Wearable Technology Set to Revolutionize Sports
At last month’s MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, sports and technology were hotly discussed issues. The conference, which was founded in 2007, is an annual forum that centers on the growing use of analytics in sports and athletic performance.
This year, a number of speakers discussed how wearable technology will help to determine an athlete’s peak performance, as well as improve health, safety, and injury recovery time.
Companies such as Zebra Technologies International were on hand at Sloan to demonstrate how their technology will benefit both athletes and teams. The Illinois-based company has designed a line of stickers that measure impact and force.
This past year, Zebra Technologies partnered with a number of NFL and NCAA football teams to track how hard their players hit one another in practice. Zebra’s stickers are capable of tracking the force of each football-related movement, which is useful for team doctors and coaches who want to monitor the trauma their players endure on the field.
Zebra’s stickers can be placed on a player’s arms, legs, and chest, and they comply with all jersey rules and regulations.
Jill Stelfox, a general manager at Zebra Technologies, says that these trauma-monitoring stickers heighten safety, which is a huge concern for university football teams. Stelfox hopes that Zebra’s stickers help coaches find safer ways to substitute and use their personnel.
She adds that Zebra’s wearable technology is useful for knowing when a player might be suffering from a concussion or head injury.
In recent years, athletic footwear companies have developed shoes that contain tracking sensors embedded in the midsole. These sensors are linked to health programs or applications that users can download to their smartphone or iPod.
The software monitors heart rate, speed, distance, calories burned, and a number of other useful health-related statistics.
Nike’s Nike+ program and the Adidas Miadidas line are examples of how footwear companies seek to promote a healthier lifestyle by creating products that allow consumers to track their own health statistics. Both companies — as well as a number of small technology apparel firms — are attempting to create T-shirts and athletic clothing that will enable athletes to track, monitor, and catalog their workouts.
Not only will these technologically advanced T-shirts measure heart rate, they will also monitor sweat loss, calories lost, and a wide range of important health-related numbers. Like Zebra Technology with its stickers, these companies want to find ways to make exercising easier and safer, especially for people who are just beginning to live a more active lifestyle.
Reports also indicate that enabling exercisers to check their own health history tends to boost their morale.
Predicting velocity and foot speed
Although the NFL and NBA have embraced the benefits of analytics, Major League Baseball has largely ignored the potential for using advanced statistics in the sport. However, Bob Bowman, the CEO of MLB Analytics (BAM), is trying to change the sport’s antiquated attitude toward numbers, trends, and statistical data.
His design crew is building a variety of wearable sensors that, when combined with video, will allow teams to track foot speed, first-step velocity, and closing time of their defensive players. On the offensive side of the diamond, BAM will analyze highlights and game replays to measure a fly ball’s hang time, as well as the distance a ball travels after getting hit.