Boosting performance

From analyzing sleep cycles to calories consumed or the number of training sessions completed in a day — an athlete’s daily life involves strict discipline and monitoring of healthy living. And wearables can now give athletes better control over their lifestyle. The HealthBox™ from Under Armour, for example, is designed to be a complete solution, including scales, a bracelet and a heart monitor connected to a mobile app, to improve athletes’ performance as well as their health and well-being. Similarly, Styr Labs has developed a data collection system capable of creating a customized diet to optimize performance.

Connected objects are also taking training to another level. The Tune activity tracker aims to identify runners’ strengths and weaknesses to help them improve and offer them tailored programs to avoid injury. Staying with running, Puma’s BeatBot is the first “raceable” to be launched — a robot which allows athletes to challenge themselves by setting the time they want to beat over a given distance.

Other wearables offer monitoring of sports statistics. These exist in all disciplines, from the most accessible to the most exclusive.

In cycling, for example, Solos has launched its smart augmented reality sports glasses, developed in partnership with USA Cycling. Equipped with mini-screens, these offer real-time display of speed, distance and heart rate — all without taking your hands off the handlebars. Boxers, meanwhile, can use Hykso, a sensor which records punches and analyzes their power. Golfers have not been forgotten. The Golf Swing Sensor can be fitted to a club to analyze data on swing, including frequency, speed, orbit, rotation and power. All this data is then available on the player’s mobile.

Improving experience

Some wearables also aim to make the overall sporting experience more enjoyable and fun. This is obviously the case with applications with a social aspect, such as FitBit and Nike+, whose success is based on the unifying nature of their communities, which are invited to form networks to help motivate one another, meet up and compete.

Others choose to emphasize technology’s ability to make the sporting experience easier. Magellan’s Echo Fit connected watch, for example, allows golfers to locate each other on greens, which can sometimes be as big as 58,000 sq ft, as in the case of the Montgomerie Dubai Golf Course. That could come in useful!

Jabra Elite Sport’s “earables” — almost invisible wireless earphones — give users total freedom of movement. Being waterproof, they are suitable for a range of sports and let you phone, listen to music and access data collected in real time. Other brands are now moving into this segment, including Motorola, Samsung, Earin and Here One, to offer ever more practical solutions.

In a separate field, MiniWing connected cameras enable cyclists to film their rides in high definition. The devices are also equipped with GPS and let cyclists set their route, record their altitude and speed and display data in real time, although they may remain restricted to recreational use.

Reducing risks

Protecting athletes is a key priority for equipment manufacturers. Concussion can have devastating effects, which technology could help avoid. Rugby players, for instance, do not always assess the extent of an impact and often continue to play until the end of the match. Force Impact Technologies has created a gum shield capable of measuring the force of an impact and indicating its violence via a warning light. Samsung has also designed a connected headband capable of measuring impacts. This makes the data accessible to coaches, doctors and referees, to enable monitoring of the players involved.

These increasingly connected objects are a boon to athletes. Professionals are adopting them to help plan training programs and measure progress, while focusing on areas for improvement. Meanwhile, amateurs appreciate their ability to make their sport more fun and sociable. And there is still significant scope for innovation… Brands are continuing to push the boundaries to offer increasingly impressive wearables tailored to users’ needs. We can’t wait for the next Olympic Games!