Under Armour Enters Wearable Tech With IBM's Watson and HTC

Company Will Also Enter Target's Retail Stores For First Time

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Under Armour's fitness watch.
Under Armour's fitness watch. Credit: Courtesy Under Armour

Under Armour is betting that the smart money for its clothing line is on connected devices and artificial intelligence.

The company said Thursday that it will work with IBM Watson to add AI to its fitness tracking offerings. The news comes just two days after the company unveiled its $150 smart shoe, the UA SpeedForm Gemini 2, and HealthBox, which were unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

For the latter, consumers can purchase a $400 kit that will include a connected scale that measures fat and weight, a heart rate monitor that straps to a user's chest and a fitness watch. The offerings were done in partnership with HTC and are the company's biggest push into the internet-of-things world, aiming to connect fitness, sleep and nutrition.

Chris Glode, VP of digital fitness at Under Armour, previously worked for MapMyFitness, a fitness tracking app that was acquired by Under Armour in 2013 for about $150 million. Under Armour made that buy in an effort to lock in customers with technology and services rather than just shoes and t-shirts.

Mr. Glode said Under Armour will market HealthBox through the company's app offerings, which he said have some 160 million users. Marketing will be integrated with the company's other campaigns, he said, meaning there won't likely be a single marketing effort focusing on just wearable technology.

While Under Armour will work with its partners, such as Dick's and Sports Authority, to roll out its new HealthBox offerings, the company's products will also for the first time be sold at Target retail stores, Mr. Glode said.

"We're a very partner-focused business when it comes to distribution and we're also seeing new opportunities open up for us," he said. "We're getting into places where traditionally you couldn't buy Under Armour products, but because we are in this new category of wearables now it gives us a little more breadth in some of the consumer electronics distribution channels."

Mr. Glode said wearables are going to be a "huge" focus for Under Armour in 2016 and beyond. "Wearables have not been a significant focus for us in previous years," he added. "The opportunity for us comes from a few fronts: This can generate significant revenue for us equally and perhaps more importantly, we feel like we can make that connection with the consumer. Now, we can bring in a new type of consumer who wants to buy a physical item, where previously they were just using our free apps."

Meanwhile, Under Armour plans to provide fitness insights to its consumers through IBM Watson's cognitive computing technology. The company is pairing this technology with its UA Record App, which will act as a personal health consultant, fitness trainer and coach.

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