Disrupted Sports – how IoT changes the dimension

The winner takes it all: Sports tech, data, and IoT.

iDisrupted Commentary by guest contributor Lynne Slowey @lynslow

Usually January is the time for healthy resolutions, but at CES 2016  in Las Vegas some of those healthy intentions may have taken a hit. However, there’s no need to worry about weight gain, or agonise over your alcohol intake, when there is so much new tech to take the strain as you train…

If you caught IBM’s Ginnie Romety giving her keynote speech, you’ll know she announced a couple of new partnerships. The first is with Under Armor, the US clothing company, and owners of MapMyRun and MyFitnessPal. With the help of cognitive computing, served up by IBM’s Watson, Under Armor have delivered HealthBox. It comprises a scale, heart rate monitor, and fitness band, all designed to collect data on your weight, health, sleep, feelings, and nutrition. Using an app powered by Watson you can compare yourself to others, understand your routines and goals better, and get cognitive coaching to help you achieve more.

Ginnie also introduced a soon-to-be-launched app from partners Medtronic. Using medical diagnostics and captured data such as nutrition and glucose levels, Medtronic can give you a three-hour heads-up to the risk of a hypoglycemic episode. An incredibly transformative tool for the millions of people worldwide suffering from diabetes.

These are just two examples of powerful tools, available to all of us, that can be used to understand health, fitness, and the direct results of lifestyle choices.

Professional athletes already benefit from understanding the science behind their bodies and performance. A powerful cognitive tool like Watson can help them find those few more seconds or that extra metre; the thing that takes them from fourth to first place. It may be monitoring mood patterns, weight changes and nutrition, or extensive video anaylsis on technique and performance (yes, IBM offers a visual recognition service too). Imagine the power of that kind of data when it is harvested from thousands of athletes instead of just one or two.Disrupted Sports - how IoT changes the dimension

Supermarkets could easily get in on the action too. For example, I pass a large grocery store on my way home from the gym. I frequently pop in because there’s always something we’ve forgotten to get for dinner. An iBeacon or tracker can tell the store I’ve just been working out, so then the shop can immediately alert me to the best offers on fruit, veg, and healthy products. A great opportunity for retailers to partner up with tech and target their marketing more efficiently.

CES 2016 also introduced us to lots of other sports tech tools, and here is rundown of just a few:

Fitbit have been leading the way in the tracker market, but the announcement of their new device has seen share prices plummet. Instead of being seen as a new tracker, the Fitbit Blaze is being compared with Samsung and Apple in the smartwatch arena. Is it value for money? Yes. Is it as good as a smartwatch? No. Is it supposed to be? Apparently not.

Spalding and ShotTracker have got together to create a wearable for pro basketball players. It’s made up of a tracker in each player’s shoe linked to court sensors, and it quickly generates a real-time shot chart, plus possession, assist, turnovers, and passing counts. Great for use in live match TV coverage, proactive game strategy, or to look for long-term training opportunities.

If you want some body art to go with your new sculpted form, keep a look out for ‘tech-tattoos’. Computer chips embedded into the skin can do everything a fitness tracker does, plus check your blood sugar, body temperature, and heart rate. Accordingly to Chaotic Moon Studios a prototype should be available soon…but if you simply can’t wait why not take a look at smart clothing, Heddoko is one such product. It stores all you body movements in 3D, showing you problem areas or where you’re putting too much pressure on a body part.

CES 2016 also saw Technogym present a treadmill that plays music based on the speed of your run. Given the choice of paying thousands for a treadmill or a few quid for Spotify (which tracks your run, and then provides a playlist) I know which tech I’ll choose if running ever becomes my world.

And if it does I can pop on a pair of Digitsoles, the world’s first smartshoe. Step counting, a torch, and inbuilt toe-warming; what more could anyone want from a £300 shoe?

On the healthy eating front we’ve got DietSensor, a box the size of a pack of cards that scans food, and immediately lets you know the calorie, fat, and carb content. It’s advertised as great for those eating out. I’m not so sure how you get away with scanning a dish before you’ve ordered it, but it could be great for those tempting networking buffet lunches!

I’ve talked a bit about 3D printing in the past, specifically in the medical world, so prosthetic limbs for Paralympians is a no brainer, along with personalised shoes, insoles, and inserts. Orbitrec Cycles however has taken it to the next level, with titanium 3D printed joints, and carbon fibre tubes. Their smart cycle is not only a sweet ride, it’s data at your fingertips with tracking of acceleration, gradient, temperature, humidity, and GPS. But for those who want to ‘smarten’ up their existing bike, take a look at Kickstarter project Smarthalo for an add-on to any bike with navigation, tracking, nightlight, and anti-theft features.

And to segue from smart bikes to smart cars, we’ve all seen Tesla’s offering, along with Google’s, and if rumours are to be believed Apple is working on one too. Could this change the face of F1 and IndyCar? Sounds like we won’t have a long wait, as these big three race to the finish line.


And if all of this is just a bit too healthy, and your resolutions are begging to be broken, let’s change gear. Try Somabar, the app-controlled robot cocktail maker, whilst watching your favourite NFL or NBA team in Virtual Reality thanks to Reality Lab’s Quantum Leap VR system. Live 360-degree 4K video content streamed wirelessly over a Verizon connection to a Samsung Gear VR.


One thing’s for sure, wearbles, IoT, VR and tech are all looking in good health for 2016.