And with new fitness apps always on the horizon, you'll have more and more options to maximize your entire fitness experience.
Bluetooth FTMS helps drive that experience and pairing it with a great piece of fitness equipment will keep you motivated and entertained for years to come as your fitness goals and workout preferences change.