Citius, altius, wearables
Over the past weeks we have seen an endless amount of stories from Rio. Stories of joy, fulfillment, courage and disappointment, too. But in those personal tales, every now and then, there has been a new protagonist: tech.
An excerpt from Forbes sums it up nicely what wearables mean for the US volley ball team: “Shortly after Team USA began using the [wearable jump] technology [VERT] it won gold at the 2014 FIVB World Championship’s, in that competition for the United States. Clearly, the wearable technology is far from the only thing that lead to that championship, and the No. 1 world ranking that followed, but it certainly didn’t hurt.”
With this in mind, we asked some bright minds from Finnish wearable companies to share their insights on where they see tech is taking the Olympics.
Visualizing the invisible
The Olympic games aren’t an unheard topic at the Finnish company Firstbeat Technologies. Deputy Managing Director Juho Tuppurainen recalls at least 20 Olympic medalists from Sochi 2014 who used Firstbeat’s solutions to support their training. The technology by Firstbeat is used in over 60 different devices for measuring well-being, exercise and recovery, such as heart rate monitors.
Wearables in sports hasn’t been a hot topic until recently. Yet, it is already possible to measure almost any metrics a certain sport or activity may include, Tuppurainen comments.
Today’s technology helps especially in the tracking and analyzing of performance levels and recovery. Tuppurainen sees that in the future we’ll have even more in-depth data and that we’ll also base our actions mainly on that data. When it comes to Olympic-level performance even an improvement of a tenth of a second is of interest to the athlete and her team – and usually vital too.
Performance metrics are an important tool especially for the coach. Tracking and measuring the recovery makes it possible to optimize the timing of training and rest so that the the athlete is at her peak in the competition. The data will tell whether it’s time for a full-on rest or if it would be better to do a light exercise, in order to recover properly.
In team sports the coach can track the training of each player simultaneously, which helps determine the optimal level of the training and whether everyone is putting in an equal effort on the field. Information on recovery is also useful when suffering from an injury: going back to training too soon involves a risk both physically and economically.
Tuppurainen believes that measuring will become more and more common and widespread in the future. ”Technology and the data provided gives you the opportunity to learn about yourself, but it won’t do your job for you. No metric can turn your body into recovery-mode by itself – but it can visualize the invisible.”
Timo Varpula of VTT Technical Research Center of Finland has been developing the Beat2Phone technology, which offers real-time data of cardiac activity. The device records the ECG signal of the user, which can be used to identify emergencies, for example.
Tracking the heart rate is vital for athletes, too. Especially in order to avoid myocarditis or to notice it in the first place. Myocarditis doesn’t always have clear symptoms, and at worst this has lead to death, mainly among those competing in endurance sports, such as orienteering or cycling. Continuous tracking and measuring helps preventing the risks.
Varpula expects that lactate measuring will be big in professional sports in the future. Current innovations can already measure lactate levels via a patch placed on your calf. Real-time metrics let you optimize your training: the performance can be taken to the maximum, avoiding the peaking of lactate at the same time. Muscle spams will be a thing of history.
Also video and other types of recordings of the performance have changed the nature of training and competing. Varpula believes that these recordings will soon include data straight from the muscles. This in turn leads to a whole new kind of visualization, in which the athlete can see lines and curves of a perfect performance on a screen, and then mimic them on the next round. Using the optimal technique not only leads to the best results but also helps avoid injuries. In the future, we may even be able to get this data in real-time, making it possible to stop mid-performance in case it started off with the wrong technique, thus minimizing the chance of injuries.
Something old, something new
With all the hi-tech and its shiny appeal, it’s easy to forget that Rio boasted some good old’ tips, tricks and techniques going back all the way to the ages of the first Olympics. The best and most talked about example of this came from Michael Phelps and his Dalmatian-style bruises. As it was later reported all over the press, this was due to an ancient Chinese healing practice: cupping.
Heading for the next Olympics, someone might tip team US about the Finnish innovation PhysioTouch/LymphaTouch by HLD Healthy Life Devices. Combining the age-old tradition of cupping with the latest technology, you get all the benefits, without any pain or bruises. And its already in use widely, for example by team Finland.
We won’t go as far as to tell Phelps how to do his thing, but to all the Phelps-to-bes we say: keep an eye out for wearables, and embrace them with an open mind.