Sports technology: How open data can help Britain end the scourge of physical inactivity

Open access to data would enable innovators to build services to keep people fit (Source: Getty)

Physical inactivity is the fourth largest cause of disease and disability and is responsible for one in six deaths in the UK – it has as great an impact on our mortality as smoking, according to Public Health England. It affects individuals and their families, businesses who are dependent on a healthy workforce, and our economy as it absorbs the cost of poor health.

Yesterday, London Sport convened leaders from the tech sector and sport in an event to explore how technology and data can improve participation in sport and fitness.

During the day, mayor Boris Johnson, members of Openactive, the Open Data Institute, imin, and other public and private leaders shared how London’s sport, technology and data industries are well-positioned to get people more active.

Data underpins insight that can help enhance both the well-being of our society and our economy. It can fuel innovation by giving us direct insight into what we are doing, in real time and over time. It can help us make decisions, and can transform the way we live.

Wearable tech that monitors health has become pervasive around us, but we have still to fully benefit from its insights (how many of us have had our Fitbit in the drawer since Christmas?). So we need to find ways of making our interactions purpose-led yet effortless, in the same way our interaction with maps has become seamless.

Innovators and experts from sport and fitness, tech and data are working to realise the potential of data to overcome simple challenges such as booking a nearby squash court, joining local running groups that match your abilities, or finding a last-minute game of football.

However, such data about sports activities and fitness facilities that currently exists within the health and fitness sector are closed, or only accessible by a handful of organisations. This lack of access hinders digital innovators seeking to build tools that help people overcome these challenges and easily find opportunities to become physically active.

Transport for London (TfL) has released its transport data, enabling people to build apps and services which millions now rely on. Similarly, open innovation with data will make it easier for people to be physically active, and help fitness businesses deliver better health outcomes to their customers.

Mayor Boris Johnson declared his support for the London fit-tech industry to drive this change. We hope both the public and private sectors will collaborate in making the most of the web of data, and use open innovation for the benefit of everyone.

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