Wearable Technology for Rugby, now there’s a thought.
Wearable Technology for Rugby in 2014 is going to be big, that was the message we took home from our attendance at the Wearable Technology Conference in Munich in late January. Intel is predicting some 50 billion ‘Wearable Devices’ will be connected by the year 2020. A more conservative estimation from ST Micro said it would be 36 million devices.
So how could these Wearable Technology devices be used in rugby? We gave it some thought and came up with some rugby technology concepts that are not as far-fetched as you may first think.
GPS tracking systems in rugby are already in use by some elite rugby teams. The Catapult S4 unit was the lump at the top of the spine that could be seen on the British and Irish Lions player jerseys during their 2013 tour of Australia.
For those of us mystified as to why coaches make a substitution on 60 minutes into a game don’t have the available data to make these informed decisions. Coaches and analysts can study velocity, heart rate, distance covered, accelerations and impact loading to determine whether a rugby player is staying within their allocated range or risking injury.
As for the future, we’re already seeing advances in flexible and plastic electronics that could enable the creation of a smaller, unobtrusive GPS Tracking device integrated as part of the rugby jersey.
Link: GPS Tracking
Rugby needs a concussion monitoring system for players in real time in non-helmeted sports. Logging impact forces, rotation of head during impact and number of impact can help provide the best information available in determining concussion in rugby.
Making this information available to the coaches, educators, medical staff and parents to allow them to use in conjunction with the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool – 3rd edition (SCAT3) can help de-risk the long-term implications of concussion in rugby.
The Under Armour E39 Shirt is a sensor-equipped compression shirt that measures an athlete’s performance and is already being used in American Football. The E39 shirt features a thin disc containing sensors, a power source, Bluetooth transmitter, and memory storage to capture and transmit data on heart rate, metabolism, body position, lung capacity and more.
Similar to the GPS Tracking devices the data from the E39 Shirt can be used to empower coaches and rugby performance analysts to customise workouts without risking strain or injury. Imagine if this data was also broadcast on a stadium display and TV in-game statistics to engage spectators on a whole new level.
OK we confess we
made-up conceptualised this one. However….
…if Google can create a contact lens that monitors glucose levels in tears and wirelessly transmit data to help those among the world’s 382m diabetics who need insulin keep a close watch on their blood sugar and adjust their dose…
… what’s to say you can’t create a mouthguard that detects hydration levels, fluid loss and detect a loss of essential amino acids?
Such data could be used to assist medical staff spot warning signs such as dehydration, which can result in sudden cardiac death in rugby players.
Yes the intelligent rugby ball is another ‘conceptualisation’, but possibly it holds real value to the game of rugby as an entertainment spectacle.
It’s common to see a hooker wiping a rugby ball with a towel before throwing-in at the lineout. Embedding a piezoelectric device could store energy from the movement of the rugby ball and provide tiny vibrations and/or a small degree of heat to automatically dry the rugby ball when it’s wet. The result could be more passes caught and better entertainment could be on hand. (and ultimately those of us with ‘hands like a digital watch’ needing to find another excuse for dropping a pass!)
The inclusion of an inflation sensor could assist the goal kickers with consistency in their quest for accuracy meaning more points on the score board.
And our favourite is the removal of doubt in determining a forward pass. We’re not so keen on the whole ‘hands pointing backward’ and ‘player momentum’ argument devised by the physics and mathematical genius’ working with the IRB.
In our minds if the ball goes forward, it’s a forward pass. So with the inclusion of an accelerometer, gyroscope, a Bluetooth transmitter embedded into a rugby ball, add in a few wizardry algorithms and it should be possible transmit a signal to a referee’s smart watch that alerts him/her of a forward pass.
We’re pretty sure coaches, performance analysts and TV audiences would like this information too!
‘Smart’ shorts that can detect muscle fatigue, muscle balance and, muscle load intensity in real time are available from Finnish start-up company Mbody. This technology could, in the not too distant future, be made available to rugby players and rugby performance analysts to improve training techniques, muscular balance and efficiency, and have better control of training intensity.
Having seen a demonstration of this textile sensor technology, that has been 8-years in the making, it is clear it can detect problems and prevent injuries… including the detection of cramp!
Link: Muscle Activity Shorts
Sportswear giant Nike is promising to introduce ‘Back to the Future’ style self-lacing shoes as early as 2015, according to one of the firm’s designers. So for us rugby players it could mean no more lace fumbling with frozen hands.
Drop in the Nike+ Sensor that can track your time, distance, pace and more while you run, and add into the mix a ‘Shoe-Integrated Gait Sensor System’ like the one the guys at MIT have been working on.
Now you can begin to see that the idea of a smart rugby boot is not so far away.
Link: Self-lacing shoes
Link: Nike+ Sensor
Wearable Technology for rugby can provide a ‘smart’ step towards the rugby player of the future. The latest wave of technological innovations worn close to the body, on the body or even in the body are set to change the game of rugby forever. Each device transmits detailed information on player performance and equipment in real time to a tablet or smart phone.
Wearable devices can enable the coach to make informed decisions to prevent overload during training and help players to perform to their best during a game. Together with the introduction of intelligent playing equipment these innovative technologies will bring a new dimension to the game of rugby.