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Electronics

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21 Dec 2022

Six Ways the Internet of Things Is Changing Sports

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Skill-Lync

Internet of Things Is Changing Sports

“Science is magic that works.”

Kurt Vonnegut

We do not know whether the celebrated author foresaw an interconnected world before making a claim. But we do know that we live in a time when science and technology have reached a precipitous edge. 

The digital age is one of the, if not most consequential eras of human history. We are like the citizens of medieval Lisbon, Portugal, watching the Santa Maria, the Pinta, and the Nina vanish over the horizon and usher in the age of discovery. One of the domains at the bleeding edge of this latest transformation of human society is the Internet of Things or IoT for short. Sports technology is one of the rare businesses adopting this new-age technology to increasing degrees of success.

In this article, we shall understand these various IoT applications in the sports industry and how they are slowly transforming your favorite pastime. 

Table of Contents

  1. What Is the Internet of Things
  2. How Is Wearable Technology Used in Sports?
  3. Defining the Perfect Training Regiment
  4. Analyzing Hydration and Sweat of Athletes
  5. Reducing Injuries With IoT-Enabled Wearables
  6. Monitoring the Cardiac Health of Athletes
  7. Improving Sleep and Health
  8. Plotting Your Career in Helping Sports Athletes

What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?

What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?

Are you wearing a smartwatch?

If you are, then that is an Internet of Things application. Simply put, any device that can connect to the internet to improve its functionality is an IoT device. These devices have simple embedded chips to connect to the internet, allowing users to increase their functionality.

Take the case of your smartwatch. If you wore an analogue watch, it would help you keep track of the time. It wouldn’t be able to tell you the calories you’ve burnt or about your quality of sleep. This is thanks to the embedded chipsets that connect to the internet and the nearest data center; your smart watch can calculate these metrics in real-time—significantly improving your quality of life.

Other examples of IoT include; home-security systems, entertainment systems like Amazon Alexa, connected cars, smart kitchen appliances that prompt you when you’re running low on groceries, and healthcare applications that help warn you of potentially fatal illnesses.

How Is Wearable Technology Used in Sports?

Wearable Technology Used in Sports

Sports are integral to the robust functioning of society and have historically played an intrinsic part in developing the cohesiveness of society. From the gladiators of ancient Rome to the present, history always has revered sports and athletes. 

Today, thanks to the widespread use of the internet, athletes and sports teams have embraced technology to improve their performance. Sports equipped with modern Internet of Things protocols are revolutionizing sports from training to sleep. One of the fundamental characteristics of IoT that athletes leverage is the ability to perform intense calculations in the cloud.

Suppose you are training to compete in a regional athletic meet and have an IoT-enabled wrist watch that tracks your speed and movement. The embedded device connects to a data center through the internet, processing your information in real time. Your mobile device connected to the IoT wearable receives this information and shares insights. You can make data-driven improvements to your gait that can help you shave precious seconds from the final time.

This is one way the Internet of Things-enabled wearables can improve performance. Let us now look at how these modern devices can help your achievements.

Defining the Perfect Training Regiment

Perfect Training Regiment

To understand the function of Internet of Things-enabled sportswear, you must first understand the function of the human body. Think of the human body as a complex machine with many moving parts. The parts of the human body that define an athlete's success are the muscular, skeletal, and vascular/circulatory systems.

As with every machine, there is a fine line between perfection and failure. And in the case of an elite athlete’s body, failure, more often than not, corresponds to the failure of one or all three of the systems mentioned above.

Therefore, every training regiment must take into account the load acting on the human body. Athletes and trainers measure the muscle oxygen saturation (SmO2) and the subjective rating of perceived exertion (sRPE) to find the value of the Acute-to-Chronic Workload Ratio (ACWR). This ratio helps trainers understand the fatigue loads on an athlete’s body and to fine-tune their training intensity.

The factors that affect the ACWR of an athlete include

  1. Stress and load on the skeletal/musculature
  2. Extension of muscle fibers
  3. Rest and recovery/therapy

So, how do professional athletes integrate the science of improved performance with the contemporary Internet of Things-enabled devices?

