Reshaping fitness

Helping people improve their health with more effective workouts has made Precor the fitness equipment leader. Precor takes a step up with its innovative Qt-enabled console.

Qt Goes to the Gym with Precor and ICS

Want to know what the next generation of workout equipment will feature? Ask Precor. Since 1980, Precor has set the standard for continuous innovation. In 1982, it was the first fitness equipment maker to add motivational microprocessor-based electronics, providing continuous feedback and enhanced workout effectiveness. In 1995, it introduced the first Elliptical Fitness Crosstrainer™ (EFX®). And in 2007, Precor released the revolutionary Adaptive Motion Trainer® (AMT®), breakthrough cardio equipment that constantly and fluidly adapts to stride length and motion.


To continue its tradition for innovation, Precor envisioned its next generation of Fitness Bike Equipment UIExperience™ Series cardio equipment, featuring a Qt-enabled, high-end interactive touchscreen console. Working with its technology partner, Integrated Computer Solutions, Inc. (ICS), Precor aims to give users and health club owners unprecedented flexibility and control over both the machine itself and its integrated entertainment options, including HDTV.


Precor wanted users to be able to touch, swipe and scroll just like they would to navigate a smart phone, iPad® or tablet to select workouts, personalize workouts, view a variety of workout statistics, select which workout metrics to display, select languages, switch between TV channels, and accomplish other tasks. This intuitive interface is intended to help exercisers get the most out of the equipment and tailor workouts for themselves. The new consoles also were required to be network-enabled so that both Precor and club management can monitor the usage of each machine and remotely upgrade software to keep the equipment in top shape.

Such capabilities represent a significant advance in fitness equipment, says Software Engineering Manager Robert Seaman, who led the new console’s software development team. “Our existing fitness equipment had LED user interfaces for managing the workout, and a separate monitor for television. What we were looking for in the new product were more advanced media features integrated into a touch screen interface. For example we can now have a video source, such as a training video, running in the background while an application is drawing a menu in the foreground. It’s a much more integrated experience.”

Achieving that experience posed significant technical challenges. For help, Precor selected ICS as its implementation and training partner, and chose Qt as its technology platform.

“We wanted more than just a user interface framework, we were looking for an application framework to go in our embedded system. Our staff already understood C and C++. Qt is a C++ based framework. And the implementation in Qt was cleaner than for some other frameworks.”

Robert Seaman, Software Engineering Manager, Precor

“What I like best about ICS is that we get broad exposure in the Qt platform," Seaman said. "And ICS also had the training capabilities I needed as well. We didn’t have any Qt developers on staff when we chose Qt for our user interface and application framework so I was able to use ICS both for training and staff augmentation.”

According to Seaman, that expertise was critical in light of challenges like the factFitness Equipment UI that many of the needed Qt widgets (for instance drop-down menus and sliding panels) didn’t yet exist. Typically in a Qt project, widgets are provided out of the box. “ICS was a big help in creating the initial custom widgets and working with us to make sure we have an architecture that supports those widgets,” Seaman said.

Widgets had to perform, not just look good on-screen, Seaman stressed. “Because it’s an embedded implementation, we created all custom widgets. So we had to make sure that implementation was efficient. The performance aspects were a challenge — like providing smooth animation for drop-downs and workout graphics. And displaying media transparently or in the background, while also keeping the operation of the machine quick and smooth for the user, was also a challenge," he said. "Because embedded microprocessors were used we had to utilize the hardware and the graphics coprocessor properly, and make sure our code was optimized to run smoothly.”

Under-the-hood performance was a big reason for not selecting alternative technologies, according to Seaman. “We researched other UI-based technologies but they fell short in one or more ways," he said. "They either lacked the performance we needed or they didn’t really solve the overall architectural issues. They only solved the GUI (graphical user interface) issues. Qt provided a complete architectural framework that gave us the performance we needed.”

“We’re very happy with ICS. What ICS delivers is what they claim to deliver. They provided training to get us going in Qt and then they provided engineering consulting to help us develop the project and bridge the gap when we didn’t have enough of our own staff. That’s what their business is and they did it quite well. They’re very good at coming up with the right solutions with the right talent mix at the right time.”

Robert Seaman, Software Engineering Manager, Precor


In rating performance, Seaman measured both the product and the supplier — another reason he likes ICS. “Their ability to deliver has been outstanding, which isn’t always true of software consultants," Seaman said. "One of the things we especially like is how they are always there whenever we encounter something that’s new to us. Even if it’s something that the ICS engineers working here onsite haven’t specifically worked on themselves, they will send an email back to the others at ICS and say, ‘Hey, have you ever been exposed to this?’ or ‘Who’s looked into this area?’ Having that deep Qt knowledge available to us is huge.”

So, how have customers responded to the new console? “Very positively,” Seaman said. "It’s very much got that 'wow!' type of impact. Right now we have more demand than we have supply. Customers are very happy with the experience.”

About Precor


Established in 1980, Precor sets the standard for quality, innovation, and performance in exercise equipment. Precor has distinguished itself as an industry leader, providing state-of-the-art fitness equipment to health clubs, hotels, spas, fitness centers, and private homes worldwide.