News & Events Sports Technology

Top 5 Sports Tech News – Jan 2021

This is the first top5 of the year of 2021. We curated a good collection of cycling innovations and portable assessment tools to assist physical therapists and trainers. Read on to find out more.

Hello STB readers/followers and welcome to 2021! It’s a new year, a new beginning, new hopes and dreams. Accompanying that is excitement and possibly a bit of anxiety and feeling of uncertainty about how things will be like as the world continues to navigate and manage Covid. Even with vaccines being rolled out, a significant number of people are sceptical about their efficacy. Nevertheless, sports events and international competitions are slowly resuming. This means athletes are travelling across borders when and where they are allowed to participate in those events. More planning and preparations are required in those cases because the athletes need to get tested prior to travelling. They also need to get tested again and quarantined on arrival and the organisers of those events will also have to consider/setup contingencies for when infections do occur. For athletes who get quarantined, they cannot simply stay idly in their hotels and binge watch streaming services. They have to continue to train and condition their bodies for their upcoming event/s. So #hotelroomworkout is totally becoming a huge thing. It has been interesting to see how athletes get creative with their exercises in a hotel room using what they could get hold of for resistance or cardio training or plyometrics.

Well, enough of the ramblings. For this edition, we bring you three cycling related innovations and two portable (sensor) tools that will help physical therapists (or physiotherapists) and trainers provide better value to their clients.

Vald Health Launches ForceDecks Mini For Portable Assessments

Vald Health is a division of Vald which has developed and acquired various movement measurement and monitoring tech products including the Nordbord (hamstring testing), ForceFrame (strength testing), HumanTrak (movement analysis), TeleHab (exercise prescription) and ForceDecks (dual force plate system). All these products can be applied in a sports performance setting, which is what Vald Performance focuses on; and to some extent, they can also be applied in a clinical setting, which is the realm of Vald Health. That is quite often the case with sports tech products -> they typically can swing over to work in allied health applications, and health tech products can sometimes cross over to sports applications.

In 2018, Vald acquired NMP Technologies, the makers of ForceDecks, a dual force plate system for evaluating neuromuscular performance. One of the key features (or differentiation) of this dual force plate system (compared to other force plate systems in the market) is the ability to measure forces of each limb/foot of an athlete individually and therefore the ability to quantify left-right asymmetries during jump, isometrics, squat measures etc. The system also comes with software that quickly processes, analyses and presents the key metrics for every test/measure. There were previously already 2 versions of the hardware – the ForceDecks Max and the ForceDecks Lite which is smaller in terms of weight and area of measure. More recently, Vald Health has launched the ForceDecks Mini to offer an even more portable solution to allied health or rehabilitation specialists. Weighing only 5kg per plate and packed in a small carry case, this makes the Mini system easier for physiotherapists to bring assessments to their clients – whether its offsite testings or even home visits for older clients. At the same time, the Mini maintains the same sampling rate (1000Hz) as the larger systems and supported by the same software so practitioners can lean on its accuracy and reliability. Find out more on their website here: link or check out their video below:

Source: Vald Health

BMC Partners With Body Rocket To Further Develop Real-Time Aero Data Tech

In road cycling or track cycling, the cyclist is the engine, the source of power that propels the bike forwards. Then to optimise the performance of the cyclist, we make sure the bike is adjusted to fit the cyclist so that they can deliver power effectively through each cycle of the pedals. Every moving component on the bike that transmits energy – from the pedal to the crank to the chains to the wheels, are designed to have minimal/optimum resistance. Besides the bike, the cyclists are donned in apparel that not just provides comfort and protection but also promotes seamless motion. Last but not least, we consider the aerodynamics of the entire cyclist and bike setup. We put them in a wind tunnel and measure how much drag/resistance they generate in different positions or using different equipment (helmets, handle bars, frames, wheels etc) and at different wind speeds. The constraints with running wind tunnel tests are that they are controlled environments and lack certain environmental variables (eg cross winds), and wind tunnels aren’t always easily accessible to everyone.

Body Rocket Explainer

Body Rocket was conceived with those constraints in mind. They are a startup that developed a system of sensors that fit onto a bike. When the cyclist rides on the road/track with those sensors, they measure the amount of drag that the cyclist is experiencing in real-time, and displays it on a compatible bike computer. The cyclist can then make slight adjustments to their position to try and tweak their aerodynamics. The Body Rocket setup consists mainly of a seat post sensor, a handle bar sensor and a pedal sensor. Their patented aero system has been validated in a wind tunnel with an accuracy of within 0.3%. This means cyclists can reliably and easily obtain new aero data when they get a new set of kit or equipment for comparison instead of booking (and waiting for) a wind tunnel session. On top of that, when cyclists train on the actual competition route or track using those sensors, they get a real sense of their drag under those physical conditions and can test out optimal positions for those conditions. Body Rocket has recently partnered with Swiss bike manufacturer BMC to further develop their technology and they are aiming to bring it to market towards the end of 2021. Read more about their partnership here: link, and check out Body Rocket’s fund raising video below that explains more about their story:

Off The Grid Stationary Bikes Will Generate Power & Put It Back To The Grid

Stationary bikes. They can also be known as indoor bikes or spin bikes. According to some sources (ie wikipedia), the concept of a stationary bike came about in 1796 known as the Gymnasticon. Fast forward to today, even though the designs (and even technology) of stationary bikes have changed throughout the years, it essentially does the same thing – allow people to exercise and engage various muscles throughout the body. These days, there are stationary bikes in almost every gym or fitness centre; some of them run spin classes, which are group cycling sessions led by a fitness instructor. People have stationary bikes in their own homes, even connected ones, so they can join a spin class or race against others virtually. Although it seems a tad wasted that the amount of watts that people put into the stationary bikes aren’t being utilised. Sure, there are bikes that power blenders and similarly race car games powered by bikes. But still, it feels like more could be done.