Modern athletes wear clothes that incorporate various IoT devices when training. These include devices measuring speed, distance traveled, and an athlete's velocity. Sports teams run these metrics through advanced proprietary Machine Learning algorithms trained to recognise patterns from existing athletic records. The results help the coaching staff to craft a training regiment unique to each player.

These IoT-enabled devices have helped us understand the relationship between injury and intense training. Data collected from the NFL have revealed a 111% increase in injury following an increase in the workload or the ACWR. Using ML algorithms is helping sports teams better understand the relationship between increases in training four weeks before the sample date and the heightened chances of injury.

Thanks to the wealth of data from years of professional sports, engineers can create accurate analysis methods to create the perfect training regiment for the latest generations of athletes.

Analyzing Hydration and Sweat of Athletes

Analyzing Hydration and Sweat of Athletes

While the topic might not be something you could discuss at a family dinner without raising a few eyebrows, studying athletes' hydration constitutes cutting-edge scientific research. 

The humble table salt with the chemical symbol of NaCl or Sodium Chloride plays a vital function in the functioning of the human body. Everything from the transmission of nerve signals to the creation of stomach acids and blood pressure regulation requires Sodium and Chloride.

But what happens when you undergo physical training?

You sweat, and when you sweat, you lose electrolytes. Losing electrolytes over an extended period will impede the vital functions of the human body. Another important marker indicating optimal performance is the production of lactic acid, a by-product of anaerobic muscle movement (which happens during a high-intensity athletic performance). Sweat also contains markers for electrolytes, hormones, metabolites and metal elements.

Engineers have devised a simple assay collecting the sweat sample of athletes as they go through their training. These assays trigger a simple electrical circuit when the corresponding biomarker is activated. The electrical signal gets converted to a digital one and displayed by a wireless/Bluetooth-enabled wearable on the athlete's body. Complex Machine Learning algorithms and Deep Learning networks identify patterns from these data to help athletes and training management identify areas of improvement, reducing athletic injuries and improving individual performance.

A popular example of an IoT-enabled wearable that monitors the health of athletes by measuring the sweat rate and fluid loss is Gatorade’s Gx Sweat Patch.

Reducing Injuries With IoT-Enabled Wearables

Reducing Injuries With IoT-Enabled Wearables

 

If you are a fan of any sport, you would know how gravely injuries can affect a team's performance. According to a Forbes article in early 2020, the National Football League (NFL) had to spend $521 million on side-lined players. At the same time, the owners of clubs in the English Premier League had to spend upwards of £45 million per season on player injuries.

However, this amount does not consider the severe mental and physical stress on the injured players. The application of IoT-enabled wearables will drastically reduce the chances of player injuries while improving the quality of life of our sporting heroes.

Can you imagine a fire burning without adequate oxygen?

The human body is a raging inferno that requires oxygen for power. We can create a holistic training regimen post-injury by monitoring the oxygen supply to an athlete’s muscles. Coaching staff monitor the SmO2 or the oxygen saturation in the muscles as a parameter to monitor the athlete's health. 

The Humon Hex is a device that measures the SmO2 level of an athlete. This Internet of Things-enabled wearable wraps around the quadrilateral muscles of the athlete and measures the shade of the red blood cells. The red blood cells transfer oxygen from the lungs to the various cells in the human body.

Engineers compare the generated data with existing data using high-fidelity Machine Learning algorithms, and the anomalies are flagged and studied. Similarly, medical staff monitor the cardiac health of the athletes to better inform coaching staff of any problems.

Monitoring the Cardiac Health of Athletes

In June of 2021, Christian Eriksen collapsed on the field during the opening match of the Euro 2021. Thanks to timely intervention, he survived and now plays for the English side Manchester United. But that day could have turned fatal for the Danish midfielder as it has for countless other athletes.

It is ironic to consider that even though doctors suggest cardiovascular exercises for better health, persistent increased cardiovascular activity can trigger a heart attack.

