Another in a 2014 guest column series which builds on the one in 2009 where 50+ had written about how science/tech has evolved their hobby/interest.
This time it is Ben Pring who is the co-director of Cognizant’s Center of the Future of Work. When he’s not on the court fighting a losing battle against middle age he’s hunting for signals from the future of work at www.unvenlydistributed.com and writing a book about how the digital lives of people, “things” and organizations are changing the rules of business
If you’re a pretty dedicated fitness type (like me) you’ve probably noticed the steady increase of technology into many different aspects of your chosen fitness regime or sport over the past few years. If you’re a runner you’ve probably run in a race where you use a timing chip attached to your shoe. If you play tennis you know your Graphene-based YouTek Head racquet is a far cry from the wooden Stan Smith Wilson you learnt with. And if you’re simply kicking a ball around in the back yard with your kid you’re probably conscious that the $150 Nike Ordem soccer ball you got him for Christmas is something of an upgrade on the old “placcy Wembley” that you had when you were his age. [This is a reference that only someone who grew up in 1970s north London will get!]
So the notion of technology seeping into our sporting hobbies is no big deal. But what – I would contend – is a big deal is the explosion of technology that the work out world is on the cusp of and what impact this is going to have on Health and Fitness (another 1970’s reference for you digital immigrants out there!) over the next few years. Sport is very much at the heart of the “Cambrian explosion” that The Economist highlighted a few weeks ago.
Let me walk through just a few quick examples of some of the things I’m seeing as I try and keep to my five-days-a-week regimen; and then a few thoughts from the couch as I recover and dream about the one handed backhand down the line winner on Championship point that brings me my first Wimbledon title. [“Unknown 51 Year Old Englishman Wins Wimbledon! Knighted on Center Court by Queen!” – The Daily Telegraph].
Nike Fuel Band – still a good conversation starter at parties (even though it’s been out a couple of years) the Fuel Band does a great job of tracking your movement and output count. And it’s a pretty useful watch when you wake up in the middle of the night. The dashboard on your computer/tablet is the best I’ve seen amongst the wearable monitors (much better than the Fitbit which I’ve also tried but didn’t take to). If you’re in a good work out groove the Fuel Band will probably make you feel pretty smug; if you’re not, it will only confirm what you probably already know – that despite your best intentions, you’re still a lazy bum.
BitGym - a running machine with built in TV screen that contains videos of runs you can do as you move precisely nowhere wherever you are. The other day I was in Orlando, FL and I did a 5 mile run through downtown Auckland NZ. Then a couple of weeks later I was in Auckland and not only did that real run but then ran the next day on a machine through London. Then last week I was in England and did that actual run. Someone needs to invent a word for how weird that is!
Garmin Forerunner 620 – the Usain Bolt of sports watches, this does everything except actually do the running for you. Apparently Garmin are working on that currently My only problem with it is that wearing it perhaps gives the impression to other folks that I think I am Usain Bolt. It’s very hard to convey irony through a watch.
As the wearable, quantifiable self, Internet of Things wave continues to develop these early stage examples are going to become more common, more varied, and more useful as people see the impact even small data can have on their health and performance. Check out Novak Djokovic’s “Serve to Win” to get inspired by what you can achieve if you start really paying attention to the impact your diet has on your training program. Although also check out “Drop Dead Healthy” by AJ Jacobs if all you want to do is work out your inner cynicism!
The infusion of wearable sensors into clothing – like rugby shirts that monitor heart rates and tackle impacts – is just beginning. Soon your golf shirt will mold the perfect swing, your glasses will live stream your 10k PB, and your socks will tell you the optimum moment to rehydrate.
The digital perimeter advertising at soccer, Hawkeye instant replies in tennis, 10 yard line virtual overlays in football, which we’ve all grown used to, are simply the first waves of a new era of tech in sports which will see more change in how the world plays in the next 10 years than we’ve seen in the last hundred. It literally is going to be a whole new ball game.
One last thought; JetBlue DirecTV must be the apex of human achievement to allow you to follow live English soccer while flying from Boston to San Francisco. When I was my 11 year’s old age there was one live game of soccer on TV a year. Because it was so exciting and rare I sat in front of the TV from the start of the pre-game build up, six hours ahead of kick off, right through until the post-game wrap at 10pm. Nowadays, I can watch The Irons (West Ham United Football Club to you mate) lose – in color, in HD, while I’m sitting over Hastings, Nebraska. If that doesn’t blow your mind, I don’t know what will …