Tracking usage of outdoor gyms with IOT technology in Helsinki

In 2021, the city of Helsinki had nearly 1300 different outdoor fitness devices available for residents to use. The equipment was spread across over 160 different outdoor gyms around the city. The city needed to track usage data to support wise resource usage and decision making.

Helsinki needed data on the usage of outdoor gyms

To make managing the gyms eaiser, the city wanted automated data on equipment usage. This data was needed for many reasons:

  • Gym location and investments. The number of users at each gym and for each device would reveal which types of equipment were the most popular and where new gyms should be installed.
  • Maintenance. Maintaining the equipment is expensive and 160 outdoor gyms take up notable city resources. There are also a number of ordinances affecting their maintenance. The city needed data to determine when maintenance was needed.
  • Budgeting. Information was needed to support budgeting so that enough resources would be allocated to maintenance.
  • Residents. The collected data could also enable communicating to city residents how much each gym was used and when the busiest times were.

The number of users could be tracked with Kaltiot’s technology

Kaltiot developed a tracking solution designed to work in Finland’s harsh climate. The solution also overcame the gyms’ open nature. Because users could enter the gyms from any direction, it wasn’t possible to easily track the number of users who entered the area.

Kaltiot’s solution instead uses smart sensors installed directly inside each piece of equipment that count the number of users based on the number of reps and sets performed. Counting individual reps and sets also helps understand how users use the gyms equipment.

Data on users and workouts can be collected year-round. The bench press has been the most popular device in many gyms. Photo: Omnigym

The solution makes use of Kaltiot’s existing Smart Tracker IOT system for monitoring usage. A battery-powered sensor was installed in each individual device. A gateway was also installed in each gym. The gateway sends the data to the Kaltiot cloud, from which the city employees can follow gym usage. Kaltiot’s solution has many benefits:

  • All-weather. The connected sensors are designed to work outdoors in Finland’s challenging climate year-round. The installation also takes into account the possibility of vandalism.
  • Wireless. The IOT sensors run off battery power without needing an external power source or a wired integration into the gym equipment.
  • Affordability.
  • The possibility to use the data in other ways and share with city residents.

Data from the outdoor gyms can be used in many ways

The data from outdoor gyms can be used to improve future gym installations, determine the need for maintenance, and to better allocate resources. The city also intends to use the data in the future to directly benefit gym users.

The data obtained with Kaltiot’s tracking solution is an untouched area in fitness research. We are getting a huge amount of data which enables us to install the right number of the right kinds of outdoor fitness devices in the right places. With this data, we can purchase the devices that best serves and most interests users,” commented Helsinki’s lead maintenance manager for outdoor recreation areas, Harri Uusimäki.

Long-term usage data has been obtained from three outdoor gym locations in Helsinki: Hietaniemi swimming beach, Pirkkola fitness park and Paloheinä outdoor recreation area. In the future, the city plans to add connected sensors to the most-used gyms.

For example, the popular Hietaniemi beach gym had nearly 30,000 users in 2021. The most popular device had about sets and nearly 700,000 individual reps performed.

Pylväsgraafi, joka kuvaa Hietaniemen ulkokuntosalin laitteiden toistomääriä.
Sets at the Hietaniemi outdoor gym in 2021 by device.

The sky’s the limit for how data can be used

Harri Uusimäki has considered many possible future uses for the tracking data that the city could develop with Kaltiot. For example, Uusimäki has considered the option of ordering maintenance automatically for a device after a certain number of reps. This would reduce the need for staffing resources and would ensure the devices always stay in good shape. He has also had an idea to add a QR code to the device that the user could use to send a report if the device has a problem. The report would go straight to the city systems and the system would send a message back to the reporting use after the device was fixed.

The sensor data could be used to benefit users, such as by enabling users to check typical busy times and current usage for any gym from their phone. Or Kaltiot could develop an app which would enable the user to track their workouts at the outdoor gyms.

Harri Uusimäki recommends IOT tracking for outdoor gyms to other cities and towns:

Outdoor recreation and fitness have been growing in popularity continously. I recommend counting users, as well as the solution we are using, to other cities. With Kaltiot’s solution we obtain data to support decision making. It feels like we’re going in the right direction when we know how many people use our outdoor gyms and we can make decisions based on that.”

See a map of Helsinki’s outdoor fitness locations here:

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