Wearables like smartwatches and fitness trackers have fast become a part of our lives. These technologies are also being considered for use in professional sports. Data is meant to be analyzed and training optimized with the help of these devices. To foster communication between users and interested parties, the German Federal Institute of Sports Science, in collaboration with the Innovation Factory, has created the web portal WISS (Wearables in Professional Sports, German: Wearables im Spitzensport).
In this interview with MEDICA.de, Sebastian Prenger from the German Federal Institute of Sports Science, explains who the WISS platform is aimed at and reveals its various features.
Mr. Prenger, how are wearables used in professional sports?
Prenger: By communicating with various sports organizations, we learned that unfortunately, wearables are presently only used very sporadically. Yet the interest from individual athletes and organizations to use these technologies is very high.
Team sports already use so-called radio-frequency tracking systems that break down the movements and positioning of athletes online in the centimeter range, analyze and visualize them for trainers and spectators, if applicable. The athletes wear the radio modules directly on their bodies. Aside from that, there are also wearables that measure heart rate variability to analyze the stress and regeneration levels. As far as we know, these are being sporadically used in the mountain bike field.
You have created the WISS web portal to exchange information about these types of technologies. How is the platform set up?
Prenger: We created the portal to raise awareness of the potential these innovations have for professional sports and to promote communication between technology developers and the sports segment. The sports sector still does not know about all of the options wearables present today. The developers also don’t have a clear overview of what is needed in professional sports today.
The WISS web portal is sectioned into two areas. One area is open to the public. Here you can read breaking news about wearables and users can obtain information on trends and developments. The forum and the project sector are only open to registered users. Here people can exchange information about project ideas or possible applications. Representatives from sports, technology or science can register. We first check every inquiry for plausibility and then activate the registration. Having said that, everyone who wants to contribute in promoting German professional sports is definitely welcome.
We have also started four projects internally. One of them focuses on the media representation of sports for instance. Via the network, the organizations can locate a hardware or software developer who wants to participate in a scheduled project for example. A closed group is automatically created in the forum for every project and is only accessible to members, so sensitive data can be securely exchanged. In addition, you can introduce different technologies in the open forum and discuss personal experiences. After all, there are many tools that are applicable in different sports.
The service is primarily aimed at athletes, organizations, scientists and developers of wearables.
How many users have already registered?
Prenger: The portal went online during our first network meeting in February in Bochum. Since then, approximately 100 members have registered. However, we want to make our network even more public in the future and thereby, alert more interested parties to our web portal. Since our service is aimed at a very exclusive circle, the number of members is not our top priority but rather the goal to reach expert users who want to make a difference.
Since then, we have reworked the homepage and completed the beta phase in early June. However, the design has been already optimized beforehand so that it is adapted for mobile devices like tablets and smartphones.
What are you able to contribute to the sports medicine platform?
Prenger: Wearables can certainly contribute a great deal to diagnostics. With our platform, we want to foster communication and the increased use of these technologies and also learn from each other. In addition, the "Technology", "Practice" and "Science" pages present the latest findings on wearables with many overlaps to the medical field. Currently, we are featuring the subject of traumatic brain injuries in sports in several articles. A smart mask is able to measure acceleration for instance and is designed to help in detecting concussions, thereby preventing further health damage.