I have been reading a lot about new technologies recently. Mostly because I am working on some textile wearable tech projects and also because I believe it is important to understand where this field is taking us to be able to make a difference with athletes. Rapid feedback and the ability to analyse performance “in-vivo” it has always been my passion, and I can see the future of our profession being very similar to the scenes we see in Formula 1. Of course, I still think the human element of informing/working with coaches and athletes is of paramount importance for successful implementation, but if we want to be ahead of the game, we need to know what’s coming and try to implement it as quickly as possible.
For this reason, I have always been reading scientific papers in various areas of knowledge to understand what other experts are doing and how their findings can help us moving forward. A couple of papers caught my eye in the last couple of weeks.
First, this paper form John Rogers’ group on a “Miniaturized Battery-Free Wireless Systems for Wearable Pulse Oximetry” published on advanced science news showing what is possible to do with flexible tiny sensors mounted on the fingertip.
This is a pretty impressive device, millimeter-scale, battery-free optoelectronic systems capable of capturing photoplethysmograms and quantitative information on blood oxygenation, heart rate, and heart rate variability transmitting data wirelessly and battery free. While this is still experimental work, the potential for such device in the sporting domain could be quite amazing also linking it to there sensors for a true body sensor network.
The other work is a review on the same journal covering the recent advances in bio integrated optoelectronics devices. The papers shows some pretty impressive epidermal electronics devices capable of measuring various physiological aspects.
Finally a paper published on Scientific Reports few months ago on a new paradigm in sweat based biosensors which provides a promising new approach and another paper on the same journal on a portable biosensor to measure cortisol.
Minimally invasive methods and wearable sensors are the only way to improve our understanding of sports performance in elite athletes, so definitively more is better. However, we still need platforms capable of working well in the “real world” and not in laboratory conditions as well as valid, reliable and practical tools to provide relevant information for influencing training/nutrition/recovery paradigms. Until then, we need to read with interest, but be careful that sometimes promising technologies may not be as good as they look like on paper (unicorns can only be found in fairy tales).