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I-Sport: How smart sports equipment powered with smart integrated electronic devices can enhance our sport activities, Part 2

In part 1 of this blog, I-Sport: How smart shoes powered by smart integrated electronic devices can enhance our sport activities , I described a smart shoes solution as an interesting example of how electronic technology could improve the training activities of a runner, both in terms of performance and safety.

This ‘smart’ trend is becoming almost ubiquitous to every type of sport, leading to the basic I-Sport idea: to track and record athletic activity with integrated electronic sensors.

Recorded data can be elaborated by an integrated smart computing unit, a microcontroller, and the output data can be sent in a wireless mode to the user’s smartphone by a dedicated app. This type of smart approach is confirmed by recent product announcements. Here’s one:

“The lightweight and low-power PIQ sports wearable device for performance measurement and coaching, launched to golf and tennis communities during 2015, relies on key sense, control, and communication technologies from STMicroelectronics (NYSE: STM), a global semiconductor leader serving customers across the spectrum of electronics applications.

By tracking hand and wrist movement in multiple axes for accurate 3D analysis, the PIQ multi-sport sensor helps improve performance and technique. The 44mm x 39mm x 5mm device, weighing just 10 grams, is worn easily in a wristband, clipped to a golf glove, or integrated into a strap.

For tennis, through a partnership with the French string and racket company Babolat, the on-wrist display shows statistics such as speed and lift, and data from each shot is shared with a mobile application for detailed analysis. When used as a golf sensor with Mobitee golfing accessories and digital course maps, the PIQ device displays distance to the green and shares data for instant playback of shots. To add a feature for ski sessions, PIQ has partnered with Rossignol to launch a strap and a mobile application that can record runs, analyze jumps and turns, and allow skiers to challenge friends!” (Source: STMicroelectronics web press)

The announcement deals with the activity of the PIQ company, a French subsidiary of Octonion, a Swiss-based company that specializes in software and services for sensors, (see Figure1).

Figure 1

The PIQ project (Source: PIQ.com)

The PIQ project (Source: PIQ.com)

The PIQ products contain microcontrollers, MEMS sensors, Bluetooth connectivity devices from STMicroelectronics.(See Figure 2)

”The PIQ team chose ST’s efficient and high-performing STM32F4 microcontroller for the multi-sport sensor’s main controller to achieve the peak performance needed for complex processing of sensor data. The STM32F4’s rich set of power-management features helped cut power consumption to the absolute minimum, to maximize battery lifetime, which is a critical parameter in wearables.

PIQ’s Bluetooth® wireless subsystem connects to the user’s smartphone using ST’s BlueNRGTM Bluetooth Smart wireless controller. … The PIQ design team has also taken advantage of ST’s pre-eminence in MEMS1 technology to integrate the LPS25HB barometric pressure sensor.” (Source: STMicroelectronics web)

Figure 2

The integrated microcontroller STM32F4 by STMicroelectronics. (Source st.com)

The integrated microcontroller STM32F4 by STMicroelectronics. (Source st.com)

The basic idea of this technology is to monitor an athlete’s biorhythms to find the perfect setting in terms of performance and physical condition, maximizing the quality of each training session and at the same time monitoring the status of his sports equipment, in order to guarantee that it is effective and operating properly.

How is this possible?

Let’s consider, just for fun, that I play tennis. There is a sensor, inserted into what any tennis player would believe their primary piece of equipment—the racket. The sensor monitors the racket’s string tension and advises me of any damage that might affect performance. In addition, a pressure sensor inserted into my shirt could monitor my second most important piece of equipment—my physical condition: detecting heart rate during a long rally of traded shots and tracking aerobic capacity.

Smart sports are a huge-potential concept, applicable to many sport activities, like the aforementioned tennis, or skiing, or in my favorite example, golf. (See Figure 3)

The PIQ sensors setup inserted into my golf glove analyzes the important statistics of each shot paired with the sensor tags on each of my clubs: the swing path and distance covered. A GPS module gives the exact recap of each shot in a 3D map of the golf circuit through the Mobitee app. In real time. Which, in theory anyway, will help me improve my game.

Figure 3

The Mobitee & PIQ project (source: mobitee.com)

The Mobitee & PIQ project (source: mobitee.com)

Another interesting sports application of smart technology is the Blast Motion baseball project (see Figure 4).

Figure 4

The Blast Motion project (source: BLAST.com)

The Blast Motion project (source: BLAST.com)

The Blast Motion project attaches an essentially invisible and weightless module to the bat, equipped with a 3D MEMS accelerometer like the H3LIS331DL made by STMicroelectronics (see Figure 5). When the player takes a swing at the ball during practice or during a game, the data is sent wirelessly to the user’s smartphone by a dedicated app. The swing data may be correlated with environmental data, like the current wind conditions (speed and direction) as well as the final result of the game. In this way, coaches and team members can track and analyze changes and improvements in players’ performance and evaluate statistics about the impact of those changes on the team’s winning record. Just what my son’s Little League team needs…

Figure 5

The 3D MEMS accelerometer H3LIS331DL by STMicroelectronics. (Source st.com)

The 3D MEMS accelerometer H3LIS331DL by STMicroelectronics. (Source st.com)

What do you think of smart sports projects? Do you think they can really improve a user’s performance? Would you buy a smart sports setup for your athletic activities? What do you think of the PIQ & Mobitee solution? What about the Blast Motion project? Have you ever used anything similar?

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