In the future, hitting the gym along with your iPhone-toting pals could spur competitiveness in ways unlike ever before. Apple’s mobile devices run a variety of fitness apps and third parties provide useful accessories ranging from casual jogging to some serious working out. Not content with resting on its laurels, Apple is looking to ratchet it up a notch with a new patent filing titled “Interfacing Portable Media Devices And Sports Equipment” that surfaced Thursday in the United States Trademark and Patent Office database.

It outlines new fitness technology letting you share performance data with your friends in real-time, as you are working out. Mentioning that traditional sharing through a third-party website is so last century, the filing goes on to describe immediate data sync between friends exercising on a similar equipment. Moreover, unlike Apple’s fitness center app patent or this fitness freak filing, it does not even pretend to mention Nike+. This suggests Apple could be developing its own solution that might some day augment or even replace Nike’s technology with numerous bells and whistles.

Fancy yourself working out on a treadmill next to your boss and being able to brag about your lower heart rate and blood pressure all the while covering greater distances. Heck, you could be even working out at your local gym while boss is running on a treadmill at his office in Tanzania.

Speaking of competitiveness…

Apple’s invention calls for the ability to display your performance data on the other person’s device, forcing him to run faster, jump higher, or hit harder. What’s more—participants can be in the same gym or scattered throughout facilities across the globe, as long as a Wi-Fi or cellular network connection exists to sync data. In addition, treadmills can exchange media (as depicted in the below drawing) and data from both treadmills can be displayed on each treadmill. “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,” said the filing, and then it continued:

The user can establish communication between the media player and the treadmill by inserting the connector insert of the treadmill into the connector receptacle of the media player. Again, the treadmill insert may be recessed for mechanical stability reasons. While the workout is underway, the treadmill can record workout data on the media player. […] User data, prompts, and other information may be generated and displayed using either the media player or the display on the treadmill. The treadmill may also have other means of receiving input data, in this example, the touchpad. The touchpad may be a keypad or other such tactile interface, or it may be another type of data entry interface.

The patent filing was first submitted on Oct. 12, 2011 and credits, among others, Apple engineer Donald Ginsburg who heads “Apple’s Made for iPod” initiative. If you are eager to learn more, type in a patent ID 20120028761 into the USPTO search engine.


“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”, Apple says in the filing.

Apple’s is actively marketing the iPhone as an indispensable companion for your active lifestyle and has been pushing Nike + iPod Sport Kit for ages (Apple CEO Tim Cook currently sits on Nike’s board of directors). Mind you, Apple’s healthy lifestyle promise is not just a marketing gimmick. The company is constantly enhancing its gadgets with new fitness-related features. For example, the fifth-generation iPod Nano gained a built-in pedometer that logs your steps and calories burned, letting you track the progress of your workouts through iTunes and on Nikeplus.com. As for Nike+ technology, it is now integrated into the iPhone, iPod Touch, and older iPod models as the company continues to promote it heavily on its homepage and retail stores.

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