Driven by that idea, the founders of Off The Grid decided to design a stationary bike that generates electricity and then feeds it back to the grid. The bike itself looks just like a typical stationary bike but it houses a smart electricity generator, micro-inverter and electronic resistance which makes it contact-free and more precise. All the user needs to do for setup is to plug the bike into a wall outlet (60Hz, 120V) and make sure that its not overloaded. Then they can train away, not using electricity while creating some energy (about 300W per hour of cycling). There is also an app that keeps track of the individual’s workout, the amount of electricity generated and some gamification aspects. The founders’ initial intention with this was to help commercial gyms reduce their ecological footprint. However, when Covid happened and commercial gyms were closed, they started exploring other avenues including direct to consumer sales. Currently, they are planning to run a crowdfunding campaign in mid-Feb. You can read more about them here (link) or sign up on their website to be notified of when that happens. Also, do check out the founders’ 60 second pitch (in French):

ORYX Adopts Xsens DOT For Their Movement Analysis Solution

Back in 2020 Jan, Xsens released the DOT – an inertial sensors (IMU) kit for developers, researchers and educators. Developers who are interested in building a wearable sensor solution could purchase a set which includes 5 DOT sensors and they can access the SDK to develop either an Android or iOS app. The sensors have pretty standard technical specifications (±2000°/s, ±16g, ±8 Gauss) and it connects via Bluetooth (BLE). One year on since they launched, there has been quite a number of users/developers/startups who are working with the DOT sensor platform. ORYX is one of the startups that have decided to build their movement solutions using Xsens DOT when it launched.

ORYX was originally founded back in 2015 as a custom rehabilitation service that relies on motion analysis data. Besides rehab, they also used motion analysis tools to help their clients improve athletic performance and prevent injuries. Two years on, they could see that the market was growing and they saw the opportunity to develop a proper solution to equip other trainers and therapists. When they came across Xsens DOT, it became apparent that the platform and SDK was a perfect fit for their idea. So from there, ORYX Movement Solutions was born. Their ORYX Go package consists of 8 sensors, a sensor gateway (to enhance connectivity of the sensors), custom garment for the sensors, and the ORYX Go! App which runs on a tablet and is key to the analysis solution. Trainers/therapists simply place the 8 sensors on an athlete, and run various tests using the App. Then at the end, the App analyses all the data and produces a report with meaningful information so the trainer can create custom training/recovery plans based on that. Trainers or therapists who are interested in this solution can reach out to the ORYX team on their website. Find out more about the ORYX story here: link or check out their video below:

Graspor Wants To Help Cyclists Train Using Their Muscle Oxygen & Activation Sensor

Coming back to cycling, athletes commonly have the tools to monitor how fast they are going (speed, pace/cadence), how far (distance, altitude) and how hard/intense (power, heart rate, muscle oxygen level). With the last one, particularly, muscle oxygen level, it can be considered quite a new data category from a consumer point of view. It was only since the early 2010s that there were wearable muscle oxygen sensors in the market (as far as I know). Whereas bike power meters came about in the late 1980s while heart rate monitors were around even longer. At the same time, it hasn’t been easy for wearable muscle oxygen sensors. A couple of products have already stopped operations and I think part of the reason is that they haven’t been widely adopted enough. But the fact that there are still products out there in the market means there is a practical purpose for muscle monitoring.

Graspor recently released their muscle performance and cardio monitoring device that gives cyclists the ability to track their Muscle Oxygen levels and Muscle Activation in real-time. The goal is to enable athletes to make smarter decisions when planning their training, to adapt accordingly and continuously evaluate their performance during a training session. Developed by Ohmatex (who basically formed Graspor), the sensor is built with NIRS technology (that detects changes in concentration of oxygenation) and EMG technology (that measures muscle response). Although both technologies have been adopted by various sensors, it is rare or might even be a first for both to be integrated in a wearable. The Graspor sensor is meant to be worn with a sleeve on the athlete’s thigh. The sleeve contains contact nodes for the EMG sensor and when worn properly measures activation of the quads and hamstring. In order to help new users to this monitoring technology, the team at Graspor has created a series of articles and videos to help athletes train and test with the sensor. You can find out more here: link, or check out their intro video below of :

And that is our first top five sports tech news for 2021. If you would like more information about any of the above, or if something sparked an idea and you would like to chat about it, feel free to contact us or leave a comment below. If you enjoy our content, feel free to share it using the links below or subscribe to our blog/newsletter here: link. As always, thanks for reading!

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