Analyzing an individual's cardiovascular health is an invasive method that requires many leading electrodes plugged across the human body. The form factor of these lifesaving machines has been decreasing, but they need to be more practical for high-intensity training. 

If you have ever seen or undergone an ECG test, you would understand the challenges in the portability of such a device.

During the covid pandemic, you would have no doubt use a machine that measures your SpO2 or blood Oxygen levels. The technical name for this non-invasive blood Oxygen and cardiovascular function estimation method is PhotoPlethySmography (PPG for short). This machine works by sending a pulse of Infra-Red light into the capillaries in your fingers or toes and measuring the time it takes for the light to bounce back.

The wavelet Health wristband is a commercial biosensor that leverages this technology to measure the Resting heart rate, Respiration Rate, and Heart Rate Variability. Machine Learning Algorithms collect and process this data from these IoT-enabled PPG devices to this data to deduce actionable intelligence helping save the lives of athletes.

Improving Sleep and Health

Improving Sleep and Health

Grandmothers across the planet have convinced us that we can only improve our grades or skills in any field after a good night's sleep. This wisdom found in the old wives’ tales has been corroborated with double-blind studies, and we now know that sleep plays a huge role in maintaining our health.

And if you are an elite athlete, sleep will help you have a better mental condition and increase your fatigue removal. Rosen et al have found that youth athletes who slept for more than eight hours every day had 81% fewer injuries than athletes who did not.

The problem with measuring the sleep health of athletes is simple – it’s self-reported, thereby reducing its credibility. However, the rise of IoT-enabled wearables like the Apple smartwatch or the Garmin smartwatches, which have inbuilt accelerometers and gyroscopes, have solved this problem.

Regular everyday folk like you and me can purchase a smartwatch like the ones mentioned above and install a sleep application. This application will track the movements an individual performs in their sleep and mark the places where the movement exceeds the expected or average levels.

The data collected is processed in real-time, generating a report for the user when they wake up and helping them understand if they suffer from disturbed sleep, which they can then rectify by relying on reliable data.

An Career in Sports Analytics

After reading this blog, two things should have stood out to you.

  1. Internet of Things-equipped wearables are transforming athletics
  2. Machine Learning is integral to it

IoT-enabled wearables will generate vast amounts of data, close to 163 ZettaBytes or 163 x 1073741824 TerraBytes by 2025. We can only extract meaningful insights from the data after processing this data. If we left this calculation to human hands alone, it would take centuries to understand the inherent connections presented through the data truly. This is the reason why Machine Learning is integral to the advance of the Internet of Things-enabled applications.

The sports analytics market has been growing at 28% annually and will reach an estimated market valuation of $12.60 Billion by 2029. Why is this important to you?

An increase in CAGR implies an increase in investment which directly translates to a rise in the number of jobs available in that sector. And with the surge in demand for Machine Learning engineers and data scientists, you will always have stable career growth soon.

How can you Start your Career in Sports Analytics?

  1. Machine Learning and data science are the fundamentals of sports analytics. You must understand how to train datasets, learn the importance of handling corrupted data etc.
  2. Project experience speaks louder than certificates. If you can showcase an extended repertoire of skills backed by evidence of industry-oriented projects, companies will be clamoring to hire you.
  3. Developing the correct skill set involves understanding the expectations of the job market and working towards fulfilling them.

These are only the top three steps to get started on your career in sports analytics. But without expert guidance, you will stumble and take twice as long to reach your destination. Our mentor-guided data science programs at Skill-Lync are curated with industry experts' support. Our career-focused programs will train you in fundamental concepts and help you explore the vast world of data analytics through industry-oriented projects. These projects are real-world problems that sports analysts work on around the world. We provide on-demand support from our expert technical support engineers to ensure that our students understand difficult concepts. And to help our student cinch their dream job, we also provide interview training which includes support for technical interviews and resume preparation.

Talk to our career expert today to know how we can help you achieve your dreams of success in sports engineering


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Anup KumarH S


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