News & Events Sports Technology

Sports Tech Shoutouts 2022 07

In this edition of shoutouts, we cover a mix of technology solutions. From a smart mouthguard that monitors head impacts and tracks the athlete's performance, to a 'Gym in a box' that is built with innovative design and technologies, and running sensor aimed to help prevent injuries in runners.
Source: abcmundial

As this is being written, the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 is underway. Here are some interesting facts, numbers and “firsts” about this World Cup:

  • There are 32 countries/teams playing 64 matches between 20th Nov and 18th Dec – 48 matches in the Group Stages, 8 matches in the Round of 16, 4 in the Quarter-finals, 2 semis, a Final and one more to determine 3rd place.
  • The World Cup is hosted in the Middle East for the first time, and it’s also the first time Qatar gets to compete because they are the host country.
  • The matches will be played across 8 stadiums. 7 out of the 8 stadiums were built specifically for the World Cup. Thousands of migrant workers were involved in those stadium constructions. It’s a huge undertaking and because it has lots of media attention, it also uncovered the reality of forced labour and it’s causing people/organisations to do something about the situation.
  • In terms of tech, there are lots of technologies being implemented at this World Cup for the first time. They include the Semi-automated Offside Technology, Video Assistant Referee (VAR), the FIFA Player App for tracking player performance, Goal-line technology and FIFA’s Football Data Ecosystem.

All the above just means the World Cup is such an extraordinary event and has the potential to bring lots of changes in different areas of sports and technologies. I am sure there will be many more great stories that will be uncovered by the time we get to the World Cup Final.

But back to the main event of our shoutouts,

ORB Smartguard Aims To Be The All-In-One Mouthguard For Athletes

ORB Smartguard by ORB Innovations is a custom mouthguard fitted with sensors that track the athlete’s performance and monitor for head impacts. It is the first mouthguard we know that does all these things. Founded by two engineersRobert Paterson & Thomas Quinn, they started off wanting to create a smart mouthguard (or gum shield) solution for better diagnosis of head impacts and concussions in contact sports. They soon realised that the sensors that collect data from head impacts could also be used for movement tracking and performance analysis. Besides having the impact (High-G Accelerometer) and motion tracking sensors (standard 3-axis accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer), they also included an optical heart rate sensor and Bluetooth connectivity to stream all that data to a user’s smartphone.

ORB Smartguard specification. Source: ORB

When athletes order one of the ORB Smartguards, they will first receive a home impression kit to get an impression of their teeth which they send back. If they already have their own teeth impression or a 3D scan of their mouth done previously, those can be used too. Then a custom mouthguard will be made embedded with all the electronics mentioned above. When using the Smartguard, the following parameters will be tracked: heart rate data (live, min, max and average), calories, steps, distance (approximate), impact location zones, impact ranges, max impact, movement intensity and more. Though they don’t have GPS tracking, they allow integration with any 3rd party GPS tracker that accepts BLE heart rate monitors. As part of ORB’s commitment to making sports safer, users can choose to opt-in and allow ORB to share anonymised data with their research partners, allowing user data to aid in ongoing head injury research. As of writing this, the ORB Smartguard was successfully crowdfunded on Kickstarter which you can still follow here: link; or check out their campaign video below:

The Exerfly Portable Is A Lightweight & Truly Versatile Flywheel Training Device

Flywheel training has actually been around for quite some time. We won’t go into the history of it or when it gained more traction in sports training. But what is commonly discussed about flywheel training is that it has a couple of advantages over traditional weight training. For example, the flywheel provides resistance in the form of inertia which is constant throughout the range of motion – concentric and eccentric phase, and the movement can be in any direction. On the other hand, training with dumbbells or barbells relies on gravity and will typically be easier on the eccentric phase (muscle lengthening). Besides being able to focus on eccentric training or eccentric overload, training with a flywheel device is also safer and it reduces the risk of injury. There’s more useful information about the benefits of flywheel training here: link.

Exerfly Portable with the detachable flywheel top secured/mounted on a rack

One flywheel device company that has done a really good job in recent years (especially over Covid) is Exerfly. They started in 2015, designing and building their first flywheel products and very quickly started testing them with elite athletes and teams in NZ. Over the years, they have innovated in various ways based on user feedback. Some of them include improved strength and durability of their products, adding sensor technology (torque sensors) and an app/software for tracking workouts, Motorised Technology for eccentric overloading and having a pretty comprehensive product range to suit different needs.

Exerfly Portable Horizontal to Vertical Mounting

The one product that we want to highlight here is the Exerfly Portable. It came after the Exerfly Platform and the Exerfly Rack-Mount. In a way, the Portable is like a combination of the Platform and Rack-Mount. The Portable can be set up like the Platform on the ground, or it can be secured on a rack or a vertical post and set up like a Rack Mount. This means it has so much versatility in terms of exercises that can be performed. It does have a smaller footprint compared to the Platform and the based can be taken apart within minutes which makes it really portable. So athletes who travel around for competitions can easily carry the Portable with them and keep training and conditioning themselves even in the hotel room. They call it the “Gym in a box” and with the Intermediate option, athletes get the sensor and app integration, which is pretty useful and essential if athletes want to monitor their performance and training load. Learn more about the Exerfly products in this review: link or check out this video below of a sprint athlete talking about her experience with the Exerfly Portable:

iKinesis Uses Xsens Technology To Help Runners Prevent Injuries In Real-Time

Runner with iKinesis sensor on the right shoe

iKinesis is a startup based in France and they are trying to use motion data and analyses to help prevent injuries and improve performance of runners. They are achieving that by using a wearable sensor and an analytical platform accessed by users through an app. The whole idea started during the first year of Covid, when the founder, Frédéric Vieilledent, a physiotherapist of 12 years, was seeing more patients with running related injuries. It was always known based on statistics that lots of runners (~50%) get injured at least once a year. Proper running form is critical in injury prevention, and without a coach or guidance, it is difficult to know where to improve. Covid restrictions meant that lots of people were running alone and running a lot more while having limited or no access to any coaching. Frédéric envisioned a wearable sensor (IMU) solution that could help with the problem remotely and that was how iKinesis was formed.

For the hardware part of the solution (ie the sensor), Frédéric relied on Xsens and their Xsens Dot platform. After running tests and trials and comparing the results with Xsens’ MVN Analyze (a full body Motion Capture System), they found that one Xsens Dot secured on the right shoe had very decent accuracy with around 3° of error in the hip, knee and ankle joints. From there, they went on to develop the iKinesis app that captures all the motion data in real-time, analyses it and provides feedback to the runner. Some of the parameters that iKinesis measures include cadence, contact time, flight time, stride length, hip flexion/extension, knee flexion/extension, ankle flexion/extension, foot strike, foot eversion, impact force, symmetry and variability.

When a runner secures the sensor to their shoe (using the sensor holder) and goes for their first run, the app will start analysing the data and profiling the runner. Based on the different parameters measured, the app will be able to identify stress areas, generate a fatigue index as well as a performance index. During the run, the app would also provide real-time biofeedback such as pronation or the type of foot strike (e.g. heel strike). The goal of this solution is to allow runners to get a better idea of how they are running, get feedback through the app and learn how they could improve with a library of exercises within the app. You can read more about their partnership with Xsens here: link, or check out their promo video below:

And that is our seventh edition of shoutouts for 2022. Hope you are (still) enjoying the World Cup matches. If you would like more information about any of the above, or you have some sports tech ideas you would like to chat to someone about, feel free to reach out or leave a comment below. If you enjoy our content, please do share it on social using the links below and make sure to subscribe to our blog here: link. As always, thanks for reading!

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